It's Life Day.
It's the day where Jimmy nearly died. He lived through a catastrophic car crash. He never saw it coming when he got in his car to go to a work assignment on that Monday in August 2011. We carried on that early afternoon getting ready for work together as we did everyday. He left to go to work, and then a short time later, so did I. For him, it was a spare tire that flew and would change his life. What it looked like for me? A normal drive to work, and then? Brake lights. The traffic that was caused by my husband's wreck. A text asking me if he was okay. And then the calls. Updates from the news desk where we both worked. He was being life-flighted to the local trauma unit. That's where I was told to go. After sitting in my car still while they collected his broken body and smashed car, I eventually passed over the very place where my husband was changed forever. I didn't know the scope of it yet, didn't know what we'd be up against. Never could have imagined paralysis. I don't even think I thought death was in it for us. I just... didn't know. Perhaps I thought broken legs, other broken bones.
I arrived at the hospital to see my boss standing there waiting for me; he told me where Jimmy was and I could go right in and see him. Jimmy was awake and saw me. He smiled and gave me a "hey, honey." His head was hanging open. I looked at it too much and broke out in a warm sweat. Had to go to the bathroom, get some air and take a breath or two. Not too long, had to get back.
The waiting began as they assessed the damage. They would put a Halo device on him to straighten out his spine so they could see what they were dealing with. At that time, I got my first private briefing.
We don't know anything for sure yet, we're running tests. There could be some spinal cord damage.
Is it permanent?
The look on her face might have given me some indication.
We can't say for sure, yet.
Over the course of the next few -- longest days of my life -- I would learn he cannot feel past his chest. He now has a room in the Neuro-ICU where I would spend my days and nights. I would go home and try to sleep and shower since I only lived a quick jaunt away. The doctors would give me very doctory updates. Formal and technical words that I tried to make heads and tails of, eventually taking notes every time someone would pull me aside. Friends and family were asking me, calling me and messaging me for updates. I would read what was on the paper, not always fully sure what it all meant.
I remember one of Jimmy's friend point blank asking me, "what's the prognosis?" I felt so much pressure by being asked that. I don't know yet. And, maybe I should know. I should be that hospital spouse who responsibly disseminates information to all that wants to know.
It was all so confusing and hard.
What do you need? What do you need? I was being asked and being cared for like I was the one who was injured. I was given so much food I didn't even know what to do with it all, so I began offering it all to the different rounds of people who would come sit with me in the hospital waiting room.
The evening of the accident, I was pulled and briefed yet again. I came out to the group of people who were there at time, I was trying to eat the McDonalds someone gave me.
They officially told me that night he couldn't feel from his chest down. He couldn't move anything. But earlier that day he was moving his arms. It didn't make sense. As I was giving my friends an update, I broke down. Finally. Head between my legs, and loud sobbing. Might have held off until then. Maybe it was all starting to sink in. He wasn't coming out on the other side of this the same. A friend comforted me by saying do not feel bad for crying; if it were my husband I'd be on the floor.
The next morning began a long day of several surgeries. My poor husband. He's broken. He doesn't know it. He doesn't know what's happening. I love him so much.
We were married just two months earlier. We were still in the honeymoon glow. Just settled into our new apartment we had worked so hard at getting. Before that, we slummed it a bit in a cheaper place, where both my license plate and hubcap were stolen.
Our new place made us so happy. It was an adult apartment that marked the beginning of our marriage. We unpacked the wedding gifts into this place. When Jimmy left for work that day, he'd never see our cute little apartment again.
Never could have imagined that five years later we'd be living in adorable condo in Atlanta, have a 1-year old and be doing okay with everything that has happened.
So yes, if you're wanting to know how we are five years later? We're doing alright.
We get called on once in awhile by the fine Peer Support organizers at The Shepherd Center to come and talk to some folks who maybe having a rough time adjusting and needs to see some who have been through it and is now "getting on with your business."
That's what we do. We have to get on with our business. Jimmy got to live so we owe it to ourselves to get up and give each day a fighting chance.
We have a daughter now. If the injury feels like it's suffocating us, we still have to raise her. If Jimmy is having a sucky sucky injury day, he still has to be a Dad and keep an eye on her playing if I'm cooking or doing laundry. If I'm sick, I still have to get up and be a Mom. There's no other option.
Getting on with our business.
Okay, so we can't go swim in the Caribbean together. We can't procreate the old-fashioned way. We can't leave Jimmy alone to watch Spence while I go get groceries. There's a CRAP TON of can'ts.
But. We have broken down some of our the most amazing barriers and goals. We've managed to get through some extremely scary moments of sickness. Pressure wounds. Surgery on top of surgery. Bouts in the ER. Near-death infections. New ailments. Broken wheelchairs. Daily sadness associated with the the injury. There's a lot of silent suffering and personal grieving that hits us on the regular. If I'm not sad, I'm sure Jimmy is. There will always be a layer of sadness in this life. I'm sure it's natural. I'm not saying that because I want you to feel sorry for me. You probably won't even notice it. It can come at a moment's notice. Something I see out and about might make me cry, you won't know why. But then I'll enjoy a latte made just perfectly and all will be okay with the world. Jimmy will wake up sad because he dreamed of being able to wake up on his own, shower and go put gas in the car. By himself. He wakes up to reality. But, by the time he's done with his routine he'll roll out into the living room to be greeted by his cackling daughter and will make him forget, if only for the rest of the morning, that he was overcome with sadness just an hour ago.
This is real life.
But, in our new life, the little things become the big things -- and that's okay. We find nuggets of happiness all the time.
For the people who understand if we can't get to the phone, return a call, cancel something that was planned, don't hear from us in awhile - thank you for being understanding and knowing we're doing the best we can.
And for those who check in an make effort to stay a part of Jimmy's life, I thank you. He needs you and you've been there. Jimmy likes to slowly slip into hermit mode sometimes, forgetting that he's absolutely still a social person, when the injury allows. Even when it doesn't, he's had some wonderful friends who have been just fine sitting next to his bed -- and talking.
So yes, we're getting on with it. I'm loving my business as a fashion consultant for Lularoe. It kicks my ass most of the time, but it's surprisingly rewarding. Spencer will be starting a Children's Morning Out program this week where she'll go for several days a week. And Jimmy is pushing himself to become more independent, finding ways to do things without having to rely on me to drive him places. He's in a good place physically, with no major issues to speak of. He comes off the ventilator almost daily, after a year of not being strong enough to even entertain that thought. You should be proud of ole boy. He's doing it.
We're doing life.
I'm looking forward to our day of mall, Costco, Pinkberry, naptime/me time, and babysitter so Mom and Dad can enjoy an adult beverage and cheers to the freaking fact that we've survived FIVE YEARS of this. We're still married and EVERYTHING.
Thank you guys for five years of support!