Friday, November 17, 2006
Twists of Fate
What finally woke me was the blood pressure cuff fastened around my arm. I felt it pump up tightly, and then I heard beeping noises and a flat tone, then the cuff loosened up with a hissing sound.
I laid there with my eyes closed for a few minutes, trying to remember what had happened. I was obviously in a hospital, judging from the beeps and the blood pressure cuff. I could also hear some other kind of monitor, softly beeping, maybe in keeping with my heartbeat.
So I’m not dead. I didn’t imagine they need blood pressure cuffs in the other places, heaven or hell that is.
I started to remember the crash then, the car spinning and pitching over the embankment. Luckily we were near an exit, so the drop wasn’t bad, down the muddy sides of the embankment rather than a steep fall down to the pavement below.
I remember the car rolling over and over and feeling crushed by that damn airbag for a moment and then I unreasonably felt grateful for it; I might not be here if not for it.
And then I remembered Cassie. How was she? Was she okay?
Adam. Waiting for me to call. My eyes popped open then and looked at the room.
My daughter Lissa was looking at the monitors that were hooked up to me. My budding doctor probably saw something in those inscrutable readings when I woke up. I was so proud of her, but she looked haggard and drawn. Her dark blonde hair was pulled back into her usual no-fuss pony tail and her green eyes were blood-shot and weary.
“Mom, you’re awake!” she said, starting to cry with relief. Derek was beside me then too, reaching for my hand and in his best ‘man of the house’ voice, telling me that I would be okay; it was all going to be okay. Derek looked just as tired as his sister, but I could see how he was trying to keep himself steady and strong; the epitome of the man of the house. Almost 10 inches taller than Lissa’s 5’3 inches he towered over her as he wrapped his arm across her shoulders for support.
“Cassie,” I whispered. My throat was extremely dry and felt raspy.
“She’s alive mom, don’t worry,” Lissa told me, pushing the call button for the nurse.
“She’s okay?” I asked, needing the reassurance. Lissa and Derek just looked at each other wordlessly, which made me start worrying again.
I heard footsteps coming into the room then. I cautiously turned my head toward them, realizing that my neck hurt, I think everything hurt actually. I expected to see nurses or maybe even doctors coming into the room. Instead I saw Adam!
“Adam,” I sobbed, tears instantly rushing down my face. “Oh Adam.”
“It’s alright love, I’m here,” he told me, holding tightly to my hand, rubbing it gently in between his own. His hands felt warm and comforting against my own chilled ones. I looked at Lissa and Derek then, and tried to smile. They were watching what was happening between Adam and me, and Lissa was smiling. Derek wasn’t.
A nurse came in then and Lissa quickly filled him in on what was happening. He used his cell phone to call the resident doctor, who said she would be right here.
The nurse was busy taking my temperature and charting my vital signs when the doctor came in. She greeted me perfunctorily before looking at the chart. I couldn’t help but briefly picture Lissa doing these same things.
She will be such a good doctor someday. Just hopefully a little friendlier than this one!
Neither the nurse nor the doctor paid any attention at all to Adam, which seemed strange to me. It’s almost like they didn’t recognize him or were used to him or something.
“Ms. Marcus, I’m Dr. Morrison,” the doctor was saying, “how are we feeling?”
“I don’t know how ‘we’ are feeling but I feel like hell to be honest.”
I saw Adam and Lissa both try to hide their smiles at this, but Derek let out a huge laugh. He continued to smile from ear to ear looking from the doctor to me as the doctor asked me more questions. Derek always likes it when someone fights back. That’s probably why he was a soldier. He believes in standing up for yourself and anything else you believe in. I am so proud of him and sometimes I wonder how on earth I managed to have such an awesome son.
“Maybe you would you be more comfortable Ms. Marcus with fewer people in the room,” she suggested, looking around the room.
“No, I want them all here. They all have the right to hear whatever you are going to say.” I wondered if it was something bad. I couldn’t decide if that is why she wanted to talk to me alone, to give me bad news. But it didn’t matter, I would be better off with all three of them with me.
“Ms. Marcus, you have severely bruised your ribs. However they will heal well with time, you are extremely lucky.”
“You also have a 3 and ½ inch fractured skull. There has been no internal bleeding or hemorrhaging though which is very good. There was some slight swelling in the Parietal lobe of your brain, which is not unexpected. The Parietal lobe controls your body by interpreting the sensory information from various parts of your body. We will be testing you extensively for reaction and movement. However, the swelling has steadily decreased and we’ll do another CT scan soon, but I’m sure it is mending nicely. The body is often the best caretaker of itself and the 4 days you have been unconscious have helped you to rest and heal.
“4 days?” I had been unconscious for 4 days? My head was spinning, from the shock rather than the accident. I looked at Lissa, Derek and Adam then and they all looked as if they had been here for a long time. Oh God, I couldn’t believe this.
“Yes, 4 days. Now, let’s do some checks, okay?” she said, lifting the sheet from over my feet. I felt a prick on my foot and my foot kicked reflexively. “That’s good. Now the other one.”
