“You’re lucky to be alive”

“You’re lucky to be alive” the nurse said as she checked my father into the inpatient rehabilitation floor at a local hospital. Two weeks ago a reckless driver crossed the center line and hit my parents vehicle head on. The other driver did not survive the accident, my parents barely did.

I’d only been back from Europe for a week when my son called me with the news. He was emotional as he struggled to tell me Grandma and Grandpa had been in an accident. Maybe I was the one struggling to process what he was saying. My kids live on the family farm my parents had just left so they were the first people my mother called when she arrived at the hospital. She had asked them to go to the accident scene less than a mile away to get their dog who had somehow survived the impact, unharmed. The police wouldn’t allow them to take the dog so they continued on to the hospital where they found my mother in the emergency room. My father had been taken directly to surgery and was in critical condition.

I called my little sister to tell her the news. She told me they’d shortly be on their way. My new phone didn’t have my older sisters phone number in it so I’d left her a message on Facebook to call me as soon as she could.

My heart and mind were racing as I attempted to search for a flight from Seattle to Denver. I was physically trembling which made typing a challenge. I was late in the afternoon. The last Southwest flight to Denver had already departed. Expedia was showing a flight leaving after 11pm that would get me into Denver at 9am with some weird overnight layover. I knew I was in no condition to make the drive, and it would have taken longer than waiting for a morning flight anyway. The friends I was staying with offered to help with the search and quickly found a flight on Alaska Airlines. It was 5pm and the flight departed at 7:15pm. I threw some things in a bag and was taken to the airport. I got through security and to my gate just in time to board the plane.

I’d spoken to my older sister and gotten an update on my dad’s condition before I took my seat. The adrenaline was slowing a bit but the brain was still busy with all the questions and emotions. Landed in Denver earlier than expected which was a relief. My older sister, who is living in Oklahoma, was already on the road to Colorado when we learned of the accident. My parents had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the day before and she was planning a surprise visit. The timing worked out perfectly for her to stop by Denver Intl. Airport to pick me up.

We arrived at the hospital and visited with mom a bit then our younger sister took us to in the Intensive Care Unit to see dad. He was sedated and intubated but most importantly he was alive. It was surreal to see him so vulnerable. He opened his eyes and started to struggle a bit as we entered the room. My sister reassured him he was ok and he relaxed and closed his eyes. As we talked and she updated us on his injuries I started to feel a bit flush and decided I should find a place to sit. His room was full of monitors, wires, and tubes so I stepped outside and found a chair.

We returned to moms room for a while then decided we should leave so she could get some rest. Back at the farm my boys were already in bed (it was 2am after all) so I crawled into bed and attempted to get some rest.

The next morning started with news that my dad had come out of sedation, worked his way out of the restraints, and had removed the breathing tube. While I suspect that’s a terribly dangerous thing to do I wasn’t at all surprised. He was breathing alright on his own so they left it out.

Later in the day we ran into a nurse near the elevators that asked if we were related to Arlo. She apologized to me because she felt she had “traumatized” my children the day before. The boys had not told me that when they arrived at the ER the day before they were taken into a room with a Police Advocate and Grief Counselor. I was surprised the kids hadn’t mentioned it. I was also surprised the hospital staff felt like that was the appropriate way to handle the situation. As I started to get upset that they had been put through that I had to remind myself they are grown men and it is impossible for me to protect them from everything. While I wished they wouldn’t have had to experience that, they were the closest family members and therefore the first to arrive at the hospital. No wonder Tory was so upset when I called me.

I’m not going to go into the ups and downs we had during my fathers 10 day stay in ICU. It was reassuring to hear the doctors and nurses so pleased with his progress, even on the days when things seemed to be going backwards

My mother had surgery on her shattered ankle and would make the trip down to see him when they were both feeling well enough.

Two weeks later both parents are working on inpatient rehabilitation. Physical and occupational therapists are working with them 3 hours a day to get them to the point where they can safely function with their injuries outside of the hospital.

My plan is to stay in Colorado until my parents are recovered enough to return home and resume their daily, albeit modified, routines.

We still don’t, and may never, understand why the other driver crossed into their lane. My mother does remember seeing him come out from behind the other car but it happened so quickly she didn’t have a chance to react. My father doesn’t recall anything. I know this incident has made me take a hard look at my own aggressive behavior behind the wheel. It has increased my awareness of other drivers bad behaviors as well. What ever you are rushing to is not worth killing or dying for so please be safe on the road.

It has been comforting to get all the messages with offers of assistance, food, prayers, love, and support. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such a caring, kind, and loving group of people.

I do still have at least 30 days worth of European travel to share with you all, and I promise I’ll get those posted as time allows.



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