Monday, March 16, 2009
I had just arrived in Tampa, Florida with my daughter for the start of our spring break, and decided to check my email while waiting for a ride at the airport…….A close friend of mine in Nicaragua had sent me a message saying she was so sorry about my mother’s accident…..I sat stunned and couldn’t imagine what this was about??? I immediately called Nicaragua and was given the news from Tom, a WI volunteer who was there with the Baseball project, about my mother’s accident. He explained everything and said she could not fly home the next morning as planned. He was also scheduled to depart the next morning, but would stay with her, so I would need to change both their tickets. (The Eco Tour ended on March 12th, but my mother had felt she needed to stay in Nicaragua for the VOICE workshop on the weekend. I wanted her to come home on Monday, but she insisted on Tuesday, as there would be some follow-up work to be done. I reluctantly purchased her ticket for the return date of March 17th.) So with Tom’s confirmation she was in no condition to fly home, I called the airlines and changed the tickets, and Tom said he would call me with any updates.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
During the night I received a call they were taking my mother into surgery to drain the hematoma. I asked to talk with her and was told I could not at this time. The next day I realized how serious this had become, and I needed to be there with her. It was only by the grace of God I just happened to have my passport with me which I would need to fly to Nicaragua. My wallet had been stolen with my money, credit cards, and drivers license on Sunday in Chicago so I had no photo ID, the only way I could fly to Florida was to get my only other photo ID from my house, 4 ½ hours away, so a friend of mine went into my house, found my passport, a spare credit card I happened to not throw away, got me some cash, and met me ½ way. It was less than convenient and still after midnight before I got back to Chicago, but still enough time to sleep a bit, and get to the Chicago Police Dept to file an amended police report as I learned my credit cards were being maxed out by another person – not just attempted use as I originally thought, and get to the airport in time to catch the flight to Florida. Now, here I was in Florida, less than 24 hrs, and calling all the airlines to get a flight out of Florida, but the last flights to Nicaragua had already left. In desperation I called the DC POA office to get help from their travel agent to see if she could help me find something, the only option was the next morning, Wednesday. What choice did I have but to sit and wait? I lay awake all night wishing I could be there with my mother.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The flight to Nicaragua seemed to take forever; I couldn’t even speak to the person next to me which is very unlike me. I didn’t say a word until we were ready to depart the plane. At that time, I asked, so what are you doing in Nicaragua? The gentleman was a construction engineer and wanted to volunteer in Central America, he was not sure how, but he figured the first step was to learn the language so he was planning to attend a language school for the next 6 weeks or so in Nicaragua. I sat dazed, and managed to explain that while my mother was scoping out a possible location for a building expansion by our Managua Office, she fell, and maybe someday, depending on the outcome of her accident, there may be an opportunity for him to volunteer his skills. We exchanged contact information and left it at that.
The drive to the hospital seemed to take forever, I couldn’t imagine I was going to see my mother in the Vivian Pellas hospital because only weeks before we were both right here together in Nicaragua and were supposed to meet with the staff at the Vivian Pellas burn unit and explore ways to work together. Our schedule for the Learning Center Trek was so full, we couldn’t fit it in, and could only note the building location as we drove by – and now here I was going there to see her as a patient? This just couldn’t be happening. We were supposed to have a meeting together with Vivian herself that week, but again, our schedules just didn’t allow it, and my mother and I decided there will be other opportunities to have the meeting in the future.
We finally arrived to the hospital and the tears wouldn’t stop as we walked up the stairs. She was having a test and I was told we could see her soon. When the time finally came to be at my mother’s side, I was overcome with emotions, joy to finally see her and sorrow to have no response from her. I was informed she was stable but on life support, time would tell, but I hung tight to the 20% chance for recovery. My mom was a strong believer in somehow, someway, that’s just the way it was with everything, so this shouldn’t be any different. So many times in my life I would come to her with what seemed impossible to me, and she would help me to see a way. We stayed by her side, praying for a miracle. We met with the Dr. later in the afternoon; he was straightforward and did not express the optimism we were so hoping to hear. He would repeat the EEG in the morning and we would go from there. We all cried together in desperation, and finally left the hospital sometime in the late night or early morning.
I must comment on the love and support that was present immediately upon my arrival to Nicaragua by the W/NP staff, volunteers, and even people I had never met before. They all were deeply concerned and offered to help in any way possible. I cannot begin to name them all because surely I would leave someone out as it was such a painful moment and truly a blur of activity – but my gratitude is immense for each person I came into contact with. It just happened that the Lopez family, who were long time volunteers with Partners, lived close to the hospital and offered us a place to rest in addition to phone, internet, and anything else that would assist in this crisis. When we went over the situation, it really became necessary to pursue the option of medical evacuation to the US. The medical team was excellent but they did not have the means for any other treatment, so we called Dr. Brad Martin for a medical consult and evaluation on the possibility to transport my mother. Beth and I lay down exhausted and shortly after I closed my eyes, I awoke and it became apparent to me we needed to transport my mother as soon as possible and hold tight to the 20% chance for survival, time was of the essence in a big way. I said to my sister, Beth, we have to do this. My father would not leave my mother during the night so he was still at the hospital; we called Dr. Brad Martin to help us begin the arrangements. The insurance co was only open 8-8, and if we waited for them to open, her chance for survival was less and less with each passing moment.
