I am a lucky woman. But I wasn’t that lucky 34 years ago. Here’s the story past and present and the reason I’m sharing it with you.
This past Saturday morning, after coming in from my morning hike around town, the phone rang, a nurse from Morristown Memorial Hospital telling me that my husband was brought in by ambulance. He was in a bicycle accident. My breath stopped and my body froze, as I didn’t know what was to follow. In a gentle and calming voice, she explained that he was “stable” and asked how soon I could be there.
I woke up my son so we would be together and off we went. When we arrived, we were led to a waiting room, where we sat for about a ½ hour before we could see him. Pictures of a past experience flashed through my mind and my heart was pounding, not knowing what was happening. All I wanted to know was is he conscious? Is he awake? What is his condition?
They were doing all kinds of tests, full body scans, x-rays and who knows what else. It felt like an eternity we were waiting but it was not. I was speechless and numb and talking myself down—saying this is not happening, Risa, chill, breathe and wait.
This was not the first time I got a call like this one….
August 4, 1977: My sister called to tell me our father was in an accident in Connecticut and we needed to get there quickly, about a two-hour drive. It was a moped (not a motorcycle) crash on a dirt road. He was thrown from the moped going at a speed slower than many cyclists ride. It was a freak thing, no known reason, just an accident. We arrived at the hospital; my father was not conscious.
I live with the memory of my father’s face covered in dried blood, his head swollen, and his body not moving. He was breathing, but that was about it -- he was in a vegetative state. If you think this is over the top and dramatic, it is not. This is a mild description of what my family lived through that one day.
Diagnosis: basal skull fracture.
Prognosis: wait and watch for signs.
What could they do for him? Nothing.
I could not understand that, why nothing?
Back to Saturday at Morristown Memorial: So, at this moment sitting in the waiting room of Morristown Memorial Hospital, all I wanted was to see my husband, hug him and know he was OK.
Back in 1977, I wasn’t so lucky. Looking at my father, I focused on what his life would be, how it would affect my mother, my sister and me.
He died the next day, August 5, 1977. He was 50, my mother was 49, and I was 22. What would life have been like had he lived?
When my husband’s tests were done, we got our hug and knew he was OK. He was in a lot of pain in the ER, but there were no tears – until he apologized for what he knew my son and I went through while waiting to see him.
What was the difference between the two accidents?
My father didn’t have one on and my husband did.
Not only did he wear a helmet, but it was properly fitted, buckled snuggly under the chin and covering the forehead where the impact happened (pictured above). He broke his right collarbone and two ribs and dislocated his left thumb, and has some nasty cuts and bruises. But his head is intact and he is alive.
I still have my husband, and my sons, 23 and 25, still have their father.
I’m a thankful and lucky woman.