Wednesday, June 15, 2011

#6 Final Thoughts...

I know it has been awhile since I blogged.  I found myself at a place where I just wanted to feel better and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it anymore.  I think rehashing the emotions and the details kept me hurting.  It was hard enough to live through the constant reminders of how this accident affected everyone around me; but, now I feel like I owe it to myself to finish what I started.  The details will be vague and the order of events might be off, because my defense mechanism has allowed me to forget some of the patticulars which was something I was afraid would happen.  Funny how the mind protects itself against what it knows you can or can’t handle.  As strong as I thought I was, I knew I was kidding myself.

Tuesday March 22, 2011

Because we had stayed late in ICU on Monday, we were unable to get registered at the Ronald McDonald House.  We ended up going home again to sleep and when we arrived at ICU in the morning, Hayley was breathing all on her own.  The second attempt to take her off the breathing tube was a success.  Even with the breathing tube gone, Hayley still had a tube down her nose into her stomach.  It was imperative that nothing get digested while her intestines were healing.  She also still had a central line, catheter, monitor wires attached to her chest, two drains from her surgery site, (one on the left side of her abdomen and one on the right) and inflation devices attached to her legs to prevent blood clots.  She still looked small and helpless to me; that was until she opened her mouth.

She was so confused and irritated.  The drugs had done their job and she had no idea the extent of her injuries or even that she had laid unconscious for over 4 days.  She didn’t understand why she couldn’t just get up, and the tubes and wires were pissing her off to no end.  My daughter was back with a vengeance.  It was really hard not to laugh or smile even though she was so upset.  We spent a little while trying to explain what had happened to her and what she had been through…then she would cry.  I craved to understand what was going through her mind, but on some level I did feel her pain, along with my own.

She settled back down, under the influence of pain medication, giving us a chance to talk to the doctor’s.  The goal for the day was to get her out of ICU and into Pediatrics.  They said she was doing better than anyone planned and her prognosis quickly changed from weeks of rehab, to no rehab at all.  There would be another surgery planned for 6 months to a year for more reconstruction, but overall my baby took this accident like a champ!

Jason and I were on cloud nine and I made a decision to go home and get Danica to stay with us for the rest of the week.  It had been tearing at my heart everyday to have one child in ICU and one child hours away.  I needed my children with me.  It was a selfish move, but all in all, I think it was the right one.   Round trip was less than 4 hours and when we got back mid-afternoon we checked into Ronald McDonald House, and headed over to be with Hayley, as a family.

By this time she had been moved to Pediatrics and had just started to settle in.  Unbeknownst to me, I was about to witness a mini-miracle.  Hayley had been placed in a broken bed and needed to be moved to another bed.  They placed the bed right up next to the broken one and with almost no help, Hayley scooted herself over to the new bed.  I couldn’t have been more surprised or proud to see her maneuver herself so soon after surgery, without the help of abdominal muscles.  

Jason and Danica had left to take a walk and I was alone with Hayley.  We had conversation I knew she would never remember, but she showed me her emotions.  This has always been a tough thing for Hayley to do.  She is a wall-builder, hiding herself behind tall walls and only letting few people know what she is really thinking.  I enjoyed that precious moment with her, my daughter, my baby.  She talked about the accident and to my surprise she remembered every single detail.  It hurt to know that she was able to recall seeing Jessica hit the airbag and how it felt to not be able to move after the impact.  All the details were fresh and clear in her mind and of course I worried that she may eventually experience post-traumatic stress disorder.  I set that worry aside and gratefully never had to worry about it again.

Hayley was still fretting about the tubes; she was only starting to get her voice back although it was still very hoarse.  She had asked me to help her get her nose cleared, she felt like something was in there.  Of course, I had to explain the tube was there and was giving her that sensation.  She was convinced that she had a booger or something and asked me to get a q-tip.  When I stepped into the hall to get a nurse, I hear behind me, “Mom, I made an oopsie.”  Turning around I saw Hayley with a mischievous look on her face and the tube pulled completely out of her nose.  Talk about disgusting!  She would eventually pull the tube out two more times during the night.     

Earlier that day Hayley had been hooked up to a morphine pump with a button for her to administer the doses herself.  Morphine had a funny effect on her; she had hallucinations of things that weren’t there.  By this time it was late in the evening and we were all tired and headed back to RM to sleep.  In retrospect, I should have known it was going to be a hard night for her.  I will always wished I had stayed because she suffered with nightmares that night and wanted her parents…one complaint about Inova nurses is that they did not try to contact us.  We didn’t know until that she needed us.  Needless to say, we never left her side again.

