Brokenhearted

April 27, 1991

Passenger’s side

Five weeks shy of a thirty-second birthday is too young to be a widow. This must be a nightmare, I thought as I lay on the hospital stretcher in the emergency room.

Driver’s side

I looked at my bruised body while two nurses standing on either side of me removed pebble-sized shards of glass from my ears, chest, and arms with tweezers. It was strange there wasn’t a single cut anywhere. This doesn’t make sense.

 The nurses helped me sit up, then moved my feet and legs gently to the side of the stretcher. With latex gloves covering their hands they combed through my hair with their fingers to remove more glass. There were no cuts on my face or head either. Additional evidence this must be a nightmare.

They wrapped a cream-colored, padded figure-eight brace that went around the back of my neck, under my armpits and fastened it between my shoulder blades to secure my clavicle bone, which had broken in two places.

 One nurse asked, “Would you like some pain medication?”

“No thanks,” I said, feeling disconnected from my body and confused about the events that were happening. I needed a clear mind to retain vital information given to me to make life-changing decisions. I could see my body was broken and bruised. It’s not normal to look like this and not experience more physical pain. My whole body felt numb, like I’d been given a large dose of Novocain. More evidence this must be a nightmare. Or could it be I’m consumed by grief and regret?

The emotional pain was intense. Every fiber of my being screamed in terror of what was to come. Never have I felt such mental agony and unbearable fear. It left me void of any other emotion. Not one tear fell from my eyes. Could medication help this kind of pain? I was afraid to ask. I felt the urgency to be alert and fully in control, yet I also felt the opposite. I better stay away from any medication.

The nurse gave me a hospital gown because my shirt and bra were cut off in the crisis so I could be examined. Another nurse adjusted a royal blue sling for my right arm to keep me from moving it so the broken clavicle bone could heal.

I’m not a stranger to hospitals. I’ve been admitted twice to have my babies, and I had to take my eight-year-old son several times to emergency throughout his life when he struggled to breathe due to severe asthma. My seven-year-old daughter also had a couple of emergency room visits—once with a febrile seizure and another time with an outbreak of roseola. Over the years I’d seen some of the trauma that goes on in emergency rooms.

This hospital was different. I’d never been here before. It was 60 miles away from home. Knowing family and friends were far away added to my loneliness.

On the other hand, my husband, Mark, had never been admitted to a hospital. In the fourteen years I’d known him, I’d never heard him speak about an injury or illness that required hospitalization. Not once. This couldn’t be happening to him because he’s always been healthy and active.

He was lucky too. Just before our marriage, he drove me home after a date. While driving back to his apartment, he looked at the dashboard and noticed his car was on empty. He must have been racing to get to a service station. Unfortunately, in the moment he took his eyes off the road, he missed the sharp curve. He lost control of the car and drove down a rocky embankment, which caused his car to roll. It was late and completely dark outside. This road didn’t have any street lights. He was trapped inside the upside-down vehicle. The door would not open, so he rolled the window down, unbuckled his seatbelt, and crawled out to safety. Miraculously, he walked away from that accident without any broken bones or cuts. Why were things so different this time?

A new nurse I hadn’t seen yet walked into the room and handed me a large, white plastic bag with a drawstring. On the side of the bag were big blue letters that read, Personal Belongings. She explained in the rush for Mark’s MRI and surgery, they had to cut his jacket, shirt, and pants from his body. Inside the bag were his shoes, socks, wallet, watch, and cut clothing.

She told me Mark would be in surgery for a while and suggested I wait for my family to arrive in the waiting room.

The heavy disconnected feelings were paralyzing, and I couldn’t make my body move. We are too young for this horrendous experience. How do I wake up and get out of this lonely, cold emergency room? How do I end this nightmare?

A dose of reality shot through my body with an intense burning sensation of fear. What if this isn’t a bad dream? How do I fix it? I’m responsible. I was driving and he was the passenger. It’s not fair Mark’s life is on the line. It should be me in surgery, not him.

How do I correct this terrible injustice?

My mind kept racing over the unbelievable words I’d heard. “Mark may not make it through surgery. He’s unconscious. He has severe brain swelling and needs a shunt immediately.”

This can’t be happening to my healthy husband.Bad things happen to other people, not us…or so I thought.

My April 27th Theme Song. Thank you Hilary Weeks for writing words that explain just how I feel.

