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    BWS Stories - "You Keep On Playing Those Mind Games"...From Depression to Hope

    "You Keep On Playing Those Mind Games"...From Depression to Hope - Second Chances

    Raised in Texas, Dianne Sagan has written over 35 editorials for a regional newspaper. A member of Panhandle Professional Writers, she has degrees in History and Communications. Experiences include single parenting, community volunteering, seminar facilitation, and ghostwriting. She is working on two novels and a series of Christian fiction novellas.  

    Second Chances

    The twenty-passenger plane bounced over the Front Range headed west out of Denver through partly cloudy skies over the Colorado Rockies with a cold front pushing south. I hoped the Dramamine would work. I didn't want to suffer losing my lunch into a baggie. 

                Thankful to land safely in Grand Junction, I hurried into the small terminal. My eyes scanned the crowd, desperate for a familiar face. Six hours had passed since last talking with the hospital. 

                I juggled my bags and fished for sunglasses in my purse. I didn't see my daughter-in-law anywhere. My stomach churned and my mouth went dry. Then, my son's mother-in-law threw her arms around me and asked, "How are you?"

                "I'm okay. It was pretty bumpy today."

                She took my luggage and we walked silently toward the car. 

                Choking back tears I asked, "Is . . . is everything all right?"

                "Let's talk in the car."

                I brushed away tears with the back of my hand. Fresh air coming in the car window helped refocus my eyes. 

                "You need to know that Brad's pretty beat up from the accident. I'm not sure how to prepare you for how he looks. We can only spend short periods of time with him in ICU."

                I struggled to breathe and looked out the window toward the mountains. I don't know if I can do this, I thought, and reflected on the 1:10 a.m. phone call. 

    * * * * * * * * * *

                Ringing. A telephone. Our phone! I peered at the clock. "This can't be good."


                "Is this Mrs. Sagan?" 

                Cobwebs clouded my brain. "Uh, yes, it is."

                My groggy husband turned on a lamp. "What's wrong?" I shook my head.

                "Is this Mrs. Sagan?" 

                Cobwebs clouded my brain. "Uh, yes, it is."

                My groggy husband turned on a lamp. "What's wrong?" I shook my head.

                "I am calling from St. Mary's Hospital in Colorado. Your son had an accident," said the nurse.

                My blood turned to ice water. "Is he all right?"

                "He's stable."

                It felt like an anvil sat on my chest.  

                "The doctors are with him. I'm the charge nurse."

                "He's a climber. Did he fall?"

                "No. He was in a mountain biking accident. I'll call you when we have more information. He'll be in surgery for several hours. My extension is 543."

                "Okay," I answered and he hung up.

                "What happened?" my husband asked again.

                "Brad's in the hospital. He . . ." I cried uncontrollably in his arms. Finally, when my voice steadied I explained what the nurse had told me.

                "I have to go. I need to get to him." In shock, my body went on automatic pilot. 

                Within minutes, we had made reservations for the earliest flight. Nothing made sense to me. Everything in me wanted to curl up in a little ball and have someone tell me it was a mistake. I prayed with intention and total focus, "God, please save my son."

                I called family members to pray for Brad. We sent a mass e-mail to everyone else.


    * * * * * * * * * * *

                "We're here." 

                I broke through my cobweb of thoughts. Feeling light-headed and nauseous, I struggled to put one wobbly foot in front of the other until we reached the ICU.

                We faced the double doors and I hesitated, whispered another prayer, and we pushed through into pandemonium. I looked through a glass wall. Brad lay on a bed surrounded by monitors, multiple tubes, IVs, and a respirator. His face was so swollen that I almost didn't recognize him. My daughter-in-law and I hugged each other with a silent desperation that spoke across our age difference.

                A nurse entered the room. "You're Brad's mother?" she asked.


                She smiled reassuringly. "I know you've been traveling all day. If you'd like to stay with him, that's fine. We'll be changing shifts soon. Regular visiting hours begin at 7:00."

                My daughter-in-law touched my arm. "We will see you after while."

    Alone with my son, everything felt surreal. I took his hand in mine. Instinctively, I recoiled. His hand was icy and unresponsive. His whole life he'd always had warm hands that held my cold ones. Now it was my hands that held life's warmth. I took a mental survey of all the monitors and tubes. I held my breath with each hesitation of the ventilator. It made the only sound in his room. Brad's coma gave him the appearance of somehow being gone, leaving his shell behind. Like he's dead, I thought, and looked at the monitors for reassurance.