Wednesday March 23, 2011

Daytime was mine, and Jason took night shift.  Now that Hayley was in Peds, she was allowed to have visitors.  Jessica and Stephanie were the first.  Hayley was still in the process of getting the drugs that were used in ICU out of her system as well as being on a morphine pump; while Jessica was on some pain meds herself.  Watching these two interact was almost like watching a Cheech and Chong movie.  As humorous as it was on the outside; on the inside Stephanie and I were thinking something different.  Grateful…Blessed…and all the synonyms for those two words.  I watched Stephanie cry seeing the two girls together as an unspoken connection flowed between us.

Dr. McCracken took care of Hayley while she was in Peds.  He was a very happy person with large hopeful eyes; I will never forget his mile-wide smile when he would come into the room.  Today they took the dressing off her incision.  I had spent a lot of time thinking about what this scar would look like, where it would be located and how big it would be.  I worried about how it would affect Hayley and her perspective of herself.  I should have known, I worry too much for nothing, because when the bandage was removed, Hayley simply stated, “Mom, I look like Frankenstein!”   We all had a chuckle over that one, but I have to say she was pretty accurate in her description.  Her 8 inch incision cut straight down her belly, through her belly button to her pubic area and was closed with 36 staples and she also had a burn from the seatbelt that was around 2 feet long in a curve from hip to hip.  Her scar has been described as looking like an anchor and covers pretty much her whole abdominal area. 

6 days since the accident would be the first time she was allowed to take a drink of water.  There was much concern about her intestines waking up and functioning again, so it was a slow process.  First they needed to hear bowels sounds, which meant they were waiting for Hayley to fart.  Yea, I said fart and when she finally did pass gas, for the first time in her life she was applauded.

Thursday March 24, 2011

Little by little the tubes and wires were removed.  No more central line, just an IV for the pain meds and fluids, no more stomach tube, no more monitor wires and today the catheter would come out.  First though was the daunting task of walking for the first time since surgery.  They removed the inflation gadgets off her legs and helped her up.  She didn’t have to go too far to get settled in a chair not more than two feet from the bed, but she did it.  On her trip to the chair, I saw for the first time the bruises on her back located on top of where her kidneys are.  The bruises were so purple they were almost black and were about the size of an open hand.  I imagined it was from the force of impact, since nothing directly hit her in that location.  It would be weeks before those bruises would fade away.

Since Hayley was successful at getting out of bed and walking, the catheter was removed.  This meant every time she had to pee, she had to get up and she hated it!  She was still peeing out the massive amount of fluids that were pumped into her, which meant several trips to the bathroom.  Getting up for Hayley was hard; she was unable to sit up on her own.  Funny how people take that for granted.  Hayley eventually found a way to adapt, but that wouldn’t be until after she was released from the hospital.

Hayley had several visitors that day, including her teacher and his son and a couple other classmates.  I could see how badly Hayley yearned for things to get back to normal immediately.  That desire and the support, love and prayers accelerated Hayley’s recovery at an unbelievable pace. 

The morphine pump was removed and oral pain relief was given.  First they tried Percocet, which didn’t work well with Hayley and then they tried Vicodin.  This worked better with Hayley.  I can proudly say Hayley didn’t lean on her pain meds and only took them when she needed to.  She stopped all pain meds within two weeks of returning home.  Strong as an ox, she is.

Friday March 25, 2011

They started talking about sending her home, but first they had to see that fluid coming from her surgery site had stopped.  They removed the drain from her left side, which was also attached to a vacuum, but left the one attached to a bulb on the right.  They also removed all limits on her diet and she was able to eat what she liked and what she liked was fruit!  Unfortunately fruit did not like her digestive system and she spent a lot of time in the bathroom.  Another adjustment for Hayley has been bowel control….I’ll just leave it at that.

Day by day, Hayley got better, felt stronger and inspired me…day by day.

Saturday March 26, 2011

They said she could go home.   9 days after the accident, 2 surgeries later, thousands of prayers and tears and she gets to go home. 

