Monday, June 19, 2006

In A Heartbeat

This is my Step-Mom. Hazel Esther Raymond. It's a pretty good picture, isn't it? My nephew and amateur photographer, Chad, snapped it recently. Just by looking at the photo, you'd never believe that she'll be 87 years old this November, would you? She's a petite woman, coming in at just under five feet and just over 100 pounds.

I wish I could show you the picture I took two days ago in the hospital. It paints a gruesome portrait of a woman suffering dearly from an automobile accident that may end up claiming her life.

My dad and mom were driving west on a Michigan highway in an Olds Silhouette minivan, with the cruise control set to 55 m.p.h., when a car driven by a 17-year old (carrying three other teenagers) attempted to cross the highway directly in their path. My dad barely had time to tap the brakes when they hit. The passenger side of the other vehicle was driven nearly to the center of the car and into the ditch. Inside the van, the impact was so sudden and hard that the seatbelt broke my mother's sternum as the airbag deployed and smacked her in the face (saving her life in the process). Both her hands smashed against the dashboard and when the van spun a complete 180 degrees, Mom was thrown against the arm rest, breaking a rib.

During the same time, my father was thrown into his airbag, bruising his nose, and his head was thrown back so violently he fractured the C-2 vertebrae in his neck, as well as bruising both legs against the steering column and dash. Being a larger man, the seat belt merely bruised his torso rather than breaking anything. Again, despite any damage caused by the airbags, they are both alive to tell you this story because of them.

Well, Dad could tell you. Mom is still lying in the neurological ICU as I write this, an oxygen tube in her nose and a fluid tube down her throat. Her arms are black and blue from the elbow all the way down into the palms. She cannot talk. She suffered a mild heart attack late Sunday night, but because she was in the Intensive Care Unit, they were able to administer aid quickly and now she's in stable condition. Pneumonia and/or congestive heart failure remain very real possibilities. Her life hangs in the balance.

We may never know or understand why the other driver felt it was safe to cross that intersection. Was the sun in his eyes? Did someone or something distract him? Did he think he had time to cross? Was he more concerned about impressing the three girls in his car than he was about driving safely? All we know is that of the four people in the car, the front passenger broke her leg severely but everyone else walked away with bumps, bruises, and lacerations ... despite the fact they were trapped so badly in the mangled automobile that paramedics had to cut the roof off the car to get everyone out.

In a heartbeat, my parents lives have changed. Perhaps irrevocably. The only "blessing" that can currently be found in this situation is the outpouring of love from all those who have been touched by my mother and father's ministry in life and are lining up to offer their help, support, and encouragement. It has also brought my stepsisters and I closer together. And I got to spend most of last week with my Dad, helping him adjust to life in a cervical collar. We haven't spent that kind of quality time together in, literally, decades. It's an honest shame it takes such a tragic event to trigger these "blessings."

In the end, only God knows and time will tell what roads this story will take.

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