my brothers

The Accident…

*Note – this is a long post, so grab some coffee and a bagel, because it’s going to be a while.

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor on the page for too many days, trying to put words on virtual paper…where do I even begin? I’ve had a month’s worth of blog posts happen in a very short time, so I’ll probably resort to a bulleted list at some point.

We spent Saturday together as a family – the eldest was farmed out to her best friend’s house for the night and we had the two youngest with us as we grocery shopped and spent the evening just goofing off. It was around 7:30 p.m. or so when we arrived home, and we were just settling in to watch a movie before the kids went to bed when I received a phone call from one of my brothers on my cell phone.

Two things on this:
A.) I rarely answer my cell phone if my family is together, because…well, I’m not a slave to my phone and I don’t really like talking on it; and
B.) I have five living brothers (in order of birth age: Jim, Bob, John, Joe, and Don) and they never call me unless 1) they need something, or 2) something bad has happened.

I immediately called Bob back, only to receive his voicemail. It was then I noticed that he had actually left a voicemail on MY phone, so I phoned it to see what it was he needed. I was having a hard time hearing, so I put it on the speakerphone and heard, “Why don’t you ever answer your d**n phone – I have an emergency and no one will pick up!” Normally, I’d have laughed at his message (if you knew my brother, you’d understand – almost everything is an emergency to him), but the tone in his voice was completely different this time and it left me more than a little concerned.

Then I remembered the Life Alert bracelet my brother Jim had just ordered for my mom and started to feel a bit more urgency about reaching him, because Bob is #1 on the list. I got him on my fifth try (who says persistency doesn’t pay off?). I barely got “hello” out before he yelled in my ear about not answering my phone and told me to get over to mom’s – there was an accident.

Actually, his exact words were “Mother’s been in a car accident – she was hit my a car and run over. The paramedics are there now and will be transporting her to the hospital in a few minutes – if you can’t make it to her house to follow the ambulance, then get to the hospital!”

I’m not even going to try and be flowery with my words here – I’d love nothing more than to flesh out this story and fill in every little detail, but the truth is, I can’t.

This is one of those really weird instances where time just slowed to a crawl and everything seemed to be in slow motion, interrupted by short bursts of loud and fast-paced action. Looking back, my memory of it was sort of like one of those car wrecks you see in movies, the realization that something bad is going to happen (slow-mo), the actual crash (fast), the car crashing and windshield shattering (slow-mo), the aftermath (fast), and then the sobbing and crying.

Fortunately, even though I was in shock, my husband still had a brain and was using it. He gathered the two little ones and got them into the car while I put my shoes on and we were off to the ER, with me calling my remaining brothers to let them know what little I knew. I couldn’t reach ANY of them. Suddenly, I understood Bob’s feelings of utter helplessness and frustration. I posted on Facebook for them to call me asap and that it was a 911. I highly doubt any of them saw that message, but I was suddenly getting texts and emails from friends on FB asking what was wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to update them until I had talked to my brothers.

We actually made it there before my mom’s ambulance. I went in and told them she was on the way and went outside to watch for her. The ambulance pulled up two minutes later, no lights. I might have fallen apart a little bit then. I always thought that ambulances only turned their lights off if they were transporting a deceased person. Thankfully, I was wrong. But I did have a 30-second window where the wind was knocked out of me.

I went back inside as they wheeled her in and the ER nurse took me back to be with her. She was alert and talking and I have to say that I’ve never been so glad to see her. I had been through a whole gamut of emotions in such a amount of time, but I was honestly thrilled that she looked so good. At that point, I hadn’t known what part of her had been run over, if it was her whole body, an arm, a leg…and then I saw her wrapped leg and all the blood. I’m not talking about a little bit of blood, either. The bandage was soaked through, the sheets were soaked and blood was pooling on the bed.

Let me back up a bit. My mom is a heart patient and takes a drug called Coumadin to thin her blood and keep it from clotting. They could not get the bleeding to stop – and mom is a small, frail lady – she didn’t have a lot she could give up.

When the ER Dr. finally came in (in our town, Fri and Sat nights are the WORST nights to be in the ER – it’s the only hospital in a 4 county area that has a trauma section, so we get folks from four counties spread out over three states), he was concerned about the blood loss and when he found out mom had been on Coumadin, he ordered 2 pints of plasma and 2 pints of blood to help with the blood loss and clotting, as a start. Before it was all over, she received 4 pints of plasma and 5 pints of blood in a 24-hour period.

