Saturday, April 23, 2011

I can do it!

Last night, my son, who works with handicapped adults was asked if he would do a second shift at the hospital with one of his clients who has been in the hospital for the past couple of days. This would mean that he would be working a double shift. He would not have time to get dinner. So my daughter & I offered to bring it to him. I packed him snacks, a sandwich etc. to bring up to him at the hospital. While we were enroute to drop his dinner off to him he called to tell us where he was in the hospital. I stopped dead in my tracks when my daughter relayed the message. "Mom, he is on 18S, icu, room 132!" I immediately asked her to tell him could he just come down & get the stuff from us? She relayed that message to him & he replied, that he could not leave his client. I began to see, This was the same hospital & now the very same floor/unit that my son was on when he was critically injured almost 10 months ago. I'm not sure I can go up on that floor yet. I had not really thought about it till just then. But, once I heard the floor, all those memories just started flooding back to me. BY this point we were now pulling up in front of the hospital, Stony Brook Hospital & Medical Center, LEVEL 1 Trauma Center. We were now driving past the ER entrance, trying to find a place where my daughter could just let me out so we did not have to go into the paid parking garage. My daugther looks over at me & I have now begun to cry. I was in complete panic mode. My heart was racing, I could actually see us going through all the things we went through the night of the accident, where we parked, what emotions we were going through. The sense of hopelessness I had felt that night, the panic I felt knowing that my son was so badly injured, knowing his injuries were critical b/c I was at the scene with him. I tried to regain my composure, I tried to explain quickly to my daughter why I was crying, she looked at me like I was an alien. She really could NOT understand what was wrong with me. I quickly ran from the car while she explained to the valet guy what I was doing. I ran into the building, heading straight for the elevator. Even though it has been 10 months since his accident, it has been 9 months since he has been a patient in this hospital. It is amazing how quickly & easily I slipped right back into the knowing mode. I knew exactly where to go. I quickly pushed the elevator button & waited. The elevator arrived & it felt like I had never left. I quickly pushed the button for the 18th floor & waited to ride up all those floors. The ride felt like it did all those other times. That same feeling of awfulness that had engulfed me each & every time I rode that elevator returned. I could actually feel myself holding my breath like I did back then. I could feel myself looking at the faces of the other riders in the elevator. You could tell by the hollow looks on their faces whether their loved ones were very sick like my son or if they were here to welcome a new loved one into the world. I could feel myself counting down the floors like I did each time I did before. In the past I would go through the usual questions. How was he while we were gone? Did something happen in the 15 minutes we left? Did anyone come to see him while we were gone? Do you think he moved anything or opened his eyes? You see the whole time my son was in this hospital(3.5 weeks) my husband & I never left him. We kept a 24 hr vigil with him. The only place we went was to go downstairs & get our food to bring upstairs to eat either in his room or in the icu waiting room. The whole time he was on the respirator & in the coma my husband & I just could not leave him. We were just too scared to leave! When I exited the elevator the first place you see is the ICU waiting room. Gosh, it has not changed since we left. The faces that inhabit the room changed but the looks on their faces did not. You can see the same anquish on their faces, the same anquish I know that was on mine for those weeks that we were there. My husband & I sometimes referred to that as the ICU shuffle. The faces in the waiting room shuffled. Sometimes patients got moved to different rooms, out of ICU, that was a good thing, sometimes, you just never saw a patients family again, that was so not a good thing.You would sit in the waiting room, day after day, sharing your stories with the families. Sometimes the routine went like this, my son, yes, in a coma, example of how many days they were in a coma, how it happened, etc. You helped the newer families with how things worked, helped them navigate the system, tell them where to find food, pillows, etc. as I exited the elevator all of this flashed back as the families glanced up at me & the elevator doors to see who was coming off of them, who was getting a visitor, etc. I smiled & offered my best, I know, I've been there smile & kept walking. I knew where I was going, I knew where room 132 was, it was the room right next to where my son's old room was. I opened those big doors, trying to keep myself calm, trying not to start crying before I even reach room 132. I walk past room 138, 136, 134, as I go, I see two of the nurses that took care of my son. They recognize me, they stop me. Mrs. Pettit, what are you doing here???? Please tell me your son is not back here??? I smile & give them hugs. I tell them, no, no, he is fine. He is here, but he is here b/c he is working. He works for FREE, and one of his clients is a patient here & he is sitting with him tonight, so I am bringing him dinner. Of course they are so happy to hear that & so delighted to hear that he is doing so well that he is working. Then they say they will make a point of trying to get to his clients room to say hi. I explain that Kyle does not remember any of his stay here, just to forwarn them that he won't remember them, so they won't be insulted. They said, that is fine with them, they are so glad that he does not remember them, but are just so glad to hear he is here & well. I quickly keep going, deliver the dinner to my son & explain that I saw some of his nurses. He is surprised they remember me. With that I begin to cry. I have now shocked my son. I try to pull myself together, trying to explain to him why I am so upset. It is just beyond his comprehension. I understand that! I give him a hug. I scoot out of there b/c I am so ready to get out of there. I scoot out. Wave good-bye to the nurses, race to the elevator, trying not to glance at the families that I know are suffering in the waiting room. I know how much they are hurting, I wish I could help. I wish I could say something that could help take away their pain, I know their pain, I know & yet, I don't know what to say except, I know. Since I don't know their specific circumstances, I don't want to say it will all be ok, b/c I don't know that & saying that would be cruel. I remember someone who was doing the ICU waiting room shuffle before me who told me that my son would wake up the next day & when he didn't, gosh I remember how upset I was. That person did not mean any harm, they were just trying to be helpful. Everyone deals with their tragedy in different ways. I don't want to say something that would upset them more. I get back to the car where my daughter is waiting, looking to see if I have survived. I jump in the car & say, go, just drive please as I burst into my second round of alien tears. This time though she looks over at me & very quietly says to me, "mom, remember, he is ok and he will continue to be ok!" My daughter is right. I have spent this whole day going back through pictures from the past 10 months, pictures from when he first awoke from the coma, pictures from he went to the rehab hospital, pictures from when he managed to walk across the stage at his graduation, pictures from his Fire Department installation dinner etc. You know what, slowly, very slowly there have been changes & improvements & even though the last few weeks there were some great difficulties & backsteps, he has come a LONG way! So yes, yes it was hard to go back & think about where he was 10 months ago, but look at where he is NOW! Thank god for that hospital, those nurses, doctors & wonderful staff. Thank god I was able to make that visit last night for a very different reason. NOW what I need to do is muster up the courage to go back again & find the words, the right words for those sitting in the ICU waiting room b/c god knows, I had people who did it for me! I can do it & I will do it!


elsie said...

I hope writing this helped you in the healing process. You have lived through a very difficult experience. I am so glad things are better now, such strength your family has! Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth G. said...

What a powerful post. As a mom, I can't imagine what you have been through. As I read your story, my heart began to beat faster and my stomach began to knot up. My young boys faces flashed before me as I imagined you waiting for your son to open his eyes. Your post brought to life that powerful and vulnerable. I am so glad that your son is doing better. Thank your sharing your story.

ka said...

My dear friend...May you never have to experience that feeling again! Your strength has always impressed me...Always know I would walk beside you ANYWHERE that you go...I WON'T LET GO xoxoxo