Archive for the ‘The Serious’ Category
In the past, I have jumped on many a bandwagon. Some of them were bandwagons for things I felt strongly about. Some of them were things I got caught up in the moment on. I’ve raised money for various causes, I’ve told my friends of injustices and shared stories to encourage others to join the bandwagon. I have never been on the other side of it.
I’m still not fully on the other side, but I’m getting a small glimpse of what it’s like to be there.
My husband is involved in an ugly situation with a recent patient. He is not at all the major player in this situation and had virtually no contact with the family, but the shitstorm that’s brewing has definitely impacted his job. I will not and cannot divulge any details about the case, but you may have already seen some things as it has made some noise on Facebook. And since we’re here in this crazy position, I’m asking you to pause for a moment before jumping on any news story, no matter how sensational it may seem.
When I jumped on bandwagons in the past, I always felt like I had all the details. I always felt like I knew the truth, like I understood all the facts. And I am realizing something that I should’ve realized long ago. When someone tells a story, especially one in which there are 2 players, the truth is subjective.
In this particular case, the story that is being woven on Facebook is very different from what my husband experienced. I assume the truth lies somewhere in the middle, not because either of them are lying, but because perception and bias are powerful (it’s not as simple as reading an x-Ray in this case). Because each interprets things differently, because facts sometimes get blurred by emotions.
It’s easy for those emotions to get the best of the people on the bandwagon. It’s easy for followers to forget in a moment of passion or rage or frustration that there is another player. That the other player is a person too. That they have a family. That they have a history and a story of their own. That when you bad mouth someone publicly that it might do more than just raise “awareness” for your cause, it might ruin someone else’s life. It might destroy their livelihood. It might harm innocent people who need that person.
In the case of medicine, it’s particularly tricky because you will only ever get one side of the story. Patients are free to offer the details as they see them, but doctors are bound by confidentiality laws. Even if the stories about them are entirely untrue, they cannot, and will not, respond. Unfortunately that silence is often interpreted as accepting guilt or confirming the accusations when that’s not the case.
I do not mean to imply that all sensational stories are lies or that we shouldn’t support people who are going through tough times. But I think we’d all be better for taking a second before hitting the like or share button and considering those on the other side of the bandwagon.
Consider whether they may have had good intentions. Consider whether their side of the story might read a little differently. Consider whether what you’re doing, or encouraging others to do, might impact others who are blameless (which in this case does not refer to me, but to other patients). It’s easy to feel the pull of the bandwagon and get caught up in the heat of the moment, but remember that there are two sides and that stopping for a moment and letting cooler heads prevail won’t stop change if it truly needs to happen but it might save you a lot of backpedaling later.
March is brain injury awareness month. Two years ago our son sustained a traumatic brain injury from a fall off of a bed. He was inches away from and supervised and it still happened. So here’s my plea: please don’t put your infants on elevated beds. Don’t leave them unsupervised on changing tables or couches for even an instant. Don’t set them on counters or forget to buckle them into high chairs. Accidents happen every day, but some of them, like ours, are avoidable. Spare your children the pain and yourself the grief. Keep kids on the floor or buckled in safely.
Two years ago was the worst day of my life.
It started like most others that week. Play time with Eli, breakfast together, picking out an outfit, cleaning up toys. Nothing unusual. And then just moments before we started packing to leave the hotel we had been staying in all week, it happened. Eli threw his pacifier over the edge of the bed, I bent down to get it and he fell.
The sound will forever be implanted in my brain. The ambulance ride, the silent tears, the fear, all of it is still fresh when I let myself think about it. There are just some things that the brain never forgets.
One hospital discharge was followed hours later by an admission to a different hospital and a scan showing a bleed on Eli’s brain. We were able to see the bleed on the scan from across the room and even my untrained eyes spotted it instantly. It wasn’t just a bump on the head, it was a brain injury.
We spent 4 days in the hospital managing Eli’s pain and nausea and watching for changes. He had 2 seizures at home right after discharge and weeks of vomiting from the pain and irritation of the blood that had pooled on his brain. To say that our world was upside down wold be the biggest understatement I can imagine.
In the past two years, the world has slowly righted itself.
Eli is now 2 years and 10 months old. He is the most fun kid I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I wish you could all spend a day with him. Even when he is the most two-ish two year old, he’s still hilarious and kind and really, really cute.
This is going to sound like a brag, and it really probably is, but he is very, very bright. He can count forwards to 20, he can count backwards from 10, he knows all his letters and numbers on sight, he can spell his name and identify just about every shape. There is no question that his cognition was spared. His gross motor skills are pretty good too, and this was once a major area of concern for me. He walked a little later than we expected and dragged his left toes for a while. But now he runs and jumps and kicks and marches and does all the things his peers do, symmetrically and mostly with ease.
