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Monday, December 16, 2013

Your Son I Am.

  12-6-13


Today I had a thought.

I was driving you to work, and upon glancing in my rearview mirror I noticed that Frank was about to fall asleep.  I made some comment about how happy that made me, and I said that I probably sounded like a horrible parent.  You looked at me and said, “No, you sound like a parent.  A normal one.”

I thought then, how insignificant these types of conversations used to seem to me.  I wondered how many times I have dismissed a similar transgression with you, with my husband or my son.  I thought how nothing you say is insignificant to me anymore.  I thought about the first two months after you woke up, some of the first things you said to us.

For instance, I remember getting a text from Dad while I was at work, about a week after you woke up.   Someone had asked you your name, if you knew who Mom was.  You responded, “Your son I am.”  Like Yoda.  We were thrilled. 

Some days after that, during speech therapy you were asked to name animals, as many as you could. This is one of my favorite stories regarding your recovery, actually.  You began to name off some common farm animals.  I believe you said cow, horse. 

Then you jumped to dinosaurs.  It was as if the five year old Patrick was in the room, the one who carried his dinosaurs with him on every trip in the back of our station wagon, threw them down slides in the backyard and interrupted our Barbie games with brontosaurus chasings. 

One by one you named the different species.  I am told the nurse was smiling.

It was amazing, and probably close to the cutest thing I have ever heard.  You were coming back to us, slowly but surely.  In your own way. 

I can remember driving home from a hair appointment mid-May, getting a call from mom after another speech therapy session.  The doctor was prompting you to answer some basic questions, and you had responded with “Why are you making me say all this shit?”

It was the most familiar, “Patrick-esque” statement I had heard in weeks.   With the sun beating through my windows then, I lost it on highway 40 during rush hour.    

During your rehabilitation stay, I was able to witness the brain during its early stages of healing.  For me, this was incredibly interesting.  Also terrifying.  Sometimes you would speak so coherently.  There were also times where you’d be mid-sentence and then repeat the commercial that had just come on TV.  Sometimes it would seem that what you were saying was a different language, but upon second thought, actually made sense.    Once, you had been watching the Cardinal game with Dad, cursing at the television, repeatedly referring to the “God Damn Serdaps.”  It took Dad awhile, but he finally realized what you meant.  “Serdap” is Padres spelled backwards.  We were playing the Padres. 

Your recovery has been an amazing thing to witness.  A terrifyingly painful, inspiring progression.

There were times where I knew, one hundered percent, that you would be fine.  There were times where I would cry myself to sleep, driving home wondering if you’d ever be the same.   Now, eight months later, just looking at you is enough to make me feel like I could change the world.  I wonder if you’ll ever realize how strong you are, how much of an inspiration you are to all who know your story.  I have always considered you to be the best-case scenario.  Nothing about that has changed. 

“Have a good day.”  My motherly proclamation as you exit my car.  I watch you walk through the doors.  I notice you deliberately not using your cane.    

And I just want you to know that on days like today, seemingly normal, slowly-dragging work days, bitterly cold run-of-the mill days, days where you feel like you are on auto-pilot, days where you feel frustrated, defeated, days where you might be forgetful, days where you can’t seem to figure out how you got to where you are…

I want you to know that you’re amazing. 

I want you to know that I love you. 

And I want you to know that you’re alive. 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Angel Rachel


Last night was a turning point for me.

Lately, I don’t recognize myself.  For one, there’s the anger.  This awful, living and breathing thing that has taken over my daily thoughts.  I catch myself giving dirty looks to complete strangers.  Why wasn’t it their brain?
Second, there’s the multitude of calls I reject from my friends on a daily basis.  I’m doing them a favor, really.  Saving them from this dark place I am currently lost in, the sick negotiations that are taking place in my mind.  I can handle you walking with a limp for the rest of your life.  Just give me comprehension, give me logic.  I won’t ask for anything ever again.  I can actually hear a voice in my head every time I press the ‘decline’ button.  Save yourselves.  Quite the lonely place to be.

