Early this morning, with sleep still in my eyes, just as the soft glow of the new day was sliding over the horizon, I met an old friend. As we met my eyes snapped opened like the shutter on a camera, the surface of my skin tightened as thousands of small bumps sprang forth, my lungs demanded air as I gasped deeply. My old friend was winter. The first time this season the temp was under freezing. Half conscience, I cracked open the door for the dogs. My old friend, winter was right there to greet me. These reactions would have been startling had I not already experienced them earlier in the week.
It was Monday afternoon, at 4pm. The work day was coming to an end as I scrambled to finish up. My phone rang. My initial reaction was “Great, another interruption until I saw the screen “Mom & Dad”. Okay, that’s a welcome interruption. “HI”, “Todd, this is mom, dads been in a wreck.” Those same feelings assaulted me. Eyes snapped opened, tightening skin, gasping for a breath. The questions came pouring out, “What Happened?” “Is he okay?” “They’re taking him to St Francis, He couldn’t move but he is moving his legs a little now” My mind took over and raced ahead. NOT MOVING??? WHAT??? No, No, No, this is dad! He’s fine, I’m sure. Can’t move? Calm Down, Calm Down, think about mom. You’ve got to be in control for her. After talking to my wife Cheryl, I called mom back. “Mom, Cheryl is getting a ride to the hospital to meet the ambulance, I’m coming to get you. You are NOT driving into Tulsa.” “They called and told me St. Francis is on divert. They are going to St. Johns. they said dad can move his legs a little but not his arms.” “Okay mom, I will be there in twenty minutes.” Gooood, I’m finally recovering from the COLD shock and taking control. Mom needs me right now.
With mom in the car, racing back into Tulsa, Cheryl calls, “They say he is in surgery but can’t tell me for what”. “SURGERY!” “No way, he just got their, They couldn’t be yet” “That’s what they are telling me, There are four other ambulances here and it’s chaos.” I still doubt it and try to calm mom. A few minutes later the phone rings again. “He is NOT in surgery. The Chaplin told me they are taking him for a Cat Scan.” “I am with the Chaplin now and she is going back to get more information.” Okay, everything is going to be fine. Dad is not in surgery and I just know he is going to be fine.
Arriving at the hospital, we are sent to the Neurological Surgical ICU. This should have set off alarm bells but for some reason did not. When he finally was settled in his room we were allowed back and their was dad. Flat on his back with one of those neck collars on. My heart sunk seeing him there but I still couldn’t accept anything other than he was going to be fine. I NEVER considered there might be no recovery beyond this.
The next day, mom explained that the neurosurgeon had been by. They might need to do surgery but wanted the results from an MRI they were waiting for. There were no breaks on the x-ray and CT Scan. They needed to see the soft tissue. Shortly after I arrived at the hospital, the doctor in charge of the ICU department came by with a large group of doctors reviewing dad’s case. She explained that dad had a spinal cord injury. She said they would be doing surgery at some point to ease the pressure but their was nothing they could do to repair the damage. It would be up to his body to repair itself. We should hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. HE MIGHT BE PARALYZED.
W H A T ?
That cold wind just ripped through the room again. My mind took over the conversation. Paralyzed? NO, you don’t understand! This is my dad!!! He can’t be! I forced my face and body to be stoic. Couldn’t let mom see the turmoil going on inside my head. I knew she was trying to deal with the same thing, so I had to be strong for her. The next few days are somewhat of a blur. Dad seemed to gain a small amount of motion in his arms everyday and even more so in his legs. My emotions rocked back and forth. He’s going to be fine. Oh my god, he’s going to be paralyzed. A rollercoaster ride to be sure. I broke down a couple of times in front of my wife but no one else. I kept up the confident exterior.
He had two surgeries on Thursday. Both went better than expected and they actually found LESS damage than expected. Each day his motion has improved and yesterday they stood him up and sat him in a chair for two hours. There are no guarantees but with his constant improvement I really do feel, with time he is going to be fine. Maybe not back 100% but able to function just fine, much to the credit of all the prayers of hundreds, maybe thousands of friends and family for dad. The road will be difficult but dad is up to it and all of us will be there to support him along the journey.
Now I’m back to Saturday morning with the freezing temps outside. I’m inside, warm, sitting at my desk. I’m looking at my to-do list from last week:
- MONDAY Set up conference call with largest customer
- TUESDAY Training session with internal auditors
- WEDNESDAY Meeting with Ebsco Safety Team
- THURSDAY Presentation at the Tulsa Chamber Meeting
Pretty important stuff. Right? Things I need to worry about?
The Chamber Meeting went on without me, the safety team met and left their notes on my desk, the customer actually called us and set up a call for next week and the training session was rescheduled. Not only did the world keeping turning but nothing really changed, except my dad’s health.
What really happened last week was God gave me a lesson on what is REALLY IMPORTANT. He is in control right now and he will decide what happens. With all the prayers, from so many people I think we probably made God jump at all of the noise. I know we got his attention. With everything we’ve seen so far, I think he decided we all still need dad and he’s not finished yet. I want him back the same way he was but if not I still have more time with him and that’s a blessing not to be taken for granted. Yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook from an old friend in Sioux City. It was a copy of the obituary of her mom. She didn’t get more time.
The cold wind, that rocked my world showed me what was really important, my wife who has been by my side every minute, my children both grown and at home who support me unconditionally, my friends, from now and from years passed who stepped up and supported me , my work family both new and old, my mom who takes care of dad, of me and everyone else, and most importantly this week, MY DAD. Up to this point I have written just over 1,200 words and several paragraphs which could be condensed into four simple, powerful words,
I LOVE YOU DAD
And that is all that really needs to be said.