Saturday 16 January 2010: Miracle
On the evening on April 6th, 2000............
I received the most horrifying and heart wrenching phone call of my life. As I picked up the phone to say hello, I heard my Dad say these haunting words:
"It's Dad. there's been an accident, she is okay, but she is currently undergoing brain surgery."
For a moment, my whole world stopped. I had just gotten home from a full day of student teaching and was in the midst of my Master's program. I remember coming home, putting my feet up, and just starting to relax when that fateful and most terrifying telephone conversation took place....
She is my longest and closest friend. She is actually more like a sister to me and to my entire family. Our parents met when we were in preschool. She was my best friend at five years old, she was my best friend as we graduated high school together and she was my best friend as we went on to become college roommates together. She was my tree. She was my confidant and number one go to person. It was always the two of us......everywhere we went. My family moved out near her house when I was in sixth grade and our house just happened to be on the same street. The same street that Kirsten lived on. From that time on, we became inseparable as we shared rides to school, to sports practices, to other friend's houses. Whatever one of us was doing, the other was included. She was my partner in crime. Everything from double waterskiing, to paddle boating from her house to mine, to endless and hilarious pranks......everything. Our grandmother's even became best friends when they each moved to live with our families.
She and I shared a dorm room in college and our junior year, when I left for a year exchange to, she left for a 6 month exchange. Upon returning from our time abroad, we reconnected again as roommates and shared a house with another close friend for our senior year. The memories that we share are more than I can even try to comprehend. When her car was buried in rocks by a bulldozer because we parked in a "no trespassing" area, I was there with her to share in the shock and the "oh no, what are we going to tell our parents". When we went to dances, we always double dated with the boys who invited us. As you can see, she was more like a sister to me. She was, she is, and she always will be.
This blip is called miracle because of what happened that fateful night when I received the phone call that completely turned my life upside down. It tore my heart out and left me numb. It is a moment in time that is really hard to go back to but I have felt the need to write about it and to take myself there once again. I can do this ONLY because of this photo. I can go back to the pain ONLY because the outcome is a happy one.
On April 6th, 2000, she and her family were attending the funeral of a very close family friend of theirs. Midway through the service, she began to feel sick to her stomach, so she quietly excused herself and walked out to the hallway for some water and fresh air. When she didn't return, her brother left the service to check on her. What he found was his unconscious sister laying on the floor in the middle of the hallway. Ten minutes later, she was being rushed to the hospital with life threatening symptoms. Upon her arrival, she was immediately rushed into surgery. As the doctors were wheeling her away, they looked at her parents and told them to say their goodbyes as it was not likely that she would make it through the surgery. Little did they all know that she was about to be brought back from the brink of death.
She had suffered a brain aneurysm. It was sudden, unexpected, and completely tragic. One minute, she was sitting with her family in perfect health and the next minute, she was bleeding internally with a very small percentage change of surviving. God blessed her that day. He blessed her with a doctor who saved her life. He was one of the hospital's finest and most competent brain surgeons and he also just happened to be at the hospital when she was rushed in. After removing a portion of her brain and stabilizing her in the ICU, he told her parents afterwards that she "had entered into the dark side". Those words still give me the chills. She had hovered in that gray area between life and death and he had brought her back to life.
When I got to the hospital, everything was surreal. My memory is a little fuzzy because I still hadn't fully accepted what was happening to my best friend. My boyfriend (husband now) had driven me down to the hospital and my mind was just numb. I couldn't really think about anything because I knew deep down in my heart that she was unstable and that the next few days would be some of the worst in my life. When we made it up to the ICU, her Mom saw me from across the room and came right over to give me a hug. She immediately went to the nurse and insisted that I be given permission to see her daughter. At that time, only family members were allowed. She told the nurse that I was like a sister and that I WOULD be accompanying her to see her daughter immediately. The nurse didn't even try to argue with her and the next thing I knew, her Mom and I (who is a second mother to me) were making our way down the painfully long and sterile hallway towards the Intensive Care Unit.
