Sunday, March 30, 2014

Healing Week 5

Five weeks of recovery is now under our belt.  We have learned to adjust to life in the slow lane- to linger over coffee, read magazines cover to cover, and put away the alarm clocks. Our home is like a time capsule. Kev's briefcase leans against his dresser- still unpacked from his flight home the night before the accident. That sofa I was reupholstering is frozen, mid-room, ghostly draped in muslin.  My studio door remains closed while healing takes top priority.

The final toll was heavy: 8 broken ribs, smashed scapula, dislocated clavicle, punctured and collapsed lung, pneumothorax, hemothorax, and the crushing blow of two pulmonary emboli.  The discovery of the emboli was nothing less than divine intervention. Had it not been for the tenacity of a student doctor to stand up to his supervising physician and push for c-scans Kevin would've been released with two time bombs in his lungs.

I have never not known this man.  We grew up across the street from one another, raided each others' forts, spent summer nights in homemade tents, and shared a first kiss playing spin the bottle in his garage.  The past two weeks at home have felt like those nights in the backyard tent- not sleeping close, but wishing we could.  Talking about dreams and childish wants until we fall asleep.  Words filling darkness, chasing away fears of mythical beasts, erasing uncertainty.
At times in the hospital I would see that 10 year old boy with eyes green as early spring moss blinking awake in an unfamiliar room.  Through the night he woke often, sometimes believing he was in Thailand, other times in Dhaka, and he wondered why the airline let us linger so long in this hallway. His days blended, confused in hydrocodone mists and blinding fury of pain. Those days are memories now and despite the trauma, Kevin has little recollection of just how much danger he was in.  For while he hallucinated, I hung tightly to the precipice of every breath, every lab result, every unmade memory for which I foolishly believed we had time.

What unfolds in these moments is the realization that life was getting the best of us.  Before the accident, days were planned according to outdated goals.  We endured weeks apart for the few days together between work, travel, and jet lag.  We became normalized to love in fragmented time.
Slowly we are reclaiming what routine has a bad habit of burying.  Perhaps we're that half full type of folk who see the positive shining brighter than the bad.  Maybe it's the scare of nearly losing life that sharpens one's focus and blurs out the frivolous.
Now as we reconnect, we see the disconnect and are not content to resume that mode.  In many ways the accident brought us closer than ever before.  Words left unsaid have been spoken and roads we've wanted to explore will now be traveled.  What lies ahead will be greeted together, with one voice, and hands clasped with the strength of every life past life we lived together.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Comfort in Trauma

You never know how it feels to be alive until you know how it feels to die.
I've sang these lines a thousand times while listening to Noah and the Whale in my studio.  Until two weeks ago these were just words. The moment I saw my husband hit the highway pavement, his motorcycle still spinning ahead of his limp body, those lyrics became my greatest fear.
Today is day 16 of my husband's recovery at Ben Taub Trauma Center in Houston. 
Time is amorphous in the hospital.  Foggy days, mixed up nights, stripped of every normal human routine.  Our section of a room shared with three other patients has no window.  Minutes dissolve into hours and drain away the days.  Progress is measured in tubes in and out, x-ray results, and ambulatory devices.  We have watched many roommates arrive and go home while we remain. Bunking with people with whom our paths would least likely cross, we all ride the roller coaster together. And perhaps most of us are better because of it.
In a trauma hospital there are few illness patients.  Our roommates have been shot, run over, stabbed and involved in horrific accidents.  Police officers sit outside many rooms waiting for the accused to heal and to take victim statements.  There are those in grave condition and those with mere wounds requiring a one night stay.  Some we have befriended through the curtains, others we couldn't wait to see discharged.  Though we are a truly diverse group, we share common bonds of pain and healing.
I have met two other women tending their husbands, remaining at the bedside to give comfort: one Asian, one Hispanic.  We don't speak the same language but we communicate through our expressions.   Looks of fear, worry, relief and sadness are universal and within these facial cues we lend one another support. Through the curtain we hear each other's cries, the sighs of relief, and laughter.  I know these women are like me refusing to leave the loves of our lives. Over the weeks we have learned basic greetings in each other's dialect.  We offer awkward hugs sometimes misread between cultures but in our need to not be alone we have found each other.  
Life changed without warning two weeks ago.  I feel I've lived a lifetime in between then and now. My husband is healing and soon we hope to go home, to regain a sense of truly living, to feel the sun escort the true hours of each day.  Life will never be the same.  In fact I believe it will be a more authentic, more tolerant, more understanding, more loving life.