I couldn’t get it out of my head. 4 days I had been here. How long had Adam been here and how did he even find me?
I followed the doctors instructions, wiggling my toes and even bending my legs a little bit, but that really made my chest hurt. But everything seemed to be in working order, and I was grateful for that.
“How is your pain Ms. Marcus?”
“It hurts but it isn’t too bad really. I’d love some ibuprofen,” I told her hopefully.
‘We can’t do that yet, not until you can keep food down. Are you nauseous?”
“I was when I first woke up, but not now. I’m very thirsty though. Can I have some water?”
I watched a look of consternation pass over Dr. Morrison’s face. I had obviously struck out again.
“You can have some ice chips, that will help some I’m sure. For your pain I’m going to give you some Toradol. It will go into your IV bag and should help you have a comfortable night.”
“Is Toradol a narcotic? I hate how narcotics make me feel; all fuzzy-headed and out of control.”
“No, Toradol is a powerful NSAID analgesic; it will not make your head feel fuzzy, I promise. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No, I think I’ll be fine. But I really want those ice chips! And can we sit this bed up a little bit. I think I’ll find that a little more comfortable.”
At Dr. Morrison’s nod, the nurse pushed the button to raise the head of the bed up. When it had risen about 12 inches or so, he paused and asked me how that felt?
“It feels fine. It’s good to be upright a bit. Thanks so much.”
“Alright Ms. Marcus. Let us know if you need anything else.” Dr. Morrison finished making notes in the chart and told the nurse to get me some ice chips and they left the room, still conversing.
I watched them go silently, still amazed. But I was okay and that felt wonderful. Then I remembered Cassie again and asked about her.
Lissa picked up my hand, and that scared me. Adam was standing against the wall, one foot resting behind him on the wall and he was watching Lissa. Derek went over and looked out the window.
“Mom, Cassie’s seat belt came undone. We don’t know if she didn’t click it right when she fastened it or if it was a fluke, but it came loose and she was tossed around inside the car,” Lissa told me. I was just looking at her, dreading what she might say next; afraid she would tell me that Cassie was dead. I looked over at Adam and held my other hand out to him and he immediately came and took it and squeezed it gently.
“Is... is she okay?” Please let her be okay God, please!
“Well, she probably will be. She has a spinal cord injury.”
At that, I cried out. “No, please no, she was only helping me!” I cried in earnest then, imagining my best friend, so full of life, being hurt so badly.
“She hasn’t broken her back mom, only damaged it. Her injury is called Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. That means her spinal cord is only traumatized, not broken or permanently damaged. She is incredibly lucky. Right now she is experiencing paralysis but it could heal well on it’s on in time. She is in a special bed that decompresses the spinal column and allows it to heal without compression. It’s a new therapy that is working remarkably well. She has the best spinal doctor in the mid-west working on her and her chances of recovering the use of her legs is good. Better than good actually.
“I want to see her, please?” I asked.
“Not yet. In case you have forgotten, you’re not moving around too well yourself right now. Give it a day or so, when it’s easier to get you in and out of a wheelchair, okay?” Lissa told me. She was using what I imagined to be her ‘doctor’ tone, trying to placate me as if I were a child.
“A wheelchair? I don’t want to use a wheelchair.”
“It’s only for a short time, until you’re strong enough to move around on your own,” Adam interjected, trying to smile hopefully at me. At that point I vowed to myself that I would be strong right away. I didn’t want to be hauled around in a wheelchair!
I looked from Adam to Lissa. Derek came back over to stand by the bed. I imagine this is really hard on Lissa and Derek too. Cassie was their second mother, and was always there for them. During the divorce, she wiped their tears away as often as mine.
“How long do I have to stay in the hospital?”
“Probably not too long mom, maybe another couple days to make sure you aren’t having any problems. Maybe sooner, who knows?”
“Okay. Have you seen Cassie? Is she awake?”
“Yeah, she has been awake almost from the start. She wants to come see you in fact. She even tried to bribe the staff to wheel her and her fancy bed in here. In fact, I’m going to tell her you are awake now. Hey Derek, why don’t you come with me?” Lissa said, motioning Derek to follow her. He just stared at her for a moment, then after casting an inscrutable look that could have been taken for a frown at Adam, followed her out of the room.
Adam pulled a chair up next to my bed, but before he sat down he leaned over and very lightly kissed me. “Hi,” he whispered.
“Hi. I can’t believe you’re here Adam. How did you find out?”
“Now that is an interesting story," he said, settling back into the chair and getting comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can be in one of those stiff looking hospital chairs anyway.
He still held my hand and I squeezed his tightly. I didn’t want to ever let go. He returned my squeeze and gave me that intense look of his and I saw how tired he looked—his eyes had dark shadows under them and he looked very pale. Of course, I didn’t imagine I looked too good either I thought with a grim smile.
