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'Helping One Woman' Honors Fay McHatton

OAKHURST – Women in the mountain area will meet once again to treat and honor one of their own, as the local chapter of Helping One Woman (HOW) gathers at Sweetwater Steakhouse, Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m.

HOW’s mission is to “help a woman in her time of need and loss,” by reaching out to support women in the community on a monthly basis and beyond.According to their Facebook page, “HOW is a nonprofit woman’s organization that has a monthly dinner to honor a woman that has suffered a devastating loss. Each guest puts $10 in a bowl. At the end of the dinner the money is gifted to the woman that we are honoring.”

February’s HOW recipient is Fay McHatton, a wife, mother and grandmother, who suffered a debilitating work accident while operating machinery late last year. She is expected to be out of work for some time while she recovers. McHatton is a partner at Mill Creek Fiber Works, Inc., in Oakhurst, and she is upbeat despite the accident and her many surgeries.

“We bring in raw fiber from animal producers,” says McHatton, of the business that opened in April, “mostly llama, alpaca and wool, and we return it in finished product.”

The accident occurred on Nov. 14, 2012, as McHatton was cleaning a “carder,” commonly used in the fiber industry. Carding is the process of brushing raw or washed fibers to prepare them as textiles.

“A belt goes through this machine on a big drum and there are little drums all around it,” explains McHatton. “It separates the fiber into a kind of a sheet, like in batting for quilts.”

McHatton, whose husband is on disability, is unflinching in her assessment of the accident.

“I made the mistake of cleaning a machine while it was still on. And it caught my sweater and pulled my hand into the machine and it broke both bones in my arm, it broke a finger bone in my hand, it dislocated all of my finger bones to my wrist, and my baby pinkie finger, and it removed all of the skin from my hand down to the tendon.”

The accident occurred in moments.

“They got me out of [the machine] and airlifted me down to Fresno, and Fresno airlifted me to San Francisco where I had surgeries, and was in the hospital for two weeks. Then I had to go back up because I had a skin graft of bovine and shark skin before we put my own skin on and now I’m in the recovery, the physical therapy stage of it.”

Shark cartilage and cow-derived collagen, the protein found in all connective tissue, is sometimes used as an artificial “scaffolding” of skin to “trick” new skin cells into forming, in cases where skin is burned or has been removed. For McHatton, the state-of-the-art treatment has been working.

“I can hold my hair dryer if I put padding around it, because I can’t grip that well yet. I’m beginnining to get back on the mend. They all move and they’re all there,” says McHaddon, referring to her nearly destroyed digits.

Despite the pain of surgeries and rehabilitation, and in the midst of applying for state medical assistance, McHaddon continues to focus on the positives during the course of her lengthy recovery.

“There have been a lot of blessings. It could have been my right hand (I’m right-handed). It could have been my hair if my ponytail had gone in. I could have lost my hand. I still have it. They sent me to a wonderful group of doctors in San Francisco at the Buncke Clinic for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. That’s what their job is to reattach things and fix things that have been busted like that. They did a beautiful job and I should be able to go back to work and get some, most – not all – but most of my faculties back in that hand. We’re working on it three times a week.”

The recovering entrepreneur plans to return to work whenever doctors allow it, and she wants people to know that Mill Creek Fiberworks is open for business and owner Kate Graham is “working her buns off” to meet the needs of their clientele.

Meanwhile, says McHatton, “people are opening their hearts.” One woman had a cord of firewood delivered, and McHatton’s physical therapist has given her a big break on the bill.

“Blessings are everywhere,” says McHatton. “Just look at the way the girls at HOW are letting me be a part of this.”

If you’d like to be a part of this month’s blessings, go to HOW’s Facebook page for information, and don’t forget to call the restaurant for reservations at 559-658-5252.

Sweetwater Steakhouse is located at 41177 Highway 41 in Oakhurst.

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