First they took out the last drain and then she took a shower to beat all showers, since it was the first one since the accident.   I am sure she felt renewed.  I on the other hand was an emotional mess.  My worries seemed to outweigh my blessings at the moment, but that has been my way my whole life.  I worried about the ride, the stairs, the drugs, the incision, her school, my school, Dani’s school, my job, the bills…and the list went on and on.

I barely got her home and the flood of visitors began.  I didn’t mind, she seemed to need the normalcy. 

The first days home were tough.  Hayley was set up in my room, so I could be at her beck and call and it was the closest room to the bathroom.  We did all we could to make sure she was comfortable during her recovery. 

She recovered quickly but went through a lot along the way. 

Physically Hayley will never be the same, but she is here.  The prayers and support given to the family during this time was priceless to me and to her. 

Since the accident, Hayley turned 18 and graduated high school as well as gained a fabulous boyfriend whom I partially credit for her speedy recovery.  I made it through my semester at Shepherd and managed to make the Dean’s list.  Danica finished her semester with all A’s and B’s and Jason got a job. 

I could say things are back to normal, but that would be a lie.  Personally, I will never be the same.  I look at life now grateful for each moment I get to spend with the people I care about because I recognize that at any moment they could be gone forever.  I make a point everyday to show love, not just say it.  I look at the faces of my daughters, with the gentle curves of their features and I see perfection in what God has made for me.  And above all else, I am rebuilding my relationship with Him.

Thank you for reading and thank you for the tremendous support.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

#5 Just Breathe...


My hands-free connector for my phone became my best friend on those drives back and forth to Inova.  While I would drive I would talk to friends and family who would help keep my mind occupied with facts and details, which was much easier to handle than the emotional element.  Jason and I had no idea how long we would be at Inova while Hayley was recovering.  Before and after the first surgery, I was told that Hayley would be there for weeks and that afterwards she would have to go to a rehabilitation center.  We knew we were in for the long haul.

Inova is a huge hospital with a totally confusing layout with color coded elevators that don’t lead to the same floors that are in other buildings.  Trauma ICU is tucked away behind camouflaged doors that no one would guess where they led.  Getting in is a chore.  First, we used the intercom, waited for someone at the desk to answer, and then they would check with the nurse before we were allowed to come in.  They quickly got used to us simply saying, “its Hayley’s mom” or “its Hayley’s dad” and then buzzing us in.  All the patient rooms in ICU were set up in a circular manner.  Standing in any location, you can see all the rooms and the main desk in the middle.

My routine when coming into ICU was to check Hayley’s vitals, sit by her side and hold her hand.  The nurses became used to my relentless rapid-fire questions; “Why is her temperature so high and her blood pressure so low.  Is she peeing enough? What is that tube for??”  The nurses were accommodating to my incessant questioning and they normally always had the answer and would explain in a way I understood.  Seeing Hayley this particular morning was rather alarming.  She had swelled to a point that I hardly recognized her.  Her skin was so tight and warm to my touch.  It was explained that the swelling was normal, that it was how the body responds to such a traumatic injury.

I was so glad Hayley couldn’t see herself at that moment but I let myself imagine the conversation and the slue of complaints that would come out of her mouth about looking like hell.  But, she couldn’t fight back right now, all she could do was lay there with her hands strapped down while a machine breathed for her and all I could do was hold her hand and stare at her vitals.  I longed to hear her voice, for her to grasp my hand. 

The nurses monitored her constantly which gave me easy access to ask my never-ending questions.  Every now and then, Hayley would open her eyes and try to tug on her breathing tube.  I was so grateful the drugs would quickly let her slip back into her dream place and I was more than thankful to know she would not remember one second of what she was going through, but I remember and her father remembers.

After hours of watching her vitals, the doctor came over to talk to us about her surgery the next day.  She said Hayley would be taken at anytime, there was no set time, just when they could get her in.  She explained what they would do and that afterwards if everything looked good, they would try to take her off the breathing tube.  I couldn’t wait to hear my daughter’s voice.
Once the nurses realized we had such a long drive they arranged for us to stay in one of the rooms in the children’s oncology wards on the 6th floor.  Being as late as it was, Jason and I decided to try to get some sleep.  As we walked through the ward, there were two young boys playing in the hall.  They both had masks on their faces and I assumed they were battling cancer.  I thought to myself that as bad as things were with Hayley, they still could be worse.  I empathized with those mothers and hurt for my sister who has a child with cancer.  How lucky I felt and I counted my blessings.

