Rose and her husband Al were riding bikes after work on Wednesday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day and many people were out doing things. As Rose approached an intersection, she began to slow down. A car was approaching at the same time and it slowed down too. Al, riding on his bike behind Rose, watched the whole thing unfold. He said the car wasn’t going very fast when it hit Rose, but there had to be some speed involved because the impact propelled her up onto the hood of the car. She didn’t hit the windshield, but she slid off the hood, hung in the air for a second, then hit the ground and slid on the pavement for about 5-6 feet. Al thought she was dead.
As luck would have it, there were two nurses riding bikes in the same area. And there is a fire station at that intersection, and standing outside the station were an off-duty EMT and a firefighter. So within seconds of hitting the pavement, four trained professionals surrounded Rose. Rose was knocked out and doesn’t remember the impact. She remembers riding her bike and then the next memory she has is of waking up face down in the street with a mouth full of sand and people yelling at her to not move. She didn’t know how she got there. She didn’t know what day it was or even where she was. She was very confused. They strapped on a collar to protect her neck. They put her on a back board. By then the ambulance was there and she was on her way to the trauma hospital.
I was just getting started making dinner. I had taken out the pan I was going to use and was about to open up a package of meat when the phone rang. It was Al calling from the ambulance. “Rose was in an accident and she is being taken to the hospital. She is awake and conscious and she wants you to meet us at the hospital.” I dropped everything and was out of the house in about three minutes. As I drove into the city, I realized I didn’t have a clue about the extent of her injuries. I prayed out loud in the car.
The CT scan was “clear”, as was the ultrasound of her midsection and the x-ray of her pelvis. She has a broken left wrist and the right side of her body is covered in road rash. She has cuts and scrapes under her beautiful long hair, but none required stitches. She is incredibly lucky to be alive. About six hours after arriving at the hospital, they discharged her and sent her home. Five hours later, she experienced nausea and vomiting. We got that under control for about six hours, then it returned with a vengeance. So we took a second trip to the ER. She was told she has post-concussion syndrome and she was dehydrated. They hooked up an IV and gave her some meds. About four hours later, she was discharged again, with different pain meds and instructions to rest.
It’s been about 55 hours since the accident, so we are still in that critical time frame of the first 72 hours. Rose has had some short-term memory lapses and she admits her thinking is clouded. But she is resting, as best she can. She is not the kind of person to lay around and it’s driving her crazy. She wants to read a book, but she’s not supposed to do that. She is watching movies on TV even though she’s not supposed to do that.
Al is struggling with the shock of thinking Rose had died. He’s overwhelmed with the sudden role of caregiver and has not taken well to it. He’s concerned about how much this is all going to cost them. He’s worried about her missing work because they rely on both of their incomes. He’s been arguing with Rose about money and about being careless enough to let a car hit her. Frankly, he should be focused on giving Rose the care she needs for these first critical days and for the next couple of weeks. But he’s not.
It’s so difficult to know my place in this drama. Rose is a married woman. I am still her mother, but her husband is the person the doctors want to talk with. I’m “second best.”
With each hour, Rose continues to improve. I will feel much better once we pass the 72-hour mark, and more comfortable with each passing day. I’m curious about the things I am going to learn on this journey. And I am curious about whether this will strengthen their marriage or divide it.
It only takes a moment and life changes.
But I am a mother until the day I die.