The pile of clothes in the middle of my bedroom floor is giving off a funky smell. I only had time to notice yesterday.
My clothes smell like waiting rooms and hospital sheets. They smell like fear and worry and strange colognes left from a thousand concerned, caring hugs. They smell like elevators and parking garages and hospital food and too many days spent without seeing the sun during what has been the most beautiful week of the year so far.
On Monday at 7:45 PM, I was running on the treadmill. Running hard, hoping to keep the 8-minute mile pace through the end of the next lap.
Approximately three minutes from our door, in what a man living nearby called “the loudest sound he’d ever heard – like a bomb exploding,” three teenagers were killed and my sister, remembering all the medical emergency shows she’d seen on TLC, concentrated on keeping her arms and legs perfectly still until the rescue workers were able to free her from the Jeep.
My pounding feet obscured the ringing of the phone the first time. When the good Samaritan called the second time, I was done running, and in the middle of telling my parents a story about a friend’s Jeep which we believed to be cursed.
Last Monday I was a fundraiser hating my job. I was on my first day of the SELF challenge and had written “annoyed” as my mood in every entry of that day’s meal diary. I wanted the internet on my work computer to get fixed so I could remind everyone to buy flip-flops for Flip-Flop Day.
I still haven’t bought flip-flops.
Since Monday I have become a family spokesperson and public relations professional, with softly spoken phrases like “we’re just so thankful she made it” and “just keep praying for us” and “thank you for stopping by – we appreciate it so much” flowing from my mouth like a script. I’ve become a receptionist and a comedian, with my uber-friendly “Vascular ICU Waiting Room, can I help you?” sending other worried families into giggles. I’ve become a medical professional, with “butterfly fracture in the right femur” and “clean break in the left femur” and “cracked hip socket” and “compound tib-fib fracture” coming as naturally to me as fundraising lingo. I know what a clean incision looks like and I know how best to shift a bedridden patient and I know how and where to move her legs and I know what to do with a bedpan and how to give a sponge bath. I can put in and take out someone else’s contact lenses.
I’ve learned about wheelchairs and hospital beds and catheters and ramps on the house. I’ve learned about insurance and disability and accident reports and more forensic science than I learned by watching CSI. I know more about pins and rods and rehab and home health care than I’d ever dreamed I’d have to learn, and my knowledge is only beginning.
I’ve been to three memorial services in a single day and a visitation the night before. I’ve seen and heard from friends and family members and teachers that I haven’t spoken to for years. I’ve hugged people I’ve never seen before in my life. I’ve cried more than I ever thought possible. I’ve held it together more than I ever thought possible.
You rarely think about irresponsible journalism until the news media fucks up a bunch of details about something involving your family. I’m tired of trying to stem the tide of the rumor mill. I understand the media’s desire to get first crack at a good story, but I’m tired of correcting the facts for people who think no one was wearing seat belts, or that drugs/alcohol/speeding were factors, or that my sister is somehow at fault because she happened to be driving an SUV.
Ginny is doing well and is out of intensive care and in a private room. They are hoping to send her to an inpatient rehabilitation facility for about a week as soon as they can find a bed for her. Because of the severity of her injuries it will likely be two months before she can bear any weight at all on either leg. The good news is that aside from bruising and abrasions, she has no major upper-body trauma, and she is in fairly good spirits, all things considered. But she has a long road ahead, and so do we, and we’re all kind of drifting through every day right now.
Although I might not get a chance to let you know personally, I’m so thankful to all of you for your prayers and well wishes. Please keep them coming – we really need them right now, and so do a lot of people in our community.