Tomorrow it will be 12 years since the accident that almost took my 17 year old daughter.
It was a Monday night, November 19, 2001. I was just getting ready for bed around 10pm, when the phone rang. My hands began shaking and my heart pounding. It was that mother thing, I knew something was horribly wrong with one of my children. The voice on the other end was my oldest daughter, Melissa. I only recall certain words in the conversation, “Stina, accident, hospital, brain surgery”….I screamed and dropped the phone. The next thing I remember is seeing the exit signs passing as if in slow motion counting them down, as my sister drove us to the hospital. When I finally arrived, I ran down the hallway like one of those horrible nightmares where the hallway just keeps getting longer and longer. I came to the I.C.U. just as they were wheeling in my little girl. It took everything in me to stay on my feet. What I saw scared me to the deepest part of my soul. She had undergone emergency surgery to relieve pressure on her brain from a bleed. The side of her head was shaved, her eyes were swollen shut, her face black and blue, and she was unconscious. They got her settled, and informed her father and I that she might not survive the night. “No”, I argued, “She’s not going anywhere“. They said that if she did survive, the part of her brain that was damaged might leave her unable to speak, unable to recognize us, and possibly unable to walk. I denied all of these words too. I was trembling, my heart pounding out of my chest…I can’t lose her. I won’t lose her.
I stayed by her side that whole night, leaving the room only long enough to smoke and break down. I refused to break down while in there with her, knowing that she might be able to hear what was going on around her.
Tuesday morning she was still unconscious. A nurse came in saying she needed to give her a sponge bath. “I’ll do it,” I said, “She’s my daughter”. The nurse saw from my expression that there was no use in arguing. I began to bathe my sweet girl, for the first time in many years. I washed her face, careful of her swollen eyes. I wiped her arms, the same sweet arms that had wrapped around my neck when she was little. I carefully bathed every part of her, just like when she was a baby. I dressed her in a clean hospital gown, and helped the nurse put new sheets on her bed and tucked the clean warm blanket around her. That’s when I noticed her hair, the part they hadn’t shaved. I gently began pulling the leaves from her hair, some of them stuck with blood, and untangling her hair gently with my fingers, avoiding the tube that was draining blood from her skull. She was in and out as I did this, so I talked to her the whole time, telling her she needed to get ready to go clubbing, even telling her it was lip gloss when I rubbed some vaseline on her dry lips, she tried to smile at this. I would not break down, not until I was outside the room a little later. I had to be strong for her.
That afternoon they wanted to try and get her off the ventilator. For hours we attempted to wake her enough to do that, but each time she woke, she would start struggling. Finally I had to yell at her, “Wake up, and stay still”. When the tube was finally removed, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Mom, I want to go home”. She could speak and she knew me! She could speak, and knew who I was! Our first miracle had come!
On Wednesday morning, they decided that she was well enough to be moved out of the I.C.U., and by the time we got her settled in her private room, I was beyond exhausted. The room was packed with family and friends, and I stood by the window for a minute and prayed. I needed so badly to get some sleep and change my clothes, but I was too afraid to leave her. I asked God to give me a sign that it would be okay for me to leave, that he wasn’t going to “take” her from me. I opened the curtains, and the sun shone down through the clouds, landing on a sign…it was the mall! I said, “Stina, do you know what’s outside your window?” She shook her head “no”. “The Mall”, I said. She smiled, well, half a smile, the other side of her face was still paralyzed. But, I took it as the sign I had asked for, gave her a hug and kiss, and headed home to recharge.
When I reached our apartment my feet felt like lead as I climbed the three flights of stairs. My husband was waiting on the landing, and I panicked when I saw him waiting for me. “What happened!” I screamed, thinking the worst. He said, “She walked.” “What do you mean she walked?” I cried. I guess after I had left the hospital my daughter had requested to use the rest room. The nurse explained to her that she had a catheter. My daughter, being the stubborn girl she is, (I don’t know where she gets that from), insisted on getting up and using the bathroom. She got up and walked there! Second miracle!
Thursday morning, Thanksgiving day, my daughter was released from the hospital, and home with her family. Like Jesus, she had been in the tomb, but on the third day she rose again. The struggles from her accident continue today. The brain damage has left her with some anger management issues, depression, and of course P.T.S.D., but she is alive. She gave birth to a daughter four years later. And tomorrow as she struggles with remembering that horrible day, I hope she remembers how blessed she was to survive, and how blessed this world is to have her in it, and that no one is more grateful for that fact than me.