But mostly, I can’t stand the silence anymore.  My entire life, I have appreicated time spent alone.  Silence has never made me uncomfortable.  I love a deep thought, a thorough reflection.  But now, the worst part of my day is walking in the door every night after visiting you, when everyone’s asleep.  There are no distractions, and I can’t begin to sort through the thoughts that take over then.  I won’t even write them on paper.  So I watch the infomercials, and I read the paper at 2am.  I have even snuck into Frank's room to read to him while he's asleep.  Yes.  I have. 

So last night was our slumber party.   You and me.   I arrive to the hospital around 8:30 as they are locking the main lobby doors.  Mom and Dad fill me in on the details of your evening.  You have a new nurse tonight, Rachel.  She enters and we say hello.  Yes, I’m another older sister.  Yes, you are the baby.

When I ask if you want me to read to you, (I’ve come prepared, Hunter S. Thompson) you nod.  Sometimes, it’s like you grasp what is going on, nodding and mouthing words in response.  Other times, you are prone to intense “zone outs”, seemingly ignoring this world altogether.  You are not there yet, completely, but I’m told this is normal.  All a part of the process.  I hate it.  This step-down unit.  This in-between.  I can hardly stand to see you like this. 

Rachel comes in several times throughout the night to check on you.  Once, I ask her how long she’s been a nurse…if she has any children.  She stops abruptly, and leans over your bed as you stare at her.  She asks me if we can discuss this a little later.  Immediately, I feel bad for asking.  Of course, I nod. 

You sleep on and off throughout the night, never for more than twenty minutes at a time.  It’s disturbing each time you wake, confused, agitated.  You want to scratch the scars on your head.  I can’t let you.  You want to lay on your left side.  You can’t, Pat.  That side of your skull currently resides in your abdomen.  You try to get up to walk, to mouth to me what you need.  I do my best to guess, change the channels endless times.  Are you thirsty?  Are you in pain?  The anger never fading.  I’m angry all the time.

Around 3am Rachel enters, and she can sense that I’m upset.  You have been up for a while, and I can’t get you to calm down.  I think you might be in pain.  She begins to gently massage the scars on your head, quietly “shushing” the outside world, calmly reassuring both of us that you are okay.  I watch your eyes close, your fists unclench.  I think of Mom holding you as a baby, and I can feel the tears starting.  Once you’re asleep, Rachel pulls up the chair next to me.  It is then that she tells me.  She didn’t want you to hear this part before.

Rachel tells me that she lost her thirteen year old son and husband in a car accident several years ago. 

She goes on to say that she has seen patients in rooms just like this, waking in the night, searching for a familiar face…that you are lucky to have a sister like me, a family that never leaves your side.  She tells me that you will make it through, that we all will.  She hugs me then, and next to the humming of your machines I feel like I have known her all my life.  I can’t help the tears that come.  I excuse myself for some fresh air.  Rachel will stay with you.

I make my way down the elevator and out the ER lobby doors.  The hospital is eerily silent at 4am, the air outside perfectly still.  I’m standing in the same spot I stood that night, after they let me see you.  And for the first time since then, I think of him.

There had been a man who approached me in the rain.  I was standing alone, staring at the parking lot.  He was hunched over, in obvious pain.  He touched my shoulder, asked me for help.  He had just been discharged and needed to walk home five miles.  He was hungry.  Did I have any change?
Obviously then, I had been preoccupied.  But like a zombie, I reached into my wallet, handing over the twenty I had taken out that morning for a school fundraiser.  He walked away then, thanking me.  I realize now that I hadn’t even noticed which direction he had taken.  Had he walked to a warm home?  A family?  Had he a brother to read to?
For the first time since your accident, I stop being so selfish.  I can begin to see my life for the things that I have, instead of all I could potentially lose.  I think of my friends.  My amazing friends who have no earthly idea what to say to me.  Yet they still call, every day.   I think of you, how you continue to fight as I stand here asking 'why me'?  I think of “Team Patrick”…of Rachel, a woman who has buried a child and still finds the strength to tend to the needs of strangers.  I picture her sitting with you then, in your dark room.  Hadn’t she been angry?  Hadn’t she frightening thoughts in the silence?  And here she was now, lighting the path for someone like me. 

