Saturday, August 7, 2010

a time to heal

*Pre-reading warning(s)...

1)I am writing this story here to try to put together the pieces. I apologize if it is a bit choppy or confusing- and it will certainly be too long for a 'blog post'....

2)How do I write a personal story for which I have no memory of? I have absolutely no memory of Monday until about five to eight pm. I know I was planning to go for a bike ride Monday morning. I know I bought a new tire tube Sunday afternoon, I know I set out my bike clothes the night before, I have a hazy memory of my alarm going off that morning.

3)I am piecing together the memories of my loved ones who rushed to the scene Monday morning, rode in ambulances, hovered over hospital beds, talked with Doctors, and prayed fervently. I've spent lots of hours the past few days processing that day with Kyle, my sister Jill, my brother-in-law TJ, my parents, Scott, and the kind people who arrived on the scene first.

So- as best I can tell- here's what happened.

I left my sister's house in NW Fort Collins for a bike ride at about 6:15-6:20am on Monday morning. I ride a triathlon bike, and am use to going for bike rides of about 20 miles at a time right now. I typically average a speed of about 17-19 mph when I ride and I would be riding north of town on the county roads- though I have absolutely no idea where I went that morning.

My Mom texted me about 6:20am asking if I wanted to go for a walk. I texted her back saying I was out for a bike ride and, 'how about if we went Wednesday'.

At about 7am I crashed on my bike on Taft Hill, North of 287. Really- we have no idea what happened. It doesn't appear a car was involved, though the shoulder was narrow and it would have been easy for a car to fly by me. I also could have just caught my tire on the edge of the gravel and asphalt. Who knows. It appears I flew forward and to the left with pretty good force. I landed on the left side of my head, cracked my helmet, skinned my left cheek bone, and my entire left side of my body- shoulder, elbow, hip and especially knee. I somehow cracked the frame of my bike and stripped the rubber off of my gear shifts.

I then laid in the road on my left side, completely attached to my bike. A man driving a flatbed truck then approached and saw something lying in the road. When he realized it was a person he slowed and positioned his truck to protect me from oncoming traffic. When he came to talk to me I apparently told him I was fine, no need to call 911, and asked him to help me get my phone out of my back shirt pocket, since I had just received a text from my Mom. I asked the man to call my sister's house to ask them to pick me up- I told him her phone number. I then texted my Mom, 'I fell, can you pick me up on Taft Hill and Cache la Pulses (Poudre)'. I then dialed my Mom's phone number, handed my phone to the man, and asked him to give my Mom directions to get me.

At this point a woman who lived off of Taft Hill was trying to leave her home saw the truck and a person lying with a bike. She assumed I had been hit by the truck and ran over. She had medical training and recognized right away that I was in shock. She said I was pale as a ghost and sweating profusely. She noticed that the man from the truck was not speaking to a 911 operator and ran to the nearest house. They say she nearly knocked the door in. She asked for a blanket and told them to call 911. She came back outside where I had finally un-clipped from my bike. She helped my lie flat and tried to convince me not to move. She covered me with a blanket and sat with me.

Apparently I kept asking for water and saying I was fine. All of the people on the scene were instructed by the 911 operator to not give me water, which apparently made me very frustrated. :).

Another man who was driving on 287 was driving by and saw the scene, short of an ambulance, and came to help. This man was a trained EMT, so he helped stabilize my neck, cover my body and worked to keep me still (though I was not a cooperative patient).

My Mom arrived extremely quickly (no traffic rules were followed), but by the time she arrived I did not recognize her. It was clear to her that I was in bad shape, since she knew I was not acting like myself. My brother-in-law TJ arrived shortly after. My Mom tended to me, and TJ began gathering my scattered things and piecing together information.

Throughout this time I kept asking for water, kept trying to move and was growing more and more agitated. Eventually I could not answer simple questions, such as my age, the name of the president, or what day it was.

By the time the ambulance arrived I was in full fledged shock. My Mom rode in the front seat of the ambulance and made phone calls. TJ and my Mom left about 30 messages for Kyle, who was in a breakfast meeting for work and had left his phone in the car. In the ambulance I grew more and more resistant to care. The paramedics knew I was going to need to be sedated and intubated when we got to the hospital.

Kyle got back to his car during this time to see all of the messages. He panicked and drove straight to PVH.

When the ambulance arrived to PVH, they intubated me right away. I fought this and grew very combative. They had to strap me down so they could hook up all of the monitors and breathing tubes so that they could stabilize me.

Kyle arrived during this time, but they would not allow him to see me until they had me calmed down and stabilized. It wasn't pretty.

My Mom, Kyle and TJ were all waiting in the family waiting room at the ER at PVH.

They finally let Kyle back after about five minutes (he says it felt much longer). I didn't look like myself. I was rigid, had a neck brace on, tubed down my throat, wires from every part of my body, restraints holding my arms and legs. It was extremely difficult to see.

Within a minute they brought me back for my first CT scan. Kyle went back to the family waiting room and broke down. My Mom, Kyle and TJ sat praying and hugging. My Dad arrived shortly after this, as did my friend and pastor, Scott.

After the CT scan they all got to go back and see me again. The Doctor prepared Kyle and let him know I had a skull fracture. The Doctor explained that it looked like there could be blood or, 'artifact' near the fracture. If this was the case they would need to do brain surgery, which they would need to do at another hospital.

Kyle sat with me while the Doctor consulted a specialist. During this time my sister arrived, as well as my friend Becca. I would still get resistant at times and the nurses continued to adjust the level of sedative.

