Second Thoughts: Finding bouquets in ‘bad dream’As his friend tells it, when he first saw my husband lying bleeding on the ground and asked how he was, Roger said, “I’ve had better days.”
As his friend tells it, when he first saw my husband lying bleeding on the ground and asked how he was, Roger said, “I’ve had better days.”
Having worse was just a step short of impossible.
At 6 a.m. Friday, May 4, my nightstand phone rang, and the young man on the other end of the call carefully told me my husband had been in a very serious accident — a steel I-beam had fallen on him.
But, said the man, Roger was alive, talking coherently and moving fingers and toes. Or I think that’s what he said. At least that’s what I heard.
I thought, “He’s alive. No brain damage. He’s not paralyzed. We can handle the rest.”
I was wrong. The “we” I was thinking about was my husband and me.
But in the days, weeks and months ahead I realized over and over that we wouldn’t have been able to survive alone.
That first morning, Roger was transported by ground ambulance to Menomonie and then by medical helicopter to Luther Hospital Mayo Health System in Eau Claire.
I waited at home to learn where he would be taken, calling the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department just as dispatchers were told the helicopter was headed for Eau Claire, not St. Paul.
About two hours after the 6 a.m. call, I had followed my daughter to the hospital and met with the emergency room surgeon.
Dr. Beckermann, who is still seeing Roger, was the first of many doctors to treat my husband for several major injuries and then for the less serious ones.
I won’t say I’ll never forget how Roger looked when I first saw him in the emergency room because I dearly hope I do forget. It’s not an image I want floating around in my mind forever.
I won’t summarize the ups and downs of that first week in intensive care, the month in the hospital in Eau Claire or the two months that followed in the nursing home in River Falls. I won’t because thinking about them can suck me into grief and despair.
A few weeks ago, Dr. Beckermann assured us that in a year this will all seem like a bad dream. I want that to happen for both Roger and me.
But there are things I promise I will never forget.
The first is the caring expertise of the volunteer EMTs who saved my husband’s life after he had bled out on the ground for an hour and after his lung collapsed.
Then there are the gentle and skillful doctors who performed life-saving, and in one case state-of-the-art, surgeries that will allow Roger in time to return to a normal life.
I can’t count, much less name, the patient and cheerful nurses who cared for us.
Our grown children held their mother together through hours of waiting and later pitched in to normalize my life and help with yard work, meals and shopping.
Then there are the friends and other family who made the long trip to Eau Claire to visit and offer support. In that first month, there was just one day when I was the only visitor. Another day 15 people visited. On another, a dozen dropped by.
I depended upon the people with whom I work, who said “Go” when I had to leave suddenly for yet another setback.
Our neighbor has mowed our lawn faithfully. Friends fed us and helped us remember the healing value of fun and laughter. Family pitched in to help care for Roger and then asked me, “What can we do for you?”
Two of my sisters simply showed up on separate weekends to bring us food and help. Roger’s cousin dropped everything to help my husband into our house the first weekend he was able to visit home and the next weekend too.
At last count, there have been 8,312 visits to and 338 messages of encouragement left on Roger’s CaringBridge site. Those are equaled only by — I am not exaggerating — dozens of lovingly written notes and letters mailed to both my husband and me.
One Sunday, the woman in the pew behind me in church reached forward, pulled me into her arms and in a voice so soft neither of our husbands could hear, whispered a single word: “Courage.”
It was as though she, who has been through so much, was lending her hard-earned strength to me. Right then I knew “we” could handle this.
Our life of wheelchairs, walkers and canes is not over. Nor are the appointments with doctors or the surgical procedures. The wounds are healing, but they are still there.
Weeks ago our friend, a wise trilingual woman, advised us, “From bad dreams pretty flowers grow.”
We laughed, thinking she had probably mixed metaphors from a couple of languages.
But on many levels she was right.
Maybe flowers don’t grow from bad dreams. Maybe nothing actually grows from a nightmare. Maybe we have simply awakened to the amazing beauty and power of kindness.