But mostly I think of her.  I notice the highway in the distance, and I can see her driving past every morning for the past five years without a second glance.  In that moment I can sense a change.  In that moment I feel luckier than she ever did.

I float up to your room then.  For once, I can’t get there fast enough. 

I’m not there yet, completely, but I’m told this is normal.






 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

For Patrick

There are days where I still soar
Back to who we were before.

I watch us dance, amidst the gray
Before the trees began to sway.

Promises, in tethered dreams
But safety wasn't what it seemed.

I felt the chill
I watched the skies
They mocked my desperate, muffled cries.

Broken glass and flooded streets,
She moved the ground beneath my feet.

A force delivered you from me
Now, there are things I cannot see.

Red rubber balls and folded hands
Lay punctured, drowning in the sand.

The aftermath, and I am lost
In nature's unforgiving cost.

But that same wind that bent the trees
She moves the clouds, and lifts the seeds.

And even though I can't forget
The stars will burn.
The sun shall set.

On remnants of a life now made
Of siren sounds and yesterdays.

 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Remember When

(May 21, 2013)

I figured it out.

The reason it is so hard for me to look at pictures of you before the accident, that is.  

You would think I could do it now.  You are awake, you are out of the hospital.  Technically this is a rehabilitation "hospital", yes.  But you are speaking, you're alive.

I have been reading a lot lately.  Mostly about traumatic brain injuries, success stories, medicines, therapies, personal articles and blogs.  I have also seen a number of pictures.  There is always the family photo, everyone smiling around the patient.  Everyone so happy.  But I can always pick out the injured.  And it's not because of the scars or the myriad attached medical equipment.  It's the eyes.  

Your eyes are different now.  In all of these pictures, these pictures of total strangers...strangers who have overcome insurmountable odds, horrific accidents and close calls, I see the same thing.  They are lost.  

You can tell a story however you want to.  You can elaborate and exaggerate, but your eyes don't lie.  Ever.  

Yours are telling me that you aren't there yet, completely.  There is an emptiness to them, a longing that is hard to stomach.  When I look at your "old" pictures, I don't see that space.  I see laughter, I see youth, I see endless possibility.  I see my brother.  

Whenever they ask you questions, I can feel my stomach tighten.  It's hard to watch them ask you these things.  "Which one is red?"  "What is meant by the phrase, 'honesty is the best policy?"  "Which one doesn't belong?"

I want you to answer correctly so badly.  For your benefit, of course, but also because I don't know that I can live in a world where you don't get it right.  These questions aren't "it" though, for me.  They can tell me that you are healing cognitively, but they can't show me the person you will be.  

These questions don't tell me if you'll still love The Strokes.  They can't show me that you'll laugh at the same things, that you'll still prefer to shop at thrift stores, or that I will still loathe arguing with you more than anyone else on the planet.  

I realized today that I can't look at your "before" pictures, because I haven't seen your"after".  We aren't there yet.

I can remember a game we played growing up.  You, Molly, and I.  It would usually be springtime or summer, and we would circle the date on the kitchen calendar...whatever day we decided to play.  We would count the remaining days until Christmas and take a mental note.  

Once December came around, we would meet back in the kitchen.  Sometimes, growing so impatient the week before, hastily pulling the calendar down and searching the months for that long lost day, still marked in red.  

"Remember?!"  We'd exclaim.  

"Remember when Christmas was THIS far away?!!" And we'd wonder how we'd ever made it so far...

I know there will come a time when you'll be back.  

It might come to me in the form of a random, sarcastic text message as I wait in line at the post office.
I may see you across the dinner table, subtly mocking an unsuspecting member of the family.

I might catch you in a fleeting moment, mid-laughter as you throw your head back.  

But there you'll be. 