I couldn't sleep, so I sat on the ledge in front of the huge window, with my forehead against the cold glass.  I was anxious for the next day’s surgery.  I knew they had a major repair to her fascia and hoped that when they checked all the repairs done to her intestines that they wouldn’t find anything bad.  They had already told me her muscles were detached and they were hoping to be able to incorporate some of the muscle tissue into the repair.  I imagined what it would be like for Hayley without the use of her abdomen muscles, about how it would affect her life. These thoughts and more churned through my mind as I looked out the window into the darkness.  


We didn’t wait for the sun to rise before we were packed and ready to head back to ICU.  We decided to walk around the outside of the building to the lot where my car was to drop off our bags.  It was the night of the “super” moon.  It was very bright and large and brilliant.  I stared at it as I walked and prayed this day would go well, that Hayley’s surgery would be successful and that I could keep it together.  He answered my first two prayers.

Hayley went into surgery around .  In preparation, they had installed a central line.  They explained with all the drugs, fluids, and now another unit of blood, that it would be easier, that the needle was large and everything would get into her quicker.  They were then able to take out all the smaller IV’s that she had in both arms.  When it was time to go, all the excitement and movement stirred Hayley.  She was alert, but I knew she had no clue what was going on.  We walked with the crew as they wheeled Hayley to surgery.  At the doors, I kissed my daughter, gave me love, looked into her eyes and prayed I would see them again.  When the doors closed, the sobs came strong and hard.

Hayley was in surgery around 3 hours.  Back in ICU, the doctors explained how everything went.  They had a hard time closing the fascia and ended up using the largest piece of pig mesh they had ever used before.  It was decided that they would not try to take Hayley off the breathing tube tonight.  Her body had been through enough and she needed the rest.  They planned to try to take the tube out first thing in the morning.

We stayed for a couple hours; made sure she was resting well and headed to go get Dani.


The plan was to put Dani on the bus and get back to Inova.  A friend had offered to keep Dani for us and make sure she got to school.  Unfortunately, lack of sleep caught up with me and after falling asleep at , my body did not hear the alarm at .  I ended up not waking up until in a mad rush. I wanted to be there when they took Hayley’s breathing tube out, so we didn’t even pack a bag, just got ready and left quickly. We got Danica to school on time, but had to talk with the principle to let her know what the arrangements were with Dani.

We didn’t get back to Inova until close to 11; freaking traffic!  When we got there, they explain that they tried and aborted the breathing test.  Before they actually take a breathing tube out, they run a test for two hours to see if the patient is breathing deep enough.  Hayley failed and the test was called off within 45 minutes.  My heart sank as I realized how much her fragile body must have been going through.  They said they would try again later if she was up to it, but as it turned out Hayley was not ready.  Her blood pressure kept dipping low around 30’s over 90’s.  I spent the day freaking out every time the alarms would go off on her vital monitor.  Her temperature stayed around 102. 

Well before they tried the breathing test, they had begun to cut Hayley’s medication doses by half.  They explained she wouldn’t breathe on her own at the level of Fentanyl and Versad she was at.  As the medication levels started to leave her system, her alertness happened more often.  I began to see that Hayley was not aware of how sick she was because she was pissed!  She didn’t want to be strapped down and she tugged with what little energy she had to get to her breathing tube to pull it out.  We kept an eye on her all day and she tried with all her might to communicate with us.  As mad as she was, I was elated!  My daughter was back and acting like her strong-willed, stubborn self, but the drugs kept her from understanding what she had gone through.  There was no explaining to her that all the tubes and wires were necessary, she wanted that tube out more than anything.  These moments were brief and she mostly stayed under, but I could feel the heaviness lifting off my chest and I began to breathe again.   

I was told of prayer-chains and prayer-blankets that were coming in from all over the U.S. and as far away as California.  I don’t think Hayley had much of a chance, her injuries and situation were being given to God and he had put her near the top of his agenda.  While she slept, He worked miracles on her body that no one expected; not me, not her supporters and not even her doctors.  His greatness would be shown more and more in the days following.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

#4 The "other" mother.

I would like to back up a bit, to the time right before the end of my last blog. 

When we got home from Fairfax I made a phone call to Hayley’s teacher.  It was very late, but I knew he would answer the call.  Hayley had become an important fixture in his life, not only in class but also at home.  She has befriended his son and my daughter spent many hours at his house prior to this accident.  He told me that he thought of her as his own and I felt the need to bring him up to speed on all that occurred.  We talked a while, telling me all that he found out, assuring me that it was okay for Hayley and me to focus on her getting better and that he would take care of some other obstacles; such as her graduating.  I was grateful to have these worries taken from me, but I was also indebted for his never-ending support and care. 

