The last few days have been kind of nuts.
My husband was in a cycling accident out in Palm Desert last Saturday morning. He’s going to be fine, but he has two cracked ribs, a broken collar bone and a lung that is, to our great relief, re-inflating on its own after a partial collapse.
He’s upstairs in bed at the moment. Until yesterday, he had to sleep sitting up.
On our first morning home after the accident, I watched as his head sort of bobbed back and forth, then ultimately smacked into the wall. I thought the impact would wake him up, but he was exhausted. He just started snoring, with his head tipped back like that. I went out and got him one of those half-doughnut travel pillows a few hours later. I don’t know if it really helps.
Last November, after we took this same trip to the desert, I told my husband that I wanted to do it again in November 2012. I said I wanted to stay at the same hotel, have him enter the same bike event, take the boy up the mountain tram again…do everything the same…because I loved that trip! LOVED it!
My husband’s response to me a year ago is really ringing in my head this week. He said that there was no guarantee the trip would be the same. He said that anything could happen to make it a totally different experience. But I was relaxed and happy and I wanted to believe we could sustain those feeling by committing to the same activities a year later. I was a bit annoyed with him for suggesting otherwise. And he seemed annoyed with my naive optimism.
Well, here we are a year later, and it turns out husband was right. It was a totally different experience and somehow, I knew it would be.
Instead of taking our son up the mountain to play in the snow, we dragged him with us to the Emergency Room to play on his iPad. It was not quite the sparkling repeat my son and I had hoped for. The little boy made it through four long hours at the hospital, and then he completely melted down.
I had to leave my husband alone in the waiting room while I took the boy outside to self-destruct. He kicked and screamed and tore things to pieces in the backseat as I stood next to the passenger door, staring in frustration at the hospital entrance. The entire van rocked with the force of his upset.
I could tell from the sound of my son’s whining voice that he was getting sick – from stress, from fatigue, from hunger for something more than vending machine snacks – from all of it. That was the worst moment of the weekend for me – trapped in that tortured space between my broken husband and my sorely disappointed, autistic son. I couldn’t help either one.
Sleep that night was difficult for us all. I woke up every time husband made a sound or moved oddly, and husband woke up from pain at regular intervals. His meds worked great. Until they didn’t. Those long minutes of waiting until time for the next dose were hard to watch and even harder to experience. Husband was just really uncomfortable. And the little boy woke a few times with his usual dry, sniffy nose and his newly sore throat.
When morning finally arrived, I took the boy for pancakes, so husband could get more rest.
On Saturday, the two of us had gone to the same IHOP, while husband was off for the bike ride. I felt well rested that morning – I was energized, refreshed, and excited for our weekend plans. I had even put on mascara and earrings.
But Sunday, after that night of listening for husband’s breath sounds and worrying about the little boy and the change of plans, it was different. I had on the same shirt, but it was wrinkled and so was my face. No make-up. Bags under my eyes. Unwashed, barely brushed hair. I thought about all those differences as I ate the very same pancake breakfast.
When we got back to the hotel, husband was a little more settled into the routine of injury. He definitely wanted to go home a day early, but he managed to take a shower and concluded he could handle a brief stop at the Children’s Discovery Museum too. Our son seemed relieved that there would be one fun thing before the long drive home. All things considered, that little boy handled our broken promises very well.
The next few days are kind of a blur now. The most depressing of them was also the best of them – three and half hours in another hospital to get a follow-up x-ray. Ultimately, we were relieved to be told that husband’s lung was looking better, but the hours leading up to that were a swirl of confusion and disbelief.
Everyone there could agree my husband needed to be seen, but no one could decide how to handle the paperwork. The paperwork! Really? I snapped at an E.R. nurse.
I regret that because I have friends who are nurses and I know how hard their jobs are, but I don’t regret expressing my annoyance at the lack of organization and efficiency in our mid-town hospital. They should have thought about the patient first and the paperwork later. It still makes me mad.
Now we are a week out from the accident and I do believe my husband is feeling a little bit better. It is very clear that he won’t be driving anytime soon and that has presented us with a few logistical challenges, but we will figure it out.
Husband’s bruises are large and alarming. He is still quite vulnerable from the cracked ribs and broken collar bone, and there is an overall lack of comfort that will likely continue for a while, but this could have been so much worse. He could have died or been left with a traumatic brain injury or some other devastating permanent problem.
Save for a few gouged knuckles and other small scrapes, husband also came away with most of his skin intact. That’s saying a lot for a cyclist. Huge, bloody, asphalt-filled abrasions – road rash – are just another part of the sport. But husband fell straight over and was injured by the impact of the fall more than anything else. He was spared from too much skin grating slide and that’s no small blessing.
In a few days, some family members will come to our house for turkey and pumpkin pie. Every adult in attendance has had some kind of accident or major surgery in the last several years (a few of them have had a lot of both), but they’re all going to walk in and sit and talk and think and eat and laugh at our table. We are all so lucky. And I am so thankful.