I will smile, and I'll think to myself.  There he is. 

There's my brother.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ghosts

(April 28, 2013)


That feeling when the happiest moment of your life just happened…
The nurse came in and said you were awake.  They had been trying to wean you off sedation for several days, trying to safely awake you from the coma.  But every time, you would become agitated from the pain and all of your numbers would go crazy.  In fact, the medically-induced coma is what saved you.  It stopped you from moving long enough so that your lungs could heal. 
The nurse came in smiling, a rare expression here.  It had been a long day.   I had pulled three chairs together and was attempting a nap.  It was early evening.
“He’s awake,” she said, smiling.  I’ll never forget that smile. 

Mom and Dad went first.  We didn’t want too many people in there at once.  We didn’t want to overstimulate you.  Dad came back a few minutes later. 
“Come on,” he said, tears in his eyes.  It felt like Christmas morning.

Up until that point, you had made eye contact with me once.  It was two weeks prior on Saturday, the 13th.  I had gotten to the hospital early that morning.  The only ones in the waiting room were mom and dad.  I had walked back with mom to check your numbers.  Our scary routine.
You were asleep, but we could still talk to you, they said.  Studies had shown that you could hear us, they said.  I said your name, and you opened your eyes ever so slightly.  I remember they looked like little slits, like the first time they handed me my son.

“Patrick,” I said again.  You slightly turned to look in my direction, but your eyes would not focus.  It was incredibly disturbing to watch your pupils dance like that, like you were searching for something…like you were very far away. 
I could tell that you were in pain.  I could tell that you were not ready.

The next day was your big oxygen scare.  We almost lost you, and after that they put you under.  For weeks none of us would know your outcome.  When you woke up, would you be able to respond to commands?  Would you understand?  Could you communicate?  The prognosis of a TBI is the stuff of nightmares.  You could wake up without the ability to swallow, to speak.  You could wake up with little difference after rehabilitation.  The unknown is enough to drive you crazy.  A very dark place.

As we followed Dad to your room on this day, I thought of something that had been haunting me since the night you were hurt. 
I had been angry at you for something.  We were young.  I was about 10 or 11, putting you at 5 or 6.  We were in Mom and Dad’s room, and I was trying to get you to leave.  You wouldn’t.  You were always around, always following after us.  When you refused to leave, I did something that only a horrible older sister would dream of doing.  I hurried to the door, turned off the lights and left you alone.  But not before saying, “Fine, let the ghost get you.”

I can remember standing in the hallway then, hearing you start to cry.  I immediately felt bad, and seconds later you came running past me, hysterical.  I know that you remember this.  It is often brought up at family gatherings in an attempt to make me feel guilty.  It always gets a good laugh, and I always apologize.  But I’m not really sure you know that I truly mean it.   I want to tell you that. 

I want to tell you how sorry I am for letting you down that day.  For all of the times I made you feel too small, insignificant.  I’m sorry for all of the times I pedaled a little faster, or ran a bit too far.  I’m sorry for not “waiting up”, for ever leaving you scared.  I want to tell you how much I love you, how all of my favorite memories involve you, how I want my son to share your brilliance, your zest for life, how I would give anything to glance back now and see you running behind me.

I can’t shake it.  The possibility that I could say all of this to you someday, and that you might not understand is just too horrible.  I keep thinking of your ACT score, a 30.  You could wake up having lost everything.   I place thoughts like these in that very dark place, but sometimes I find myself lost there too.
When we enter, I can tell that your nurse has been crying.  I’ll never forget that smile. 

“Patrick, can you do it again?”  She prompts.  “Your family’s here now…can you show them?”
Mom calls me over to the side of the bed, your right side.  “Patrick it’s Nora,”  my voice is quivering.  “Can you stick out your tongue?”

You looked at me.  It must have taken all of your effort, but you looked at me, a focus that I had been dreaming about. 
It took you a second. 
I watched you squirm, I watched you try.  I saw your tongue peek out, ever so slightly.  Barely a slit, like your eyes on that day.
You understood.