My motivation to call him was more than wanting to give him a play-by-play; I needed to get the phone number of the driver, who was also a student of his.  He had been in contact with the driver’s mother, and told me that although the driver was able to leave the hospital and go home, she was hurting emotionally as well as physically and was blaming herself for what had happened.  I decided not to disturb the family that night, that they had been through enough and I knew a call from me would only stir it all up again; they deserved some peace.

When I laid my head down that night, intending for sleep which never really came, I found myself at the scene of the accident.  My view came from somewhere behind Hayley’s head.  I could feel the carefree moments seconds before the impact.  I imagined Hayley texting, as she always does, and I could see the back of Jess’s head.  Then looking through the windshield, I saw a car…and then black; the images looped again and again. I imagined that is what Hayley saw.  It would be days later before that vision became more accurate, when I knew the color of the infamous car, the direction of travel, the exact way it all happened through Hayley’s eyes.  Before I fell to “sleep” I thought again of Jess, as well as her mother and I knew that somewhere else another mother was having the same visions, only her viewpoint was different.  I expected she was also giving thanks and praying.


Another call to Inova.  Between Jason and me, we called seven times since the time we had left there and not once did they seem put-out.  Did I mention I love Inova nurses?

My next call was to Jess’s mom; the other mother.  My formal introduction seemed very much out of place considering.  To say Stephanie was an emotional wreck is sincerely an understatement.  She displayed all the grief and hurt that I had been holding back.  I wasn’t exactly sure how much thought she had put into this meeting, because I know her mind had been occupied with things that were occurring on her end of this tragedy.  I got the impression she was glad to her from me and I was relieved she embraced me so easily.  Our initial conversation was filled with, “How’s Hayley?”, “How’s Jess?” 

Jason and I wanted to get back to Inova as quickly as we could but also wanted to retrieve Hayley’s belongings from the car.  The nurses said that music would be nice for Hayley while she was sedated, so our goal was to get her Ipod.  Stephanie and I planned to meet at the towing lot.

By the time we got there, Stephanie and Jess were already there.  I eagerly jumped out of the car and right into Stephanie’s arms.  We held each other; thanking God our children were spared.  I remember looking at her face for the first time and seeing true pain coming through eyes that had observably been crying non-stop.  I envied her that she could do that and not collapse in a pile on the ground.  I held mine in because I knew, without a doubt, that once I let it go, there would be no reigning it back in. 

Jess was in the car, once I saw her face I remembered her being in my home tagging along after Hayley up the steps to Hayley’s room.  I touched her knee, afraid of hurting her, hugged her the best that I could and told her not to blame herself anymore, “everything will be okay.”  Even though I said the words, I knew in my heart she was not going to walk away from this without deep emotional injuries.

As it turned out, we were at the wrong lot and unbelievably they were closed.   Jason made a few calls finding the right lot and the owner’s wife graciously agreed to let us in.  I entered the lot with Stephanie by my side, supporting each other  I glanced at what I knew was Jess’s car with the entire front end smashed in all the way to the firewall and my heart started hammering, but before I could get closer the owner’s wife pointed to the car at fault.  From the front the car appeared normal.  I cautiously began to walk to the passenger’s side and was floored by what I saw.   The entire passenger’s side was smashed, the door had been cut away and the seat had been compacted by half.  I heard a loud wailing and reached for Stephanie before I realized that the noise was coming from me.  We held each other and cried over and over, “oh my God, oh my God”, as the reality and the magnitude enveloped us.  I learned the true meaning of grace that day.

Stephanie, Jess, Jason and I wrapped up with the belongings business.  Before we headed back down to Inova, I hugged Jess, holding back to avoid hurting her, and then held Stephanie.  Never had I felt such an immediate connection with another human and I knew, somehow even at that point, Stephanie and I would always have a bond that it would later turn into a friendship; and it did.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#3 Facebook = Powerful Prayers

I parked the car in the grey lot and found my way to Trauma.  I was told by the doctor that the surgery should only take a few hours and according to my clock she had another hour to go.  I informed the Trauma ICU that I was here and proceeded to go wait in the waiting room, with Dani in tow. 

