I know I must’ve looked like a deer in the headlights. The nurse was telling me something about insurance. As a healthy 23 year old I had never been in a hospital, never filed a claim, never understood anything about the process. (I have an aversion to anything where math is involved.) I just nodded as if I knew what she was talking about. As it turns out, we had fabulous auto insurance which covered a higher than average chunk of the cost. I have no idea how that happened…angels perhaps. It made up for the fact that I had quit my job with benefits and that the church insurance wasn’t so good. At that moment, however, none of that mattered to me. I simply nodded and moved back into the waiting room to try to call Bill’s parents one more time. I got Louise. I had great difficulty getting through the conversation and finally resorted to the known facts so that my tears would not start up.
I had begun to segment myself already.
She assured me they would be on the way as quickly as they could. By the time they arrived we were gathering our belongings to move to the ICU waiting room. It was my first experience with the hours it takes to get moved in a hospital. I took the wait time to grab some dinner, though I wasn’t the least bit hungry and I just pushed the food around on the plate.
The ICU waiting room was small. There were maybe 7 or 8 upholstered chairs. They were kind of squared off, and had a textured tan fabric on them. Very 80s. The walls were a more neutral beige color. There were a couple of brass lamps, and those glaring overhead florescent lights. The two wooden tables had tissue boxes on them, which over the course of the next week, I would use often.
It was a sterile room. I am sure there were pictures on the walls, but for the life of me I cannot pull them from my memory. It was here, in this room, that I began to grasp how serious the injuries were. First of all, I could only go in to see him every other hour, and then for only 10 minutes. There was a maximum of two people allowed in at a time. They were adamant about keeping his visitors to a minimum and that included me.
Once he was in ICU, we waited for the next visiting opportunity. Louise and I went back and she got to see him for the first time. He was still agitated, and moving him had not helped that in any way. She did not flinch that I could see. She talked to him and he babbled on about rewinding the tape. Being a retired nurse she took in the surroundings. She checked his IV bag, and watched the heart monitor. Her forehead was wrinkled and her mouth was set in a frown. Those were my clues that worry was close to the surface. That and she sighed deeply. After our 10 minutes were up we returned to a small crowd in the waiting room. The word was getting out. We had made the prayer chain at church.
I wandered through telling the story over and over until I couldn’t anymore.
It reminded me of a funeral…where grief is so raw, yet you visit with friends and family as if all is normal…a numb but broken heart that is wandering through conversations trying to make sense of anything at all. I knew it was only the beginning. People turn out in droves when a young person gets hurt. They come as if to punctuate that this is not the normal order of events. On this night, everyone knew that there would be more people tomorrow, whether Bill lived or died, they would show their support by coming to sit with me either here or at the funeral home. With many promises of prayer they trickled away as the nighttime deepened. We were down to family, and the last visitation of the night. This time Ray and Louise and I went in, to a semi-sleeping Bill. Tossing and turning…trying to rid himself of the restraints. We knew this night was critical. We knew it could go either way. We gathered there, at his bedside in silence, each praying our own prayers of desperation. Praying for life.
I wanted to stay the night in the waiting room. I wanted to be there, just in case. However, the decision was made for me by the moms. I must’ve looked bad, because they did not give me the option. I was to go rest, which I didn’t think I could do. Louise loaded me up, and took me to her house. No one thought it was a good idea for me to go home alone…including me. She gave me a sleeping pill and tucked me in for the night. They were taking care of the caretaker. They knew what I did not yet fully realize; my life had just changed drastically and permanently… and it was going to be a long, difficult road.
Ray stayed behind at the hospital. He would not leave. He slept in one of those square chairs in the tiny waiting room, and promised to use the phone if anything happened during the night. Thankfully, he didn’t have to do that, and my aided sleep was deep. However, even though I slept, I woke up fatigued. I thought it was exhaustion after the emotional day. I had no idea what was coming.