a real-life adventure
Read Part XV here.
Now available in ebook format!
Rain fell all night. Having grown up in the arid desert, I'd always cherished the rain. The sound, the smell, the feel... I love rain.
Way back in high school I'd written poems about the sound of the rain falling on the grass and trees, on my tent, on my windshield, on my umbrella. I'd always believed the aroma of freshly soaked desert mesquite should be bottled. Every July I could be found in a mountain meadow, shooting pictures of moody mists. And oh, the natural curl and waves my hair would sport on a drizzly day!
Now rain had a different feel. Rain had caused my car to flip. Rain had nearly taken my children from me. I was being poked and prodded by nurses every hour on the hour because of rain-soaked highways. I was so drugged because of the rain, I couldn't stay awake to listen to it and the sound of my children sleeping. Breathing.
Instead I replayed the accident in my dreams. Over and over and over. I'd awake with a startled jump that hurt more than I have words to express and an audible gasp that often awoke and frightened the children. My pillow and my face were tear-saturated. I'd shiver and cry. Then the sound of the gentle patter on the hospital window calmed me just long enough to lull me back into another rerun of the same terrorizing nightmare.
The police officer had told me he could replay my accident one hundred times and never have the same ending twice. But that's not how it played out in my head. I kept dreaming the same ending over and over. It could have been much worse; I knew that without being told. But my mind seemed frozen in that horrific instant when the car flipped.
The police officer had told me I was very lucky to be alive. He told me it didn't make sense that my kids had escaped serious injury. He said Louis simply living long enough for the surgeons to have a chance to operate was the most profound miracle.
I didn't feel lucky. I didn't feel blessed. I felt guilty. I felt 100% responsible for three lives I'd nearly ruined, not including my own. The nightmares served as exclamation points.
I did this! I caused this!
Finally the dark night began to eerily morph into gray day. The rain continued on, but it didn't seem so oppressive in daylight. It was Sunday morning, and I wouldn't be able to take my kids to church.
I can't remember now what calls I made once I settled in my hospital bed, but obviously that phone had been used. Beth, my best friend from high school, knew about the accident. She knew why I never showed up in Colorado Springs to pick her up. But I don't remember ever talking to her that weekend.
I must have called someone from church because I received a priesthood blessing on Sunday afternoon. I can't remember who gave it, and I don't remember asking anyone to drive 40 miles south to where I was.
Flowers were delivered to my room, and I don't remember now who they were from. I had visitors, but I can't remember who. Someone took my kids to lunch each day of my stay, but I can't remember any of the details, only that I got a short break each day while they were gone.
I remember my dad teasing me about being in yet another accident. He was trying to make me laugh. He said I was worse than a bull in a china closet. But I can't remember how he, four states away, found out I was in the hospital.
My most vivid memory now is my first glimpse of my reflection — not even in a mirror. I had walked by a paper towel dispenser. Shiny, antiseptic chrome. The mud still adhered to my face and shoulders would have looked like a luxurious European facial if it hadn't been for the gruesome crimson cast.
I finally understood why everyone turned white when they first saw me, and I understood why the doctor had informed me I would have a black eye. Both eyelids were swollen and deep, dark scarlet. I had no whites in my eyes. Both were bloody red, and the right one was open only a slit, continually tearing due to abrasions from the glass splinters that had taken up temporary residence.
I looked down at my forearms for the first time, as if they hadn't existed before that moment. Both still were caked with dried and cracked mud. Not until the next day did I discover deep gashes in both arms. The nurse informed me they were worthy of stitches had they been visible earlier. Now it was too late. I'd have gash scars instead of pincushion scars.
Fortunately, my shoulder was bandaged and not visible for several days. Good thing, too. I escaped for a few days the nightmares the sight of it would have inspired. I didn't even try to imagine what it might look like. Back then, I was convinced my face would be a palette of unbecoming scars, and so shoulder scars didn't even seem relevant.
I remember the doctor telling me I couldn't go home until I could walk two laps through the hallway, inflate the lung machine to the third notch and take a shower by myself.
I never got the lung machine past the second notch. Taz would keep watch for the hourly nurse, and Raz would blow the lung machine clear up to the fourth notch just before the nurse entered my room.
I had no motivation whatsoever to shower by myself. I could not raise my hands above my shoulders, much less attempt to wash or brush my long hair. The knots and tangles left behind by cakes of mud and puddles of dirty, grass-choked water did not make the task of brushing a pleasant experience. Luckily, Raz enjoyed braiding my hair, so I could occupy her by having her take care of it for me when no nurse was available.
My luck ran out on Day Three, however. A male nurse was assigned to my room. He reported to duty and expected me to be ready to disrobe and have him shower me and shampoo my hair.
To this day I can see the expression on his face as I steadfastly refused his assistance. I can still hear him protesting.
"There's nothing I haven't seen before," he said in an effort to assure me this was purely professional. "I've done this many times. You can even keep a towel around you if that would make you feel more comfortable."
Tall, lean and gorgeously blonde, he'd have been the answer to many girls' prayers. But I just couldn't swallow the idea of a man helping a woman shower. I couldn't do it. Nothing he said could persuade me.
I was released to go home hours later. Purple and pink, but proud as a peacock. I'd washed my own hair!
We won't discuss how long it took me to repeat the feat.
Read Part XVII here.
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Copyright 2013 by Deborah and Brett Atkinson