Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Night Watch and Another Day's Vigil

Breathing sighs of relief, we brushed our teeth and I dragged myself to bed, laying Elliot down next to me in the bed that was too big; Brian's empty pillow glaring at me and making me once again accept our new reality. Normally we've been making Elliot sleep in his crib, our bed had been feeling cramped with him thrashing around between us, but I needed someone- especially him close. I hugged him close, hearing his sweet breath and in my mind I could hear the steady woosh woosh of the ventilator as it breathed for the other man I loved.
I was exhausted beyond belief, and still a little shocked. I should have slept for hours, but I couldn't. After updating facebook:

Last CT was stable, Praise the Lord!

It was after midnight that I read some scripture and finally drifted off to sleep fitfully.

It wasn't nightmares, exactly, nor worry, just an uneasy awareness that something was wrong, that my life really had been flipped upside down, that my bed really was empty.

I woke up around 3, head pounding, hungry, thirsty, bile in my throat. I went downstairs to make some toast, chew some tums and take an advil or two. Julie sleeping on the couch heard me rustling and she woke to see if I was okay. I reassured her I was fine, just awake.

I called Annie, Brian's nurse to hear for myself that the ventilator still wooshed and my husband still breathed. She assured me he was fine and urged me to rest. I thanked her and went upstairs to resume my tossing and turning.

My phone buzzed almost nonstop that night. It was wonderful and frustrating to hear the vibrations. Smart phones are marvelous inventions, but the instant updates were too intrusive. Though I was awake, I would check. At 3 it was our Scandinavian friends, “We're praying for you!” At six I could hear our friends and family on the east coast waking up and checking in. A true around the clock prayer vigil.

I finally dragged myself out of bed around 8, happy it was daylight and I could stop pretending to sleep . I fed Elliot and got him dressed and ready to go to church with Julie. I dressed myself with some care, thinking, If Brian wakes up today, I want to look nice. He didn't. But it made me feel better I didn't look as haggard and weary as I felt, though I didn't wear any makeup, not wanting to look like Frankenstein's bride with mascara down my cheeks. I felt fragile and the tears were already at the surface.

Dad and Mom Wilson came and fetched me and we went straight to the hospital instead of for breakfast like planned. The thought of bacon and eggs made me feel like throwing up, so we got a smoothie on the way. I really wanted to be there early to set up church for Brian, but the hospital's internet provider blocks youtube which our church had just switched to.

We said hello, and I squeezed his hand, telling him how happy I was to see him that day. The three of us alternated turns with him and then I lay down to rest in the private waiting room while they took a turn and Phil read some scripture to Brian. I lay there sleeping in fits and this time it was Gwen's phone that kept ringing: I should have told her to take it.

I heard quiet voices talking and it was my friends Patricia and Carissa who had brought lunch from church. It was so wonderful to see friendly faces and I muscled something down, since they had brought it. We had been texting the day before and I had told Patricia, a little tongue in cheek, that I was mad about not being able to lay out in the sunshine. She asked if I wanted her to bottle it and I said YES. She brought a yellow smiley face balloon tied to a water bottle of.... sunshine! It was so cute and cheery and made me smile. I'm assuming the sunshine was lemonade.

Friends and family filtered in all day and I soon had a smoothie, two coffee drinks, a passion tea lemonade and a blended coffee drink lined up on the window sill. Once I realized I was barely a third through my first one and that was making my stomach turn I started passing them out. Elliot was in his glory, drinking smoothies and lemonades, eating all manner of treats.
It was so good to hold his little body close, and he would climb down and creep along the chairs to the next person or treat or fascinating thing. One of the biggest blessings through everything was how well Elliot coped. Better than me, I think! From the very first day till now he would so easily go to the next person and the next place, a little tired but okay. I'm sure it was a combination of his natural good nature, people's prayers and another of God's graces.

The ICU nurses really recommended limiting visitors and midway through the day we kind of stopped going back. For one thing, Brian was really boring. I say that as a joke, but it's true. He just lay there, and after awhile I would run out of things to tell him without his participation. And for another thing, he really just needed to rest.

It was so good to have so much company at the hospital. Honestly, if you came and I didn't get to see you or say so, I appreciate to the bottom of my toes. It helped pass the time, distract me and it was so good to visit and feel a little normal. To this day, if you haven't searched us out, we haven't seen you, so the little socialization I've had have been the people who have made effort. Before the accident I wouldn't have or didn't go visit people at the hospital, thinking they need some time and space, but I think I will stop in on people, even if it's not my immediate family.

The waiting room was mounded with food, snacks and goodies and it was so thoughtful of people to bring it. I've been continually amazed at how thoughtful and creative people are with their giving. WE have been blessed by you.

Towards the afternoon, I felt myself getting more and more tired, and my reserves running very thin. I tried to lay down and rest but the bile I felt the night before came back and I didn't have any tums. The outer waiting room exploded with people as the last service of church was finished. I kind of hid out and let Phil and Gwen play host and thank people for coming.

My friend Carmelle came and talked to me, asking me to be honest and tell her to butt out if she was being too involved. It was too much, the thought of doing so when she had been nothing but help, and thinking of navigating the medical side without her help too scary. I cried and she felt terrible since that had been the first time I had broken down. I buried my face in her shirt and blubbered while frantically trying to get it together because if I didn't stop, maybe I wouldn't or couldn't.

Sweet Becca, a friend who works in the other building of the hospital had procured some tums for me and I chewed a handful while trying to mop my face up.
People cleared out of the waiting room and I went back to see Brian again. He was the same, just resting. I peered into his face, hoping to see some glimmer of himself there, willing him to open his eyes, to talk to me and maybe smile. I picked up his normally thin hand, it was puffy and swollen from IV fluids- I counted 6 IV pumps of different things going in- and I thought to myself how even his hands were different. I was glad we had taken his wedding band off in the ED at Carmelle's thoughtful suggestion and I turned it around and around my thumb. The hospital ID band even seemed tight, but when I mentioned it to the nurse she thought it looked fine.She also mentioned maybe tomorrow they would turn the sedation down and work on helping Brian to wake up. woohoo!

Realizing there was little I could do there, I leaned up on tiptoe, straining to reach around the puffy air mattress and bed rail to kiss the one inch square of uninjured, uncovered skin on his face, right next to his nose.

Goodnight, dear, I'll see you first thing in the morning. I love you so much.

And I left my husband in the hands of another strange woman for the second night.

Lana decided to stay down for the week and not return to the Tricities with Marcus, so she agreed to stay with me for the night until my mom could possibly come. Elliot went home to sleep with Grandma and Grandpa, and Lana needed to get her clothes. I asked our sweet friend Becca if she could drop me off home on her way from work so Lana could go get her things. She agreed, but needed to go get her lunch bag and stuff from her floor, so I sat on a bench out front.

As I waited for her, I thought about how I missed talking to Brian. I missed his easy gentle voice and how he always knows the right thing to say, how he would know what all the technical terms mean, have opinions on medications he was getting and when our mortgage was due, what our best options in general were, and encourage me from the very soul. And he was silent that day. The worry, the emotion, the aching in my heart spilled out.

I became that person.

The stranger that no one makes eye contact with because they're crying their heart out on a bench in public place, all the most important affects in a backpack beside them.

Please, God, make this better. Please, God, fix our life. Please God, Please God, Please God.


  1. Wow thank you for sharing your story! I will never be able to look at "that person" the same again.

  2. One day around your table, you, Brian, Elliot will discuss these words you have written.... May you find peace as you feel God's loving arms surrounding you and your family...