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.