TBI. The three initials you don't want to hear.
So, somewhere along the line I have become challenged by technology. I hate to admit it, but I'm forever looking up the shorthand sent by my nieces and nephews via text. Imagine my surprise when SMH turned out to be shaking my head! I thought it was Sarasota Memorial Hospital.
All kidding aside, the message no one wants to hear is Traumatic Brain Injury -- or, as I now know, TBI.
Last January, my husband, Norm, went on his annual ski trip, an event I've come to appreciate from the comfort of my warm, soft couch. I've told him, spring skiing is OK, but the Colorado blizzards in January just don't do it for me. And after 20-plus years of being a committed couple (of which 15 we've been married), a little break for a week is good for the soul. What's that they say about absence making the heart grow fonder?
So, after a fun-filled night out with women friends, I took Friday, the last day of his vacation, off from work. My husband was due home on Saturday and I had lots of little projects to make the homecoming all the sweeter.
While curled up on the sofa with a really good book, my cell phone rang with a number unbeknownst to me from Aspen, Colo. Faster than it takes me to write it, I flashed on ...
Norm is in Colorado ... but he's not in Aspen ... that's not his number... uh-oh, this can't be good!
A doctor identified himself, said he was calling from the Aspen Valley Medical Center and said, "Norm has been in an accident." What he said after that was unintelligible due to the bells and whistles going off in my head. What I remember is, ICU ... being airlifted to a trauma center in Denver ... once he's stabilized ... we cannot handle his injuries ... TBI ... we will keep you posted ... and poof, the doctor was gone.
What??? Stabilized -- is he dying, is he going to be OK? What do I do, how do I get there, where is there, what about his stuff, OMG! I'm going to kill him....
I was scared, really panic-stricken and started crying. I was also angry, my "go to" response when truly scared, and felt completely crazy.
For the next six hours all I could do is sit and wait ... and
wait ... and wait. And fret and walk in circles and clean the house (which, by the way, had just been cleaned by my very capable housekeeper). I learned when things get tough, the tough start cleaning, or maybe it's akin to taking control of something one can take control of. For a person used to solving problems like me, feeling productive was necessary. I just couldn't sit and do nothing.
He was airlifted, he was stabilized, but he was a mess! He had five broken ribs, spleen damage, a concussion, collapsed lung, and so many bruises he looked like he'd gone a few rounds with a prizefighter.
I won't kid you, it was tough for a while, including three weeks in the hospital (one in ICU) and another two weeks in a Denver rehab center and one very, very long ride back to Florida in a car. Did you know flying is out for several weeks after a collapsed lung? Apparently, lungs can collapse again from the pressure of taking off and landing in an aircraft. Who knew?
For all my husband's quiet personality and description as a "man of few words," I've come to realize he has enormous strength (he likes to say he just can't get a word in edgewise). He is also in really good shape, for which I am most appreciative as, according to the doctors, being athletic, well, that is what saved him.
So what's my point in telling you all of this? As Don Henley from the Eagles so eloquently said, "In a N.Y. minute, everything can change."
I, like you, have heard all the clichés about appreciating every day, telling those you love how you feel, etc. But until it happens to you, those things are just greeting-card messages that don't really have an impact on us. Our lives could have looked very different -- we are very lucky. I get it -- I mean I really get it.
Thanks to the outpouring of support from his ski buddies, family members and friends, both Norm and I survived the storm. My women friends never faltered in their support of me. The thoughtfulness of others was incredible, and while that last ski run on the last ski day changed things for a while, the strength of our resolve helped us return to a new, improved normal.
In a N.Y. minute, everything did change. My husband could easily have had permanent brain damage or not healed, but he healed well.
And when he said he was going skiing this year, I looked at him and laughed and said, "Just remember if anything happens ... . Oh, never mind, just have a good time and wear your helmet!"