After Shawn was flown via helicopter to a trauma center in Las Vegas, Aunt Lisa and
cousin Troy drove his mom, Donna, and I to the hospital to meet him. We talked through
the whole 2 hour drive: laughing, joking, calming our nerves and keeping our spirits up.
It may seem inappropriate to laugh at such a time but the human mind does amazing
things to keep calm and carry on.
We arrived at the emergency room, explained who we were. A nurse from the trauma
unit met us at the double doors and explained that Shawn was about to be taken
into surgery. He allowed Donna and I to see him before they took him back,
solemnly warning us that Shawn looked very bad, urging us not to panic when we saw him.
I reassured him that I had already seen Shawn at the scene of the accident, we would
be okay. He gave me a sympathetic nod, a pat on the back.
Shawn lay under the bright fluorescent lights, lines and tubes and wires coming out of
every direction. Beeping noises, IV bags, nurses rushing around him: all familiar sights
to me. But not when it involves my husband. His ear had been left alone for now as
the trauma doctors thought it would be best to let a plastic surgeon address it. His
bloody, disfigured ear was the first thing his mother saw, a sight so gory and horrifying
that she burst into tears. I have to go, I can't see him like this. She hurried from the
room, her heart broken as she gazed at her precious baby boy, feared for his life.
I went to his side, held his hand, gently stroked his cheek. The rest of the room seemed
to fade away. I'm here, babe, right here. I love you. He opened his eyes, squeezed
my hand, and said, "Hey, babe. How are you? Thank you so much for coming!".
It was so Shawn.
The nurses buzzed around but didn't move me, didn't ask me to leave. I asked
several questions, they answered willingly. The trauma doctor came in and briefed me
on what had occurred so far, what we could expect for the rest of the night:
Open compound fracture of the humerous bone and elbow of the left arm
Severed brachial artery
Laceration to the right side of his head
Laceration to the forehead
Lacerated right ear
Road rash to the face and shoulders
Fractured C-1 vertebrae
It was time for surgery. They took Aunt Lisa, Troy, and I into the holding area to
meet more doctors, sign consents, discuss plans. The doctors were all very grim, giving it
to us straight. There was no use painting a pretty picture here: Shawn was in
critical condition and we were to be thankful that he was alive. Making it out of surgery
with positive outcomes would be added bonuses at this point.
The fact that they allowed us to be with him so much scared me, reiterated to me
how precious these moments were, reminded me how uncertain his future was. I didn't
tell anyone else this. There were a lot of things I kept to myself that night. I didn't
want anyone else to be as afraid as I was, I didn't want them to know that the things
the doctors were telling us were not good. And so I kept encouraging them, focusing on
the positive and staying strong.
The told us the surgery should take about 2-3 hours. They would repair the bones in
his arm first and then repair the severed artery next. He would wear the collar on his
neck for at least 6 weeks to repair the fractured vertebrae. Staples were placed in
several places on his head to repair the lacerations.
We set up camp in the surgery waiting room, trying to get comfortable in the hard chairs,
the cold room, our anxiety swirling around us like a tropical storm. Troy brought food
but we could barely get it down. We talked, shared stories, prayed, tried anything to
keep our minds from drifting back to that scene, the scene of the accident.
The promised 2-3 hours came and went. The surgery ended up taking 8 hours total,
an entire night of waiting and worrying. The doctors came out to talk to us and gave us
a report: the bones in his arm had been repaired using 19 screws, plates and wires. A
vein was taken from his leg and a graft was performed to repair his artery. There
were several complications during the surgery because his arm had gone without blood
flow for so long. He had no movement or feeling in his arm and the doctors were unsure
of the long term prognosis. For now, he was alive and well and we were to hope for
By now, it was morning. My mother woke up that morning and found my text
messages urging her to call me. As soon as I heard her voice, I finally lost it. I went out
into the hall and completely broke down, sobbing and crying so hard that I could
barely speak. She patiently listened, crying quietly into the phone and feeling helpless.