I pictured myself in the hallway that night, watching you run out of the dark.

For as long as I live, I’ll never be happier.

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2.0

Each year we reflect on what we have.  I am no different than most.  

I am always thankful for my health and the health of those close to me.  I'm thankful for my family and friends.  But this year, as I glance around the table I realize that my list is more specific now.  In all actuality, it feels like every day is Thanksgiving.   This year I am thankful for things I never knew I should be, for feeding tubes and ventilators, for paralytic drugs.  I am thankful for the people who are working right now, away from their own families, to help those in the state that you were in. 

I’m thankful for science.  I’m thankful that somewhere, at one point in time, someone figured out how to decompress the brain, saving the irreplaceable cells that enabled you to remember me…those that housed your sense of humor, your personality.

I am thankful for Ativan and Propofol, Heparin and Coumadin. 

I'm thankful for neuroplasticity.

I'm thankful for nurses who are truly living their calling.  The ones who spoke to you like you were still a person, inquired about your interests and your life.  The nurses who cried with us, the ones who fought for you and bagged you by hand for ninety minutes while you clung to life.

I'm thankful for nurses who sit with terrified sisters in step-down units, all through the night.  As you repeatedly woke up confused and looking towards the door, I'm thankful for the nurse who came running, gently massaging the scars on your head when I couldn't calm you down, lulling you back to sleep as a mother would do.

I'm thankful for nurses who have seen all that we have seen and worse, and still clock in the next day.

I’m thankful for husbands.  The kind who allow me to be distant and difficult, standing aside, quietly holding the pieces of my life together.  Husbands who love my family so much that they will completely remodel rooms in a matter of days, so as to better accommodate your needs.  I'm thankful for a husband who holds me up when he feels like collapsing.   I'm thankful for his shoulders, for his hand, and for my son.

I'm thankful for the person who called the police that night, that in the midst of tornadic winds and a power outage, someone saw a body and called for help. 

I'm thankful that I will never have to know how long you lay there in the rain...that I can forever tell myself it was five minutes. 

I'm thankful for lights at the end of very dark tunnels. 

I'm thankful for all of the times tragedy has been averted, and for the strength this incredible experience has afforded my family.  I'm grateful every time a breeze stops me mid-sentence, for the ability to recognize what is truly important.  I'm thankful for a heightened awareness.

But mostly, this year, I'm thankful for you. 
I’m grateful for the opportunity to see you smile, to be able to drive you to work and watch you walk away.  I’m thankful when you get angry with us for opening doors and holding your drinks.  I’m thankful for the times I have had to watch you struggle, for the proof that you are very much alive.  

I'm thankful for rainy, dreary days at rehabilitation centers, long movies and portable DVD players.  I'm thankful for air mattresses and overnight bags and dry shampoo.  I'm thankful for wheelchairs and physical therapists, for parking lot barbeques and extra pillows.

I’m thankful for every birthday you have yet to celebrate, for every holiday there will not be an empty chair.

I'm thankful that to my son, you will be much more than some distant memory, more than a picture on a shelf.
I’m thankful when my phone rings and it’s you.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Don’t you dare think that it’s ever lost on me.   



Monday, November 25, 2013

Now.

(April 27, 2013)


I had a dream.

I'm walking down the pavement of a familiar park.  It's sunny out, and I notice a man on the path ahead of me.

This man turns to wave, smiling.  He is carrying a mail sack.  White.

I yell to him but he does not hear me.  He turns and continues to walk away.  I begin to run after him, and it is then that I realize what's in the bag.

He's holding my memories.  All of them.  My entire childhood, every book I've ever read.  All of my secrets, my fears.  A lifetime's worth of connections and recognition over his shoulder.  Like Santa Claus. 

I'm sprinting now, running as fast as I can.  The sun is setting, and I see him reach a hill.  He slows briefly before going over, out of sight.  Never breaking stride.

