Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Accident

There is so much more to Aaron than what happened on December 11, 2011, but to know Aaron now you need to know about the accident.

In the early morning hours of December 11, 2011, Aaron was hit by a car. The person who hit him slowed down, rolled down her window and asked, "Is he breathing?" When the witness, who by all accounts saved Aaron's life said, "Yes," the driver sped away. I don't waste time thinking about the person who hit him. I imagine her as a mother, kids at home, a lot to lose. She didn't mean to hurt him. He had a collapsed lung, and he had hit his head, he was unconscious and his body was systematically shutting down. When the ambulance arrived, he had begun to die. His stay was short at our local hospital. They knew quickly that he needed to go to Albuquerque. There was some doubt that he would survive the flight.

The phone rang around 2 am. It was Aaron. I answered, slightly annoyed that he wasn't home yet. Ellis was asleep next to me. She was 3 months old. "Hello?" "Miss Forbes?" My heart sunk. This isn't Aaron I thought. Shit. Shit. No. My voice was shaking, "Yeah?" "This is Under-Sheriff Romero. Aaron has been in an accident." All the air left my lungs. I gasped for something, no oxygen came. "No. Um. No. What? No. This isn't happening. We just had a baby." "Yes Ma'am. I'm sorry. Aaron was just flown to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque." I knew what that meant. If they send you to Albuquerque you're in bad shape. "What?" I responded, my entire body was shaking so violently I woke Ellis. She cried. She was startled. I held her and attempted to steady my voice "What? No. Is he okay? What happened? Is he okay?" "Um, Ma'am, I am not a medical professional but you need to get to Albuquerque as soon as possible. It's not good."

The drive from Taos to Albuquerque is about two and a half hours. We drove fast. I sat in the back next to Ellis' car seat. I watched her sleep and I prayed. I prayed and I begged. I cried and I sat up straight and told myself, "Ok, ok. I'm OK. It's going to be OK." Then I cried and I begged. I stared at Ellis and I thought, "How will I tell her about her dad. What can I possibly say that will make her understand how good of a man he is." I talked to Aaron's mom, dad and sister. We cried together. Somewhere near Santa Fe something shifted and I sat up and I announced, "I think he's going to be ok." Soon after, I got a call from his uncle. He was with Aaron. He was holding his hand. At the very least, if Aaron left us, he was not alone.

A million questions bombarded my mind. Will he live? Will he walk? Will he know who I am? Will he be able to wipe his own ass? Will he be able to fight fire? Will he be brain dead? Will he be angry and impulsive and a drunk like so many traumatic brain injury survivors? Will he remember Ellis? Will he be Aaron? Uncle Paul wrote me a text, "He squeezed my hand and wiggled his toes." He was coming to, he was not brain dead and he was not a paraplegic.

When we got to the hospital I prepared myself for the worst. Maybe he would be missing half his face. I didn't care. His room was all glass. He had many doctors and nurses tending to him. He was seizing. His heart rate would spike and then drop. Spike, drop. He was in restraints. He was fighting. This was good. He's fighting. I went to him. I held his hand. He was bloody and swollen. I said his name. He squeezed my hand. My knees collapsed.

Aaron was on full life support for four days. When he came to he asked for a pen and paper. He scribbled, "I'm sorry." Then he proceeded to tell us about the house he was building, the fish he caught, and the big buck that got away. It didn't make much sense but he could talk and swallow and ask for more Gatorade.

He moved to a lower level of care and then eventually to a neurological rehab. He was away from us for a couple months and when he came home he was still in a lot of pain, he couldn't do much, and he was clearly not himself yet. Every week though, he made pronounced improvements. Sometimes I catch myself forgetting that the accident ever happened but then some days the accident dances so close to me its hard to catch my breath.

There is a lot more to say about what happened in those months. A lot of grace fell upon our family and I have been forever changed by the tragedy of it as well as the miraculousness. There was life before "the accident" and now there is this life.

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