Today is the fifth anniversary of my son's accident. Of his being hit by a car and having a severe traumatic brain injury. For the last four years, January 16th rolls towards me with insistence. January 16, 2008 is when we stopped being a normal family. It is where our Before ended and our After began.
My son is alive. He is a beautiful specimen of maleness physically. Emotionally and cognitively, he is still the boy he was when the accident occured. The changes in our lives have been myriad and unexepcted. But he is here, alive and capable of love. There is still a silver lining, cracked and veined though it may be.
An excerpt from my upcoming memoir:
Yet Okay Family: One Family's Journey Through Traumatic Brain Injury
Austin is ready after a week to be moved from the ICU to Acute Care. Really, what this involves is that Austin’s bed will be moved from ICU to Acute Care. We say good-bye to the nurses who have been so kind. Several of them hug us.
“Don’t forget this,” says a nurse as she hands me a white plastic bag with a drawstring at the top. On the front is the name of the hospital and underneath that is line that says ‘client’. Austin’s name has been written on this line.
“These are all his clothes from when he came in. His wallet is in the hospital safe. There’s a receipt in the bag to claim it.”
Judy and I walk ahead and leave the team getting Austin’s bed ready for the transfer. We take the elevator up to the floor where Austin’s new room is located. It feels a bit more spacious, with a wall of windows and a door that opens onto the central nurse’s station rather than a hallway such as in ICU. I put the bag down, then think to look inside of it. What was Austin wearing that day? I don’t know, as the kids had stayed with their dad the night before.
“What? What is it?” Judy comes to my side to see what I am holding.
“Oh no. Drema, let’s put these away,” she says gently.
I look at the jeans I am holding. They are dirty from the pavement he landed on. And they are split up the sides of both legs. The scissors had also cut through his belt. I think of the haste in which emergency personnel must have cut his clothes off in order to get him stabilized. I imagine someone holding his head still as others work. I shove the jeans back into the bag, get up and shove the bag into the room’s closet.
I will myself to focus on what I know: I know Austin’s body is weak from being in a coma, from the trauma, and from the lack of bodily movement for almost two weeks. He cannot stand without assistance, nor can he sit without support. He is sometimes able to focus on the person in front of him but often appears dazed. He gives a thumbs up now when asked. He remains awake up to two hours at a time. I know too, that the move to Acute Care signals progress, and that is a good sign. Austin is one of the ones who ‘made it’.