He was concerned she’d broken something in her leg or ankle area because her foot was black and swollen – at this point, he hadn’t even unwrapped her leg to look at the damage. He ordered x-rays as the next step and prepared to call the surgeon in. She was in excruciating pain, which they were able to alleviate only after they took x-rays (nothing broken – can you believe it?!).

At this point, I should probably back up and tell you what actually happened to her (our best guess anyway, because she really doesn’t remember all the details – she said it happened so fast).

She had arrived home from grocery shopping and stopped at the garage (where she has her frozen items stored) to unload the frozen food; she went to get back into the car (which was still running), and when she had one leg in, she went to steady herself with the steering wheel and somehow (we still don’t know) it was knocked into reverse. Because she only had one leg in the car and wasn’t seated, it knocked her off balance and she fell backwards, the car then rolled in reverse over her leg and she was caught up in the wheel well and drug backwards over 30 feet, until the van hit my brother Joe’s truck, which was mercifully parked at the end of the driveway. If it hadn’t been there, she could have been drug out into a very busy two-lane highway and killed.

She pressed the Life Alert button on her wrist as it was happening and my brother Joe, who was inside the house, heard a loud crash and then the alarm for LA sounded. The voice came over the intercom and asked if there was an emergency – he was already outside with mom. He ran back in to get towels to staunch the bloodflow and he said that “dang Life Alert lady” wanted him to tell her what was going on. He said to call an ambulance…he couldn’t talk.

I have to say – I’m so thankful he was there. I don’t know if I could have done what he did. His years as an army medic paid off – he was in full combat mode and took great care of mom using his training. The hospital staff say that he probably saved her life. I’ll have to make it a point to be much nicer to him in the future.

She had scrapes and bruises all over her body, but the only serious damage is her calf, which split open like a watermelon on both sides when the car ran over it.

Once we found out there were no broken bones, we were very relieved, because in our minds, that meant that she could heal faster. I don’t know very many 78-year olds who break bones and recover fully from that. And then the surgeon came and unwrapped her leg. I lost it (inwardly – I was very calm on the outside) again. Mom had already seen it – but I hadn’t. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say that I’ve never seen anything that bad in my life, and I’ve watched a lot of medical shows and true crime shows.

We were all asked to leave the room at that point and we did so gladly – the surgeon came in and she was prepped for surgery. There wasn’t a lot they could do with her leg – but they did the best they could. She ended up with about 32 staples and some inner stitches, and there are places on her leg where she just doesn’t even have skin, but it could have been so much worse.

We are just so thankful that God spared her life and are just clinging to Romans 8:28, believing that this is part of His plan for us as a family. Mom needed to slow down and let us do more for her. This gives her no choice. Is it going to be stressful? Yes. Is it going to be painful? Without a doubt. Will there be tears? Oh, you betcha. And I’m just talking about me. I know mom will have adjustments too. 🙂

I’m doing my best to maintain a sense of humor and a positive attitude through this for mom, but I’ll be painfully honest–I sometimes fall apart once I get home. The stress of the day is hard to forget when my sweet kiddos are getting under my skin and I occasionally raise my voice when I shouldn’t, or cry for no reason.

I am not the same person I was a few days ago. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing yet.

I’ve had several friends tell me that they admire my strength. Please don’t do that. I’m not strong. I’m a weak person. God is my refuge and strength – a very present help in trouble.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You are the winner of a shiny, new…well, bit of nothing. Other than you’ve heard my story. Thanks for listening.

*If you are one of *those* people (like me), and want to see a photo from yesterday (after several days of healing), you can click here and here. For obvious reasons, I’m not posting them on my blog. I don’t want them being searched and indexed by google. 🙂

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Seasons of my life

Oh my word. Well, that was revealing, wasn’t it? I am seriously trying to resist the urge to pluck it from the world wide web and chuck it into the recycle bin. I think I’ll tell you a story from my childhood to get my mind off of yesterdays unfortunate post.

I grew up on a farm in South Texas. To be more exact, my family was the hired help for the Rich Man who owned the big farm in South Texas. My daddy, though loving, was not exactly the sort of man you depended upon…he couldn’t hold a job for very long because he couldn’t stay sober long enough to do it. Mama never held this against him, but she didn’t let him stay around when he was drinking, so he’d disappear for long periods of time and then, bam, there he was again. Like nothing had ever happened…I was too young not to realize this wasn’t normal, but my brothers all resented him for it.

The rest of us worked twice as hard to make up for what daddy lacked. Besides, the Rich Man was never there and he actually lived on an estate with a brick house and a guitar shaped swimming pool a couple of hours away. This was just a tax write off for him, or maybe it was charity, I don’t know. But it was so much more than that for our family.

