by Elaine Miller
The neuro intensive care waiting room was next to the unit. The restroom was situated with a window that looked across to the windows in intensive care. The windows were situated so that I could stand and look over almost in line with her bed. I would go in there and stand and watch them take care of her. They moved her around like she was a doll. She had a foley catheter into her bladder so that she didnít mess herself and so that they could monitor her output. I stood and wished that somehow we could go back in time and I could have somehow kept the kids from going with him on vacation. I was frustrated that I could only watch and do nothing. She was my child, but they called all the shots as to when I could see her and with her care.
For several weeks before vacation I had had premonitions that something terrible was going to happen if they went on vacation with him. I had no say as in the decree it said that he could take the kids on The Smith Company vacation every summer in July. He worked for the company and they always shut down the last two weeks of July. I even begged him once to just leave the girls at home. Our son lived with him. I was accused of trying to go against the court decree and trying to cause trouble. He and I were not on friendly terms. I lay in bed at night and worried about the vacation. I tried to convince myself that my intuition was not valid and that I was still upset over the divorce.
It came time for the kids to pack and leave. The girls were excited and looking forward to camping, swimming and boating at Lake McBride in Solon, Iowa. There was nothing I could do. My premonitions and feelings of dread became stronger and stronger. The last two nights before they were to leave I had splitting headaches all night long, lingering and lasting into the daylight hours. Finally the time came and everyone left. I paced. The feelings of dread would not leave. I continued with the headaches, which were totally related to my premonitions. I talked it over with friends and everyone tried to offer excuses for my feelings in order to help me. A week went by. I continued to go to work at the hospital. I would come home and listen to my music or go out for a while with friends. Always at the back of my mind it was as if I was in suspension holding my breath waiting. On the eighth day the accident occurred. It was then that I knew that my premonitions were valid. The dread and headaches stopped to be replaced with agonizing fear of the unknown.
My in-laws came in with my son and other daughter to the hospital. My son was distraught. He told me at the scene of the accident that a man from the other car died in his arms with the blood pumping out of his mouth and nose onto the ground. The ambulance crew said they couldnít save him. He probably had a ruptured aorta. Seth was distraught over seeing Pamís son with his head caved in, bloody and dead. One person in the other car was unconscious. The driver was walking around in circles holding his head. He had a huge gash. Maryís breathing was labored and blood was streaming from her head. Pam was crying and moaning and didnít understand what had happened. Pam died in the emergency room with crushing chest injuries. The others were rushed to surgery.
Marie had been kept from the scene so that she would not see the horror of all the dead and injured. Marie disclosed to me much later that she could not see her father and so at one point she did get out of the car and go over and look at the scene of the accident. She saw the people from the other car. The car lights were on on both cars, but when they went out at the top of the hill, they had left the road. She did not see Pam or the others because that car had rolled at least ten feet down an embankment.. Her father didnít see her. She scurried back to her fatherís car and the child. She said that the child, Brad kept saying "Why is my Mom dead?," over and over. She tried to calm him down. She told him his Mom would be all right. She was taken to Pamís parentsí home and left to watch over Brad while everyone went to the hospital. She said she experienced terrible guilt when she found out that his mother died. She felt that she had lied to him. It stayed with her to haunt her for years and years. Pamís parents took her back that night to the hospital as she wanted to be with her father.
The kids were hyper and unable to sit. They told me that Pam and Dad had been drinking beer and that they had decided to race and see who could get to Pamís house the quickest from the camp site. They were each in their own cars with the children parceled and riding in both cars. If destiny had not intervened, my son would have been in the front seat instead of Pamís and my son would have been the one to die instead.
I asked the doctor who was caring for Mary if she could give me a few days of something to calm my other children down. She supplied prescriptions for low doses of Valium. She gave me some mild sleeping pills. My in-laws took my other children home with them to Clinton, Iowa, after the funerals.
My ex and I went to a trailer and stayed with friends of ours from college. My ex and Jack were good drinking buddies. Jack drank all the time. I stayed a week until I knew Mary would live. I detested my stay there. I didnít know his second wife Donna very well. She went off to work every day. In the afternoon and evenings Jack and my ex joked, drank and carried on like we were there enjoying ourselves on vacation. My ex would fall into bed and go right to sleep. I would lay awake and think.
I hated my ex. I hated all the years I had put up with him. I hated the way he had abused all of us both physically and mentally. I hated all the problems he had caused me in getting the divorce and since the divorce. Life was a party for him. I hated myself for staying with him for so long before finally getting up enough nerve to get a divorce. Now I hated him for deliberately putting my children in jeopardy with drinking and playing hopscotch on the highway. He had almost killed our daughter, then left me to pick up all the pieces while he walked away and went his merry little way. We were on two different wavelengths on how we looked at life and with our feelings.
Every day our schedule revolved around sitting outside of intensive care for two hours, going in and seeing Mary for fifteen minutes, then back out to wait again. If there was an emergency in intensive care, or if they were admitting someone or taking someone out, then the time of that visit was forfeit.
