The day had taken a turn for the worst. Arriving home after a long cold day, my knuckles white with fear from driving an hour and a half on the icy road, I started knocking out my usual duties. The dog needed to be let out, supper needed to be prepared and the remaining members of my family were expected to arrive home with welcoming hugs and conversation of their day.
It was still snowing. It had started earlier that afternoon with a light rain, then slowly turned over to snow. The first of the season, November 21st, 2013. I was thankful that day, for the wonderful family that I was blessed with. It hadn’t always been so easy. Blended families never are. My kids fought it the entire way and we almost didn’t make it a few times. When we parted ways that morning we were content. We were happy and everyone was getting along. The kiss goodbye was perfect and I felt blessed.
Dinner came and went. We ate without him. He had said when he left that he was going to his brother’s house and then to an auction. I figured it had gone late and the snow had made the drive home difficult. So, I waited. I didn’t want to call or text him if he was driving.
I continuously checked the driveway during the night to make sure he hadn’t slipped and fallen. The glittering snow revealed no trace of footsteps or tire tracks. Midnight arrived and I decided to call him. It was worth the chewing out I would get, regardless, I needed to calm my anxious nerves. Unexpectedly, it went straight to voice mail and my nerves grew even more tense as I continued to tell myself It was going to be all right. At 5am I laid down but couldn’t sleep. My heart was filled with worry and fear.
At 7am, I made my way to the local police station to see if they could help. My daughter, 16 at the time, came with me. I explained the situation and waited briefly while the officer searched her database. Then she said, “Ok, Stay calm. I found him.”
19 hours prior, there had been an accident. Counting the hours backwards I realized this had happened early the previous day, just after I had left for work. The rain had turned to ice on a major freeway and the tiny truck rolled 3 times at 70MHP, just missing the oversized tires of the semi rolling next to him as he skirted down the freeway on the ice, on the roof of the truck. He didn’t believe in wearing a seat belt since his dad had died in an accident years before and would have lived if it wasn’t for wearing one. My daughter began to tremble and leaned her body into mine, her teeth uncontrollably chattering as tears began to stream down her face. It was apparent that he meant more to her than I had anticipated these last 6 years. He was the only dad she had known and he had treated her well; Spoiled her.
At the hospital, I couldn’t have prepared myself in any way for the reality I walked into. Denial had me convinced he would be home in a week. The doctors weren’t even sure he would make it. They induced him into a coma and I waited there, by his side, watching the monitors and the nurses hour by hour. It wasn’t long before I could decipher what every alarm, button and beep meant.
I waited for weeks, through Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Years. He was improving but far from ready to come home. I was worried he may not remember us when he awoke. This was the second traumatic accident he’s had in his lifetime and his fourth brush with death. It was something I had never experienced and I had never lost anyone close to me. I feared that all the time and hard work we had done to make our new family work was about to come to an end.
After 6 weeks and several surgeries, they woke him up. They transferred him to another hospital to begin his recovery. He seemed to remember everyone but was confused and understandably irritable. The hospital’s team of nurses and doctors were unreliable and the care was less than admirable. I pointed out to one nurse that there were tubes and bags that needed to be changed and leaking out onto the bed. Many hours later, I mentioned it again. It wasn’t the only time I was disappointed in the care here and I filed several grievances. I remember walking down the hallways and hearing people screaming, “Help Me! Get me out of here! They’re trying to kill me! Help!” It was a depressing place and I began to fear for his well being again.
2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.
This hospital was a nightmare! I had overheard someone say, “If there’s an accident and one person goes to the trauma center and one comes here, the one that goes to the trauma center will live while the one that comes here will not.” Praise God they took him to the trauma center first!
One night while visiting, a nurse appeared in the doorway and asked me what I was doing there. I was taken aback by this as I had stayed so many nights already. She ended up calling security on me to get me to leave. I calmly told her that I wasn’t leaving until I return to work on Monday. They decided to leave me alone.
One night I noticed he had started to dig his finger into a large bolt sized hole in his leg where they had attached traction devices in the trauma center hospital. It was packed with cream and covered with a bandage. I told the nurse when she came in the room. Her response was to rip the old bandage off the blanket on his bed and slap it right back on. I was mortified! This went on for hours that night. I repeatedly complained and they repeatedly slapped the old fuzzy bandage back on. I stayed awake to make sure he left it alone. It was an ongoing battle. At about 3am a man walked into the room and asked if I needed anything. I immediately told him about the bandage and the hole. He left briefly then came back with some supplies. He cleaned his leg, filled it with cream and then covered it with a super sticky wrap. While he worked he talked with me and told me how he doesn’t regularly work there and occasionally comes from another hospital to help out. The next day when I talked to the doctor I told him how helpful the man had been. I was told there was no other staff on that night from other hospitals and he had never heard of this man who had appeared in the room that night.
Two weeks later, after an infection set in due to lack of proper care, he was transferred back to the trauma hospital where he stayed until discharged to a nursing home. What a relief that was!
The care at the nursing home was acceptable at times and other times not. I found myself doing many of his cares myself and even answering the calls of other patients around him who were yelling for help. He discharged early due to the cost of care and finally came home. It had been 6 months since the accident. God had spared his life. It was a miracle really. Two traumatic brain injuries in his lifetime and he retained everything. He had little to no strength, was paralyzed on one side of his lower body and pieced back together on the other. I knew the road was going to be long and hard, but I was ready to care for him. Whatever it took.
The following Thanksgiving, he was able to attend dinner with me at my moms. Since then our love has grown stronger than I could ever imagine love could grow. I guess that’s like the love that God has for each and every one of us. All of his children on Earth are graced with his love and blessings, whether good or bad at the time, there’s a reason for everything under the sun.
I was thankful that God had spared him and except for the pain, has made an amazing recovery. He has undergone 7 surgeries to his knee in the last 4 years and each time had to start the healing process all over. I’ve heard no complaints, only praises and a commitment to serve God to the fullest. He is truly a witness for God!
I am thankful for the blessing for this man in my life and every day I praise God for the opportunity to care for and love him unconditionally. As God does for each of us.