Thursday, August 21, 2008

Counting Blessings

I have started this post and erased it too many times to count. I sent emails to family and friends, because I knew that people were concerned. I tried to keep to the medical aspect of it, but emotionally I was either spinning or frozen.

Tuesday afternoon I came home for lunch, like any normal day. I called Greg and we talked on the phone. A few minutes later I got another call, from a guy named Alvin. Alvin said that Greg asked him to call me, to let me know Greg had just been in a car accident. Alvin said that Greg was trapped where he was and Greg couldn't reach his cell phone. Alvin offered to call me on his cell and Greg gave him my phone number. I heard Greg’s voice in the background, his weak breathing, the pain in his voice. My heart stopped. I don’t know how I managed, but I wrote down Alvin’s name and number.

I called my Dad. He asked me where the accident was, but I wasn’t coherent. The next phone call I made was to Greg’s Mom. How do you tell a Mom that her son was in a car accident, but without any information, other than that he was trapped in his vehicle? I tried to keep a calm voice, but I don't think I succeeded.

I called Alvin back as Dad arrived at the house. Alvin got on the phone with Dad. We still didn’t know specifically where, other than somewhere on Hwy 70, on the other side of Sunshine Bridge, somewhere by exit 182. We were on the road with Alvin on the phone. Somehow, we were going to find Greg, either at the accident or by the time he was brought to the hospital, but either place, we HAD to go there.

From various sources, we tried to piece it all together. Alvin was not a first responder, as Greg originally thought. He is just a kind citizen who kept me up to date on Greg’s progress.

Greg’s car was pressed up against a tree in the marsh. Greg was trapped in the vehicle. They had to use the “jaws of life” from the fire department to remove the roof of the SUV and finally get Greg out.

It took them 45 minutes before Greg was taken out of the vehicle, 45 minutes that he was in the heat, in pain, trapped.. They put Greg on a gurney and had to carry him to the Hwy, at an incline out of the woods. Alvin called me when he saw that Greg was out of the vehicle and told me that they were taking him to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. Dad and I headed there. I think we got to the hospital a few minutes after Greg was in.

We were told he was in the Trauma Unit. Can a heart stop twice in a day or maybe mine just never started beating again, waiting until I was with Greg once more…

Bonnie, Greg’s sister, arrived shortly after, as she happened to be in Baton Rouge for a business meeting. Bonnie and Dad were quick to find out information about Greg’s vehicle and the other vehicle involved, from where Greg’s car was stored to if the other vehicle was insured. It wasn’t long before Greg’s parents and Madelyn, Greg’s younger sister, arrived with hugs and tears and offers of positive thoughts, “He was talking at the time of the accident, that’s a good sign.”

A lady who ministered to families in the Trauma Unit was very kind, going back and forth to give us updates. It was the State Trooper who explained that it was a head-on collision. It was the lady from the ambulance who said, “Greg isn’t out of the woods. They are running tests for internal bleeding and damaged organs.” Numb and tears and prayers and pain and “I need to see Greg” and flashes of our life together, I can’t tell you the thoughts, I can’t cling to the memories of those feelings too long. All I had in my hands were what the nurses gave to me, Greg’s shoes, his buckle, and some various electronic gadgets that the ambulance lady had retrieved from his vehicle.

I was finally allowed to see Greg after they ran the CAT scan. Greg was covered in shards of glass, tubes this way and that and a neck brace. He was awake, repeatedly asked for water, said that he was having difficulty breathing that his back and stomach were in pain.

The doctor said he had 4 broken ribs, a bruised left lung, the platform to his stomach was bruised as well, that a piece from his vertebrae (the crown point) had broken, there was an open wound about the size of a nickel in his arm where a tree branch had gone through from the middle of his arm to his shoulder (piercing no muscle, just below the skin and fat tissues) and…. a spot on the CT scan, on his brain showed blood.