In the middle of the week two of my friends brought me my car. I was no longer dependent on my ex any more. I could go to the hospital and return as I pleased, There were times he skipped going to do things with Jack.
Three days after the accident the doctor came to me and told me that Mary needed a tracheotomy. They make a hole in your neck to put a tube to hook up to the respirator. I signed the permit and went into the bathroom and watched while they did the procedure on her. None of us were able to visit at the designated hour due to that. They did the trach to remove the tube down in her windpipe through her throat because they said it rubs on the vocal cords and can cause permanent damage. Later we were to find that she suffered permanent damage to her vocal cords.
I spent a lot of time in the intensive care waiting room. I read novels, wrote letters and much of the time sat and observed the other people waiting. Sometimes I talked a little with other people sitting there. Much of the time I was alone and the others had someone sitting with them.
The second day I was sitting there a nurse came in carrying a sack and asked for me. She handed me the sack and told me it was Maryís hair and the clothes they had cut off her. I thanked her and looked into the sack. Her hair had been slightly wavy and she wore it in a shag. It was light brown. I sat and caressed a curl. Some of the hair was dried into clumps from the blood. The clothes were worthless and bloody. I thought how insensitive. How could you do this to someone who already is upset? I felt sick all over. Waves of nausea coursed through me. I closed the sack and stuffed it down beside me.
Once I was walking through the hallway and I bumped into the doctor who had delivered Mary when he was a resident. He was head of ob/gyn then. It brought back all those memories in the delivery room and the hospital stay. She was so tiny and sweet.
One day when I went into intensive care I glanced over across from Mary and there was a beautiful dark curly haired teenage boy. He was handsome with all perfect features. He was hooked up to tubes, respirator etc. From all appearances his face was unmarred with bruises or cuts. He looked like he was around eighteen. Later in the waiting room I saw new people sitting there and surmised they were his parents and other relatives. A nurse came in with a doctor. They sat and told the parents that he still had a flat e.e.g. which meant that he was brain dead. They said they would keep him alive on the machines for another forty-eight hours since his hand had flown up and knocked over an IV stand. They said it was probably a reflex action but a law required the further wait.
They got down to business and proceeded to ask if they could have his organs for transplants. The family said they had to think about it. A couple times a day for the next two days they came in and asked for his organs and finally the family consented. At that time they only took kidneys and corneas. The next day we missed a visit as they brought the boy out with his machines and tubes attached to go to the operating room to harvest his organs. I watched them wheel him away down the hall. The boy had just graduated high school and was out riding his new motorcycle, a gift on his eighteenth birthday that week. He passed a semi, cut in too short hitting the front end of the semi thus causing his accident.
At the time that the staff was convincing the parents of the boy to donate his organs, I sat and pondered that question. Would I or would I not give Mary Ďs organs for transplant. I sat and debated with myself. Of course my ex said oh yes we should. That just rankled that he could sit there without a momentís hesitation and say yes. Did he ever sit there and think about her life? Did he see her as a baby? Did he see her running and laughing when she was whole just a few days before? Where was his sensitivity? Was she just an object or a possession? The more I sat there, the more I saw how your life can be changed forever in a split second. You could carry a child for nine months around with you, bring it into the world with a false sense of it being your child. In reality, God loaned you this little person for you to learn to love and care for, but in the end it is still just a loan.
During the second day of waiting outside of intensive care, I put in a call to a well-known psychic in the Peoria, Ill. area. Her name was Greta and she was well known for her accuracy with predicting the outcomes of illness or accidents. I had seen psychics now and then mainly for the fun of it, but now I was desperate. I was told to call her at a specified time. I called her and told her the specifics about Mary being in coma. She told me that five days from that day Mary would wake up or if she didnít, she was not going to make it. She said she would not be retarded, but there would always be problems for the rest of her life.
I decided to experiment to see if Mary would distinguish our voices from strangers or staff. The way we could tell was to watch the head pressure and blood pressure monitors. We went in, and without touching the bed, we talked to Mary. Each time her father or I said anything to her the monitors bounced up. We asked a nurse without touching her to call to her and talk to her. Her monitors remained unchanged. I knew for sure that she knew we were there.
On the sixth day the staff started to warm Mary up and cut down on the curare. On the seventh day she started to move slightly. We noticed it in her hands and toes. They seemed to flutter. Her arms had a reflex action called decerebration whereas they spontaneously rolled inwards and relaxed, to be repeated over and over. They would do this each time she was closer to awakening. Her eyelids seemed to twitch now and then.
On the day predicted, in the afternoon we called to Mary and her eyelids fluttered open and she looked at us. She was moving her fingers again. I told her not to be afraid that she could not talk to us because she had a tube in her throat, but we would be here for her and that we would talk to her. She only looked at us for a half a minute and then she was gone again. We repeated this at intervals and each time we received the same response. Gradually she kept her eyes open for half seconds longer, but she was unable to wake up for more than a minute or two at a time. I looked into her eyes and thought she looked like she understood what I said to her. Sometimes she would not wake up at all until the next visit. It is not like it is on TV where people wake up from a coma and are awake from then on at appropriate times. The prediction came true. Mary was going to live.