By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — Eighteen Boeing machinists labored for four hours Sunday in a soaking rain, their work a volunteer project to build a backyard fence. This time it was to help one of their own.
Stan Sprague, 35, a Boeing mechanic, was injured at Paine Field last year when he was caught in the wing flap of a 747, severely damaging his lungs and triggering cardiac arrest.
He was heavily sedated and treated for a week in the intensive care unit of Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. During the 17 days he was hospitalized, he lost 30 pounds.
On April 5, nearly a year ago to the day, Sprague walked out of the hospital. His discharge was far earlier than when doctors initially predicted, but he faced months of recovery.
Nerve damage had so weakened his shoulder muscles that for months he had problems lifting his right arm. “I couldn’t play catch with the dogs,” he said.
And then there was what he calls his “wing,” when his shoulder blade would unexpectedly and painfully pop out of place.
Even with these problems, Sprague hated sitting around at home with little to occupy his time. “Stir crazy,” is how he describes the eight months he waited until his doctor gave him the OK to return to work part time in January.
On Sunday, his fellow Boeing machinists gathered at his home to finish a project he had planned in the fall — marking his property boundary with 400 feet of wire field fencing and installing gates in his back yard.
The project was undertaken in collaboration with United Way of Snohomish County, which paid for the fencing material.
Volunteers had to step in because, Sprague said, a contractor hired to complete the project took off with the $700 he had paid him and the materials.
Stephanie Agnew of Seattle said she turned out for the work party because she knew the family needed help.
“It makes me feel good,” she said. “And I get to use a hammer.”
Sprague said he was amazed that people he had never previously met turned out for the volunteer project.
“It was great,” his wife Nichole Sprague said. “It was hard to keep it together seeing so many people we don’t even know come out and help.
“It makes you feel better about people,” she said. “There are still some good people out there that will bend over backwards to help people.”
Jason Redrup, a union business representative who helped organize the work party, said the project is just the latest example of volunteer projects taken on by Machinists union. Over the past year, members have donated 10,500 hours of volunteer work, helping with the annual Toys for Tots drive, the Letter Carriers food drive and ramp and deck projects for people in need.
“We have a lot of people who like to give back to the community,” Redrup said.
Sprague said that during a medical appointment scheduled for this week, he hoped to talk the doctor into allowing him to extend his work hours to six hours a day.
Any such decision will at least temporarily be put on hold. Sprague was treated and released from the emergency department of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Sunday afternoon after experiencing a seizure.
Doctors don’t know exactly what caused the problem, Nichole Sprague said. “Sometimes people will have a seizure and then never have one again.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-346, firstname.lastname@example.org.