Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Accident and Compassion

See those beautiful long legs?  One day I had to peer through broken glass at my 16-year-old daughter.  She was strapped to a board; blood was on the front of her shirt; and a bone was sticking out of one leg above the knee.  But the most disturbing part was that I couldn't see my "dancer's" legs from the knees down.  The front of the car had been pushed up over them.  The EMT wanted me to talk to her before the firemen used the Jaws of Life to cut her out. They wanted me to see if I could get some sense out of her, because they were concerned about a concussion.  Sara looked at me, as tears were streaming down my face and said, "Mom, stop crying right now!  You can't cry."  She made sense all right!
So I frantically wiped the tears from my face, sputtering, "Okay, Okay, I won't."  Then we talked and she told me the last thing she remembered was the car hydroplaning and the clock on the dashboard being at 7:26 ( I may have the exact seconds wrong--it's been 18 years) before the car hit the tree. All the while I was thinking, "Are they going to be able to get her out with her legs in tact?"

                                                        I didn't say that, though.
Then they cut the car away from her and got her out, legs bruised and one broken in two places, but still very much attached to her body.  She asked me later why she didn't hear the awful noise of the machine that they had warned her about.  I remember looking at her and wryly replying, "That's because your screams drowned out the machine."
"Oh." was her response.
I can tell you every detail of that day, but it would take too long.  Why am I telling you this story now?
I want to tell you about the compassion I experienced that day from so many people.
The couple from our church who recognized her car in the ditch and hurried to our lake cabin, because they weren't sure if we had a phone.  We did.
The compassion in the State Patrol Dispatcher's voice when she told me that my daughter was conscious, but she was trapped and would have to be cut out.
The EMT who tried to hold an umbrella over my head to protect me from the pouring rain as I leaned in to talk to Sara. (I didn't care about getting wet, but the lady wanted to do something for me).  She was the same one who waved them to stop, so that I could talk with Sara first.
They let me ride in the ambulance with her.  I was up front, but I could see and hear her.
The people at the local hospital ER who opened up a room for us and our families and friends.
The compassion emanating from her orthopedic surgeon as he told her father and I that she had
a broken neck,
then quickly reassured us.
The look in that same doctor's eyes as he  held one of her hands, as I held the other, and calmly told her that her neck was broken, but she was going to be fine.  She was not going to be paralyzed. 
The compassion in the nurse's eyes as she handed me the blood stained and cut-up polo shirt she wore to work and the cut-up favorite bra. She was badly hurt, but she was adamant that they not cut her favorite bra! It was a really nice one, but they had to.  The nurse respectfully explained to her that they could end up hurting her more if they didn't cut it.  The nurse didn't impatiently scoff at my daughter and ignore her pleas.  She smiled at my daughter and lightheartedly told her that she'd have an excuse to go shopping once they fixed her up. 
Compassion in a simple statement to a teen-age girl who hadn't yet realized how much her world had been changed.

However, of all the people I came in contact with through the ordeal of that day and the next three days, I remember the nurses in the Intensive Care Unit the most.
Her father and I (we were still married to each other at the time) let Dr. C., the orthopedic surgeon, choose the hospital to transfer her to.  The local hospital didn't have a neurologist and she needed one.
After several hours in that hospital's ER, 6 hours of waiting and praying through her surgery, time spent in the Recovery Room trying to get her to wake up, we finally made it to ICU.
 She was the only "kid."
She had a metal halo screwed into her head in 4 places.  A metal cord kept that halo attached to her bed or the wall, I can't remember. Until the special vest came in that would support the halo, she had to be kept secure from movement.
I wouldn't leave her that night.  I slept on the floor of a waiting room.  The young nurse came in with pillows and blankets. Sara's boyfriend stayed with me. Her dad returned home---through all this he had been suffering terribly from the flu.
The young nurse told me how she had 4 children of her own.  She explained that the head nurse replacing her for the next shift was a stickler about policy.   Thus I would not be allowed in to see Sara, but if I went to a particular door (which she showed me) and knocked politely, the head nurse would give me an update. 
She assured me that someone would come and get me if something changed and it looked like Sara might die.  I stressed that my daughter was not to die without me by her side.
Compassion--I can still see it in that nurse's teary eyes.
My daughter made it through the night.  The "stickler" was off for the next 3 days and the nurses who ran the ICU in her place, snuck us in.  We had to go through a back door, not through the ICU waiting room.
They were all mothers and they understood that a child, even if that child was 16, should not be without her family.
  I was even allowed to "sleep" in a chair in her room the next night.
Then when we were assured she was truly going to be okay and could be alone for a few hours once she was asleep, a nurse took me to a hospital room in a hall very close to the ICU and told me I could sleep there.  There were plenty of empty rooms and I could get some much needed rest.  I slept there for several hours for two nights. It turned out she was our neighbor--we'd never met.  She'd lost her husband in a car wreck and she "knew" how I was feeling.  She said someone looked after her in a similar way and she was just passing it on.

