This week I have been surprised by the difficulty of writing about our continued journey. Jared reminded me that I could take as long as I needed and that the words would come in time. “There is no rush,” he said.
Well, after a couple nights of terrible sleep and nightmares, he changed his stance. “Remember that whole thing I said about you not needing to write? Maybe I was wrong.” Then with a touch of humor added, “You might need to get it all out really fast so we can sleep!” So here we are!
Once we arrived at the hospital, we were reunited with Jared who had been following us. I learned later that while he was driving behind the ambulance he received a call from our family practice doctor. He wondered, “How did they find out about Ruthie so quickly? This is incredible.”
Well, they weren’t calling about Ruthie. They were calling about Dallin who had an MRI the previous Saturday. Two weeks earlier, he had tried to Heeley down the stairs at home, and it didn’t end well. The x-rays didn’t show anything, but the MRI showed a fracture of the scapula. They wanted us to get him to an appointment the next morning at 9. What!?
All Jared could do was laugh at this point, explain that he was following Ruthie in an ambulance, and that we left Dallin in Mexico. Fortunately, his injury could wait and we didn’t have to figure out how to get Dallin home sooner in the midst of all this! Seriously!
Just for the record, his scapula is healing fine and did not require any further care other than a break from contact sports….whew!
Arriving at the hospital was actually a little confusing. Because Ruthie was so calm, no one understood the extent of her injuries. The resident doctor came in with the intent to unwrap all the bandages. I stopped her and asked that she have a plan, more support, and some serious pain medication for Ruthie before she proceeded. She quickly dismissed my request and said, “I’m just gonna take a quick look.”
As the doctor started to peel back the tape, we were interrupted by two of our religious leaders who walked into the room. We requested a few moments with them to pray, and the doctor left. I don’t remember anything said in that prayer, but as they left, I felt reassured and bewildered at the same time. Was this really happening?
Soon after, my mom and two sisters arrived to support us. Finally, the doctor returned and brought the attending physician, a nurse with pain medication, and two ER techs. Everything I had previously asked for– another prayer had been answered.
They began to unwrap Ruthie. Jared saw all her wounds for the first time. When he arrived at the scene, they were mostly covered with beach towels so this was an overwhelming realization for him.
At home on an average day, my natural tendency is to worry more about our kids’ injuries and sicknesses more than Jared does. I get scared that I will miss an important detail, wait too long to take them to the doctor, and as a result my children will suffer. I don’t like not knowing! I’m very conscious of this fear and Jared helps keep me in check.
This dynamic, the fact that Jared had not seen everything, and Ruthie’s sense of calm, had created some fogginess for us as we drove out of Mexico. Everything was so unreal. Jared would ask me what I thought needed to happen, but I was having a hard time trusting myself. I was uncertain. I wanted her at the hospital hours ago. I wanted a helicopter or an ambulance, but when I looked at her she was so calm. It was just foggy. I was afraid of making the wrong decision.
When Jared saw everything unwrapped he hugged me and repeated, “I had no idea. I am so sorry. I just had no idea.” That moment in the midst of such chaos was so reassuring. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t making this up, and I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. We had the support we needed and the care Ruthie needed. I could breathe again.
These early moments in the hospital were grueling. The doctors had not expected to find such extensive injuries and were surprised. Everyone became immersed in caring for Ruthie in one way or another. So much pain. My sister and Mom created a sheet barrier so Ruthie didn’t have to see her cuts again. My other sister is a nurse and became another set of helpful hands for the hospital staff. Jared and I tried to offer comfort and reassurance. There was nothing else we could do.
Ruthie only ever asked for one thing– water. Such a simple request that we could not fulfill. Here in the midst of her most difficult moments on earth, we could not give her the only thing she asked for. That is a terrible feeling; a helpless and terrible feeling.
Sadly, we would get to repeat this process again when the surgeon arrived. It was so hard and so painful. Finally, the decision was made to begin surgery at 8 a.m. with a fresh trauma team and easily accessible specialists.
We spent the next span of time taking x-rays and covering the logistical bases for the next morning. We moved to a room and Ruthie was finally ready for surgery around 4:30 a.m. We’d been up for over 24 hours. All was quiet. We were finally alone in the hospital room with Ruthie as reality and questions began to settle in. These were tender moments. We saw a depth and strength in her spirit that we have never experienced. Completely inspiring. She finally fell asleep for the first time and we tried to rest.
Every time I closed my eyes I heard the “POP” of the glass. I couldn’t settle in. Finally, after an hour of sleep I gave up and looked out the window at the stillness of the night. A rooftop below our room had Christmas lights that spelled out the word HOPE. I wanted sleep, but felt grateful for the reminder and for the quiet.
Surgery began just before 8. They anticipated 2-3 hours, but not long after the surgeons began, we received a call. Her injuries were worse than they anticipated. Multiple tendons were severed. They had called in other specialists, and the duration would be longer. This wasn’t good news but aligned with what the doctors in Rocky Point had seen so we were relieved that we were all on the same page.
My parents had come to sit with us during the surgery. Just their presence was comforting. We needed them. I was so tired. It surprised me how little energy was left in my body. I tried to sleep but could only lie there wondering and waiting. We received another call. The general surgeon was done, and the specialist was working. It would be a while. The hours that followed were a long blur. We were able to reach Michael and let him know what had happened. Their group gathered. More prayers were offered on our behalf.
Every once in a while throughout the day, I would feel a sense of peace and calm touch my spirit. It didn’t last long, but it came. I felt as though I was feeling the prayers that were being sent to heaven on our behalf. I knew we were not alone. We waited. Finally, 6 hours after entering surgery, we received word that they were done.
Unspoken questions flooded my mind. Would she walk again? Would she be able to enjoy the things she loved? Did she have all the beautiful pieces of her?
Finally, the surgeon came in to meet with us. The surgery had gone well. He listed the extent of the damage and explained in plain terms what that meant. The tendons across the tops of both feet, her Achilles tendon, and the tendons across the top of her left hand had all been cut. He was able to repair everything. He felt confident in his repair. He went through the risks and anticipated road to recovery.
6 weeks of non-weight bearing on her left arm and both feet. Therapy would follow. None of her injuries were debilitating; just what we were hoping to hear. With a lot of patience and some time, she should be able to fully participate in the activities she loves. Because she is so young, her injuries will heal and she will be strong again.
We finally got to see her again. All bandaged up and put back together. We were now on the path to healing.