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Posts tagged with: broken bones

The True Cost of a Deck

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Thanks for all the comments on my latest post about motivation. I’ve taken the comments to heart and am really doing some serious pondering and life planning for moving forward. I’m trying to minimize the financial bleeding this summer, and then jump back full-force in August with some renewed energy. I wanted to try to go gung-ho this month, but with my lower pay and some unexpected expenses (see below) I just don’t think I can even reasonably expect to try to create a $3,000/month budget for the month of July. We’re going to take on more debt. Sigh. But in August I’ll have my first full month of new salary and our bills will have hopefully stabilized enough for us to create a new budget. From what I’ve figured, I think my take-home pay will be around $6,000/month when my new raise goes into effect. So far the budgets I’ve been playing with are still around the $7,000ish range, so I’ve got to figure out how to come up with an extra $1,000 month (or, alternatively, how to cut an extra $1,000/month from the budget). I’ll write up a post soliciting advice soon.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my latest unexpected expense in a story I call “The True Cost of a Deck.”

My mom and stepdad still live in the same home that I was raised in from the time I was 10-years-old. The house is in a highly sought-after area in Austin, TX and has appreciated well during the time they’ve owned it. It’s beautiful and I love it, but it no longer serves my mom and stepdad’s needs. It’s too large, taxes are too high, and it’s too-tall (two story, when they’d prefer a single story).

The plan has been to put the house on the market this coming spring. My mom, a real estate broker, has tried to dedicate much of the last year to putting in updates that were needed to bring the house up to modern-day and to maximize the amount they can list it for when it goes on the market. They’ve done updates in the bathrooms, the kitchen, and with the floors. The last remaining big thing has been the deck.

My mom’s house is built on the side of a hill. When you walk in the front door it’s at ground level, but then the ground slopes steeply so when you walk to the back door of the house (still on the first floor), all the sudden you’re an entire story above ground. They’ve had a back deck that you could walk out on with stairs leading down to the backyard grass below.

The deck is entirely made of wood and it has been heavily used and abused across time. At this point, parts of the deck are warped and rotted and it is unsafe to be on. Many of the surrounding homes had similar problems and all have had their decks redone at some point in the past 5-10 years. My mom, the last hold-out on the street, felt the time was finally right to replace their deck as it could raise safety concerns for potential homebuyers.

My stepdad, a very intelligent academic-type who likes to think himself a DIY-er, spent months thinking up plans for the deck. Finally, they decided to shell out the money to have a professional draft the plans and provide a list of materials needed to complete the project. The plan was for my stepdad to do the work himself. Once plans were procured, my stepdad went to work. Literally on Day #1, before anything else had been done, he got up on a ladder to cut down the limbs of an overhanging tree. When the large branch fell, it took out the ladder my stepdad had been standing on. Chainsaw in hand, all 3 (stepdad, ladder, and limb) fell to the ground. What could have ended in serious disaster (I shutter to even consider the possibilities), ended up not too terrible. My stepdad sustained a severe tear of his rotator cuff that would require surgery. After meeting with multiple specialists (he didn’t want to accept the truth), he begrudgingly agreed to hire out the rest of the work, given that he required immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery. Any plans for future deck-building were gone. In fact, he was told, the muscles in his arm/shoulder would likely never be the same again.

My Stepdad’s surgery was this past Friday afternoon. Early Saturday morning, my sister (an RN) went to visit and check on my stepdad’s bandages/dressing. While there, my Mom encouraged everyone to go outside to see the progress being made on the back deck – now being completed by a hired contractor. Outside, everyone admired the deck. It’s costing an arm-and-a-leg ($20k compared to the $5-7k DIY estimate), but it’s going up quickly and looks beautiful!

Everyone started walking back around the big hill toward the front of the house when my mom tripped on a piece of debris from the construction, fell, and landed hard on her arm. My sister said the “pop” was audible and unmistakable. My mom’s arm was bent backward and sideways, an unnatural direction that can not occur with healthy, intact bones. An x-ray at the ER later verified the extent of the break. My mom was in so much pain that she almost passed out a couple of times: during examination and immobilization.

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My mom had surgery today. Now both people (Mom & Stepdad) have an arm immobilized, recovering from very recent surgery. Neither can drive due to high dosage pain medicine, nor can they do much of anything on their own. In the time between my Mom’s break (on Saturday) and her surgery (today), my Mom has been in such excruciating pain that she’ been nearly helpless, even with her good arm. Meanwhile, my stepdad’s surgery went well but he’s been battling nausea and vomiting due to the pain medicine he’s on (even after having the doctor call in a lower dosage pain medicine). It’s just a mess.

My sister, now 7 months pregnant, is the true hero of the story. She took off almost a full week last month to help move my dad to his new facility. And she’s taken off almost a full week this month to help with my Mom and Stepdad. She’s gone over daily to make meals, take out trash, clean dishes, etc. etc. She had taken over a case of waters and literally had to pre-open all of the bottles because neither parent could seem to do it one-handed. I mean, it’d be comical if it weren’t my parents!

