Sometimes while in the throes of trauma we don’t have the ability to notice the silver linings in the clouds. I learned this in the aftermath of our accident; the realization that we had so many wonderful people who came out in support of our family. We received cards from friends and families, pictures from children we knew as well as children who heard our story and wanted to do something. Soon Middle Miss’s hospital room was decorated in vibrant colors and images. While in a coma the doctors recommended that we play soft music that Middle Miss enjoyed listening to as a way to reach her and hopefully stimulate her brain. A truly wonderful friend found a CD that included songs with her name in it. What a truly wonderful gift.
Former neighbors came by and dropped off bags full of snacks for both Mike and I because they knew from experience when a child is in the hospital parents do not want to leave to get something to eat in fear that something will happen when they are not “on watch”. Home cooked meals were delivered to our home for Big Miss and her Grandmother who was helping out and to the hospital for us so we didn’t forget to take care of ourselves. Friends and neighbors were offering to help take care of Big Miss so her routine could be as close to normal as possible. They understood that a 5 year old still needs a steady routine no matter what.
Our advocacy for Middle Miss began on day one in the hospital. Prior to this, I was not very assertive. I wasn’t a pushover but I didn’t always speak up when I should. Well, having your child in a coma will definitely bring all that out. Mike and I started advocating for her immediately. We questioned the doctors, demanded answers when our questions were ignored, fought her transfer to another unit until she was off the ventilator, demanded second opinions, and the list goes on and on. Through this I learned how to become an advocate and little did I know that I would become such a huge advocate for her and others suffering from brain injury. Prior to our accident we didn’t know anything about brain injury and became quick studies to ensure she received the help she needed and deserved.
During the 10 long days Middle Miss was in the hospital and prior to entering inpatient rehabilitation so many people approached and told me how strong I was. I thanked them but thought deep down that I had them fooled. I later realized how accurate they were. Friends and strangers saw something in me that I was unable to recognize. I don’t know if I would have ever known my strength had I never been through a crisis like this.
Along with learning to advocate, I became a public speaker which shocks me to this day. I never enjoyed speaking up in class and anytime we had a project that included a presentation I would rush through it just to get out of the spotlight. The first time I was asked to tell my story I jumped at the chance. I was nervous but confident in the information I had to pass on and each time I told the story it got easier and easier. There are times that I broke down, and it continues to happen today 14 years later, but I know my story is powerful and use it as a tool. I am educating my audience about brain injury, the long term effects for both the injured and her family, the special education system, and many other aspects of this ordeal.
Marriages can be very fragile or they can be as tough as nails. Luckily, we were able to see that our marriage was tough and became stronger because of this as we worked as a team to get Middle Miss the proper care and help. She made incredible progress once we entered the rehabilitation center and those around us thought it was due to the strong family unit we had. Eventhough we chose to go to one that was in another state and further from our home we made sure that one of us was with her at all times. We never left her side and continually pushed all the therapists and doctors to give her as much treatment as physically possible. My heart breaks for all the children who don’t have this support.
I don’t talk about my religious beliefs or spirituality very much but during this time I also learned about the power of prayer and forgiveness. A great number of people mentioned that we were in their prayers or their religious institution had put us in their prayer circle. For many years afterwards I would meet someone and once they heard our story they would confide that they prayed for us. How awesome is that?
A few years after our accident I was sitting in church listening to a sermon about when all of a sudden I felt this rush of forgiveness for the man who caused the accident. It was the most liberating feeling. I was still sad. I was still angry. But I no longer felt revenge and the forgiveness allowed me to move on and be the best mom, wife and woman I could be.
Of course, I wish this tragic event never happened but I can’t take it away. Instead I choose to move forward and help others navigate through their own stories.