Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Story: Part 2

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
I shuddered.  It was a long list, critical, uncertain outcome.

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 
the best.
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 
protect him.
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 
so grateful.
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 
much more.

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.   


Deanna Fike said...

yet again. this post had me in tears for you and your family. and when you mentioned the complete stranger who took you in her arms, it gave me such an overwhelming feeling. what a sweet, sweet thing for someone to do. your family has been in my thoughts so much lately. 

Brook Brunton said...

Glory be that Shawn is out of that hospital! Your words made me cry and I'm so thankful for the kindness of strangers - a little guardian angel when you needed one.  You and your family remain in my prayers as Shawn continues to recover from his physical wounds and you all heal from the emotional toll such an accident has taken.  xoxo

Sweetgreentangerine said...

As I read this I just kept thinking of how I would react in this situation with my husband, and all I can say is that I hope I am half as strong as you!  I know you're very proud of Shawn for his amazing recovery but I have no doubt that you had a part in that.  I'm so glad he's home and recovering. :)

Sara said...

You are so very strong and your love for each other is inspiring. <3

Randalin said...

Beautifully written and captured. I am so impressed by your ability to recount such a difficult time in a beautiful way. I'm even more impressed by your strength, Shawn's strength, and the strength you've shown together. You are all in my thoughts constantly. 

Jodi Hall said...

Oh hunny, I didn't know so much was going on! My heart broke when i came to your blog tonight, the first time in a while. But its so wonderful to see he has come so far! God is good!  I had no idea your family was going through this. I will be thinking about your family and I will be putting your family in my prayers. 

Mattandkaraadopt said...

You are both champions! I read this with tears in my eyes the whole time - I am in awe of his recovery and your courage. We will continue to pray for health and wholeness for Shawn, peace for your family and a complete recovery for all of you, both emotionally and physically. Hugs to you!

Vanessa said...

You. You. You are amazing.
I feel like I identify with your vigil and need to remain strong and stoic because that's the role I found myself in when my mom was sick. It's completely draining and all-consuming. I'm glad you're seeing the light now! And I hope that Shawn is able to move his hand again soon (if he hasn't already).

Michelle Wingreen said...

I am so glad Shawn is doing better! Your story is so touching and I can feel the love and strength of your family just by reading your words. Praying for your family as you continue on this journey!

Joanna said...

I recently broke my ankle and have gotten wayyy behind on reading blogs...whoa, mama! Thank God he's alright! Finished reading your previous posts, and just so glad to hear you guys are back home and things are (somewhat) back to normal. What a crazy, crazy story!