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Tim Leonard sends out his thanks to responders, community

Tim Leonard is home from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after suffering a serious neck injury during a tragic Christmas Day accident.

After undergoing an operation on his neck, he is back on the island and on the mend. Medics helped save his life and now he wants to say, “Thank you.”

Leonard was seriously injured while the family was on route to a holiday gathering and a tree fell on his family’s Ford Explorer while they drove along Bailey Road. The accident took the life of his 9-year-old daughter “Zippy.”

Leonard is now back home, and walking around, and he said he has emergency responders to thank for that.

“They literally did save my life the way they took care of me,” Leonard said Thursday.

The freak accident happened just after 12:30 p.m. Christmas Day near Clinton. After a nearly 20-foot section of a fir tree fell onto the family’s SUV, Leonard said he had got himself out of the vehicle while his wife, Julie Janeshefskie, held Zippy and he dialed 911.

“My other two daughters were sitting against the fence and I was there sitting with them. But my neck was hurting and my arms started going numb,” he said.

The first emergency crew on the scene arrived within three minutes, he said, and he was told later that they were the rookies of the team.

“It was kind of a difficult situation and I guess it was pretty hardcore for them. Everybody just took such darn good care of me,” he added.

Leonard said he doesn’t remember everything at the scene or what happened later, but he said they had their hands around his neck while they carefully got him on a stretcher and transported him to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville.

Leonard said he was very grateful that they allowed his wife to keep Zippy with her while they looked after him. He said he is so thankful for all the EMTs of South Whidbey and appreciated their kindness and caring.

The past few months on South Whidbey have been full of tragedy and that must be so hard for them, Leonard said.

“They let us keep Zippy with us; my wife got to be with her. They transported me to Harborview and I didn’t get to see Zippy, but she touched a lot of people’s lives.” he said. “She was such an upbeat and positive person. She’s helped me get through all this and I want to honor her by being positive like she was.”

At Harborview, Leonard underwent surgery for a shattered vertebrae. Two of his vertebrae were then fused together. He is required to wear a Velcro neck brace for an undetermined period of time.

“I can walk and everything,” Leonard said, “But I can’t lift anything for two weeks and then after six weeks no more than 10 pounds.”

After that he’ll be reexamined and will be given another determination on his condition. He is not allowed to drive, and even riding in vehicles here and there, he said, wears him out.

In addition to the excellent care he received from the first responders and the Harborview healthcare team, Leonard said that he and Janeshefskie were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.

“All I can say is I could feel all the help from people, between those who visited me and those who were across the water. I was amazed by that kind of power and how effective it was emotionally, physically and spiritually — knowing people are backing us up in all ways,” he said.

“I remember everyone who held my hand in the hospital. I may not have recognized them, but every touch amazingly helped me.”

Leonard said he is thankful that he has medical insurance and that he belongs to the sheet metal workers union.

But he’ll be out of work for at least three months, as will Janeshefskie for a temporary leave of absence, and they are extremely grateful for the funds that have been donated by the community. Whidbey Island Bank has set up the Tim Leonard Family Fund, in which donations are being collected to assist the family.

Leonard said that Greenbank furniture maker Rob Hetler made the box in which Zippy’s body was laid for viewing and blacksmith artist Jeff Holtby has made what Leonard described as a beautiful forged steel-and-bronze urn into which his daughter’s ashes will be placed at the Langley-Woodmen Cemetery.

A private celebration of life for Tobiah “Zippy” Leonard will take place in Langley Saturday.

 

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