Caregiving Tips from Ann McDougall

Ann's kids awakeWhat became obvious to me as I read and edited Ann’s story last Sunday was how caregivers need other caregivers to be capable of doing what needs to be done. Her viewpoint wasn’t as a caregiver, but one that was receiving the care. However, she is a mother and all parents are caregivers. I learned from Ann’s story how important others were to enable her to give the care needed for her baby’s development and the care of her three year old son, Liam. I relate to that in my own caregiving journey. It’s clear to me I can’t do it alone. I don’t know anyone who can. Sometimes we may feel alone, but I hope that feeling doesn’t last.  Ann’s experience with being on bed rest for twenty-eight weeks taught her what was important to a person on the receiving end of caregiving. The following five tips were shared and written by Ann McDougall:

  • Be proactive. It was appreciated when others would ask what is needed and then follow through. With some people I was comfortable saying exactly what I needed and with others I wasn’t. I have a close friend who asked what she could do for me besides come visit and I asked her to pick up some specific snacks for me. I wouldn’t tell just anybody that. I had other friends who brought me crafts to do to keep me busy. All the supplies were ready so I could easily do it in bed.
  • If you say you are going to visit, visit. They are so important to someone who can’t get out. I felt isolated and lonely and really looked forward to the visits. I have a grandma who went blind in her old age. She was homebound and had to rely on caregivers. I know my grandma felt a lot of loneliness and thrived on visits. I have more empathy and compassion for people, especially the elderly, who are home alone all day and not able to do everything for themselves like they used to. Calls, texts, and Facebook messages were a good alternative to visits and were also appreciated.
  • Pick one doctor to be the primary doctor and stick with his/her opinion. When I was in the hospital, I saw a team of doctors who worked in the same specialty area. I also saw student doctors working under those doctors. Each one had a slightly different opinion and approach to my care. Before I was admitted, I had already picked one doctor to be my primary doctor so I was able to refer back to his opinion.
  • Remember the children. My mom brought toys to the hospital for Liam. It gave him something to do while he was there and those toys stayed at the hospital so they weren’t the same toys at home. He looked forward to those special toys and it helped make the boring, small hospital room a bit more inviting. Another visitor brought a children’s story book just for him that also stayed in my room. He loved it and still does.
  • Consistent child care is important, especially for young children. Liam struggled when I was on bed rest at home because I wasn’t able to get up and do things for him or play with him and when I was admitted to the hospital, his world was turned completely upside down. He acted out by hitting and had a huge potty training regression. It was tough for me to ask people to watch him because I knew he would be difficult to be around, especially if he didn’t know the person well. It was a huge help when my mom was able to take Liam the majority of the time. It helped Liam to have the same person watching him with a consistent routine. He knew what to expect from day to day, where he would be and when he would get to see me. I appreciated the many people who offered to take him, but I knew it was best if he wasn’t shuffled from house to house. I know it was hard for my mom to have him most of the time, but we were so grateful she was able to take care of him.

Rainbows

Quote

Rainbows

Music has a way of tugging at the heart strings and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” has an especially strong pull on mine.

My love of music unfortunately was not translated into any form of talent. I did take piano lessons in my youth but had a hard time learning how to read music. However, I’ve been surrounded by musicians my whole life so I do appreciate and enjoy listening to it. Each one of my sibling’s can play at least two instruments and my mother along with both of my children play the piano. My son, Christopher, loves to perform and can play several instruments, his favorite being the guitar. He not only reads music, but writes his own and lyrics too. So any talent I should have had, he makes up for.

In the year 1991 when Mark was at Western Rehab there was a large gathering room where family and friends could gather to visit. In the corner of this room was a piano. My oldest brother, Mick, with his family would often come to visit on Sunday evenings and play the piano. Other patients liked to gathered there with us to enjoy his playing and the encouragement his music brought. Once his talent was known, patients or staff asked him to play whenever he would come to visit.This entertainment was always a welcomed distraction from the pain and hard work of rehabilitation and the loneliness of not being home. 

My sister, Rosanne and her family put together a few musical programs to perform for us and all other patients who wanted to come to the gathering room. Usually a good crowd was there to be lifted up by the sounds of my brother-in-law, Klint, at the piano, Rosanne, on the cello or flute and their five children age’s fourteen to five, all on violins. All in attendance enjoyed the healing power of music.

Never will I forget one very special song my sister played at the end of one of their programs on her flute, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. She came up close to where Mark and I were sitting. With Mark, just out of a coma, I felt the spirit of the words as her notes touch my soul.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land I heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why oh why can’t I?

Whenever I hear that song, tears fill my eyes as I’m taken back to that touching moment when music communicated love, hope and encouragement. It reminds me of a very worrisome, dark time, brightened by music and our family’s love. A remarkable moment which made me realize after every bad storm there is the promise of a rainbow.

Enjoy my sister’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” recorded near our Family’s Hill Haven in Parley’s Canyon.