There are other things that aren’t as fabulous. He has some obvious motor planning difficulties, especially when it comes to fine motor skills. It took him well over 6 months (he was past 2.5) to figure out how to do the spinning arms that we do when we sing Wheels on the Bus at swimming. We practiced and practiced and he just couldn’t do it. There was an 18 month old next to us who picked it up in seconds and I have an 8 month old I see at work who can do it, but Eli could not figure it out. It took him almost 3 months to figure out how to hold up 2 fingers for his age and he still holds up a 3rd one at least 50% of the time. He finally mastered the thumbs up after months of sticking up his pointer fingers or doing finger guns. So far, this doesn’t seem to bother him and we do our best to not stress him out or make it a point of focus, but it’s something we’re keeping tabs on for the future.
There is no way for us to know if this is the result of that injury. It was close to area of the brain that controls motor planning, but he was so little when it happened that we have no way to compare his skills before and after. We opted not to sedate Eli for an MRI, so we don’t know if there are areas of overt damage. We don’t know, but also, we don’t care.
Eli is who he is. If this injury caused those issues, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t change the difficulty he has, it doesn’t change how we approach it. Honestly, our child got a brain injury and the biggest issue is that he can’t hold up 2 fingers easily? I can’t even continue with this part because it’s ridiculous. We are unbelievably lucky. We do not allow ourselves to lose sleep over this.
The damage it did to me was and is much less obvious, but it has also faded considerably. The nightmares are few and far between. The guilt is pretty much on par with what I imagine anyone would feel coming out of this. These days I just enjoy being a mother. I don’t let fear guide my decisions, I don’t let it slow any of us down.
Two years ago I wondered if any of us would ever be okay again- mentally, emotionally and physically. I wondered how we would ever be normal again or how life could ever go back to the way it once was. And it might not ever be the way it was then, but that’s okay. We learned about the fragility of our child’s life, we learned to take safety seriously. And we also learned to count our blessings because things like this happen in the literal blink of an eye.
My world crashed into the floor that day. Two years later, we are changed and a little scarred, but we are good.
Two friends of mine lost their father this weekend. He was a wonderful, kind man, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few times in the past decade. But even if I had never met him, knowing his children would be enough of a statement about what kind of person he was. And his death has given me pause. I think because he died of Glioblastoma Multiforme, a cancer that I hate with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, a cancer that has already taken 2 other loved ones from me, I can’t help but feel heavy right now.
One of the strangest things about dying is that for the living, it feels like there this worldly crescendo. Everything becomes so important, so critical, so imminent. You have all this excess adrenaline waiting for it to happen. Every decision seems tremendously important. You wonder if this will be the day, how it will happen. You say your goodbyes and everything just seems so big, so impossible to manage. You can’t understand how the universe can hold all your feelings, how your body can hold them for that matter.
And then once it happens, everything seems to go silent.
You try to carry on with your life because the laundry still needs to be folded, the dishes still need to be washed. You fold towels and cry. You do dishes and you cry. You go out to eat and you wonder how all these people are living their lives and how is it that they don’t understand that your life has been turned so upside down that you don’t even know how you’re going to carry on? How can dishes still need to be done in a world where your loved one no longer exists?
I have been fortunate to not have many close family members die. And until recently, all those who I knew who died, did so somewhat quickly, which at times felt like a cruelty and at others a blessing. But I have learned recently that there is something uniquely cruel about watching someone die in a healthy body.
My father-in-law looks like he has always looked- like a 20 years older version of my husband. His voice has the same soft tone. His smile is as it has always been. His clothes seem a little bigger on a slightly smaller frame, but he looks essentially as he has always looked. But he is not there. There is a shell of what used to be my father-in-law.
The man left inside is confused. He wants to be helpful so he tries to stay busy, but he has no idea what he’s doing or why. He would try to pack boxes for his big move, but would then forget what he was doing and unpack everything he’d just put into the box. He used to be masterfully humorous with incredible timing and now he tries to tell a joke but can’t remember the words. He can’t participate in big conversations because he doesn’t understand what’s going on. He can remember something that happened 30 years ago with clarity but not what the plan for dinner is.
Watching him fade is every bit as horrifying as watching my grandfathers each die a fast death. Watching this brilliant man die in a healthy body is horrific. Watching his family grieve while he is still living, silently and in secret, is unbelievably sad. Knowing that my son will only maybe remember this version of his grandfather, a man who was so vibrant and funny, is devastating. That my father-in-law can’t remember his newest grandson’s name is even more so, especially when you can see the twinkle of recognition in his eyes and the anguish of not being able to remember the name.