______________________________________________________________

People tell me how great I'm doing, how strong we are to get through something like this.  If it were them, they wouldn't be at work.  They couldn't get out of bed.  Little do they know that I'm really not that strong at all.  It's all that I have not to completely shut down.

Last night I found myself in the bathroom, screaming into a towel at 3am.  All of these thoughts...these thoughts that you might not be the same, that you might not remember us.  At times  they are too much for me to handle.  In the beginning, everything was happening so fast. It was difficult to think about time from one minute to the next.  I just took it every second, one at a time.  We all did.  But now?  Now we can see a bit farther.  My back aches from these chairs.  I long to go home straight from work, to kiss my son goodnight.  Now, this isn't some tragedy you are involved with.  Now this is life.

I can't figure out which is worse.  Is it better to know nothing about brain injury at all?  In some ways, I think so.  Then I might find it easier to be optimistic;  however I have this basis of knowledge.  The brain has always fascinated me.   I have taken classes, taught lessons.  I know what these injuries entail.  We discuss people with neurological disorders, their struggles.  In my mind they are always some stranger in a distant place.  They are never you.

It is becoming increasingly hard to focus on the positive.  I am grateful that you are alive, but I am terrified of what is to come.  Before, I could place my thoughts on the small victories but now they aren't enough.  I want you back, completely and in your entirety.  Yes it's selfish, but I can't help it.  I don't want you back in any capacity.  I want you back, same as before. 

Lately I wake up not wanting to.  I can't be happy for anyone else, and I can't seem to grasp how to function normally in this prognosis.  This unknown space.  How do you make dinner?  How do you engage in small talk with this ominous cloud over your every move?

Frank asked about you today.  As we left the grocery store, out of nowhere he asked if you were better.  I told him no. 

He looked up at me.  And in the middle of the parking lot on a Saturday afternoon, there it was.  "Almost, mommy."






Saturday, November 23, 2013

4.11.13



You looked almost normal lying there.  I was far from normal, in complete shock actually. 

Your hair was wet, as were your clothes, but aside from some dried blood here and there and a bad gash on your arm you looked like you had just fallen asleep after a long day at work, watching reruns of SNL.

Your chest was heaving a bit, which was strange to see.  I assumed, correctly, that this was from the lung.  I knew it was serious, but not necessarily fatal.  Just hard to watch.

It still didn’t hit me, though.  They said you had grasped the paramedics hand when asked.  They said you never stopped breathing.  I hung my thoughts there as I watched you silently.  No tears.  No emotion.  Mom kept stroking your arm.  “We will get that cut cleaned up,” the doctor said.  “Probably a few stitches.  We will clean him up,” he assured us.  It didn’t hit me until someone asked.

“So when he wakes up…?”

The doctor didn’t pause.  I wonder if that’s a tactic you have to learn in med school.  Just give it to them all at once.  One motion.  Rip off the band aid.

“When he wakes up, then we will know the extent of the brain damage.”

Brain damage?  It hadn’t crossed my mind.  I knew you had broken every rib, I knew your pelvis had been fractured (or so they thought at the time), I knew your lung had collapsed and your jaw was broken, but brain damage?  And he hadn’t said 'if ' but 'extent' as if he were confident there were some amount, just a little fuzzy on the details.  I thought of one of those clear jars full of M&Ms.  Guess how much to win the prize…

My mind could not grasp this as I watched you.  In that moment I could not process that two hours ago you had been a normal 22 year old on your way to dinner.  You would have responded to a text from me regarding some band, and  now as you lay there, you were forever changed.  That no matter what the doctors did from this point on, there was that.

The doctor elaborated, but I couldn’t concentrate.  He explained to Mom and Dad and Stashe, that the CT scan would show if surgery was necessary to remove a portion of your skull to allow for swelling.

Static.  Everything was still.  What are you thinking about right now?  Can you hear us?  Do you know what is happening to you?  I wanted to rush the side of your bed and start talking to you about something.  Anything.  We could prove them wrong together, they would see.  You would open your eyes and yawn and the doctors would be baffled.  You would make a joke about how even with a head injury you were smarter than me.  You would get up and complain that your arm hurt, ask for some good drugs and we would all be on our way home.  All you needed was someone to believe it, someone on your side.