When we walked into the room, I saw her. But, it wasn't her. I was looking at a girl attached to dozens of tubes, with a partially shaven head and an enormous red scar running from one ear all the way over her scalp to the other. But the most haunting thing of all were her eyes. Her eyes were vacant. They were hollow. They were staring straight up at the ceiling. My best friend was not visible in those eyes and it absolutely scared me to the core. When I stood there frozen for a few moments, her mom encouraged me to sit at her bedside. I walked over and sat down. I took her hand in mine and I held it. No response. So I started to tell her a story. I still don't know why this is what I chose to talk about, but I reminded her how we always called each other "piss ant" our freshman year in college. I know, so random but it was a term of endearment that I knew only she would appreciate. As soon as I said those words, she squeezed my hand. Her mom saw this and rushed to the bedside as it was one of the first realizations that she may have the capabilities of communicating. One of the first realizations that she might actually be there behind those vacant and hollow eyes. A nurse was immediately called and they asked me to say it to her again. So again, I said the words and slowly, she turned her head toward me and said, "piss ant". I choked up immediately. We all did. As we looked at her, a small tear began to form in her eye. She was there. We saw her. There was a chance that we might actually get her back.
When I got back to the waiting room, my Dad was the closest one to me. I remember just running into his arms and it was at that time that I just started sobbing. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and then sobbed some more in my boyfriend's (husband now) arms. It was the most painful experience of my life. It was raw. My thoughts were, "Where do we all go from here?".
For the next few days, her survival was very touch and go. One moment we were told that she was stable. The next that her temperature was over 105 degrees, that she was postering and she might not make it through the night. I remember huddling around a bible that we found in the ICU waiting room with my boyfriend, my sister and my mom and dad. We were frantically searching for a verse that might give us a little bit of clarity. A little bit of peace. A major source of strength in the room was her mom. She was our rock. She was the one who everyone went to for support, a shoulder to cry on, an update, you name it. She was everyone's stability even though she was in the midst of the most horrible kind of tragedy that any parent could ever go through. She always believed and never ever let that belief begin to fade away. She and her husband kept the faith in their daughter's survival even when the doctor's were beginning to lose theirs.
For the next two months, she was a full time resident at the hospital. She could not talk. She could not walk. She couldn't function on her own. I had graduated in early May so I was able to make the drive to the hospital a couple of times of week. The doctors let me accompany her to physical therapy and I was taught how to fasten her leg braces and get her in and out of her wheelchair. Her first method of communication in the rehab room was her art. She was and is a phenomenal artist. She majored in art in college and at the time of her aneurysm, she was in the middle of her Master's program for secondary Education. She was on her way to becoming a high school art teacher.
For the next few months, she slowly started to gain some speech. I remember coming into her room one day and hearing her say my name. Just my name. But something that I didn't know if I would ever hear again. Then she started speaking occasionally in Spanish. This always made us laugh because it was such a contrast to the lack of english that she was producing. As she started to gain her speech, she also started to gain movement and we would take her in her wheelchair to the campus pizza parlor for pizza. She never really cared about pizza in the past, but now she LOVED IT! So pizza it was....over and over and over and over. We'd say, "what do you want for dinner?" and she would light up and mumble, "pizza".
After that, she slowly got better and better every day. She was released from the hospital and her mom and dad became her full time care takers. It was summer at this point and I was actually home as I was transitioning from grad school to interviewing for teaching jobs. That summer was the hardest of my life but that will have to be saved for another journal. It marked the beginning of a case of anxiety that I didn't understand and really had a hard time dealing with. All I knew was that my life had been turned upside down and my emotions were on a roller coaster. Thanks to my Mom, my Dad, my boyfriend (now husband) and the support of a really close friend, and my faith that God would help me overcome it, I faced it head-on and started to deal with it. It took me years. It was something that always lurked just behind the scenes in my day to day life but time, love and support conquered it. But like i said, another journal entry.
The reason that I called tonight's blip, "Miracle", is because she continues to be a walking miracle. She was faced with the hardest diversity that anyone I know has ever had to experience and she has pulled through. She awoke from her re-birth with the most positive attitude that I have ever seen. She managed to finish her Master's program. She earned her degree. She married a wonderful man with whom she reconnected with while in the hospital. He saw her in those first few months of recuperation yet he stayed and became a close friend. As time went on, their friendship turned into a relationship and now, long story short (even though this is my longest journal entry EVER) they are married with a beautiful baby.
This blip is called "miracle" because my longest dearest friend, is a walking miracle. This story has been heavy on my heart for many many years. Tonight, after having the chance to write about it, I feel a little more at peace with the experiences that we ALL went through on that life changing day.
I love you!