There is no good way to lose someone you love. There is no way to lose someone that doesn’t involve losing them and thus, death is inherently painful for those who live. There are enough platitudes about carrying someone with you forever to sink a ship, but the reality is that even if death was the best outcome of a bad situation, even if there was no suffering, we suffer. We feel that loss in every moment, in ever fiber of our soul forever. Maybe it’s not as noticeable after a while, but it is there.
I fear, in the deepest parts of my heart, that someday I will watch my husband die in a healthy body. I fear that this man, this incredible father, won’t get to be a grandfather. That his amazing mind will shrink, that his often irreverent, always impeccably timed sense of humor will go quiet. I fear the silence that will come after the crescendo of dying. Of seeing his healthy body without his incredible soul, the same death we are watching in his father.
These are heavy things. They might make us stronger, but only because they must first break us so completely.
If you’re not into pity parties, this will not be something you want to read.
I am having a day. That’s not true, I’m having a year. We are having a year.
My husband chose to do this one year fellowship because he thought that a) he could get a job at this hospital (where he thought he might want to work long term), b) it’s a specialty he has always wanted to be in. It turns out that this is definitely absolutely not where he wants to work. Ever. He also feels concerned about moving ahead in this specialty for reasons that don’t need to be written. And well, it’s been a long six months and there are six to go.
Six more months of grunt work. Six more months of horrible hours. Six more months of sink or swim learning for less than minimum wage. Six more months of missing bedtime.
When we moved to our current apartment, we had a bunch of money in savings. We knew we’d need it (higher rent, higher loan payments, second baby) and we worked hard to build it up. We thought it would be sufficient. And we thought this apartment could hold four people for a year and we’d make do.
It’s been 8 months since we moved. We’re down to 1/10 of our initial savings, my husband’s stipend check is late and we literally can’t pay for Eli’s preschool until it comes in. There are piles upon piles all over our apartment because 1000 square feet is not enough square feet for 4 people, 2 cats and all our shit (not literal shit). My car’s air conditioning went out this week. My husband’s power steering went out last month. We have money to fix neither. Everything is feeling a bit out of control. To put it mildly.
I am just so frustrated. How did we get here? How am I 31 years old, living in this tiny apartment crammed with people? How do we have two doctorates and two great jobs but we can’t pay for preschool tuition? These are rhetorical questions. I know we chose expensive schools, I know I don’t work full time (may not be the case soon…). I know we have not always been wise with our money. But we have worked really hard the past few years.
I do not have long term ambitions of riches and piles of money. I have long term ambitions of financial stability. Of not worrying about how missing a day of work to care for my sick kids might mean we can’t pay for something we need.
This year was never likely to be an easy one. But I didn’t expect this. I’m hedging all my hopes on July 1, when we move somewhere bigger. On August 1, my husband’s first real paycheck. On the future in general. Because things are lean and ugly right now.
This past month has been…interesting. It’s frustrating because I can’t freely write about a lot of it in detail, which basically has me here saying that things are interesting without being able to describe how and why.
The very short versions of everything is that:
1. My grandfather has tongue cancer, which I’ve written about already, and is going to be undergoing intense radiation. He’s having trouble swallowing even his own saliva, and is currently in a lot of pain. And it’s not good and it is just terrible for him and there’s not much more I can add. It’s a really crappy situation and we are all helpless.
2. At the same time, my father-in-law is sick, which is not something I will be writing about at this time. There are layers of bad here that I can’t get into, my husband is caught in the middle and to put it mildly, what’s going on is devastating. I realize that I haven’t exactly written love sonnets about my mother-in-law but my father-in-law is a really great man, he loves my husband and my son and this whole situation is just terrible.
3. Eli has had something funky going on with one of his legs that we can’t quite get to the bottom of. It’s not life threatening by any means, just worrisome and confusing mostly. We’re watching it for now since so far everything has come back okay.
Anyway, things are just suddenly feeling very personal. Writing has always been an outlet for me, but right now I feel like I’m overexposed. Like the things that are going on in my life are too intimate to share with everyone and that’s why I’ve kept some of it quiet.
And it’s why I locked down my twitter this weekend. I don’t usually like to shout into an echo chamber. I value criticism and input and don’t mind people disagreeing with me. I don’t mind sharing things with people, even those I don’t know. And I don’t know if it’s the hormones or if it’s just feeling raw from life, but I’m just not in place where I feel like I want to share things with the entire world. And yes, I realize many of you are thinking then hey, how about don’t share it on twitter, but you should understand that I have a lot of friends there, a lot of people who lend me a tremendous amount of strength and support and I don’t want to give that up.