The Dr.s decided I needed to be moved to the trauma center at the Medical Center of the Rockies, and that I would most likely need brain surgery. They loaded me in another ambulance. Kyle went with the ambulance and made phone calls for prayers. He said the ambulance went painfully slow ;)

When we got to MCR they took me into the surgical intensive care unit and transfered all of my tubes and made sure I was stabilized. Once I was stabilized they decided to do another CT scan at noon.

All of my family sat waiting and praying. I had many visitors come to be in the family room during this waiting period.

The second CT scan took about a half and hour, Kyle went with me. Shortly after the Doctors came back and said the CT scan showed no bleeding, only the fracture. At this point the neuro-surgical nurse and Doctor came to do a thorough examination. They asked me questions- asked me to squeeze fingers, hold certain number of fingers up etc. I was intubated through all of this, but was able to respond to their requests appropriately. This was a huge moment of relief for Kyle and my family.

Kyle emphasizes that this was a HUGE moment. The woman, Diane, who was administering the questions looked up at Kyle and said, "Yes! She is responding cognitively!" She kept asking me questions and I kept responding appropriately. Kyle was relieved and hopeful.

At that point they decided to decrease my sedation and try pull my intubation tube. About 15 minutes later I was still a little bit too combative, so they decided to wait one more hour.

One hour later they tried again and I did much better. I began opening my eyes and crying when I saw all of my family. The nurses asked my family to stand behind me so I would not look to them for help when they were pulling my intubation tube. They had to make sure I could breath on my own by blowing into a tube. It took some practice, but eventually I had the strength. They pulled the intubation tube.

Once I was settled my family was able to sit with me. I was crying and confused. I started asking the same four questions repeatedly (for the next 6-7 hours ;)) My questions were: Where are my kids? What time is it? What happened? Where am I?

The Doctors would come in once an hour to ask a set of questions to check my cognitive abilities. They did this every hour from the time my tube came out until about 10pm Monday. At this time they moved to every two hours.

I continued to be weepy, especially when I saw the people I love.

My memories start from about 5pm ish on Monday night. They are certainly hazy, but I do remember asking the time and hearing 5pm Monday. I remember the feel of the neck brace on my skin, the positioning in the hospital bed, and these things that were on my legs kind of like big blood pressure cuffs which ensured circulation to my legs. They comforted me because it felt like my dog laying on my legs. I have hazy memories of the faces of my loved ones coming and going out the hospital room door.

Through Monday night to Tuesday morning I was awakened for frequent blood sugar checks, insulin injections, codine injections, and pupil checks. I slept in fits and continued to feel hazy and baffled by what had happened. Kyle slept next to me in the chair and my Mom was given a family room to sleep in. My kids were with Kyle's parents at my Dad's place, and were pretty sheltered from all that was happening.

My family says they were reassured Monday night when they saw glimpses of my humor coming through- When asked the number of my pain on a scale of 1-10 I would sometimes say- 'sucks' or 'stinks' before I'd say a number, and when told of the story of how I told the man who stopped to help me not to call an ambulance I said, "who listens to the person lying on the ground?" (though I can understand why he didn't, and am so grateful he blocked me from getting hit by a car!). I apparently asked if I was going to have brain damage- which was a good sign that the answer is 'no'.

Tuesday morning I continued to make mental progress. My body was in pretty intense pain, so they ordered x-rays of my shoulder and knee. All x-rays came back clear showing no breaks, just pretty terrible bruising and pulled muscles etc. I continued to make physical progress, so they were able to pull my catheter and to help me get up out of the bed and into a wheel chair.

I was able to have lunch with my kids on Tuesday, which was pretty incredible. Tuesday afternoon I moved from the ICU to a trauma recovery room. I continued to improve through Tuesday night and by Wedensday morning was deemed ready to go home.

My sister and her husband turned their bedroom into my recovery room and took our family into their house to provide extra care and support.

These first days have been hard and good. I do have terrible headaches- which they say I may have for the next three months. I am extremely sensitive to sound- things seem to echo and rattle in my head.

My shoulder, hip and knee (and face) have some good road rash, are swollen and ache. I came home with a walker to help me get around- though I have already moved to a cane and can get around most of the time without that now too.

Emotionally this has all really been just plain weird. It is weird to have no memory of something so scary and tragic. It is weird to listen to the stories of my family and friends who thought I may die, or be left brain dead. People who were there look at me kind of funny.

I met the women who were there at the scene the morning of the crash, they were so grateful to see me alive and healing. I am so grateful for their care and love- though I have no real memory of it.

It is weird to be here in Fort Collins for all of this, our home, which has not been our home for the past year.

The kindness, prayers, meals, gifts and cards are completely overwhelming. I am not use to being on this end of things. I am so grateful- and overwhelmed.

This all really threw our 'vacation' plans for a loop. Though I am grateful to have the time to heal here with my family.

Spiritually I have felt God's presence through all of this- though honestly not any different than I always do.

Really- I am just so darn happy to be alive. In one of my many mini-breakdowns I noticed that I am just so grateful to be able to live this life fully. I'm certainly not ready to go- or to slow down. I don't have any bike rides planned anytime soon- but I'm not ready to live in a bubble (my Dad has requested- if not a bubble, how about a pillow?)

I am happy to hold my kids, to be with Kyle, to snuggle with my Dog, to laugh with friends, to play cards with family. I can't wait to get back to school- to keep learning and growing and sharing this life.

All that said- I know this healing process is going to be slow. My head hurts. I get easily overwhelmed and overstimulated right now. I'm going to need some physical therapy for my knee, hip and shoulder. I know my brain will still feel pretty fuzzy at times. It will take months before my brain is functioning at full capacity. I'll need lots of extra rest.

So all that to say thanks so much for all of the incredible love and support you've all given. This was scary- and I'm glad to be on this side of this crazy experience.

Love you all!