The room was dimly lit and that’s about all I remember about the interior.  We initially sat at the back of the room, away from the TV and the few others who were waiting as well.  It had been less than 10 minutes since I posted on FB where I was and my phone began to blow up.  I swiped through the posts mindlessly and responded to text messages to keep my mind off of the wait. Soon a family came in and sat down near Danica and I.  They talked loudly amongst their selves, but not in English.  I thought to myself, “geez, really???”  Dani and I moved closer to the TV.

I remember looking around the room at the faces of the people.  I wanted to see if they were hurting the way I did.  I would give a smile and put my arm around Dani.  I watched the clock on my phone as the two hour mark was coming and I felt a panic arise.  I went down to the Trauma door (there was an intercom, and you had to be buzzed in) and asked if there was any word. Sadly the answer was no, so back to the room I went.

 Dani sat close to me as I watched the TV, I remember there was some stupid insignificant program on with people getting caught on film doing ridiculously dangerous stuff.  I wasn’t amused, neither was Danica.  I texted to friends, who gave me support, and I waited…seemed like forever.  Danica, being the 11 year old that she is, was bored and asked me when we were leaving.  I responded by telling her we were going to be here a long while.  My little smartass comes back with, “Man, this sure isn’t like Grey’s Anatomy” Some place in my mind, I found that remarkably hilarious but without humor I replied, “This is real life Dani.” 

Real life, real hurt…this stuff only happens to “other” people.  How surreal it all was to know I am someone else’s “other” people.  This was my reality, Hayley’s reality, everyone-that-cares-for-her’s reality.  Somehow, some way, I remained calm and silently cried while I watched through that stupid show and held Dani to my side.

Three and a half hours and counting…another trip to the intercom.  This time the response was that she should be coming in to ICU in about 45 minutes and that someone would come and talk to me and then we could see her.  I took that time and ran to my car, one-to smoke, two-to charge my dying phone, and three-to call Jen.  I told her everything I knew and she was strong for me and I faked strong in return.  We talked for awhile, smoked another cigarette, made other calls, and then headed back in…holding my breath. 

When I returned to the waiting room, I found a doctor looking around.  She asked if I was Hayley’s mom, then took me in a small room.  She explained all Hayley’s injuries and what was done to repair them.  I remember gripping the chair with all my might while she talked.  She was happy to tell me no colostomy and I was more than glad to hear it.  No 17 year old wants to live that way.  She talked about many other things that she explained in more detail than I understood, but what I did get out of it was that she was not done, Hayley need another surgery and they were going to keep her highly sedated for the next two days and watch for infection before they did the final repairs.  She says to me, “Hayley is a sick little girl.”  I would hear that phrase many more times throughout that night and as optimistic as I wanted to be, I started to think that phrase was a code for something more ominous, something I didn’t want to imagine, something I couldn’t begin to comprehend.

It was awhile longer before we were able to see Hayley, by this time her father had made his way from Morgantown to Inova.  A loved family friend brought him in and planned on taking Dani home with her for the weekend.  They waited in the hall while Jason and I went to see our daughter for the first time. 

It is very overwhelming to see a child in such a helpless condition.  She had tubes and lines and wires coming from every part of her body.  The nurses were busy transitioning her from surgery and trying to get her mixture of Fentanyl and Versed to a place that would keep her under and comfortable.  My baby’s hands were strapped to the bed so she wouldn’t try to yank out her breathing tube.  She was in and out of her dream place and when she was alert she would try to get the tubes out.  At one point I saw her say, “I want my mom” and when I went closer to her head she said, “I’m gonna throw-up.”  These are the last words I would hear/see her say for another 4 days.   She quietly slipped under as she adjusted to the sedation and then I allowed myself to break down. 

I spent a long time talking to the nurses and absorbing every inch of the room and the monitors.  I held her hand and watched her vitals.  Hours later when I knew she was stable and would be sleeping, her father and I decided to go home and get clothes.  I was assured she would be alright for the night and was given a number they said I could call at any time to check on her.  I love Inova nurses.

In my car I checked my phone. On FB my friends, family, and co-workers had flooded my page with prayers and thoughts.  On the drive home, I thought about those friends and how their prayers had became something tangible to me.  You see, they held me up every second I was at Inova.  They helped me keep my head up, they helped keep the strong tone in my voice, and they helped me help others who were as scared for Hayley as I was.  They helped me and they helped Hayley in a way that spiritually I was not able to.