“I waited for you to call and when you didn’t I was frantic Sarah. Part of me, a small part wondered if you were going to. But I was determined to not let you go that easily. So, I took my flight home and when I still didn’t have a message from you, I started calling your numbers; your cell, home and then finally your job. They acted rather strangely when I asked about you and I knew then that something was wrong,” he told me quietly. With his free hand he was combing through his tousled hair absent-mindedly.
“I tried calling the hospitals in this area, but got nowhere. So, I did the only thing I could think of.”
“You hopped on a plane and came to investigate for yourself?” I asked.
“Not quite—I did something better. I called Sunni, who was already in Dallas. Within an hour she called me back with all the details. Turns out her brother is a cop in Ft. Worth and has a buddy here in Wichita. I was on a plane first thing yesterday morning and I’ve been here ever since. Your kids were both already here by then.” he finished.
“Sunni to the rescue—again,” I said, thinking about that for a moment. “She is certainly a big help. Send her some flowers or something nice, okay?”
“You got it. Cassie helped a lot too, where I am concerned. She had told Lissa and Derek about me, so at least that wasn’t too awkward when I got here. I had envisioned some problems, what with trying to explain why on earth I was here to see you, frantic and half out of my mind with worry. Cassie figured that you probably had my number, but Lissa couldn’t find it anywhere. However, they couldn’t find your purse after the accident and they figured that was where it was. Lissa did go to your house and got my number off your caller id. By the time she had called me though, I was already on the way here. She’s, uh, she’s been great Sarah,” he laughed. “I think I need to grow a bit on Derek though!”
I grinned as much as my aching face would allow and said, “Yes, he’s my watchdog. He doesn’t back down easily, so you are probably in for a rough ride for awhile. I’ll talk with him soon though and that may help.”
Adam leaned forward in the chair and looked me straight in the eye then. I wondered how I looked and I imagined it was bad. My hand strayed up to my head, expecting to find it swathed in bandages, but it wasn’t. Adam bent over and kissed my hand. “You look perfect to me.”
My eyes smiled my gratitude to him.
“Sarah, I was scared to death that I had lost you, one way or the other. I...I, uh, you can’t imagine how relieved I am that you are okay, that you will be okay. Every minute I sat there wondering what had happened, I died a little bit more. At first I felt betrayed, outraged that you would just so callously walk away, after everything you said to me.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but Adam reached across and gently laid his fingers across my lips and shook his head. “Let me finish, please. By the time I got on my flight, I already knew that you hadn’t done that Sarah. I knew in my heart, knew that something must be wrong. That you wouldn’t do that, I just knew it somehow,” he told me, smiling tiredly.
“So you found me. Thank you Adam. You’re being here means so much to me.” I paused for a moment to collect my thoughts. “The flight home was horrible, every mile took me farther away from you. I slept a lot on the way to Atlanta, but the rest of the time my heart was breaking. I need you in my life—I want you in my life.” My eyes were shining brightly and this time it wasn’t from sad tears, it was because I was so incredibly happy.
I swallowed the huge lump that was in my throat then, and worked really hard to keep my tears at bay—I didn’t want Adam to think they were because I was unhappy. I remembered the boys then and asked Adam about them.
“They’re fine. I’ll get back in a week or so for the visit, and they can come see me on weekends in Dallas. They understood that I needed to be here, with you.”
“I don’t quite understand that Adam. They’re kids and they’re young, I’m sure they miss you terribly. I am so sorry to keep you from being with them. Lissa and Derek are here, I’m fine and you should go back to them now.”
“Sarah, Tamara and I have always talked to them about our relationship and the fact that we will each have other partners. Tamara already does, so even though they are young, they understand how this works. They don’t view it as losing me, or you getting more time with me. They know that if I am happy, it will be better for them. They remember how it was with Tamara and me when we weren’t happy. It will be fine, I promise you. And, Derek needs to get back to Ft. Bliss tomorrow, and I don’t know for sure how long Lissa can be away from Kansas City, but I don’t imagine it can be too much longer. You will need me here,” he informed me.
It amazed me that since yesterday morning he had gotten all this information, about my kids and such. He fits in so well. “You look tired Adam and I imagine that the hospital food is horrible. Have you been to my house yet?”
“Lissa gave me a key, but no, I haven’t been. I wanted to be here when you woke up,” he said with a smile and those endearing dimples did more for me than anything else.
“I’m awake now; get her to take you there to rest, okay?”
“No need, I got a rental car already.”
I started giggling and it turned into a real laugh. Adam was staring at me as if I had gone mad when Lissa and Derek walked in, clearly wondering what was going on.
“I bet it’s not a BMW Z4!”
“So it isn’t,” he answered. “It’s a Mustang!”
“You have a need for speed Adam Richland. Better watch it though; our Kansas cops are sticklers for the speed limit!”
“No problem, I’ll get Sunni’s brother to fix my tickets for me, it’s a breeze,” he laughed, snapping his fingers for emphasis.
The nurse popped back in then with the ice chips, which I eagerly took.
“Go slowly on them, I promise you it will not feel good it you throw them up!” he told me.
I looked at Lissa and Derek then and asked them how Cassie was. They’re mood seemed a little lighter and I hoped that is because they had good news.