That was the only time I allowed myself to ask why, the only time I allowed my armor
to come down. Something about hearing my mama's voice comforted me in such a way
that I allowed myself that vulnerability, the healing power of my tears streaking down
my face. A woman walking down the hall stopped and pulled me into her arms, a
complete stranger held me and let me cry into the phone to my mama. I looked up into
her kind eyes and thanked her, a true human connection.
My tears were gone in the next few minutes when the nurses came out to tell me that
Shawn was now in ICU and we would be allowed to come back and see him. They assured
us that this particular ICU had an open policy with visitors because the patients were all
so critical. We would be able to be with Shawn as much as we wanted. This both
comforted and scared me at the same time.
He was very disoriented when we first saw him, thrashing around and trying to climb out
of bed. I stayed by his side, holding his hand and whispering reassuring words into his
ear. He slowly woke up, became aware of his surroundings. He was so
confused, remembering nothing about the accident, completely unaware of how he
had gotten here and what had occurred over the last 12 hours. The trauma of what he
had experienced was too much for his brain to comprehend, it was shut out to
That first day was spent feeding him ice chips, giving him a bed bath, family
members coming in and out, our phones ringing off the hook as news started to spread
about the accident, doctors making rounds, plans and labs and decisions. Shawn's mom
went home to take care of Isabelle and Brees. She could not bear to see him in this
condition and felt she could better serve us by taking care of our girls. We were
The nurses allowed me to sleep in his room in a recliner that would become my bed for
the next 20 nights. Shawn's family was kind enough to rent a hotel room across the
street from the hospital, a place for me to get away and take a shower and catch up on
my rest. I was never able to spend the night there, though. The thought of my
husband being in the hospital and my daughters being 2 hours away made me feel
so completely alone. I was not strong enough to be in that hotel room by myself.
Our nurse that first night gave me a clipboard and a stack of blank paper. I couldn't
sleep with the nightmares that haunted me, the scene of the accident replaying in my
mind over and over every time I closed my eyes. Instead, I stayed up and made lists of
all the things I needed to do. I watched Shawn sleep, counted his breathes, monitored
the screen that recorded his vital signs. I devoted myself completely to taking care of
him and getting him through this time. It was the only way I could survive.
And so we began, taking on the work of Shawn's recovery with courage and
determination. We formed a new routine, focusing on making sure that he ate well,
slept well, exercised, and stayed positive. We said our prayers every night, kissed
each other and held hands, sat side by side every step of the way. It took me 8 days
to clean all of the blood off his body, gently wiping and cleansing his physical wounds
while simultaneously nursing the emotional ones. His family drove back and forth to
the hospital, keeping us company and bringing us anything we needed. The word
"support" does not even begin to describe what they provided us, they gave us so
Shawn went through 5 different surgeries, making baby steps each and every day
and surprising everyone around him with his progress. The doctors were honest with
us from the beginning: if he does not regain function of his hand within the next 6
months, amputation is our worst case scenario. The first time we heard that
word, amputation, we were both speechless. That word is not something you ever
imagine being a part of your life, your future. We had many conversations about that
word, talking and exploring the most worried parts of our souls.
That was the key throughout this whole experience: we talked. We communicated to
each other, spending every single day side by side, remaining patient and selfless
and allowing ourselves to truly practice the art of love. Shawn and I both believe that
this accident will not break us, we will come out of this stronger, better people. We
have remained positive even on the hardest days. Why? How? Because we have
given ourselves no other choice. We are lucky that Shawn is alive and have chosen to
allow that fact to propel us into tomorrow. Life is precious and there are no guarantees,
we are living proof of that. Now, we just have to keep moving forward and celebrate
each day for what it is: a gift.
Thanks to the doctors, nurses, and therapists pushing him along, Shawn sits before us
today a much healthier man. He was finally discharged from the hospital after 20
days, allowing us the opportunity to go home and be with our girls again. The day we
left the hospital, we couldn't help but look back and sigh with relief, allowing ourselves
a moment of awe. We made it through that time, came out on the other side. I helped
him put on his sling, watched as he got himself dressed, packed up our things and
ensured that we had enough supplies. This man who fought for his life, fought just to get
out of bed, worked diligently every single day to rebuild himself: that day, I was never
so proud to walk beside him and call myself his wife.