"How can you stand to just sit here and watch him breathe?" a tearful Lu asked me earlier this evening. Her father was lying in his hospital bed not a foot from where she sat, perched on my lap. His breathing was labored and shallow due to the lung that had been collapsed, the chest tube, and the broken ribs. The severe pain also hampered it. My only answer was "because I have to". How do I explain to her, my still so young daughter, that it's my sacred duty. How to describe for her the vigilance that's based on the absurd thought that by sheer force of will, I can keep him breathing? The fear that if I look away for just a minute, his chest will fail to rise and the monitors will begin that ceaseless bleating.
As I sat alone last night, in the post midnight quiet, it all overcame me. The phone call from the neighbor telling me about the accident, the mad rush to the hospital, the countless phone calls to family and friends, the illegal rush into an ER trauma room, the agonizing hours he was in surgery, and the relief that he came through alright, the calm demeanor that had held me through those things dissolved. And silent tears ran down my cheeks as I held my husband's hand and thanked whatever powers that be that he was still with me. I watched the rise and fall of his chest. Kept a close eye on the monitor where the data from a myriad of tubes and cuffs and wires printed out. And it occurred to me that this same scene was being played out in countless hospital rooms across the globe. I was not alone in my vigil. Not alone in my hope, fears, or irrational phobias. And again, I counted my blessings that we had been so lucky. That while he was still in danger of infection or pneumonia, he was whole and in one piece (give or take a spleen and some skin). And he will recover and I will get to spend the rest of our life together letting him know how much he means to me.
You see, that's what popped into my head on the way to the hospital. Why am I so mean? Why is the garbage that big of a deal? Or the fact that he forgets to do tasks I ask of him. Really? In the grand scheme of things, what more are these than minor annoyances? Why should I let them color our lives so? When faced with the all too real prospect of losing my best friend, they seem so small and petty. And I fervently hope, that after this reminder, I will never let it play so much a part of our lives again. And we will honor the rule we made a long time ago, that you never leave the house in anger or after harsh words are spoken. Because you never know. And I know how relieved I was that the last words I'd said before he left were "Drive safe. I love you."
***For those of you who don't know...my husband left our house Friday evening to make a trip to Lowe's in town. As he slowed to make a right hand turn off the blacktop, another pick up truck, travelling at a high rate of speed, ignored (? missed? blew through?) the stop sign and slammed into his drivers side door. My husband's truck was propelled headfirst into a telephone pole, then impacted once more near the back of the bed. The other truck rolled several times. As it happened on a country blacktop, there were no witnesses, no one around. The impact was heard for miles. Everyone (or so I hear) with houses near the intersection and the nearby town headed to the scene. My husband was trapped in his truck while rescue workers tried to get him free. He was then helicoptered to the nearest city. A neighbor called and told me there had been an accident and they were taking him to the hospital. I have never been so scared in my entire life. I made a mad dash to the hospital, phoning family on the way.
When I finally arrived at the ER, husband's mother, stepfather, sisters, brother and Lu were already there. They were in a family room because the hospital wouldn't let them in the trauma room. I made an illegal dash through the doors, nearly mowed down a priest, and got to his side. It was gruesome. I only got to tell him I was there and that I loved him before they whisked him away to CT scan. I was literally shaking from head to toe. After CT, emergency surgery was performed. Another agonizing three hour wait. He had a collapsed lung, three broken ribs, a completely demolished spleen, internal bleeding and severe and numerous lacerations. They put a chest tube in his lung to re inflate and keep it re inflated. The spleen was removed, the bleeding stopped and over a hundred stitches put in his left arm. He was given two units of blood. No bones were broken.
Today, he is still in ICU. He's in a major amount of pain. He runs a risk of infection and pneumonia. He is battered and bruised. But I have seen the pictures of his truck. He is lucky to be alive at all. It took hours for them to clean up the scene of the accident. The only part of his truck that still looks undamaged is the passenger door, the one they had to finally take him out through. The other driver was not so lucky. He was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from his vehicle. He did not survive.
We have had an overwhelming wave of support, offers of everything, prayers, food, cards sent our way by family, friends and people we don't even know well. My husband apparently impacts way more lives than he knows. And even the kids have been overwhelmed with friend's and acquaintance's outpouring of love and sympathy. We thank everyone so much for everything they've done and for reaching out to us. Please spare some prayers for the other driver's family. He was at fault, but paid a high price and I sympathize with his family.
If you guys could send us positive thoughts, him to heal quickly and well, me strength to keep my vigil and my sanity, it would be greatly appreciated.
from the wrong side of midnight,