I was finishing up my essays on my final exam. It was physiological psychology. I wasn’t a fan first time around, but considering I got a C+, which is failing in graduate school, I had to dig deep second go-round.
My cell phone kept ringing in my purse beside me. I thought it was one of my kids.
The phone vibrated over and over and over again.
I got annoyed. They all knew I was taking a final.
It was getting hard to concentrate. I rushed through the ending of my last essay.
I handed my exam to my professor and walked out the door.
There were two fellow students standing outside the classroom who had finished up prior to me. I stopped and chatted with them. We discussed answers we were uncertain about. Were we right? Were we wrong? Did we give the right information? Would we pass?
As we were chatting, a woman came up to the door looking at the room number. She held a pink slip of paper in her hand. She looked frantic.
“You can’t go in there. They are taking a final”
“I know, but I have to. I need to get a hold of a student. It’s an emergency”
“Who’s the student?”
“You need to call your husband right away. …there’s been an accident!”
I never even said thank you.
I turned around and ran down the hall. I pulled out my cell phone while I was running.
“Listen to me. You need to get to the hospital. It’s your dad. He had a bad accident. It’s very serious”
I ran to my car.
I drove around the parking lot and parked at the building of the graduate department. I ran and banged on the door. It was locked. No one answered.
I ran back to my car. I made phone calls, but I don’t remember all that I called.
I turned off my car and sat there. It hit me. Shock. Disbelief. Numb. I went into autopilot.
I couldn’t think. I couldn’t process this.
Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me! My dad does not fall off ladders. This can’t be real. My dad is stoic. My dad is strong. My dad is self-sufficient. My dad does not fall off ladders.
He was only on the 2nd or 3rd step they told me later. He landed head first on a tile floor that he installed the week before or so. He never yelled out. He never put his hands up.
None of this made sense.
I continued to sit in my car, frozen and numb. Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me.
I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t think.
Finally, I put my head down on the steering wheel. I lost it.
I’m not sure how long I lost it for. I know it wasn’t long. I knew I didn’t have long. I had to pull it together. I had to drive to the hospital.
Oh my God – the hospital. I need to talk to the hospital.
I called my husband back.
“I need to talk to his nurse or doctor right away”
He was sent to a rural community hospital that was not equipped for traumatic brain injury. I needed to speak to them immediately.
He got someone on the phone.
“Why haven’t you mercy flighted him yet?”
“We can’t. The weather is too bad.”
“You’re sending him to Rochester right?”
“No, we can’t because we received reports of icy road conditions. We have to send him the other direction.”
“That is 10 minutes longer! How are you going to keep him alive on the way there??”
“We are sending a respiratory therapist in the ambulance with him. We will do everything we can Christine.”
I never even said goodbye. I never even thanked her.
I hung up the phone scared and pissed off.
I started the car and pulled out of the parking lot. It was time. I had to go.
I drove slowly to the hospital. I knew he hadn’t left yet. This also pissed me off. What was taking them so long?
I waited in the ER waiting room forever. At least, it felt like forever. I watched every ambulance that arrived. Finally, I saw him.
He was wheeled in on a gurney. A woman was running alongside him, pumping oxygen with a hand-held device.
I ran to the emergency room staff.
“My dad is here. I need to see him”
“You have to wait. He needs to be assessed.”
I waited about a half an hour. It felt like 7 hours.
My husband and little sister arrived.
I ran to her. We lost it together.
This was too much. It was too much for him. It was too much for her. It was too much for me.
It was too much for all of us.
They called us back to a center nursing station. The neurosurgeon brought up his CT scans. The blood was everywhere, pooling in his brain. There were hematomas. There were fractures. There was a significant midline shift.
He turned around and looked at me.
“If your father is the type of person that is only going to be happy living a perfect life, now is the time to say goodbye to him…. Otherwise, I need to operate and I need to do it now or he will die….”
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