The doctor advised that they would do another x-ray and CT scan in the morning, to see if the blood was still there. They still had not given Greg any water or ice chips. My love was begging for water, (I wanted to grab someone and shake them to give him water) but they couldn’t give him any until they had stuffed about 2 yards of gauze into the open wound on his arm. They couldn’t stitch the wound, for fear of an infection. It will take a month or more for it to slowly heal.

Finally ice chips were offered to him. Mary Ann and I made plans to stay the night. My Dad and Greg’s Dad and Madelyn made plans to go back to our home, get personal belongings for our stay. I don’t think any of us got more than 1 hour of sleep. We could feel Greg’s pain, would get up in a flash to help him find some form of comfort, worried over him, prayed, watched as the numerous nurses came in and out of the room at all times, giving medicine, checking vitals. I remembered reading somewhere or maybe hearing it on a show that the first 24 to 48 hours of an accident are the most critical when a person is in recovery.

(Even tonight, being home, I find myself quietly walking into Greg’s room, just to hear his breathing and know he’s OK.)

The next day at the hospital, Greg continued to feel strong pain, “like I’ve never known before.” The medicine helped, but only for a short period of time. I sent emails out to family and friends, to keep them aware of Greg’s condition. Father Ken came by to visit, saying a prayer and I couldn’t stop the tears, “Please, God, hear us.” Yes, that’s what my prayers started and ended with from the moment I got the call from Alvin.

At the end of the second day, Greg was craving solid foods. His Dad said it was a good sign. By suppertime, the doctor finally approved it, along with the good news of no more blood was seen on the CT scan on his brain. Thank You, God!

Greg’s vitals were looking better and better, even though his stomach and back pains had not decreased. More and more tubes were removed. He went to physical therapy and was taking breathing therapy as well.

We knew that he was starting to feel hmm, better, doesn’t seem to be a good word, but it has to suffice. We knew because he cracked a joke. Greg was told that every hour he had to do breathing treatments. It was time again to do another one, but Greg said he had to go to the bathroom, only he didn’t want to get up to do either one. Mary Ann said, “Which will it be, do you want to pee or breath?” Greg smiled and gave his best at Dirty Harry, “You have to ask yourself, are you feeling lucky today, so what’s it gonna be, are you going to pee or are you going to breath?”

I heard from Alvin that afternoon when I went to get something to eat at the cafeteria. I thanked him for his kindness in staying in touch with me throughout Greg’s accident and letting me know which hospital Greg was taken to. Alvin called just to see how Greg was doing and that kindness from a stranger was touching.

Being that Greg had wanted to know, I asked Alvin if he knew anything about the other driver. Alvin wasn’t there at the time of the accident, but he said there were two ladies in the other SUV and they were thrown from their vehicle. They were taken away in gurneys and were alive and coherent from what Alvin could see, but that’s all he knew about them.

Greg remembers the accident and it plays back in his mind repeatedly. He’s driving along and suddenly, without him having time to do anything, he sees the car in the opposite direction lose control of her vehicle. She hits him and both of his air bag deploys. He can’t see, because of the air bag, feels his SUV hit something again, another time, and yet another hit, then feels the vehicle slide and hit once more. He remembers Alvin coming up to him and asking if there was anyone Greg wanted him to call. He was trapped in the SUV and the airbag on the passenger’s side caught on fire. I can’t imagine, cannot put myself in his shoes, but my heart was right there with him.

We are incredibly fortunate for family and friends and hospital staff and a kind stranger, those who wrote, those who drove us to the hospital and stayed, those who visited, those who called, those who sent prayers and their love. I cannot thank you enough.

I cannot thank God enough.

Greg said that he sometimes doesn't feel like this is real. Wondered if he did actually die and went to heaven, so many things are changed in his life. Those words worry me, but I understand too...

Matthew went to the place where the vehicle was being stored. He and his wife, Cindy, went there to take pictures and retrieve Greg’s personal belongings, as much as they could. Cindy told me, “It’s a miracle that he survived the accident. You don’t want to see the pictures.” But I had to… I can’t explain why, just that I needed to be there with Greg.

