Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Day that Began and Ended at Safeway: With a Disaster in the Between

Friday morning, March 8, 2013, started as a typical teacher work day, I let myself sleep until I awoke on my own, then headed to Safeway to grab some fixins for our staff pot-luck luncheon- and of course treat myself to a Starbucks.

There was no urgency in my commute to work this morning as I had - miraculously- finished all grading (over 100 tests with multiple concepts to score) AND entered and submitted the 3rd quarter grades all before I left school for the day on Thursday.

While busying myself with house keeping tasks in my classroom my phone rang.  Seeing it was my little brother Nik, whose wife is expecting a baby girl in a few short weeks, I answered the phone in an excited auntie voice- expecting the baby call.

Confusion set in... why was his voice so shaky and sad.... this didn't match my expectations... as the words he spoke settled into comprehension, my heart stopped... my dad had been in an accident, he had a broken neck, and was currently in the ER. ....No, not the happy baby phone call I had been prepared for.

The drive from Palisade to St. Mary's has never seemed so long, I don't think there has been a time where so many thoughts passed through my head in such a short amount of time. Was he paralyzed, was he critical, was he stable, would he walk again, would he work again, would he be in a wheel chair, would he live to see tomorrow, how did it happen...  Nor do I think there has been a time when my emotions changed so abruptly and dramatically - one minute sobbing cries to God, then the next calm explanations to my husband, only to return to sobs and pleas to be strong when I arrived at the hospital.

Walking the sterile halls of the hospital to Trauma room 2, I straightened and braced my shoulders to receive what ever was waiting for me on the other side of the curtain.  My first glimpse... his feet moving and wiggling - this sight alone gave my heart hope and strength to see the rest for I KNEW he would walk again.  The sight was not pretty, but I can't say it was worse than I had expected.  He had a neck collar on and was covered in blood that came from multiple facial lacerations.  The worst that I could see was one on his cheek to almost his ear, it went clear through to his mouth. 

Trauma T.V. shows, such as Grey's Anatomy and ER, have done a significant disservice to the reality of ER room activity.  There was nothing that was urgent, or rushed about my dad's ER stay.  I expected the Dr.s to be making fast decisions in an effort to immediately improve my fathers sate of being.  Instead the process of x-rays, doctor evaluations, administration of pain meds and, ordering MRI consumed several hours, through all of which he received no pain meds.  Maybe the lack of hustle and bustle was a good sign, he was stable, and they were able to make smart, informed decisions on the best course of action. 

The initial diagnoses were in, my dad had sustained injuries that included a fractured C-2, compressed C-3, Teardrop fracture of C-7, small fractures in lower vertebrae, broken rib on left side, fractured orbital bone and blown pupil on right side, broken rib on left side, multiple facial lacerations, a cut on his calf, and NO SPINAL DAMAGE!!!!

Hours after arriving in the ER they took him for an MRI then up to surgery to repair the lacerations on his face.  Finally, about 4:00 he was taken to a room in the ICU.  The Dr. updated us on all the lacerations he had to repair, which were more numerous that he had first thought.  He was unsure of the severity of scaring, and nerve damage - only time would tell.

There is a strange time vortex that occurs in the hospital, it's as if time simultaneously speeds up and slows down; a day turns into the longest day of your life and in that same day hours have slipped past unnoticed. I found my self leaving ICU late Friday night suspended in this vortex, the outside world was still moving forward, a whole day had past where it seemed everyone went about as usual, I was stepping back into reality with the same trepidation as stepping onto a high speed moving walk way for the first time, not sure if I would maintain balance.

Situations like this tinge the world a different color, people look different as if a transparent material separates my reality from theirs.  I observed this strange sensation as I stopped at the grocery store on the way home - miraculously I remembered we needed milk.  I couldn't help but look at the people around me and wonder at how normal they looked- did I look normal too or did I have the look of someone who has been through hell and has yet to return? 

It dawned on me in that moment, how my day had truly come full circle- no not full circle that would imply that things ended exactly how they began and that is not the case.  Maybe my day came full spiral, beginning in one location of one reality and ending in the same location in an alternate reality.  I'm not sure how long I stood staring at the milk options with an almost comatose gaze upon my face, maybe only a second, maybe longer, but am stunned with how dramatically your life can change in less than 12 hours.

I do have hope and peace in the knowledge that all that has changed in the course of one day, 12 extremely long - yet slipped away hours - my dad was alive this morning, and he is alive now, and he will live tomorrow and the next tomorrow. 

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