The Move

Moving On2After the doctor left with the agreement that Mark’s update reports would take place in the conference room in the future, I returned to his bedside. I held his hand, hoping to feel his spirit. Where are you Mark? Are you trapped between two worlds? Am I going crazy and imagining movements just because I want to see them? A thought came to mind, or possibly his spirit answering me, all energy is going to fight the infection and blood clot. Maybe, a coma is the best place for me right now.

Intermixed with all the worries, the improving numbers in his red and white cell counts were triumphs in my mind, along with his temperature and heart rate going down. With each passing day I was getting more and more anxious to move Mark to a rehab hospital closer to home.

The therapists were getting Mark out of bed two or three times per day now. After several weeks of lying in bed it was refreshing to see him sitting in a reclining wheelchair. Sometimes when his eyes were open, there was a blank stare. Other times I could see he was focused on something. However, every time he was moved, his eyes grew wide and he looked terrified. I felt and understood his fear. He had no control over his body and where it would land. I knew he was aware of the movement; I saw it in his eyes. In a soothing voice, I tried to reassure him everything would be okay.

One day I walked from one area in his room to another and noticed his eyes followed my movement. I walked a little farther away and lost his focus. When I got closer to the bed, I knew he could see me again and as I moved from the left side of the bed to the right side, he lost focus again. As I watched him from his right side, it appeared to me he was searching the left side to find me. I tested this a few times, moving from one side of the bed to the other. I was positive he could see me on the left side, but for some reason could not focus on me when I was on his right side. Every day I read to him and we listened to his favorite music on cassette tapes.

Christopher and Katie were now out of school and my mother was with them most days, but on the morning of June 12, 1991 she came early to be with me for the doctor’s report. Quickly walking towards the conference room she said, “Hi Mark,” as she walked past his room. Mark turned his head towards the door, obviously recognizing his name and her voice. A nurse was following behind her and somehow missed seeing his reaction, or at least wouldn’t admit to seeing it. In the conference room Mom told the doctor she was sure he recognized his name and her voice and he responded. The doctor and nurse would not agree that Mark’s response was worthy of any progress notation.

I was anxious to move Mark to Western Rehab Hospital for several reasons. It had a wonderful reputation for specializing in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries and it was close to home. They only had a few beds available at the time and I was worried they’d be full when the doctor released him from McKay-Dee Hospital. The sixty mile daily commute to and from the hospital became increasingly difficult with the kids out of school and the frustrations the doctor and I felt for each other were becoming intense.

“When will Mark be released to go to Western Rehab,” I asked again.

“I don’t feel he’s should be moved yet.”

I reiterated my reasons for being anxious to move Mark and recounted all the positive improvements we had seen in the past ten days, including the response my mom had just had.

Exasperated, he said, “Well, if you’re so smart, why don’t you take him out yourself?”

Surprised by his statement, I asked, “Can I do that?”

“Yes. I don’t recommend it and you’ll have to make the arrangements yourself, but you can do it.”

“I’ll do it,” I exclaimed.

I was elated when I called Western Rehab to verify they had a bed for Mark. They helped me arrange for an ambulance to transport him there and requested the medical records from the hospital. I hadn’t been this excited since the car accident. While Mark was sitting up in the reclining wheelchair, I trimmed his beard, shaved his cheeks and gave him his first haircut since they shaved half of his head for the shunt placement, which had now been removed. All trimmed and shaved he looked better than he had in seven weeks and I was confident he was ready to move on to this next stage of his recovery. That night Dad came by the hospital and I asked him to give Mark a special blessing that all would go well with the transfer.

Saying good-bye to the Call family, whom I had shared the McDonald House with and the Peek family, who were residents of Ogden made leaving the hospital hard. These two families had become my hospital family. We spent many worrisome hours together in the waiting room while our loved ones were in ICU. We ate meals together, attended church services at the hospital and shared tears over concern for our loved ones. I knew I’d miss their love and support.

The moveI didn’t take my decision to move Mark from the hospital lightly. I wanted to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible and was hoping I could ride in the ambulance with Mark to Western Rehab. Mom knew of my desire and was supportive in every way, so the next morning she drove me to the hospital and waited with me for the ambulance to arrive. Two EMT’s came to the room and with a white sheet under Mark’s body, they pulled him from his hospital bed onto the stretcher. The IV bag was moved to a pole on the stretcher, while his trachea tube was attached to a portable ventilator, which was placed at his side.

“May I ride with him in the ambulance,” I asked.

“Yes,” said one of the EMT’s, “you can ride in the passenger seat.”

The move1

As excited as I was to get Mark out of this hospital and closer to home, I felt intense gratitude towards the team of doctors and nurses for saving his life. I thanked each one of them as we gathered his medical records and packed up the last few personal items before walking out the door. I was leaving the hospital a changed person, realizing Mark’s life and recovery was now my responsibility. I was confident in my decision, but the accountability weighed heavily on my mind.

The Blessing of Comfort

ambulance

April 27, 1991

“I know what you’re going through,” said the EMT at my side while the other one drove the ambulance to the hospital. “I just lost my wife three weeks ago,” he said in a somber voice.

