Injured Boeing worker makes quick recovery

LAKE STEVENS — When Stan Sprague went to work on March 19, he had no inkling that it would be 17 days until he would walk through the front door of his home again.

An accident occurred that Monday evening while the 35-year-old Boeing mechanic was working on a 747, trapping him in a wing flap, crushing his lungs.

Sprague was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he was treated in its intensive care unit and kept on a breathing machine for 13 days until last Sunday.

Initially, family members were told that it could take weeks for Sprague to be well enough to be transferred out of the hospital’s unit that cares for its most critically ill and medically fragile patients.

“Looks like we will be here for a long time,” his wife, Nicole Sprague, wrote in a blog posting on March 23.

No one thought that he could home as soon as Thursday afternoon. He was welcomed home by his dog Bane, a black German shepherd-wolf mix who barked and gleefully jumped on him at his arrival, and getting hugs from his wife and 15-year-old daughter Brandy Sprague.

Sprague, who while still hooked to the ventilator would motion with his arms and legs that he would like to run from the hospital, seemed a little astonished to finally have such familiar things as family and pets within arm’s reach.

He had spent much of Thursday waiting for the final OK from his medical team to be allowed to go home.

“Waiting around, waiting around,” Sprague said before getting the word about 1 p.m.

“I was like Wow! This is really happening. I’m going home.”

Sprague surprised his family and his doctors with the speed of his recovery.

“I think he definitely did progress a little faster than I expected, given how he looked the middle of last week,” said Dr. Andrew Luks, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Harborview.

Sprague’s not sure what happened in the accident. He suffered no broken bones, but his lungs were severely injured. For the first couple of days after the accident, his lungs were unable to get enough oxygen into his bloodstream. He needed to be hooked to a ventilator so his body could breathe, allowing time for his lungs to heal. The accident is being investigated by Boeing, the state and the union.

One big step in his recovery occurred on Sunday, when he was unhooked from the ventilator. By Wednesday he was transferred out of the intensive care unit.

Sprague said that not only does he have no memory of his workplace accident, he has no memory of anything that happened to him within 48 hours before it occurred.

“The first memory I have before the accident was two days before,” he said. “The next memory I have is consciously waking about four days ago. That’s all I remember.”

Sprague said he and his family received messages of support from across the nation. “And all across Boeing, people were sending messages,” he said.

Sprague said he plans to spend the next several days relaxing, getting used to being home again, eating some homemade spaghetti, and then, visiting with friends.

He hopes to return to work in about a month, but is waiting for word on the next steps of his recovery.

“Just lying in bed for nearly three weeks will really zap it out of you,” he said.

Even navigating the familiar flight of 10 wooden steps up to the front door was a challenge. “I was tired just coming up the stairs,” he said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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