I’ve battled demons my whole life; self-esteem issues, alcohol, financial issues, marriage issues.  My list is much like any others.  At the very worst of times, I would bow my head, cry my heart out, and wait for an answer that never came.   I eventually lost my faith and began to doubt.  I felt that the answers were within me, not some entity that I could no longer feel like I did in my youth when I was a devout Southern Baptist.  When I began to depend on myself, my life changed.  I became happy with my life and with myself.  I felt some shame that I no longer believed.  I didn’t often discuss my new religious views.  When life would throw me a dud, I took it in stride, but I never prayed again.  However, when bad things happened to friends and prayers were asked for, I would say a prayer…but was convinced my words fell upon deaf ears.

But this, this was out of my control.  I could not fix Hayley; her life was in the hands of strangers.  So, I had reached out.  To friends who did believe, whose lives were not so filled with the sin and shame that I had rolled around in.  I counted on them to pray for Hayley, because I felt unworthy to ask for anything, let alone to let my child survive this accident with some sort of a quality of life.  I felt my prayers would be worthless, so I let my friends pray.  Until later that night, alone in bed my prayers became pleas and I knew He was waiting to hear from me.

This poem was sent to me by a friend the next morning as we were driving back to Inova.  I just wanted to share with you.

"I'm all out of words
There's nothing I could say to you
To take away the hurt
So let me pray you through
Let me pray you through
Let me pray you through"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#2 A long hard drive....

I was closing on the Virginia state line when I got off the phone with Kim.  I wasn’t completely sure where I was going, but I had pulled up directions on Google Maps and between trying to stay within the yellow lines I was looking for my next turn-off.  The drive itself was mostly a blur.  I talked idly with Dani and took several phone calls from people who helped me to piece together what had happened.  Hayley’s teacher was one of those calls.  I remember him saying that through his resources he found out that no one had left the scene of the accident in critical condition.  This eased my mind somewhat as I scrambled to make sense of it all. 

I never really found out until days later all the details, but at this point I knew Hayley was going fishing with a classmate in Falling Waters and while driving down Route 11, someone pulled out in front of them with no warning.  She was not at fault, nor was the driver and she had told me the truth.

That information swirled around in my mind while the scenery blurred past me somewhere along Route 7.  Then I received a call from Hayley’s surgeon.  Dr. Griffith had called to tell me what was going on and to get my permissions to proceed.  She explained the extent of Hayley’s injuries and said she needed to operate immediately and that they could not wait for me to get there.  She said Hayley was alert and talking, but she needed to get into her into surgery.   She further went on to tell me that Hayley was a smart girl and that she had gotten into the backseat of the car because the safety belt in the front was not operational…a cold chill went down my spine.  I told her to take good care of my baby, do what she saw necessary and I gave my blessing, while holding my breath.  I had to talk to other people to verify I was giving permission for surgery and other things that might arise.   

Once I got off the phone, I realized that I didn’t have them tell Hayley that I love her.  How could I forget that?  Would I get the chance to tell her?  Other images played in my mind, words the doctor had said; shredded intestines, not sure about her other organs, colostomy bag, blood transfusions, infection, abdominal muscles cut from pelvis, rare injury…. But she was talking, that had to be a good sign, right?  Why didn’t I tell her I loved her?

The phone wouldn’t stop ringing, Dani was getting anxious from the long drive, my phone kept shorting out, but at least I had some distractions.  Then right before the Dulles toll, I got another call from the hospital.  It was a nurse named Michelle; she was a pediatric nurse, who was calling for my permission for anesthesia.  I had to pull over at this point, because I wasn’t sure I would make the right turns if I was talking.  She was very nice and offered to call me back to make sure I was on the right path, and I will be damned if she didn’t.  I asked her to tell Hayley I loved her and she helped me to 495.  Within 30 minutes I was in sight of the hospital.

When I got off 495, I went the wrong way, didn’t get lost and was still within sight of the hospital.  Dani was hungry, so I pulled into an Exxon.  I let her go in and get something to eat and drink, while I pulled myself together.  I was suddenly terrified, shaking again.  I was so close and so scared of what was in store.  I kept beating down the negative thoughts that kept rearing their ugly head, but it was hard to do it alone. 

I got my cell phone out, hit my facebook application and for the first time ever hit the “locations” button and checked in at Inova Fairfax Hospital with a post that said, “Please pray for Hayley.” 