But I didn’t.  I just stood there. 

I noticed the stained cloth in the trash can.  Was that from you?  How often were these cans emptied?   I looked to the doctor as he spoke, hearing nothing.  What had this doctor eaten for dinner?  And when exactly does one take their breaks, on the midnight shift?  I took some mental guesses as to his favorite TV shows, clothing stores.  It seems crazy now.  As this man stood there, outlining your fate for us, my mind went somewhere else.  I simply refused to accept that this had happened to the smartest, funniest, most loving person I knew.

I was angry.  And I would be for a very long time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

4.26.13

They walk among us.

Mortals, capable of immortal acts.  Sometimes I recognize them as they pass me in the hall.  Sometimes they are next to me on the elevator, seemingly normal human beings wearing white coats with novels in their eyes.

I watch them adjust their glasses, check their notes.  I notice the mechanical movements of their invaluable fingers.  Is it you?  Are you the one who plates the rib, that prevents the puncture?  Are you the reason my brother breathes again?  The sculptor of my mother's smile, can you restore my faith in life?

I thought we had moved past this, that day.  My kids had just finished the EOC.  You were not awake yet, but life was beginning to resemble some state of normalcy for the moment.  It was Friday, 2:20 pm when my phone rang.  We were in the library, waiting for the bell to ring.  I had gotten my kids jolly ranchers for the test, and had just placed one in my mouth.  Sour apple, which forever tastes rotten to me now.

Molly calls.  By now I've learned that no news is good news.  I hardly want to answer, so I don't.  Then I call right back.

They are not sure what happened, but you started bleeding heavily from the tracheostomy tube in your neck a short while ago.  You are currently being prepped.  I need to come quickly. 

I know I sound agitated to my sister.  A defense mechanism to hide the fear, the adrenaline that was now surging through my body.  As I quickly walk through the crowded halls back to my classroom, I want to scream.  Instead I grab my things quietly, and I make my way to the car.  I make my way to you. 

For the first time since you were hurt, I allow myself to feel the anger I have been repressing.  I'm gripping the steering wheel so hard that my knuckles are white.  It's completely illogical, but I'm angry at everything, and everyone I've ever met.  I'm angry at the person who asked if I was okay as I ran out the door.  I'm angry at the strangers in the next lane.  I'm angry at you.

By the time I reach the hospital, you are in surgery.  Mom and Dad and Molly are pacing outside the ICU waiting room.  I take a mental note as to the normalcy of this sight to my eyes now.  No one knows what happened.  You were doing so well, and then the sudden bleeding.

So here you are again, fighting for your life.  And here we were, clinging to a doctor's nod and a few baffled stares.  Bobby's plane will be landing soon, and he will come straight here.  One of your nurses informs us that the surgery is underway.  I call Mike and inform him that I won't be picking Frankie up from DayCare. 

This operation doesn't take as long as the others, and soon your surgeon is explaining to Mom and Dad that everything went well.    He has repaired the tiny tear in your jugular vein that caused the bleeding.  He referred to it as a "pin prick".  The doctor went on to say that he has never seen anything like this three days after a surgery.  He says that he is unsure of how it happened but assures us that it is fixed, and that he has eliminated the possibility of any further tears. 



It was later that mom told me.  She had been near your room when the bleeding began.  When she was alerted, she entered to find a doctor with his finger in your vein to stop the bleeding.  As the nurses cleaned your blood-soaked sheets, he stood next to you, explaining to mom that he was gently "pulling" the vein tissue upward.  He had seen this procedure done before, read about it somewhere.  While they were prepping your operating room and contacting your surgeon, he was saving your life, calmly and methodically in front of your mother.  Two days later you opened your eyes. 

