By 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, my phone was ringing repeatedly with notifications of dozens of text and voice messages about a serious vehicle accident involving my brother, his wife and his two underage daughters.
Several days before that fateful Thursday evening, my brother’s entire family had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and had begun their quarantine. That Thursday was their first trip out as a family shortly before dusk to “check the crops” and enjoy some fresh weather, outside and socially distanced from everyone else.
A loss of control of their John Deere Gator resulted in all four of them laying in various states of serious injury along a nearly empty road. Although my brother nearly lost his left hand, he was able to dial 911 with his right hand and begin to try to help care for the other three family members. Ultimately, my sister-in-law was treated at the scene. And my brother and one niece were transported to Mercy Health-St. Rita’s via ambulance.
By the time I got to the scene, I was personally determined to board the Life Flight helicopter that was transporting my niece, my Goddaughter nonetheless, to the pediatric unit at St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo to try to save her leg and her life. For the record, guests are not allowed on those flights, despite my urgent, repeated and tear-filled pleas.
That night, my family encountered an army of dispatchers, law enforcement, medical professionals, firemen, volunteers and neighbors orchestrated together to help resolve the situation with a mix of military precision coupled with the compassion and tenderness reminiscent of a kiss between lovers.
Among all my immediate family members, of course only my brother and his wife had not completed their advanced directives (powers of attorney, living wills, and wills) prior to Sept. 3.
Even though my sister-in-law could physically sign her powers of attorney once she arrived at St. Vincent’s to see her daughter, she could not effectively sign, because her COVID-19 condition made available notaries and witnesses non-existent.
My brother could not physically sign anything, and we worried for his mental state because much of his scalp had been chafed by the roadway. Fortunately, no cranial bones were broken though, and he proved to be mentally competent.
Ultimately, we were able to clean sufficient blood from my brother’s smartphone and find his driver’s license so that we could “remotely notarize” his powers of attorney before the multi-hour surgery to repair his head and hand.
I shudder to think what would have happened had my brother or sister-in-law lost consciousness or died without having had things lined up for their daughters who were themselves by then facing battles between life and death.
I used to apologize to clients for the time and inconvenience involved in preparing their advanced directives and wills. Now, I congratulate them.
My brother, sister-in-law and nieces are now home and recovering. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for when you embrace inconvenience now to avoid nightmares later.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.