by Elaine Miller

 

Chapter 5

 

The day dawned bright, clear and hot. I was up early. It was a week since my first discussion in Iowa City. I hopped into the car and drove down to the ambulance service and parked. Bob, the driver, was there ready and waiting. We climbed into the van together and were off. The sky was azure blue with soft big puffs of white clouds. We were on the interstate making good time. We had to talk above the noise of the purring engine. He told me the van was so heavy with equipment that it only got six miles to the gallon. It was not the most comfortable ride.

We stopped at the big Woodhull, Illinois, truck stop. We gassed up walked around and stretched our legs and went on. We arrived in Iowa City before noon. They brought Mary down on a stretcher in a portable traction. They gave her some valium to keep her quiet on the long journey ahead. They transferred her to the ambulance stretcher and lashed her in. They had to lash the stretcher in the ambulance backward to accommodate the traction. I settled myself on the bench beside her for the ride back. They told me I had to keep her leg pulleys up from touching the stretcher. We collected the x-rays. We had already gassed up before reaching the hospital. Everyone was there wishing us luck and I was smiling and thanking them for everything they had done for her. Her neuro resident told me that she was one of the very few people that severe that they had saved and he hoped we did well. The van doors shut and we were on our way. Bob had the little window between him and me open in case I needed anything and so we could converse a little. It was even more difficult to hear each other now that I was in back with Mary.

She was restless for awhile after we got started. I had to constantly lean forward and pull her up to keep her leg in suspension in traction. She started to try and pull on her foley catheter tubing. I told her to leave it alone and she kept messing with it. I caught her hand, held it and told her again. I was staring directly into her eyes and she tried to free her hand from my grip while at the same time looking at me with grim defiance. I turned her loose, she went for it again. I recaptured her hand and smacked it firmly. She gave me an I hate you look, but stopped.

I knew at that moment that she was recovering more time with her attention span and seemed to be putting thoughts together. She was still unable to talk. She still remained paralyzed down her right side, but she could move her leg up and down and sideways. I felt that she was starting to make more noticeable mental changes. At least from now on I would be able to observe her myself on a daily basis. I would be able to try things with her and watch her progress.

We again stopped at Woodhull and gassed up. We couldnít both go in at once. Bob courteously let me go in first while he sat with Mary. I went into the restaurant and bought us sandwiches, chips and drinks. It was lunchtime and I needed to feed Mary. They didnít have pureed food of course. I bought a big cup of ice cream and carried everything back to the ambulance. Bob went in to use the restroom, stretch and pay for the gasoline. We pulled away from the pump and sat with Mary at the side while everyone ate. I fed her ice cream and some of my soda. She had less delay swallowing. Soon we were again on our way. Mary drifted off to sleep.

We were on the outskirts of Peoria. Bob called ahead to the hospital. They told us to unload and bring her right up to the floor. One of the groupís orthopedic surgeons was there ready and waiting. My excitement was rising. We were almost home. It had been a month since the accident. Mary had to stay in traction several more months, but at least she was almost mine again. They put her in the bed out of the portable traction and we were settled.

I was elated and tired. It had been a grueling ride perching on the bench in the ambulance. I had constantly been shifting my balance. Bob and I went for a drink, he took me back to the car and I went home. Now we could settle into a routine.

 
 
 
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