Mortals, capable of immortal acts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

April 10,2013

I find it strange that this is a day of celebration for someone out there.  This is someone's birthday, someone's anniversary.  This is the day that forever changed me.  The person I was before then no longer exists.  In some ways this is a good thing.  I no longer have heart palpitations when my son runs a fever.  My road rage has lessened.  I forgive the rude lady in the line at the grocery store with ease.  Her brother is probably recovering from a traumatic brain injury.


4.10.13 


The wind was loud that night.  Howling is a term often used.  To most this is an unsettling sound, an eerie foreshadowing as it rattles their windows.  But since that day, I am no longer afraid of it.   Since that day I can hear its message much more clearly.


“Tell them you love them…” it whispers.  “Forget the laundry...have you told them today?” 


I distinctly remember feeling defeated, all day actually.   I remember minor things, like wearing a dress to work.  I remember being exhausted.  I kept wondering, “What’s wrong with me?”  There was absolutely nothing to be sad about, looking back.  The universe is funny that way, always trying to tell you.  Always watching. 


I came home from work at a normal enough time.  Frankie was napping and my mother left.  Little did I know this would be the very last time she would watch my son while I worked.  For three years it had been the two of them together.  April 10, 2013…the very last time. Mike arrived home and told me I looked tired.  I told him I was.  It is difficult to explain, how I felt that day.  It was not a premonition, but a feeling of immense dread.  Impending doom perhaps?  I went to bed at 7:30, which is highly abnormal.  Something about the day had worn me out physically, mentally.  I had to start over.  I remember hearing the sirens around then.  I remember the windows were open. 


I got out of bed about forty minutes later and listened to the news.  There had been a tornado in Hazelwood…near school.  I thought of my students, and of my family and called my mother.  “Everyone’s okay,” she assured me.  Bobby’s plane had landed and he was en route home, Mary and the kids had gotten into the basement.  Their house had sustained some damage but all were okay.  Everyone was home except for you.  You had left about ten minutes before I called…right after the sirens had stopped.  Mom assured me you were sitting in traffic on 170 due to some downed power lines.  Everyone was okay.  I went back to bed.  Impending doom. 


At 11:19 I heard Mike’s phone on the desk, a whisper of a ring.  Half asleep I wondered what time it was, but nothing registered yet.  I picked up my phone from the nightstand, still on silent from work.  Two missed calls.  Bobby. I shot up, noting the time and realizing something must be wrong.  I yelled for Mike to answer his phone, which was now ringing again. He got up to answer, and I could tell from his voice that it was not good news.


I don’t remember the following moments with much clarity.  I began to get dressed as Mike asked my brother what hospital.  As I found my gray sweatpants in the dark, I asked him to tell me what had happened.  It was then that I started to hyperventilate.   I asked Mike not to say anything yet.  I thought, in my panicked state, that this delay would buy me some time.  Time for someone to take this back, whatever this horrible thing was looming in our bedroom.  I knew something was about to change our lives forever.   Mike hung up the phone, and after a few seconds I said I was ready.   I remember hearing your name, and the words “critical condition”.  Mom called me as I was putting on my boots.  She was on her way to the hospital, and explained that you had been found underneath an overpass.  I immediately pictured you getting out of your car and being hit.  She told me you had fallen.  I asked if you were found breathing, and she said yes.  You never had to be resuscitated...the only piece of good news I would cling to for weeks.


I told Mike to stay with Frank, as I stumbled into his room to search for my sweatshirt.  My sweet baby boy was asleep in his bed, oblivious to his mommy’s world unraveling before her.  I bent down to kiss his forehead and began to weep, only for a brief second.  Then I hurried out the door. 


The car ride was something surreal.  The skies seemed so calm, almost taunting me as I drove to you.  I followed the speed limit, stopping only to vomit as I turned off our street.  I cannot explain the calmness that came over me after that.  I pictured you driving just hours before.  I wondered what time you had been hurt, and what I had been dreaming about at that moment.


I didn’t think about much on my drive, but could only imagine that your fall had made you unrecognizable to us.   I mentally prepared myself for that.  I didn’t anticipate how unrecognizable my entire world was about to become.