A Walworth County sheriff’s deputy’s latest challenge is to be able to take a sip of water.
Food is out of the question for now. He is getting his nourishment through a tube, said Angela Blanchard, the wife of Deputy Wayne Blanchard.
Be warned: Some of the details to follow about Blanchard’s injuries might be too graphic for children or even some adults to handle.
Blanchard’s mouth was swollen so much Thursday that he could talk only in a raspy whisper, Angela said.
Wounds inside Blanchard’s mouth have shed scabs, occasionally with bits of asphalt or dirt from the crash site, Angela said.
“Even just a sip of water gives him a feeling that he’s going to be choking to death,” said Blanchard’s mother, Adrianne Blanchard.
But there’s much good to come from the horrifying crash.
“The community has honestly blown me away with the support they have given him,” Angela said. “The compassion, the caring, worrying about his emotional needs. … I’ve never seen so many people pull together. It’s really restored my faith in people right now.
“We just really want to thank them, and we know words aren’t enough,” Adrianne added. “I just wish I could hug them all.”
The two women have been staying at Blanchard’s bedside at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa as much as they’re allowed, usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.—and earlier on surgery days.
They read to him the inscriptions in all the cards he’s received. His response is often a shake of the head and tears, Adrianne said.
Angela described wiping his eyes and finding bits of asphalt in the teardrops.
Blanchard was standing behind a guardrail, waiting to deploy stop sticks to stop the speeding car, according to a sheriff’s office report. The vehicle went out of control and crashed into the rail—and Blanchard.
The impact tore his boots off, but his feet weren’t broken, Adrianne said.
He suffered multiple fractures to his face, both arms, two ribs and a knee, Angela said. Several teeth are broken or missing. Staples hold together wounds in his shoulder and on his head.
His wrists and fingers are mangled and held together by pins, Angela continued. Doctors plan to harvest skin from other parts of his body to patch up his hands.
A wound to his thigh can’t be closed because it’s too deep, Angela said. His body suffered many scrapes, and much of his body is covered in black, blue and yellow bruises.
Blanchard’s nose and lips will have to be reconstructed. He has severe injuries in his mouth, she said. Multiple surgeries are planned.
“It’s a horrendous sight. I’ve never seen a man go through so much and be so resilient,” Angela said. “He’s in excruciating pain. It’s hard for his mother and me to sit here and watch it.”
The 24-year law enforcement veteran can speak and seems to remember vaguely what happened that night.
“He was worried about his (bullet-resistant) vest being destroyed,” Angela said. “He lost his wedding ring and Thin Blue Line ring.”
Deputies on their free time have combed the area of the crash but haven’t found the rings.
“They’re being very supportive of him,” Angela said. “There is family. There is blue family.”
Blanchard has said he wants to get better so he can return to work, Adrianne said.
“He’s worried about the guys at work because of what they had to see” of his condition at the scene of the crash, Angela said. “He keeps asking if they are all right.”
Angela and Wayne have six children, none of whom have been allowed to see him in the hospital because of the extent of his injuries.
“A lot has been taken from them. A lot has been taken from our grandchildren. … You can’t explain that to a little girl, you can’t,” she said.
Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell said Blanchard is “achieving medical progress. My immediate focus in this case is the recovery of Deputy Wayne Blanchard, his family, my employees and their families, and the court proceedings.”
All law enforcement, fire and EMS staff in the area are focused on Blanchard’s recovery, and supporting the family, too, Picknell said.