We’d get up at 4:30 am every morning during the school year to do our chores. I helped mama milk the cows while the boys fed and watered the cows, horses, chickens, and pigs. Mama and I would carry the big galvanized tin buckets back to the house and start breakfast while the boys finished up. Mama would put the buckets of milk on the counter to separate, and once we left for school, she would ladle off the heavy cream to make butter, pouring the rest of the milk in gallon size glass pickle jars to be sold in town or given away to others in need.

The smell of bacon and eggs frying would waft out through the screen door, calling my brothers to breakfast. We’d eat hurriedly, stacking our dishes by the sink for mama to wash once we caught the schoolbus for our hour long ride to the school. In a flurry, we’d pick up books, bags, and push open the old screened door to meet the bus that was bouncing up our driveway. When you lived way out in the country, you had to ride the short school bus to school. It was a brand new addition to our little school and no one had assigned any jokes to it back then. It smelled of our driver’s pipe smoke and new vinyl. I loved climbing the steps each morning, taking a big whiff of Mr. B’s pipe before finding my seat. It was comforting, somehow. The smoke would make swirling patterns in the air around me as I walked past him, and I can still hear his burly voice around that pipe saying, “Take your seats.”

My children will have memories of their own. It saddens me that they will not grow up on a farm as I did. There are values that I don’t know how to instill in them without having hard work to do. We were so poor, and yet I never knew it. My mama protected my childhood and allowed me to think what we had was normal and everyone lived the same way as we did. I honestly thought that everyone wore hand-me-downs from their sister-in-laws and shopped for their “new” clothes at the Salvation Army. Sometimes people would give mama fabric and I’d get a pretty new dress with frills. How special I felt. Warm, protected, loved. Those are the three words that come to my mind when I remember my early childhood days. How I long to recreate those for my own children. How can I know if I am doing it? Do I have to wait 30 years to find out?

So it’s time to be thankful, time to remember what I came from, but more importantly, where I am going. This is but a season that we are going through, so I am thankful for a sovereign God who has taken care of me and will continue to take care of me, even when I don’t deserve it.

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What About Bob?

I spent a good portion of the day at the hospital yesterday with Bob and Diane. My eldest brother, Jim, also came in from out of town and was there when the Dr. came in to shed a little more light on where we are at.

Basically, Bob came in to the hospital with several very serious things wrong with him, which is really unusual for someone his age. In addition to suffering a stroke in the ER, we have learned he also has meningitis. The spinal tap fluid was cloudy, indicating an infection. It will take several days for the cultures to determine what type it is, so that I don’t know. The good news is that the Dr. said that it wasn’t viral, which means that the antibiotics he’s been on from day one will also treat the meningitis.

He still hasn’t come to, and that’s what’s puzzling the Drs. — the strokes did not affect his mobility as far as we know. He’s able to move pretty freely in his sleep, which thankfully he’s getting now. The last stroke was in his front left lobe, which is the area that affects speech – so that makes sense, because he’s completely incoherent when he does try to speak. And his first stroke was in his brain stem – that controls all the body’s involuntary reflexes, such as respiration, etc. The crazy thing (and GOOD thing) is that none of that has been affected – he’s able to breathe on his own, praise the Lord. All said, he’s doing well, but he’s still unconscious. We are just waiting for him to come to so we can see how much damage the strokes have done.

I KNOW that many of you are praying for my brother. You have sent emails and wanted updates…I can’t express how much I appreciate both your concern and your prayers. I am touched beyond belief that anyone outside my family would care so much and it brings tears to my eyes to even think about it. I know this sounds goofy, but I am thankful for this blogging community…it is such an incredible blessing to have a place I can come and just be myself — puffy eyed, mascara-streaked — and no one cares. 🙂

God is in control of this situation. I really believe that my brother has just worked SO hard all of his life (everyone says he’s a workaholic, and that’s not really a good thing), that he needs to rest now – and this is going to be a chance for his body to catch up. My SIL and I are resting in the Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

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Update on Bob

To those of you who have prayed for my brother or sent emails with well wishes, THANK YOU. His condition has not changed much, but we do have a little more information. His heart is clear of any infection, as are all of his other vital organs. The Drs are performing a spinal tap today to see if perhaps he has meningitis. It has also been confirmed that he has suffered another stroke since he’s been in the hospital, but to what extent, we really aren’t sure. The Drs. are flummoxed as to how he could have come in with so many DIFFERENT problems, none of them seemingly related to one another. He did recognize my SIL yesterday and acknowledged her presence, as well as raising his hand when the nurse asked him to. He’s still in an incredible amount of pain because the toxins in his body are throughout his bloodstream, but the Drs. say that will decrease over the next few days as the antibiotics fight off the infection. We have been told he will be in the hospital for at least another 2-3 weeks, then he will be in rehab for an unknown period. He is expected to suffer some type of disability for the next year to year and a half.