Greg sent the pictures and with it wrote, “I DARE anyone to tell me that there isn’t a guardian angel.” He had many with him that day, that Tuesday afternoon. Blessings ~ counting, counting, counting, counting…. THE MOST important thing in life is ~ LOVE.

Below this post are pictures from the accident, one picture of Greg's arm with the nickel-sized opening place of the wound and the third of Greg reading one of the handmade "Get Well Cards" that my Mom's classroom made for him.

With a Grateful Heart,
Sending My Love,

(And a P.S. before you see the pictures.. Father Ken sent us an email today, that the Bishop approved for Greg and I to get married… Offering up my Thanks!)


didibruc said...

Aleta, I appreciate you sharing this very personal experience.....we are all thankful that Greg is recovering.....I do believe that God was with was hard to look at the wrecked car and is amazing that anyone actually lived through the accident...we continue to pray that Greg's recovery will be a speedy one.....he is blessed to have you by his side......much love, Didi (I enjoyed reading the other blogs...especially, the cooking one.....anybody eat peanut butter chicken?.....also, nice to see Roda and Rob finally together, again)

Kel said...

Oh my gosh..I am so happy things turned out well and Greg is recovering. It is amazing, to look at those photos, and think in an instant things can change. You and Greg are very blessed and have many things to be thankful for.

May he continue to have a speedy recovery. You and Greg are both in my prayers!

Lilly's Life said...

Aleta - what a frightfully horrific accident this was for Greg and a very upsetting time for you and your families. I am so pleased all is well and looking at the photos Greg did indeed have a guardian angel with him that day. I hope he continues with a speedy recovery and your weddings plans go full steam ahead! Take the best of care, the both of you!

Jen said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this, but so glad that Greg is OK! He'll be in my thoughts and prayers...

ugich konitari said...

Aleta, I have been a lurker on your blog for sometime. I was absolutely horrified as I read your posting, and just wanted to let you know, that you will be in my prayers. I wish Greg a great recovery, and both of you a wonderful future.

Someone, UP THERE, I think, was really looking out for you.......

Aleta said...

Hi Didi, Thank you for coming to the hospital. It meant a lot to us. Sometimes Greg says, "I feel like I died and wonder if I'm in an different universe where everything else is the same." I assured him that my world stopped until I knew that he would recover but that it was the same world, the same universe and the same life. Thank you for your prayers *hugs*

Hi Kel, Yes.. an instant. I remember reading a wedding blog where a group of ladies were having difficulties with the wedding plans. After Greg's accident, I wrote back to the ladies, knowing that they know already what I was going to say is true, but just to give them a moment to pause... nothing in the wedding or the plans is more important than the man you love. Nothing. After reading what Greg went through, they promised to go home and hug their fiances... Thank you for your comments and your caring.

Hi Lilly, It was strange to come home and see the wedding invitations in the room and the planning that we were moving along with. My focus is so much on Greg's recovery, I didn't think he would want to get the wedding rings at the jewelry show, but he told me to go and said that he trusted me with picking out a ring for him. We have our rings now, but I'm slow to get back into the planning. Thank you for your well wishes.

Hi Jen ~ Thanks for your prayers. If you look at Greg (other than the cut under his eyes and the bruises on his legs that are coming up more and more each day), you wouldn't think he was in an accident. Most of the bruises are covered by clothes... it's when you watch him get up and down or when the gets a sudden spasm of pain.. he can't hide the pain ... or if he is late taking the pain medicine.. he gets REALLY grumpy (totally understandable)

Hi Ugich Konitari ~ Thank you for coming out of lurkdom and sharing your prayers and thoughts. I agree that someone was watching out for Greg. Greg has repeatedly said, "I'm glad you weren't there in the car. I'm glad I made it because you would have been devasted." He's right.. I would have been. He's my world.

Lauren said...

You are so blessed.