In the middle of the night, I called the number Dr. Martin had given me for the transport service, and woke up the person who would initiate the flight, and explained our situation. Between Dr. Brad Martin, Dr. Glenn Smith, and Chief K from the Embassy, amazing things happened and the evacuation became a reality. The transport jet would allow for the patient, and two other passengers – my father and I. After about an hour, I began to question if it should be me in the plane with my mother, or my sister? I felt confusion and didn’t know what to do, or where this thought was coming from. I am the youngest, and am the only child who has remained geographically close to my parents, we are together a lot, and it seemed right for the 3 of us to be together in the plane. Again, where is the thought coming from that maybe it should be Beth, her husband made the accepting physician arrangements at the Milwaukee hospital, maybe she should go? What if something happened en route, and I couldn’t be there? How could I get to Milwaukee? I called Chief K, and asked if we could change the names of the passengers, he said, yes, just give me the info. I said I didn’t know yet, and would call him back. He called awhile later, and I still had not come to a decision, so he took both our names, and said whatever we decide they will go with. I knew I needed help finding a way back to Wisconsin for my brother and I if we stayed behind, so I called the POA office and Marika provided some options. I was pained to hear my flight would leave before my mother, and my brother would leave the following morning. I hated to leave this way, but it seemed the right thing to do. Chief K took care of my check-in at the airport and upon departure he turned and said, by the way, you are on a waiting list for a business class seat. I sat in disbelief about the whole situation, completely overwhelmed and wishing I was leaving with my mother. After being dropped off at the airport, I realized I had not asked Marika to ticket my brothers flight, oh my gosh, I had no phone, and I would not get to Miami until 6 and she would be gone out of the office. So I tried to send her an email, they were calling my flight to board the plane, I tired to connect to the internet, it said I was connected but my message would not leave the outbox! I was trying not to panic, but I had no phone, no phone cards or other credit cards because of my stolen wallet incidence in Chicago before I left to Florida. I did have one credit card left so I tried that in the phone, but it wouldn’t work. In desperation, I went up to a stranger who had a phone and asked could I please make a call – I called Chief K, who was right in the middle of my mother’s transport, and asked him to help me get in touch with Marika for my brother’s flight. He said can I call you back in 5 minutes, I said, no, I have no phone and I’m using someone else’s and I have to board the plane. UGH, I don’t believe this is happening to me. He said he would take care of it, and that was the end.
I was supposed to be in seat 27E (back of the plane) but had been moved to 3J. I’m still in disbelief, I can’t stop the tears flowing from my eyes wondering where my mother is and if she is still alive – the roads and traffic are terrible from the hospital to the airport, her brain is so delicate at this moment, I pray for her safety. So here I am in business class, the first time in my life, and completely dazed and exhausted. In my mind, I tell my mother, I don’t believe you did this to me, can you see me now, why aren’t you here with me?? This is crazy, I don’t want to be here, but I guess it’s better than in the back of the plane. The Friday before she left, we were in the office, her desk was a mess and papers piled everywhere and I looked right at her and said, you know, you better not EVER leave me because I AM NOT doing this WITHOUT YOU! No one knows how much has to take place for all these things to happen and I CANNOT do this alone – I WON’t!! She promised me she wasn’t going anywhere and she would be back before I know it.
Once again, it was a very strange experience on the plane. Almost identical to my flight into Nicaragua, the gentleman sitting next to me was in Nicaragua for the first time and was an engineer who had an interest in volunteering, a compassionate spirit, connections for contractors, and others who could be beneficial if our plans to build onto the Managua W/NP office ever came to fruition. I didn’t want to think about that, at that moment a part of me never wanted to come back to Nicaragua again w/out my mother. Another part of me could hear my mother’s planning on how he could be a part of what we needed to make the building project a reality. I felt God was truly watching over me by my seating placement in the plane. I wondered if Chief K would ever know the depth of my gratitude, would he ever know the importance of my sitting next to this person who helped to ease my pain and could possibly be a part of the building project my mother ended up loosing her life for?
When I arrived in Chicago on Friday, it was after midnight and I had not really slept much since Monday so at the encouragement of my friends, I decided to rest a few hours before making the drive to Milwaukee where my mother was. I left in the morning and en route received a call from my sister; she said I needed to get there as soon as possible. Oh please don’t let this be happening….. was all I could think of.
The rest of the story you know from my brother’s account. It’s a tough time for us all, my mother was a huge part of my life and has left me in a place I don’t feel prepared for, but I continue to pray for strength and understanding. God surely has to have a plan because on my own, I am not up for what lay ahead.
If you’ve never had the experience of watching someone on life support, you may consider watching this video on the link below. It’s a powerful illustration of how helpless one feels standing hours upon end near someone you love more than anything in this world – wondering can they feel you, can they hear you, are they in there somewhere or it is only the machine breathing in and out?
My heart aches today with the loss I am faced with, yet I am so thankful I don’t feel the regret of not telling my mother I loved her. If she could hear me or not in the last days I don’t know, but I do believe before her accident she knew full well how much I loved and needed her. So if you can, call your loved ones before it’s too late, and let them know you love them!
Things left unsaid video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9FB3RNcIgw