So this deck that was only going to cost about $5,000 to replace will now likely end up costing over $30,000. It’s about $20,000 for the deck itself, then the out-of-pocket max will be hit for both parents due to their ER visits and surgeries, not to mention loss of work (for them and for my sister). I booked a flight and will be arriving on Friday afternoon. I don’t have the money to go and I really don’t have the time, either. But I have to be there for my family. I just have to.

I’ll be in Austin from Friday-Monday. I’ll be back in Tucson in the office on Tuesday, and then I immediately leave for a work conference trip from Wednesday through Saturday. Then the plan is to round the family up and hit Disney later that week.

So the month of July is turning out to be totally nuts. And it’s costing an arm and a leg two arms! (groan, har har).

At least we have our health freedom, right?

Stay safe out there, DIY-ers! I’ll catch you from Austin on the flipside!


Change of Plans

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Sooooo, THIS happened over the weekend.

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If you ask the girls the story of what happened, here’s what you will hear:

Bailey:  Brooke pushed me off the giraffe!!!

Me: The giraffe????  Do you mean she pushed you off the bed???

Brooke: NO! I pushed her off the giraffe!!!!

 

We do have a stuffed giraffe chair animal thing (if you’re curious for reference, it’s similar to this one, but way cheaper. Ours was like $20 from Walmart 2 years ago). But I still have no idea how being pushed off of a chair that is located on the floor – the seat no more than 6 inches above the ground – could cause an injury. No idea. But somehow, my offspring found a way.

The injury actually occurred on Friday night when they were supposed to be in bed, but were actually up rough-housing (hey – go figure – you do something you’re not supposed to and you end up getting hurt! Tough lesson to learn, kiddo!).  I checked Bailey’s arm and she was able to move everything so I just made her go back to bed.

If you recall from the end of this post, we had a jam-packed schedule last weekend! Saturday morning we got up and met our friends at the local splash pad. It was there I noticed Bailey still was not using her arm – like, at all.  The splash pad is adjacent to a little playground and when the kids decided to go play on the playground it became painfully obvious that Bailey still had a problem. She couldn’t climb the ladder to get up to the top of the playscape. If anything, her arm seemed to be doing worse. She was holding it into her body and not using it at all. I called our playdate quits early and headed home to change out of swimsuits and immediately headed over to urgent care. I was pretty sure nothing was broken, but I thought it was possible she had a fracture or bad sprain or something and decided the injury justified medical attention.

We were at the urgent care for 3 hours (ugh!!!) and in the end, the doctor recommended against an x-ray. His rationale was that we don’t want to expose a young child to unnecessary radiation, and since we were pretty sure nothing was broken, the course of action for most of the remaining possibilities (strain, pulled muscle, bruised bone) would be the same:  a sling!

So he hooked Bailey up with a super-cool kids-sized sling and sent us on our way with instructions to keep a close eye on it and that if things hadn’t resolved within a week, that we should come back (or go to our primary care at that point).

Bailey was an excellent patient and has actually really enjoyed her sling. Within just the past couple days she’s already regained quite a bit of mobility. The arm is still sore and she needs some additional help with certain things (e.g., getting dressed has been hard one-handed), but she’s already on the mend.

Unfortunately, the injury basically blew all of the rest of our weekend plans!! Our preschool did their bi-annual Parent’s Night Out on Saturday evening, but at that point Bailey was still having a tough time even feeding herself and going to the bathroom (pulling down pants, getting toilet paper) and I just didn’t feel good about dropping them off with a ton of other kids and taking off for date night. Probably would’ve been okay if it was a babysitter in our own home, but the fact it would be a bunch of kids, etc. I just didn’t feel good about it.

And on Sunday we were supposed to go to another child’s birthday party, but the party was supposed to be at a local indoor trampoline park. That also seemed like a pretty bad idea for a child with an injured arm. We’ve been once before (for another party), and I knew that falling down was inevitable. No big deal most of the time, but I didn’t want to chance her falling on her arm, or falling and trying to instinctively catch herself with her hurt arm, etc. So that was that.

Our big, fun weekend plans turned into 3 hours at Urgent Care and spending the rest of the weekend taking it easy at the house. I like relaxing and taking it easy with the best of them, but it was a bit disappointing given our excitement over all the fun!

Soooooo, so much for our original plans. Isn’t that just life for ya?  I’m just thankful it wasn’t worse. I’m also thankful for health insurance and our flexible spending account with plenty of money in it to cover this expense. They didn’t charge us anything at the time (said they’d bill insurance), but I know we haven’t quite hit our deductible yet so I’m expecting a bill at some point. That being said, this incident might be enough to tip us over into having our deductible fully paid, which would be nice. So we’ll see what the financial implications are. Either way, I know we’ll be fine. I love that peace of mind!