“Mark will be okay,” I said as he placed the oxygen tube in my nose and checked my heart rate and blood pressure. He has to be okay, I thought. I can’t live without him.

“Is there anyone we can call for you?”

“Yes,” I replied and recited my parents’ phone number.

No answer confirmed my earlier fear they had already left with our two kids to pick up my 14 year-old niece, Linda. She had agreed to watch Christopher and Katie for the evening until we returned from our all day house hunting adventure in Ogden, Utah. I envisioned Mom and Dad in the front seat of their 1979 gray Chevy car with the three kids in the back seat.  Like a snapshot pictured, I saw all five of them happy, healthy, and unaware that our world had just turned upside down as they made their way to our home in Sandy, Utah. They were sixty miles away and I knew it would take at least an hour for them to get to us. They were uninformed of how much I needed them and how far away they all seemed to be. Yet in that moment, I wanted to protect all five of them from this devastating news.

After several rings, the EMT interrupted my thoughts, “Is there another number we can call?”

Still struggling to breathe from the blow to my shoulder and chest, I simply recited my brother’s home phone number. I was surprised by my memory of phone numbers and calmness under such horrific circumstances. I knew God was blessing me.

“Hello,” I heard my sister-in-law, Dianne’s voice over the speaker.

“This is the paramedics in Roy City. Do you know Mark and Barbara Wilson?”

“Yes,” Dianne said, sounding apprehensive.

“They have been in a very serious automobile accident and we are transporting Barbara to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and another ambulance will take Mark there. We have tried her parents’ phone number, but there was no answer.”

Dianne anxiously assure the EMT she would let them know and the quick call ended.

She immediately called my oldest brother, Mick, at work. Since Dianne was home, she knew when my parents had picked up her daughter, Linda and realized they probably had time to drop the kids off at our house and were in route to their home. Mick told Dianne he wanted to go to the hospital with our parents so he called their phone number and since they didn’t have an answering machine he just left it ringing for several minutes until they returned home to answer it. As soon as they got the news, they cancelled the dinner date they had and headed for Salt Lake City to pick up Mick and the three of them drove together to McKay-Dee Hospital.

brand-canvas-hospital-mckay-dee-hospital

McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah

After the x-rays and removing pieces of glass from shattered car windows from my ears with tweezers, a compassionate nurse asked me if there was anyone she could call for me. I knew it would be at least an hour before my family could get to the hospital. I didn’t even know who knew at this time other than Dianne. I thought of a close childhood friend who lived in Ogden. I told the nurse I did not know their phone number, but if she could look up Darlene and Dixon Pitcher’s phone number, I would appreciate it.The nurse left the room to make the call while another one fitted a patted figure eight brace which wrapped around the back of my neck, under my armpits and fastened in the back to secure my broken collarbone. Broken pieces of glass were all over my body,but not one cut. How strange, I thought as I looked at my bruised body while the nurse cleaned the glass off. Next she brought a sling for my right arm and adjusted it to my size.

“Would you like some medication for the pain.”

“No thanks, I don’t need any,” I said numbed to any feeling.

The nurse was just finishing up with me when Dixon and his friend came to the hospital. I was relieved to see a familiar face. Recalling the frightening words from the surgeon just before he took Mark into surgery, I was terrified of what laid ahead. I asked the two men to give me a Priesthood Blessing. I didn’t know Dixon very well and had never met the friend he brought with him. It was Dixon’s wife who had been my childhood friend, but he knew just what to say and his blessing brought solace. They sat with me for a while after the blessing. I was so stunned by the experience I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember the comfort these two men brought. My broken heart was full of gratitude for them.

The nurse came back in the room and handed me a large plastic bag with Mark’s belongings. Inside was his cut clothing, shoes, wallet and watch. She explained to me in the rush for Mark’s MRI and surgery, they cut the jacket, shirt and pants from his body. She told me Mark would be in surgery for a while and I was free to wait in the waiting room.

I thanked Dixon and his friend for the blessing and visit and assured them my family would be on their way. I didn’t want to keep them from their Saturday plans any longer and told them I’d be fine, so they left. I sat for a moment on the edge of the bed in the emergency room, alone and oblivious of the other crises going on in the other rooms. I wondered how I’d make my body move. I didn’t feel pain, emotion or drive. I felt dead and consumed with despair. This must be a nightmare, I thought. Surely I would awaken soon and life would go on as planned.

Divine intervention must have given me the strength to grab the plastic bag of Mark’s belongings with my left hand as I mustered up the will to get off the bed and walked aimlessly out of the  room into uncertainty, still wearing the hospital gown for my shirt. I looked down the hall and saw some swinging doors at one end. Unaware of anyone else in the hallway or in the rooms I passed, I walked devastated and all alone through the swinging doors into the main area of the hospital. To my relief, there stood my brother, Mick, at the information desk, talking to the receptionist. Mom and Dad stood behind him and noticed me. Immediate comfort came from the sight of them. Gratefully, I was no longer alone in this nightmare, but unfortunately…that also made it more real as my family poured love and life back into me.