                Pulling the chair closer to his bed, I held his hand through the railing. "Brad, I'm here. Mom's here." I told him about the call, the plane trip, his sisters, his nephew, what was happening at home, how much we missed him, and my favorite books.

                When it came time for me to go to the family waiting room, I had to tear myself away. Dread crept deep inside me, fearful he wouldn't be there when we returned.  I fought the powerful urge to hold him, as if in doing so I could keep him alive.

                Shortly after settling into the waiting room, a gray-haired doctor with tortoise- shell framed readers perched on his nose came into the waiting room. Each family looked up with anticipation. He glanced at his clipboard. "Mrs. Sagan?"

                "That's me." I stood.

                "Please. Sit. You've just arrived from . . . uh, yes, Texas. I'm Dr. Bailey, the neurosurgeon.

                My ears rang and mouth went dry. "How is he? His hands are so cold--"

                "Brad's in a coma. That's natural for a massive head injury. Our bodies protect themselves when massive or multiple injuries occur. The brain shuts down everything that it doesn't need to keep us alive, and then the body can heal."

                "How long?" 

                "It's hard to tell. With some patients, it can be a few days, others a week or two, and others . . . well, we'll cross that bridge if we have to. We don't believe at this time you need to concern yourself with that."

                Tears spilled down my cheeks. He reached for my hand and I saw compassion in his eyes.

                "Let me give you a quick review of his injuries. It sounds bad, and it is. But it's amazing that he didn't suffer worse injuries. Thankfully, your son is smart enough to wear a helmet and pads." The doctor cleared his throat. "The MRI revealed two contusions on the left frontal lobe of the brain, seven or eight on the right frontal lobe. He has deep abrasions and lacerations on his face and neck."

                I felt like the list went on and on. I couldn't keep track.

                ". . . over 200 stitches, but most of them the plastic surgeon put inside his mouth. In addition to the visible swelling, tests indicate internal swelling of the brain."

                I fought to keep up with what he was saying.

                "We have a monitor and a cranial drain . . .  he may have suffered hair-line fractures in his neck . . .  eight thoracic vertebrae fractured, T-9 being the worst."

                I dropped my head into my hands, overcome.

                "We'll know more about what he's able to do when he wakes up. If there is any good news in this, his fractures don't appear to have any effect on his motor skills, but again we won't know until later. With massive head injuries, there are unknowns that must be faced as he progresses in the healing process. Any questions?"

                "What about the respirator? Can he breathe on his own?"

                "I can tell you that he was breathing on his own when he arrived on the medivac yesterday." He rose and patted my shoulder as he left. "I'll keep you informed."

                How could I ever be strong enough to get through this and assist my son in a long-term recovery? I prayed silently, thankful that he had survived the accident, even though we were unsure about the future.

                After a few endless days, Brad did wake up. During that time, the patients' family members became a loosely knit support group. Twelve families shared the excruciating uncertainty of a relative or friend with massive head injuries. Families encouraged one another and shared their faith. We gained strength from comforting each other. 

                In the middle of the seven weeks that I remained in Colorado with my son, I suffered a complete melt down . . . an emotional and physical wreck, my speech turned to garbled, misplaced words, an uncontrollable migraine pounded in my head, and my eyes stopped focusing. One of the nuns took me under her wing and set up a massage and time for me to recharge. It brought me to a glaring conclusion. I can't fix it this time. I can't heal his injuries. It forced me to completely surrender my attempt to control the situation and lean on my faith and those around me.

                Over the course of his stay in the hospital, Brad progressed through developmental stages beginning at about age two, and by the time I went home he acted like a fourteen-year-old. He was then a six-foot-four, twenty-two-year-old child. For me, the experience was touching, frightening, and a second chance at mending old wounds in our relationship. 

                Brad is the middle child, and while I was in Colorado he had me all to himself for the first time in his life. We faced painful baggage from my abusive first marriage. He dealt with feelings about his injuries, his sisters, his grandparents, his father, and my re-marriage after ten years of being a single mother. I wept through several months of his silence, waiting for him to process the emotional side of his injuries and his past. When he had healed enough, we received a phone call from him and began to forge a new and better relationship. 

                Brad's injuries have healed now, and while he still suffers from pain in his neck and back, our relationship is stronger and closer. A frightening thing, this brush with death-but what a gift it turned out to be for us.  

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