Part Steven King – Part Hallmark Channel – the ordeal of Carl Niswonger trapped in a bathtub for six days

    For 77-year-old Riverton resident Carl Niswonger, November 7, 2023, started like any other day. The events of the day ended six days later in a blend of scenes from a Steven King Novel and Hallmark Holiday Special.

    Niswonger a Vietnam veteran, spent six harrowing days, trapped in his bathtub.

    He walked to the shower a little after noon that day and woke up a couple of hours later. Carl’s shower is inside his bathtub and he had to step into it to reach his shower chair and start the water.


    He had fallen, hitting his head on the tub, knocking the chair he usually used to shower to the other end of the tub, trapping his feet, and wrenching his artificial right knee.

    “I don’t have any memory of the fall,” Niswonger said. “I came to, and had a big knot on the back of my head.”

    Stunned he tried to gather his senses, and get himself out of the predicament, but couldn’t do it.

    “My head hurt, I guess you could say I was kind of loopy,” Niswonger said. “I didn’t have the strength to get out of the tub.


    He continued to feel a little lightheaded for the next few days.

    “I couldn’t function well for two or three days,” he said.

    The tub was dry, and a heater in the bathroom blew warm air into the tub from a nearby vent.


    “I had four big towels. I used them like blankets,” Niswonger said.

    He knew what the time was each day by the darkness or light outside the windows of his home and tried to time yelling at screaming when the mailman came.

    “I yelled as loud as I could, but he never heard me,” Niswonger said.


    Getting trapped in an unexpected situation in your home can be terrifying, but Niswonger approached it with humor.

    “I tried to placate myself the best I could,” he said. “I used my sense of humor. I told myself jokes and laughed at myself. I was in survival mode. I was physically laughing. I know that laughter is good for the soul. Laughter as the best medicine was very applicable.”

    The days crawled by in his captive state.

    “The room was 68 to 70 degrees. I had the towels, and I was dry,” Niswonger said. “I had water, but I only drank one-quarter to three-quarters of a cup a day. I knew what went in had to come out.”

    To get water and to relieve himself he had to scoot along the bottom of the tub.

    His tub had anti-slip strips glued to it with the texture of sandpaper. The strips did their damage over the course of the six day ordeal.

    “I had an abrasion the size of the base of a coffee cup on one side of my rear end and a smaller one on the other,” Niswonger said. “But I couldn’t feel it.”

    Rescue came from an unexpected source. Niswonger and his neighbor Norma Tatman had a long-running tiff over parking and property lines.

    “The neighbor to the east of my house and I had an ongoing disagreement,” Niswonger said. “She’s the one that realized she hadn’t seen me for a few days and the police.”

    In a Hallmark Moment, the disagreement was forgotten.

    “It ended the feud. We buried the hatchet and agreed to get along,” Niswonger said. “When I’m recovered I’m going to take her to get the best steak dinner she ever had.”

    The police arrived and knocked on the door and yelled.

    “I told them where my hide-a-key was located,” Niswonger said. “They unlocked the door and came inside. They wanted to help me out of the tub, but I said no, call an ambulance.

    When the ambulance arrived, they began to question him.

    “They asked me standard questions, what was my name, who was president, where did I live, and what day was it,” Niswonger said. “I got the day wrong. I said it was Sunday, but it was Monday. I’d lost a day in my head somewhere. “

    Ironically, Niswonger had a device next to his computer from the Veterans Administration that he didn’t know what it was for. It turned out to be a Life Alert transmitter.

    The VA sponsored Life Alert that could have ended Carl Niswonger’s predicament – h/t Randy Tucker

    “If I’d known what it was, I would have kept it with me and pushed the button,” Niswonger said. “My ordeal would have lasted 15 minutes.

    Niswonger was taken to Sage West in Riverton for two days and then transferred by ambulance to Lander where Dr. McIntire from Casper worked with him.

    Amazingly his vital signs were good. Niswonger is an insulin-dependent diabetic and his blood sugar was good as well.

    “I was a Sage West Lander from November 15 to November 29, then I spent the new couple of weeks at Wind River Rehab,” Niswonger said.

    A silver lining came out of the ordeal.

    “I hadn’t talked to my sister for six years. Her granddaughter told her what happened, and she called me,” Niswonger said. “I’m getting along with my neighbor and sister and reconnecting with my daughter. There are some positives.”

    Niswonger is emphatic about using Life Alert if you’re getting older.

    “When you’re in a situation like this, your life really does flash before your eyes,” Niswonger said. “I tried to make amends for the things that I’d done and remembered all the good and the bad things.”

    Surviving an ordeal like this changes a person, many people don’t live through even a few days alone after an accident.

    “When that cop yelled at me I felt like I’d been resurrected,” Niswonger concluded.


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