Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mon Dec 31, 2012 - Wreck

I was working with the kids to get our end-of-semester tasks done so we could start a new (homeschool) semester, and I was having a crappy day. It was New Year's Eve, the last day of 2012. We had survived the flopped Mayan apocalypse and a new year was on the horizon. 

I have never been the kind of wife to smack my husband's hand when he reaches for another serving or to just present him with a plate of salad and broccoli. I have learned the hard way that I cannot force James to do anything, and it's easier for both of us if I let him make his own decisions, good or bad, and not nag him like dripping water. But he wanted to get in shape and was struggling with the willpower to do it himself. So I agreed to hassle and pressure and guide him for all of January towards his goal. Part of the reason my New Year's Eve was so crummy was because I could see this new responsibility looming before me, added to my existing tasks of children, home, pets, marriage, self, homeschooling, etc.

This was our plan for James:
  1. juice vegetables 3x a day
  2. make smoothies 2x a day
  3. go to the acupuncturist 4x a month
  4. go to the pool and swim 3x a week

Also, MOST EXCITING OF ALL, James had taken us all to church for the first time in a long while, and said on the 23rd of December that he wanted to get baptized and become a member at our church, HCBCRR. He told our pastor he wanted more accountability and men around him.

However, on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, I am having a crappy day. When I tell this to James, he looks thoughtful and says "I'm going to run errands. I'll be back by six."

I call him a few hours later and tell him that at long last, my sister has had her baby- her first, a son. (My mom and dad had driven up to South Carolina to help my sister in the first week of so of December and we were all waiting for his arrival.) I get wrapped up in the kids and the house and before I know it, bedtime is nearly upon us and I haven't heard from James.

I had just sent the kids up to bed and my phone rings- it's a local number but not anyone saved into my phone contact list. I pick up- it is right about 8 pm.

"Tracy, it's Mike. James has been in a bad wreck. Are you home? Can someone come watch the kids? I'm coming to pick you up." Who is Mike? The kids? What?

It turns out that Mike, an elder from our church, is the kind of EMT who drives the EMT SUV and oversees things (?).  He heard a call that kept saying, James, James and then he saw James and was like, "I know him."

I told the kids that I had a bad day and was going out for a while. I put the baby, four months old, in the exersaucer in the girls' room and told them to all get ready for bed and read. I told them my friend Christina was coming over to watch them and I was going out for a break- I had had a bad day, after all. At that point I didn't know if James was near death, had a broken ankle, or what.

I was standing on the driveway waiting for Mike. Christina called and said she was moments away just as Mike's car turned on my street and started slowly going past the houses. My mom calls at this moment, totally full of joy and high on her new grandson's birth, and I crash her kite with the news and pretty much hang up and get in Mike's SUV.

He has to turn his installed laptop to a new angle so I can squeeze into the front seat. The calm dispatcher is talking to other ambulances (?) in the background. Mike explains again that James has been in a wreck. He pauses and says "It's pretty bad."

I don't remember much of what he said- he drove only a few miles away to the new Seton in north Round Rock, right beside the community college I took Medical Terminology at a few years ago. I teared up at one point, we parked, and went into the ER.

They whisked me to a scary, "bad-news" family waiting room with 3 or 4 chairs and 4 trays of  "your rights and responsibilities" brochures in Spanish. There was no phone.

An ER doctor came back and asked me if James' name was James. He had self reported (or his passenger had) that his name was James, but since they didn't have ID, they assigned him the next letter of the alphabet as an alias, so he was getting orders (CT scans, x rays, labs) put in under the name "Quebec." James had been trapped in the car for 50 minutes, conscious, the DR said. He said, "I'm going to start at the top of his head and work my way down his injuries."

This is what I wrote when the DR left the room, so I would remember:
  • eye
  • chin/jaw?
  • chest ok
  • clavicle
  • humerus
  • wrist
  • leg-femur
  • internal bleeding- 4 liters- transfusion
  • pelvis
  • liver laceration
I am sitting there wondering, "If Mike hadn't known James, how on earth would they have ever found me to tell me he was even in a wreck??!!"  Then my phone rings. It is my insurance agent, and James' friend, Zack. He is very quiet and says, "James has been in a wreck." I get clarity and think, "Oh, they must look at the insurance card, and that's how they tell families." I say this out loud and he's like, "No, my brother, Nat, was in the car with James. My sister-in-law called me and let me know and I wanted to make sure you knew. She's at the ER now. Nat has a broken arm."