That’s where we are at now. I’m struggling to keep up the homeschooling (we have missed two days this week!), but then I remember not to be so hard on myself – this is why we homeschool…rigid flexibility. I do not have to feel guilty. My eldest brother is driving in today to visit him at the hospital and so I need to get going on my day and get the kiddos fed, schooled, etc so I can meet him there.

Again, thank you for your prayers…but it’s not over yet, so if you think about us today, just say a prayer for Bob. 🙂

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The Audacity of Hope

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and through the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. –Psalm 46:1-2”

Thanks to my husband, I was able to spend several hours at the hospital with my brother and his wife yesterday evening sans the kiddos. The Dr. had him moved to Cardiac ICU so they could monitor him more closely (not because his condition was any worse), but they are puzzled by the fact that he is still not able to speak coherently and by the fact that he is in so much pain.

This is the timeline of how he came to be in the hospital in the first place: He has had severe back problems for the last few years and just last year had a rod placed in his back, so when his back started hurting worse, he applied more pain patches to the area. Apparently, it was not his back, but his kidneys that were infected – which went on for several weeks until he became so ill that he could barely walk and my SIL insisted that he go to the ER. Up until that point, he had declined, but on Sunday, he agreed that “maybe” he should go. He was speaking fine, just unable to move very quickly because his entire body was in pain (we now know that the toxins had gone “septic” and were spread throughout his bloodstream). After a 4 or 5 hour wait in the ER (in which he took a turn for the worse sitting there), he was moved to an exam room and between the 7 AM shift changes, he became incoherent, which was very upsetting for my SIL. She thought it was just the pain he was in, but the Dr wasn’t so sure. They started him on a round of very strong antibiotics, along with some pain management.

Fast forward two days and he’s not nuch better, other than his urine is now clear and his white blood cell count is lower. They did an EKG on his heart yesterday evening, because they now fear the infection is either in his heart or brain. That seriously frightens me. Today, he will see a neurologist and receive a full MRI to try and determine if his brain or any other organs have been affected. I’ve come to realize it’s just a process of elimination. You think it’s one thing, rule that out, then move on to the next possible scenario. I don’t like this kind of medicine, but I have no choice but to accept it and have faith that the Drs. have his best interests at heart. If nothing is found within the next day or two, they will transport him to Baylor at Dallas and he will be seen by a specialist.

I cannot begin to tell you how special this man is in my life. He is the one person who has always been there for me and my other brothers when no one else could or would be there to help. I look to him as more of a father figure than anything else, because he helped to raise me after my dad died. He has a special way with my kids – they all call him “daddy Bob” because he is like the “grandpa” they never had. He’s just an extraordinary human being and it’s so very difficult to see him in this pain. Yesterday, I held his arm down while the nurse drew out 8 different vials of blood. He was unintelligible for most of it, but at one point, I distinctly heard him say “Mama, it hurts so bad”. Again, my heart just breaks that I can’t take away his pain and suffering.

Today, I think back to what Jesus suffered for me on the cross and I can’t be sad anymore. Instead, I am hopeful…because either way, no matter what happens, I know my brother is resting in the arms of Jesus. He will either see him through this or see him home, so how can I be sad about that? I don’t know what has caused all of this, but God does and I am thankful that He is in control and not me…He gives me the audacity to Hope.

After all, what is Hope? It is merely the belief that tomorrow will be better than today.

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Urgent Prayer Request

UPDATE: He has been transferred to the ICU…the Drs. are running some more tests to try and determine the cause, but if they are unable to do so within the next 24 hours, they are considering transferring him to Baylor Medical in Dallas. That’s where we are at right now.

I have an urgent prayer request – one of my brothers was admitted to the hospital here yesterday with an infection of some sort that has turned septic in his body. He is in an incredible amount of pain, unable to speak, and incoherent. This man has been more like a father to me than a brother, since my dad died when I was nine. I am really concerned for him and covet your prayers.

I’ll keep you posted on his progress. In the meantime, thanks in advance for your prayers. We serve a mighty God who is MORE than able to deliver him from this, if it is His will.

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