Cheat Death Day is November 10th, 2003 making today the 10th anniversary. Sounds like a Golden Anniversary and a reason to Celebrate Always! This is Bob, more commonly known to the readers as Allison's very lucky husband, and I am proud to be the first guest blogger on the blog formally known as Lullaby Lubbock, and now the Celebrate Always blog. I guess technically its more like the first hacker on the blog since Allison didn't know I was posting this (don't worry I am in cahoots with Kristen, I wouldn't go all rogue on the girls).
As many of you already know Allison is awesome! If you have been reading along the last few weeks you've seen how over-the-top creative and thoughtful she was with my birthday this year. About a week ago I opened my November month, and Allison included in my plan spending some time remembering November 10th, 2003. I decided to do it here as well as here.
Celebrate Always has been an attitude for Allison and Kristen way before it was a rebranding of a geographically outdated blog name. "Always" means, well you guessed it, always. And that includes the events in our lives that we would never chose to happen. I don't think anyone would ever chose to experience what we did 10 years ago. I know you guys have heard Allison's perspective, but I thought I would include my perspective since its a good place to record details that might be lost to my memory some day.
I remember going to Chili's for dinner right before her night class that. I don't remember our exact words, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that most of them were about the wedding. We were exactly 54 days away and had completed almost all of the pre-wedding showers (except a couples "tool shower") and we were so excited that the wedding was finally feeling real. I am sure we talked about Allison's class that night, as we did every that semester, since she really enjoyed her teacher, but was always a little anxious she would have to talk out loud in front of the class. I dropped Allison off after dinner at her house to get her books and I went over to a friends house.
Not long after arriving I got a phone call from the dean of students. I worked in the campus life division so it wasn't uncommon to get a call from him, but calls at usually weren't social calls, and they usually involved something serious about a student. All he said was there was an accident and that I needed to come to the hospital. He was very vague and I think to protect me on my drive to the hospital, he did not say it involved Allison. He just said I needed to come to the hospital now. I jumped in my truck (thats what we do in Texas, we jump into our vehicles) and started heading up to the hospital, knowing that someone was probably having the worst day of their life, but in no way at all thinking that person would be Allison. My phone rang again. This time it was a friend from one of my psychology grad school classes, who also happened to be a former police officer, and current campus police officer. He asked where I was, and if I was headed to the hospital. He strongly suggested we ride together. So I pulled over 2.5 minutes into a 5 minute drive to get in the police car with him, something at the immediate time I thought was odd and unnecessary. I would understand why immediately.
Before pulling away he presented the facts in textbook "this is how you tell someone bad news" technique. He said Allison is doing fine (a bit of an exaggeration, a way to start that allowed me to hear everything he was about to say). "She's been in an accident, and she is in the hospital." Even though we were driving a normal speed everything we passed looked blurry to me. By the time I got to the hospital they were still stabilizing her, so I couldn't see her. The first call I had to make was the hardest. I called Allison's parents. Her mom answered so I asked her to let me talk to Allison's dad, since I knew once I started telling the story to her mom, she would probably pass out. I told her dad the little details I knew. Then I called my parents. Both were on the road immediately to make the 3 hour drive. Soon after my brother arrived. I told him what was going on and put him in charge of updating everyone because saying what was going on out loud over and over to everyone who started showing up at the hospital made what was going on too real for me and I didn't think I had the strength to do that.
I prayed a lot that day, and in the coming months for Allison, but it was a different kind of prayer. It didn't look or sound like a prayer - it was more primitive. It was never in complete sentences, often it didn't even include words, and it didn't have a beginning or an end. It was more a longing in my soul. Looking back I know now it was exactly what Paul was talking to the Romans about in Romans . I would experience the meaning of "the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans" -27
The first of many blessings in all of this would come in the news that the majority of Allison's injuries were musculoskeletal. Every time Allison or I tell people the injuries we always miss one or two, and the accident predates my medical training so some of what I have pieced together may be lacking and an interpretation of what was explained to us then in laymen's terms 10 years ago.
1. Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) - chest tube placed in the emergency department.
2. Multiple pelvic fractures (bilateral inferior and superior rami and her right sided sacral foramen looked like bone dust) - 1st surgery at Parkland
3. Fractured metatarsals (hand) - 2nd surgery at Parkland
4. Burst fracture of her right patella (knee cap) - no surgery just immobilization
5. Bilateral orbital fractures (bony structure surrounding both eyes) causing her nose to be displaced as well - no surgery on the orbits, but later surgery on Allison nose and orthodontic braces would be needed to correct some of the misalignment.
5. Missing tooth (the impact of the side of her face hitting the pavement squeezed one of her incisors out by the root) - multiple dental procedures to place screw and implant. Someone actually thought to pick the tooth up off the street and send it with her to the hospital. Her replacement tooth is not that tooth but looks just like it. I sometimes forget which one is the fake when she smiles.
6. Multiple ligamentous and bony injuries to her ankle, which thankfully was the only part of her body that took the full weight of the vehicle's tire running over her - surgery to repair this was about 6-9 months later.
Working now as a physician that sees a good deal of trauma, I realize how her injuries could have been so much worse.