Sara has always been strong-willed, determined, and independent. God used those characteristics, and Sara was able to be released from ICU in record time.  She was put on the orthopedic floor where it was estimated she'd be for about 5 days longer than she actually was.
She is 34, happily married, and the mother of a strong-willed, determined, and independent 15-month-old son.
She is one of the most compassionate people I know.

Here are some of my favorite most recent photos of her (of the ones I have on my computer).  The last time I was with her to take a picture of her was last Thanksgiving.  I plan to fly out west this summer for a visit.
In this first picture she's showing off her shoes to me.  I thought it was a good picture to show, since I told you I worried about her losing her legs.

Above she's with her new husband and his mother and step dad
With me at the reception--she changed towards the end.
My parents were there in spirit and in the photo.  The necklace was a favorite of my mother's.  The other chain holds one of my Dad's WWII dog tags.

At a baby shower I held for her a our local scrap booking store.

The little man is about a week old here and in the next picture.  I flew out to help.

At the airport when they arrived for Thanksgiving.

At our home.  He was 9 months old during his visit.

This is my tribute to all the people who had compassion that life-changing day and in the days that followed.
This is also a tribute to my beautiful, wonderful daughter with whom God most certainly has blessed me.

Above all this is a tribute to our God "from whom all blessings flow" as the refrain says that we sing every Sunday (in my church).

I had to deal with anger that the accident happened at all.
But as I was dealing with that anger, all around me I was seeing God work through people
and circumstances.
He showed me a strength within me that I had no clue was there.
And because of the compassion I witnessed in so many ways from so many people,
I am a completely different person.

There were storms that followed the accident; times when I didn't seek His guidance; when I didn't listen.
I've always had a tendency to look at how the accident changed our lives in a negative way.
Only in the past few years, as I finally forgave her father (I blamed him for the accident), have I been able
to see all the good that came from that accident.
I don't think I would have followed through and become a teacher.
I knew that God had given me a gift in that area, but for so many years, I hid behind all they reasons why I couldn't or shouldn't be a teacher.
Now I am one.
"And I know that I know that I know" I am a compassionate one through Him who loves me, forgives me, guides me, and strengthens me.

Compassion. Jesus overflowed with it.
And so should we.

"Finally, all [of you] should be of one and the same mind (united in spirit), sympathizing [with one another],
loving [each other] as brethren [of one household],
compassionate and courteous (tenderhearted and humble)."
I Peter 3:8
For more on Compassion go to Bridget Chumbley's One Word at a Time


  1. until tomorrow... love n.

  2. Very cool story--beautiful girl. I'm so glad for a happy ending!

  3. This made me cry. Such a wonderful story. Thank you for taking the time to tell it. Your daughter is very lovely.

    And thank you for your comments on my recent post. I'm sorry you've been in pain. It's hard to praise when we are - and for me, anyway, fear often accompanies the pain. I was asking the Lord this morning to help me fix my eyes on Him in the midst of the "valley of the shadow." Only He knows what the future will bring, and He promises to go before me and be with me. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

    Hope today is a better one for you.

  4. That was very nicely done - I really like the compassion spin

  5. Lovely tribute, Beth! What a beautiful testimony to His goodness and grace.

    I keep up with your blog but am glad you sent me word of it today. Hope you are well!

  6. What a wonderful story. Your daughter is beautiful and I'm so happy to hear there was a happy ending. What a great example of compassion you have shared with us. Thank you.

  7. This is a wonderful story. We all need God to show us the way He views the story of our lives. We need that stronger, longer perspective. I need him to do this for me nearly every day.

    Your post is like a breath of fresh air to me in my situation. I love the photos of the wedding dress.

    Yes, compassion. Amazing how God sends people to help, isn't?

  8. Thank you, friend, for filling in so many gaps, for sharing so many details about how our Father stepped into the mix to bring peace and comfort to you. He's so good to us... even when life does really rotten things. Your daughter is blessed to have you, too.


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