It’s been seven weeks. Life was going along in the usual fashion until seven weeks ago. It was a sunny February day, with no inkling of the disaster that lay ahead. There was nothing special or unusual about the day. I did what I always do – go to work, pick up the granddaughter from school, fix supper for the family, run the little one to youth group in the evening, wind down to go to bed.
Then the call came. It was the call no parent in a million years wants to get. Our son Ben had been in a serious car accident at 3:00 in the afternoon, and without any emergency information in his wallet, it had taken over six hours for anyone to find his relatives. While we were unaware, our son was hit by a 24′ box truck in the driver’s door. His left side was ripped open, collapsing a lung, breaking all ribs on that side, and rupturing his diaphragm and spleen. The liver and kidneys were damaged. His jaw and cheekbones were broken. His left femur, the strongest bone in the body, was broken. There was bleeding in the brain. The artery in the side of his neck was slashed, causing massive blood loss. The ambulance barely got to the hospital before Ben lost consciousness. The trauma team poured 37 units of blood into him when he first arrived at the hospital. Ben went into cardiac arrest and actually died before being revived. From there he was rushed into surgery, where the shattered spleen was removed and the neck artery repaired. That was followed by a plastic surgeon who spent three hours putting his face back together.
Unbeknownst to us, prayers were going up to heaven for Ben even before we had been notified of his accident. Many of the hospital staff later said they prayed as they worked on him, and one RN bowed his head and asked God’s mercy as soon as he heard the call that Ben was en route to the hospital in such serious condition. Shortly after we arrived at the hospital, our oldest son Joshua sent out a request on his soap-makers’ forum for prayer support, and within minutes soap-makers in countries around the world responded. I put a post on Facebook, which was soon picked up and shared with friends of friends, relatives and co-workers of friends, and church prayer chains.
Our family spent the night in the CCU (Critical Care Unit) waiting room as Ben clung to life. When they had finally stabilized him, the doctors put him in a sleep-induced coma so that the shock of overwhelming pain would not kill him. Ben’s condition was very grave for the first few days.
I pretty much lived at the hospital, sleeping on the couch in his room and just going home when my husband or younger son were there. With a respirator in his throat and hands restrained, he couldn’t even call the nurse or tell anyone what he needed, so it was important for a family member to be with him all the time. When he got to the point of being conscious part of the time, it was still difficult for him to communicate. He could nod yes or no, so we just kept asking questions until we figured out what Ben needed. It was wonderful progress when our son was able to breathe on his own and the respirator was finally removed. But he had such a long way to go.
The most hellish night was on March 1st. This is what I wrote the following morning:
“New patients kept coming in after the weather and roads got bad, until I think the Critical Care Unit was at its limit. Poor Ben kept pushing his button to get more pain medications, and some aide who couldn’t administer medication would tell us the RN would be with us as soon as possible. They just kept telling us that. I would look down the two hallways, and neither one had an RN in sight. Two codes were called, and every available nurse was working on one or the other patient.
I had to go back in the room and tell Ben, I am so sorry Ben, I can’t get anyone to help you. There are two people dying right now, and the nurses are trying to save them. People were crying in the hallway. Ben said, it’s okay Mom, I’ll deal with the pain. We heard at least one more code, and people running around in the hallway. We prayed for the people who were dying and for their families. Then we heard the heartbreaking sobs that went beyond the earlier weeping. Two patients had died. We could hear the nurses trying to comfort the families, even after I closed Ben’s door to give the family near to our room some privacy. Ben’s pain level reached 9 while this was going on, and all I could do was tell him I loved him and was going to stay with him as he moaned and I cried. Almost an hour after his pain medication had run out, a red-eyed nurse came in and loaded Ben up with four or five medications. But the pain had gone on so long that it just didn’t want go come down. In the early-morning hours, the pain level finally came down a bit and he was able to sleep.”
Sixteen days after arriving at the hospital, our son was moved over to the rehabilitative hospital, for which he really was not ready. The pain was still almost unbearable, and he had almost constant nausea. But the therapy began, and he did the best he could. First he learned to sit upright again, then move around in a wheelchair, then stand, then move down the hall with a walker. His therapists were amazed. On the first of April, he was released from the hospital, to temporarily stay with us. He is now moving about with crutches and anticipating returning to his house. The physical therapy, doctors’ appointments, medication and pain will continue, but at least he is alive.
When I think back over the past seven weeks, I sometimes experience an odd guilt that those other families lost their loved ones, while our son survived. We aren’t better, or more deserving of keeping our son than others. The doctors and nurses kept telling us it was a miracle, others said he was amazingly lucky. I don’t believe it was just luck or chance that Ben survived. I believe God himself looked at Ben lying on the ER table with his crushed body and stopped heart, and said, “No, not yet – I have great plans for this young man.” And he restarted his heart, and breathed life into his limp body, just as he did with Adam, the first human being He created.
So many prayers were offered up to God for Ben, and those prayers continue. But what about the people who didn’t survive? Prayers went up for them as well. Is God deaf, or is He uncaring? No I believe that God cares about each individual on this planet, and hears each prayer uttered. But why do some survive while others die? Why are some mothers’ hearts broken, while I am celebrating life? I don’t know. Someday in heaven we will ask Jesus, and He will explain the why’s to us. But for now, my heart is filled with gratitude for the second chance at life that our son has been given.