I didn't get to see Allison for another two hours as they worked to stabilize her. When I was finally able to go back the first thing I remember noticing was her hair. Most of you who know Allison in the non-digital world (real life?) know she has incredible hair and lots of it. Her hair looked like Marge Simpson's,
only instead of 2 feet of rising blue hair it was solid red with blood. It was pretty gruesome. She stayed in Abilene less than 36 hours before being helicoptered (can you make helicopter a past tense verb?) to Parkland in Dallas. In that time she didn't say a word, only moaned. She didn't acknowledge anyone's presence. I feel like the word that best describes the first few days is dark. Everything just felt dark. We also don't have any pictures from this time, which I think makes it feel all the more dark.
She doesn't remember any of this time in the hospital in Abilene, or honestly the first 7 days at Parkland even though she was communicating with us in what seemed like a normal way about 2 days into our stay at Parkland. Well not exactly normal. The first thing she started asking about was what happened? I bet we told her the story twice an hour the first couple of weeks. I am so thankful she doesn't remember from her own recollection. I am thankful I didn't see the actual accident. One of her visitors at the hospital was another student who witnessed the accident. He described how he saw papers flying in the air everywhere after she was hit. He told us she hit the ground so hard that it actually pulled her jeans down to her knees. We went through her clothes later and her jeans were black and bloody from sliding across the pavement and the tire marks. We never got one of her shoes back. I walked up and down that street 100 yards in each direction the morning after the accident thinking that finding that missing shoe and bringing it up to the hospital would some how make Allison more whole. I never found it. Jo later tried to buy everything Allison was wearing that night to give her for Christmas since it was all ruined. Allison got a double dose of the thoughtful giving gene from both her mom and dad. Anyway, back to the witness. We later found out that as soon as she was hit he knelt down beside her and started praying for her. Even as I type that my eyes are sweating (don't forget ladies that men don't cry, they just sweat in places that make it look like tears).
When she was making sense, one of her early questions after hearing everything that happened was to see herself in the mirror. She had the red version of Marge's hair, multiple facial lacerations requiring sutures, especially around her eyes and chin. Her face was incredibly edematous (swollen). Both eyes deep bluish black, and she was missing a pretty prominent tooth, so we kept redirecting her away from this request, which was easy since she forgot everything we said to her 15 minutes after saying it. Of course the flip side of that was every 15 minutes and we would have to tell her again. She would again hear the story, then ask what she looked like and we would have to distract her again. Finally after few days, her mom gave in.
Allison's response was classic. She starred at herself for a while in the handheld mirror, then said "I look tough" I think that was the first time we laughed.
That's what's great about Allison. Even in the darkest, most difficult times, she is finding the positive. That's why "celebrate always" fits. Its not because our life (or Kristen and Jeff's) is one constant craft making, party planning, play dating, furniture rearranging, cookie making party as it may appear to everyone who reads this blog, but its pretty close because even when things are at their worst, Allison fixates on the positive, and then her GBOGH (Go Big or Go Home) kicks in .
The rest of the recovery was difficult, but not the scary, dark, kind of difficult like the first week, more like the "is anything ever going to be normal again?" kind of difficult. Which, by the way, is to some degree a bogus question anyway because what is normal in this world if it doesn't include a fair share of trials anyway. The recovery was trying because I needed to go back to finish grad school 3 hours away in Abilene while Allison rehabbed. I decided to commute to Abilene leaving at, take 9 hours of grad school over 2 days, then return late night. The first week I tried this I drove in morning, sat in class one hour, asked myself what I was doing, walked out, and immediately drove back. I didn't think I could leave her. In some wisdom that I didn't want to hear, but knew was right, Allison's parents told me I had to go back. I thought they were wrong. I was angry. I was wrong. I am forever indebted they pushed me forward. To lead Allison I needed to work for our life post accident. That was the 2nd hardest day for me. I got back in the car and drove back to Abilene. It was the right decision and one that ultimately led me to go back to medical school (another long story for another day). The rehab and recovery was painful and depressing. It was physically challenging because she couldn't put any weight on her feet for 4 months and couldn't put any weight on her left hand for about a month, so every time she wanted to get out of bed, even to slide over to a bedside commode, she had to have help. She was frequently in pain. It was mentally and spiritually challenging as well. We had so many questions without answers.
This time was the true building of the foundation of our marriage. When we got married, 6 months later than we had planned, we were in a deeper love than I could have ever imagined. And even though it was difficult for an extended period of time, Allison makes difficult better. If I was giving advice to someone looking for a wife I would say chose someone that you want to be with even when you are stressed, broken, and bordering on despair. Don't just look for the person you want to call when you have good news, or the person you want to go to dinner and movie with, but chose the person you want to be with when it's time to go into battle. Find the person you want next to you when you are tired, bloody, scared, and pushed to the point where you don't feel like fighting anymore. Not exactly a romantic outlook to a blog audience that is probably 99.8% female but maybe something richer than romance, is being able to be happy when things aren't perfect. Maybe it's finding strength in another person when you don't have enough of your own. Maybe that's one of the secrets to being able to celebrate always. I think we will find it's even deeper than that and a gift only God can give us. I know I am excited about learning what this means with Allison in all the days to come.
I love Allison for all the reasons that are obvious to everyone who has ever met or read about her. But I also love Allison because she is tough. One of the most difficult and dark events that has ever happened to us happened on November 10th, 2003. And we will celebrate that day, always, for the rest of our lives.
I love you Allison. Happy Cheat Death Day! May today be golden!