Art Ogsbury home with softened heart
The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia
For him: Art Ogsbury grins while raising his brown Stetson to the crowd gathered for him at the Quaker Inn in Delanson on Dec. 1. Friends, family, and neighbors were there, with donated food and auction items, to raise money for the family after a long summer of navigating medical care for Ogsbury. His family said his hand was burned to the bone during a welding accident, after a hydraulic jack slipped and struck him.
DELANSON — This year, Art Ogsbury’s daughters heard him give a blessing before the family’s Thanksgiving meal for the first time.
A welder retired from General Electric, Ogsbury had an accident in May that sent him on a medical odyssey. His family worried he wouldn’t survive an antibiotic-resistant staph infection this summer and surgery to mend a ruptured aneurysm from a welding accident. He underwent heart surgery just a few weeks ago.
Ogsbury’s problems began in late May as he was heating a dented trailer when the hydraulic jack he was using to prop it up slipped and hit his stomach. He fell into his blowtorch, severely burning his dominant hand.
On Dec. 1, Ogsbury set his cane aside to sing and dance with his wife, Mae — something he had talked about doing as he recovered.
Embracing each other, they took quick steps in the Quaker Inn, a bar on Route 7, surrounded by neighbors, friends, and family who had come to donate to the Ogsbury family and surprise the 71-year-old with a celebration of his survival. Donated prizes were raffled, and baked goods for sale filled an eight-foot table.
Ogsbury was slapping backs at the inn, often wrapping his arm around people who approached him, or resting his grip in a friend’s elbow, as he leaned in to speak with a raspy voice into an ear.
The sign out front welcomed him by name, but Ogsbury thought he was coming for a birthday party. He turned 71 in October.
Upon seeing the bar packed with people waiting for him, Ogsbury lifted his brown stetson off his head in salutation.
“‘Is this really for me? I have to go home,’” his wife recounted him saying.
Mae Ogsbury visited her husband at least six days each week as he went through surgery for his aneurysm at Albany Medical Center, then to a Westchester burn unit, and finally to a rehabilitation center in Amsterdam.
“I believe that God is in control,” Mae Ogsbury said of the experience. “I believe He can make miracles, change people.”
Ogsbury said he was using a blowtorch on May 28 to heat and straighten the side of a dented trailer when the jack slipped free and ruptured his aneurysm, a swollen blood vessel. He said he walked 150 feet from the garage to his house and called 911 before he passed out.
When his wife found him, their dog, Bentley, was by his side, Ogsbury said. He was reminded of the beagle and boxer mix by a stuffed animal brought to him during his hospital stay that lasted throughout the summer.
Ogsbury planned to stay overnight on a visit to check his hand at the Westchester burn unit this week so he could thank the people who cared for him.
Asked what helped the family through a complicated medical situation, his daughter, Sandra Gonzalez said, “Prayer and persistence.”
The family was first told his burned hand would have to be completely amputated.
“You need to tell them ‘No’ and we need to move quickly,” Gonzalez recalled telling her mother. Family members sat around a table to pray together and called medical centers that could treat burns. Of the 10 beds for burn victims in Westchester, only one was available, she said. Ogsbury’s left hand healed with three less fingers.
After returning home in October, Ogsbury underwent surgery for his heart to treat his artrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat.
He has no memory of several months he spent hospitalized and, his wife said, just six weeks ago, after coming home, he seemed to fully regain his memory. Some doctors thought Ogsbury’s confused state — worrying about tainted food, unable to recognize family members, and hallucinating that monkeys were in his hospital room — was dementia, his daughters said, but others said it was the infection causing traumatic delirium.
“We were committed, as a family, that this is his personality in there. It’s just going to take him longer,” said Gonzalez.
Ogsbury’s daughters know him as a tough and proud man. They said that, during his hospital stay, he once requested a wrench because the sink in his room at the Westchester burn unit had a drip.
“Tears flow now,” said Gonzalez. She noted that the damage to Ogsbury’s left hand has saddened him, though he’s eager to work. Ogsbury had to learn again how to speak, eat, and walk.
Ogsbury spent much of his career as a structural steel maintenance welder for General Electric, though he has done carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work, often helping friends and neighbors.
“I put up buildings, took ’em down — repaired anything that was metal,” said Ogsbury.
Mike Leto, a next-door neighbor for 12 years, said Ogsbury often helped out on his excavation projects.
“I had a stuck receiver hitch on my truck and he heated it up, cut it out, pounded it out so I could put a new one in,” recalled Randy Hook, Ogsbury’s brother-in-law. Hook lost his arm in an elevator accident in the 1960s and said he could teach Ogsbury how to adapt with one-handed tasks.
“I’m in a different state of mind. I love people more,” Ogsbury said, sitting on the edge of a bar stool in the middle of the dance floor.