Within minutes, I was struck by a wave…..

#1 The dreaded call...


It was a not-so-typical Friday. It was the last day of Spring Break from Shepherd U. and as usual I was mentally preparing myself for the long weekend ahead of me filled with 12 hour shifts at work. I had gotten up around 10am, fiddled around on the computer, and cussed myself for not being more productive with my school work over the break. Right before 12pm, just when I decided to lie back down and get more rest for work Hayley texted me and asked if she could go fishing. Hayley is my 17 year old daughter. She is reasonably responsible as teenagers go, so I told her yes, but to be home in time for her younger sister to get off the bus. She said she would be.

Little did I know less than 20 minutes later, Hayley would be in a terrible car accident that would change her life and mine.

When I stop and think about that moment, being the moment of impact, I wonder why I didn't feel it. Why my mother's intuition didn't set off alarms and make my heart beat quickly, the way it had done so many times in the past, when my children were in harm's way and not within my protection. I'm not sure of the answer to that question.

Back to the call ...Right after my conversation via-text with Hayley, I laid in bed to take a nap. Like normal, I didn't want to let myself have a full-on sleep, so I laid my phone by my head and only covered my legs with the blanket. I set my alarm on my phone for 2pm and curled into the fetal position. I felt myself start to drift somewhere around 1pm. Right at 2:02pm my phone started going off. At first, I was confused as to if it was my alarm, and then realized it was ringing. A number was calling that I didn't recognize and in between my disgust that my alarm didn't go off and the fact that a strange number was calling, I silenced the call.

Then it rang again. This time the number was different, but still not a number I knew...


"This is Tim Higgins from Inova Faifax Hospital Faifax Hospital, do you know why I am calling?"


"We have your daughter Hayley here. Do you know where we are?"


"We are about 20 minutes from Washington."

In my mind I was beginning to think, "That little shit lied to me."

Then he proceeded.

"Hayley was flown in from Berkeley County. She was in an auto accident."

"Is she okay?"

"Do you know how to get here?"

"No, is she okay?"

"We don't know. How soon can you get here?"


"She is going into CAT scan now and she is alert."

"Come to the blue parking area and into Emergency."

I hung up the phone. By this point I was shaking. I stood by my desk and just stared around my room, and shook. I didn't know what to do, so I picked up my phone and with trembling fingers dialed my dad and with two word sentences, tried to tell my father that his granddaughter was rushed to Fairfax. Amidst my ramblings, I kept repeating, "I don't know what to do" and I felt myself seconds from falling apart completely. Then my mother's voice said, "Calm down, go get Danica, drive to the hospital." That was all it took. I knew then I was not allowed to fall apart, that I had to keep it together.

I quickly got dressed, tried to do something with my unruly, dirty, hair (Danica calls it a weave) and jumped in my car. Like a maniac, I pealed out of my gravel driveway and headed for Danica's school. While I was driving, my mind was in a thousand places. I looked at other people in their cars and wondered for the first time, where they were going and if their mission was anything like mine.

Now, more than ever, I felt very alone.

Once I got Dani from school, I placed her in the backseat and calmly told her the bare minimum. She started to pucker up and I hugged her and said it was going to be okay. I didn't believe those words myself and wondered how I would back peddle from that statement and how it would affect her emotionally if I had to. I wanted to believe what I said, but in my semi-rational mind I knew that being flown from a scene of an accident was NOT a good thing. I got in the car and we were on our way.

Hayley's father had spent the week in Morgantown working. I knew calling him would consist of me having to leave a message and him calling back when he could find a signal. Somehow I managed to leave a message that was calm with a simple, "call me back." My heart was breaking and I knew his would too once he found out. He called back while we were getting on I81 S. All I could tell him is what I knew, after that nothing was certain. I didn't know how he would get to Fairfax and I didn't know what I would find myself when I got there. He had work buddies with him and I hoped they would calm his fears and get him back safely...and they did.

Being alone inside my mind is often a scary place to be, and at that moment it was the most terrifying place ever. I reached out to a friend who I work with, partially to let her know I wouldn't be to work that night, but also because I knew she was a good Christian and I needed all the support I could get. When I talked, I didn't think, and when I didn't think, I couldn't fall apart. Besides my parents, Kim was my first set of shoulders I leaned on. She said she would pray...ahhh prayer, which will be another blog.