Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Story Behind the Picture I'd Rather Not See

So a few of you are new here and a few of you aren't but by way of explanation regarding the end of my "Kodak Moments" blog, here's the scoop....(that was a helluva run on sentence, sorry).

When M was seven we lived next door to a family with a little girl the same age and a boy about four years older. Like myself, the mom was a stay-at-home, so we split the duties of running the kiddos to things like swimming lessons and summer programs.

Despite being officially a non-worker, I was running a costuming business from our spare bedroom and because it was Renn Faire season, I was simply over run with orders. I popped next door and asked Neighbor Mom if she would pleasepleaseplease run the kids to swimming even though it was my turn. I bribed her with cake, but she was so sweet she would have done it anyway.

About a ten minutes later, I heard helicopters, sirens the whole nine, but thought nothing of it since we live not far from a busy street with a fire station/ambulance depot.

When they were an hour late, I figured they had stayed to swim and forgotten to call. I went next door. Neighbor Husband had not heard anything either. There was a commotion at the corner, so I assumed they were hung up in traffic. I walked to the corner, through the parting sea of neighbors and peered into the street.

The only resemblance to the car that remained was the color. It was literally crushed in half, the roof torn off the doors flung into the street after being removed by the jaws of life.

Ever calm in a crisis, I flagged down the nearest cop and asked what kind of car it was. He asked what kind of car it thought it was. I replied that I believed it was my neighbors Dodge Neon. The cop walked away and conferred with the incident commander who came over to talk to me. He asked if I knew how to contact the family of the victims.

I said I was the family. I wanted to know where my daughter was and I wanted to know RIGHT THEN.

What I remember most was the quiet. I remember not one sound except my own breathing. My own heart beat. The cop clearing his throat. The click-click-click of his pen as he debated my propensity for hysterics.

I met Neighbor Husband coming around the corner. I was told later that he fainted in the street, but by that time I was in my car and on my way to retrieve J from work.

We parked the car in a loading zone and hit the ER at a near run. They led us to a little room. NEVER, EVER, go into that room. Nothing good comes of it. The nurse and the Chaplin insisted that we sit down. This too, is never a good sign.

After a few minutes it became clear that they had sent us to the wrong hospital, and while this staff could tell us she'd been transported, she was not there. We broke land speed records to the other hospital. They wanted us to go into a room too. They asked if she had identifying marks or tattoos.

SHE IS SEVEN I calmly replied. She's missing her front teeth. She has on a mermaid swimsuit. She had crooked bangs. Her toenails are ten different colors. If there is something you need to tell us, JUST SAY IT.

The nurse leaves and come back alone. She's upstairs, they tell us and we're lead to the P.I.C.U.

M is hooked to every machine they have in the hospital. She is intabated, immoblized, catheterized, monitored, everything. She is also filthy with bloody, matted hair, her little face torn up, her body covered in bruises.

She is in a coma, though we don't know it yet. Every so often she emits ear shattering screams. She tells the Doctor to fetch her dad, but doesn't see him right before her. She shrieks to go home, she cries to have her goggles taken off. She yells for those men to go away, she DOES NOT LIKES THEM.

We spend a very sleepless night.

In the morning, we are met by the top pediatric neurosurgeon at the hospital. We are lucky to have been taken to one of the leading brain injury hospitals in the country. He hands us the scariest book in the world called something like "You're brain injured child".

He tells us that the child we had is gone and they can not promise the child that is left will ever recover fully or even at all. It is wait and see.

In the seven days that follow we learn the circumstances of the accident.

They had been stopped at the southbound intersection of a blind corner. When the light turned green neighbor mom proceeded into the intersection. They were struck at the "B" pillar by an ambulance traveling above the speed limit, through a red light, at a blind intersection without sirens. She never saw him coming. He did not see her until it was too late. All he could do was swerve. In an effort to avoid her, he struck the drivers door with the corner of the ambulance. Had he not swerved he would likely have gone right through the back seat of the car, killing the children. Instead, Neighbor Mom was killed. The two little girls in the back seat were crushed through an opening about 8" wide. Both of them. They were dead on scene and were revived by the very man that had killed them. The irony of it was not lost on anyone.

The City was more than solicitous during this time. They paid for our parking, our food, everything. They sent the cities grief counselor to tell us that the paramedic was devastated, that he could not sleep at night. That he was a father, too. That he had a little girl. That if he could do anything, anything at all, we only had to say.

The only thing that we asked for was retraining. The paramedic, in his effort to help another had broken his Hippocratic Oath to first harm none. He had violated the law (all emergency vehicles must come to a "prudent stop" before proceeding through any intersection with or against a traffic light), he had violated our lives.

On the seventh day, M was moved to the children's ward. She was still comatose. We didn't know when, or if, she would wake up.

And then.

The nurses name was Kelli. She was just coming on shift and wanted to know if we needed anything. Would I like an apple? Clear as a bell from the bed came M's reply.

I like apples.

Those three words are the most beautiful words ever spoken. Far surpassing any I love you ever uttered.

For a hour we talked to her, trying to get her to speak again. She was not interested. At last she asked for her baby, the blanket from the couch, for me to just HUSH already, she was tired.

She spent another week in the hospital, underwent every test ever, none of them with out expressing her extreme displeasure. It was clear that the sweet tempered daughter we had raised had been replaced by someone with no censor valve. It was pretty awesome. How liberating to just say what you think; what you really mean; EVERY time. That's what your frontal lobe does for you, it tells you when and how to react, it's the Polite Lobe. It's the part of the brain that keeps society from self destructing due to everyones inability to tell right from wrong. M's was irreparably damaged. Also lost was her short term memory. This too, has proved to be not that bad. I could agree to anything, and she was happy. I never had to deliver, because she didn't remember anyway. It was inconvient, though, because I'd feed her breakfast and a hour later she'd insist that I hadn't. It's effected her school work too, she lost about 20 points from her IQ. She tested at "extrememly bright" to "genius" levels in the weeks prior to her accident. Now she tests at "average".

But she is still here to test, so can we really complain?

It's true, certainly, that we were robbed; that she was robbed, of her potential. As she gets older, she notices more and more that she doesn't get things she should, that she can't remember, that she's not as smart. Her self esteem suffers, then, and that is worse than anything. That she feels "not good enough" is what breaks my heart. That it could have been prevented makes me angry beyond calcualtion.

In the end though, there is no use dwelling on it and we don't. I scold her for being implusive, I nag her about homework, I send her to her room for talking back, just like she was a "normal" kid. This is her normal. Right or wrong, this is what Fate has decided for her. All I can do is show her that strength comes from with in, that all you can be is your best, that there is no excuse for excuses.

But isn't that true of any mother?

5 little kittens say Meow:

kwr221 said...

Again, wow. Not only is it a heart-wrenching story, but you have a gift for telling it.

kwr221 said...

Total non-sequitor...
I always wear mascara - even if I'm doing dirty work, or home sick in bed.

If you wanna know more quirky things like that, go to:
Because You've Been Tagged

kwr221 said...

Oh, and I meant to tell you that off-color quotes are okay - feel free to share them - I'm looking for "movie-isms".

Lorrie Veasey said...

This blog entry moved me more than I can say. Though I know years have passed since this happened, I still wish I could give you a big hug.

I will think of you and yours while I hold mine a little bit closer for reading this story.

My heart breaks for Neighbor Dad. Was the 2nd little girl ok too? Do you still see them?

Kip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.