I call my mom, and James' mom and his stepmom. I say three more times into the phone what I've been told.  I'm missing calls from my friend Michelle, who stepped into our lives and directed all the initial cleanup and support after our house flooded in 2010. My mother in law, James' mom, tells me to make sure someone comes and sits with me. I tell her ok, although I think I am holding it together.

The wife of James' passenger, his friend Nat, comes in. She tells me there were three people in the truck that hit James- a man, a woman, a toddler. The woman was kept for observation because she is pregnant. I immediately ask if she was in distress (like in danger of losing the pregnancy) but the wife seems to think it is a precaution. A good samaritan had stopped at the wreck and had called her from Nat's phone. She had beat the ambulances to the ER and watched everyone come in. James "was upset" she said and they took him back "but then it went quiet." Nat is taken to a room and she goes to be with him.

I sit. Why was he driving on Highway 79 after he was already supposed to be home?!

Every 15 minutes or so someone comes in and asks me something.

"Is your husband allergic to any medications?"
"Does your husband take any medications?"
"What is Quebec's real name and your contact info?"
"Does your husband have insurance?"
"Does your husband have any medical conditions?"
"Please fill out this form."
"No, you can't see him."

I finally ask where is the bathroom after 11. I walk out of my little closet and down the hall to the bathroom. when I come back down the same ER hallway, out of the very corner corner of my peripheral vision I see a foot I know. I back up a few steps. It's James' foot- his freckled, orange-leg-hair calf. I lean to the right and try to see his head. I see a neck brace, a face turned away, very dark hair. I don't know if that's his head. I look at the calf and foot again, the thigh- it brings to mind

"My lover is radiant and ruddy,
outstanding among ten thousand...
His legs are pillars of marble
set on bases of pure gold."
(Song of Songs 5:10, 15)


James has been right here, behind these open double glass doors, the entire time I've been in the little closet!

A nurse sees me paused in the main hall staring into someone's room, blatantly ogling a patient, leaning back and forth to get a better view, and pipes up, "Ma'am, do you know where the waiting room is?"

I mumble "that's my husband" and go back to my closet. I begin literally pacing in the tiny space. I've done about 5 laps and feel like I'm going to LOSE IT when I see my pastor and his wife coming at me down the hall.

They said they had been having a New Year's Eve party and they were later than they wanted because they had to kick everyone out. I was appalled, I had already forgotten it was a holiday, but they said the party was supposed to end at 9 anyway.

I keep asking if I can see James and they keep saying "15 minutes." Finally someone tells me that they are just cleaning the ER, that it was such a mess they didn't want me back there. That hits me slowly.

Finally I can see him for a moment- the custodians are still moving around the room- he is on a bed... looks huge and unbreakable.

Michelle walks into my little closet, raring to take charge and manage my emergency. I let her with little consideration- she was so fabulous after the flood and she probably wouldn't take NO for an answer anyway.

Someone said James was on the news.

Posted on December 31, 2012 at 8:37 PM
Updated Tuesday, Jan 1 at 6:09 PM

ROUND ROCK -- Police worked to rescue a man trapped inside a van after a head-on collision in Round Rock Monday involving a truck and mini-van.
The accident occurred on E. Palm Valley near Harrell Pkwy in Round Rock.
Four other people were transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The man trapped in the mini-van was transported to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
 When we were in language school at DLI, in the Air Force, learning Russian, we read a lot of Reuters news reports in our Russian reading class. After you learned the phrases, translating them became a lot easier.

"weapons were confiscated"
"snow and heavy winds"
"5 fatalities and 3 casualties"

It's so easy to read an article like that and just gloss over it. "...was transported to hospital with life-threatening injuries." Except for the fact that this time, "The man trapped in the mini-van" was MINE.

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  1. Very moving and well written Tracy. I know how much this helps you process and deal with it all. I'm so thankful James has you!

  2. I'm holding back tears. Love you.