This is my son’s head at 4:38am July 22, 2011 after being clothes-lined while riding a motorcycle without a helmet. He had just returned from getting a CAT Scan to confirm a fractured skull. Preparations were being made to fly him to Anchorage for surgery. Our local hospital doesn’t have neurosurgery capabilities. In fact, anything major life-threating gets you a million dollar flight 360 miles away. Okay, probably not a million dollars, but close.
After that my cell phone went dead so I don’t have anything to document the ambulance ride to the plane, the flight or the ambulance ride to Providence Hospital. At this point it is 9:36am and he is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit headed for an hour and half MRI.
The collar was in place because the extent of his injuries was still unknown.
At 11:12am the collar was removed. He did not have a spinal injury. We were in hurry-up-and-wait mode waiting for an open operating room. I walked him down to surgery at noon. He came out of surgery at 3:00 and at 3:30pm I was taken down to recovery to help him wake up as he wasn’t doing it for the nurses. I guess my Mom Voice is pretty powerful.
He was able to hear me through his anesthesia and exhaustion to wake enough to get released back to his room. This is my baby sleeping at 5:24pm. I had only been asleep for an hour when the call came that my son had crashed his motorcycle and “suffered a laceration to the head, but was going to be fine” and I could meet him at the hospital (Troopers should not ever ever ever play doctor and give a bullshit roadside diagnosis at 3am to a mom). I had been up at about 10am that day so at this point I’m operating on one hour’s sleep in 31.5 hours and don’t even realize it. I finally got to sleep 11 hours later at 4:30am. Best four hours you could imagine.
At 1:39pm less than 24 hours after the operation we sat him up on the side of the bed. Take note of how his right eye is completely normal.
At 5:39pm the dressing was abandoned. A man and woman worked miracles putting pieces of skull together like a jigsaw puzzle on a piece of mesh to be inserted back into the hole in his head, but no one can figure out a way to dress the wound. (Multiple things were tried and failed over the following days).
At 10:57am on the 24th, two days after the accident, the nurse and I got him up into a chair. His pain and nausea are obvious. He cried and I had to sit there talking him through the 20 minutes he was going to be forced to sit there while the nurse took care of other patients. My ability to be mean when necessary came in handy, but it was a very long 20 minutes.
After this he was allowed to move out of the ICU to a regular pediatric room which just happens to be my right when taking this photo. It wasn’t very far literally, but figuratively it was a big step.
Homer and Nick arrived at the hospital, but for some reason I don’t have any photos. It was good for Elijah to have them there. Then at 4:49pm three of his friends stopped in for less than five minutes while on their way to Soldotna for football camp. Elijah remembers, but doesn’t. Two days later he thought he had been in a bigger, different room when they were there. Ironically, a day later the young man in the yellow took a blind hit at camp and had his collar bone broken. Life changes in a split second.
At 7:23pm that night you can see how the fluid in his brain is settling into the left side of his face. He slept with that side down and the head wound up. It actually was scary to watch. Blood, broken bones, etc. are things that I can handle. The brain stuff scares me. (Note another failed head wrap).
And wrap number three. It came right off when he moved.
At 10:17am on the 25th Homer, Nick and I went with Elijah to get a CAT Scan of his head to see how things went. You can see the swelling in his face getting worse and his eye becoming red. Homer decided to stay a few more days so Nick flew back home at 1:30pm to tend to the animals and play in the soccer tournament that my team was in. Let me tell you, I was very bummed about missing it. My ex showed up after that with Emily and they were at the hospital for a very short time before going shopping and to their hotel.
This photo was taken at 5:34pm that night. A mom drove her son and his friends 360 miles for a ten minute visit and then drove back home. Elijah was so happy to see them, but then so depressed to realize his limitations. At this point Elijah hadn’t moved his right foot at all and had very limited movement of the right arm.
Sleeping at 12:04am. After what I thought was three days, but apparently only one day of asking for clippers I was brought a pair from surgery. I took this photo to show the hair I was going to cut off in the morning. Then I was told I had to return the clippers by morning so at 2:00am I began shaving his head. Unfortunately, his headache got too bad to continue so only half was finished.
Totally uncool haircut by Mom. At 9:36am on the 26th Elijah was taken on his first walk. A bandage was used to tie his toe to his calf in the up position so he would do a peg-leg kind of shuffle. She’s helping his keep his right hand on the walker. He didn’t have a grip or strength and it would fall off.
10:17am and he’s already back in bed for breakfast. Those first few walks weren’t very far. Homer was a life saver those couple of days getting Elijah eating. He’s been through his own accident and hospital stay and totally “got it”. Elijah really responded to him.
Em came back up to the hospital for a moment to say goodbye. They were already driving back home. At 1:30pm it was time for walk number two. I played photographer while Homer helped with the IV.
Those first days were filled with wiping his tears, scratching his nose, running back and forth to the ice machine for sips of water, covering and uncovering, etc. etc. There wasn’t much sleep as he refused or couldn’t or wouldn’t ask the nurses for anything. It had to be mom day and night. I’m thankful now that I at least was aware enough to take photos to document our journey. The hours went by pretty quickly and the days blended together. All families should be handed a notebook upon arrival and told to write it down. Homer got me one when he came to town so a lot of what went on I was able to put into words. Someday I hope to put together a book for Elijah because Lord knows he doesn’t remember all this.
I’m at home now and it is over-whelming. My concern and stress level to keep Elijah safe is all consuming. My duties as a mother to four other children are ever present. My home still needs tended to. My gardens are screwed. I wish it could rain in the greenhouse because I haven’t even gone in there. Emily, all without being asked, took care of the animals. All of them..feeding and watering the rabbit, 30 chickens, a sheep, 3 dogs, her bird and Olivia’s guinea pig. And collected over 40 eggs. My little 11-year old stepped up to the plate all on her own and helped get through this first day home.
This is part one. I will follow with up with the rest of our journey when I can. I’m hoping I can steal a few moments each evening, but late arrives faster than I realized. It’s already 11:37pm and only a fraction of what needed done today is done. Adjusting the lives of seven people is going to take a lot of work. And now I have to get my son something to eat so he can sleep. Good night.
(Thank you for all your well wishes. I’ll address my wonderful blogging family as I walk you through the last 12 days).