So, it’s locked. I’m being somewhat judicious with the follow requests for now, but it’s not like I’m kicking anyone out. I just need a little cocoon. I need to wrap myself in people that I care about, people that care about me, and give myself a little break from everyone else, at least on one social media platform. Plus, I feel like a little privacy isn’t an inherently bad thing and maybe this is something that has needed to happen for a while. I don’t know when or if I’ll unlock the account, but I do know that for right now, this is what I need.
I will continue to write here (I have a good giveaway coming up this week, as well as the greatest video of all time to share), hopefully even more than I have in a while, especially since my maternity leave is starting soon.
Thanks for sticking around.
I have been treating a little boy in my clinic for well over a year now, in fact, I saw him just today. I’m not going to tell you his name, age or diagnosis, not just for legal reasons, but also, because for the purpose of the story, it doesn’t matter. But I will tell you that I adore him. If I was allowed to have favorite patients, he would be high on my list and he has captured my heart in a special way.
A few months ago, I ordered a special piece of medical equipment for him. It took months to get it created and adjusted properly. We had to go through his pediatrician, the company that makes it, repeated appointments to fix things that weren’t right and on and on. And finally, about a month ago, he got it. This is not his first piece of equipment, but it was the first that he might actually use and it is important for his wellbeing and function.
We worked hard to get him comfortable using it and made a BIG fuss over how cool it was and things were going really, really well. Last week, he and his mom went to Target to do some shopping. As they were walking through the store, a young boy sitting in the shopping cart noticed the piece of equipment and like any kid, was curious about it. And so he asked his mother why my patient had that.
And her reply was “well honey, he’s different.”
That one word, that one 3 syllable, 9 letter word, undid months of work. It crushed a little boy’s self esteem and it set him back weeks in terms of his function.
The question in and of itself is completely appropriate. That boy in the cart had every right and reason to ask his mother, and there are a million great ways to answer that question (“why don’t you ask him?” “It helps him do x, y, or z” “It makes him jump really high!” etc, etc, etc). But instead, she chose not to explain it at all, but instead to label.
Her response was possibly the worst thing that she could’ve chosen to reply with. It instantaneously created an otherness, one that we had all been desperately trying to avoid, and set it right in my patient’s lap. It was an otherness he had not yet come to fully recognize, but is now hyperaware of. That one stupid word literally changed his life.
The problem with labeling someone as different, especially with the tone that is so often used, is that it separates people into typical and atypical. It makes the group that are somehow atypical feel like they don’t belong or can’t fit in. And in the case of my patient, all he wants in the world is to belong. To have a group of friends, to play in a typical fashion, to be anything but different.
And he isn’t different. He’s a little boy. He loves Disney movies and pirates and cars and everything that kids his age love. He skips the number 17 when he counts. He is obsessed with superheroes and will do just about anything if you can make it into a game about Spiderman. He is not “different.” He may move in a way that the rest of us don’t or require help with things that other kids can do alone, but he isn’t different. He’s bright and fun and loving and everything that you want a child to be. His sameness is so much greater than his difference, but for some reason, no one can seem to get past the things that don’t fit.
I wish I could’ve met the mother in Target that day. Not because I want to scream or yell (though I do, a little), but because it could’ve been an incredible opportunity to open someone’s eyes to how powerful their words are. I wish I could’ve shown her how important a question that was and how important her answer was. I wish I could’ve educated her on all the ways my patient is not different, or on all the ways that using different in that tone is a terrible thing to do. I wish I could’ve helped her to understand how different can be good, how different can sometimes even be better.
We must do a better job of explaining and introducing disabilities and differently abled people to our children. By making these differences a negative we do a great disservice to these children and adults who have incredible talents, amazing personalities and bright futures that we completely miss because of our preconceived expectations about them. We need to teach our children to look beyond the things that give them pause, to push through their unintentional prejudices and realize that underneath what we may see as differences are often layers of sameness.
A year ago today was the absolute worst day of my life.
It started out well. My husband had to go to an early conference session, but Eli and I had a nice breakfast in our hotel, we were packing so we could go home, but first we were going to swing by an amusement park nearby since we had only gotten to spend a half day there earlier in the week (and our tickets were still valid) and we just knew Eli would love it. And then it happened. In the blink of an eye, my 10 month old fell head first off the bed and hit the very hard flooring of our hotel room. He screamed a scream I can never unhear. I laid him on the bed and when I picked him up, his head lagged behind and bobbed. He wouldn’t open his eyes. He wasn’t okay.
The next four days included 3 ER visits, 2 admission processes, and 3 nights in the hospital. It included 2 CT scans that showed blood on Eli’s brain. It included frank conversations with neurosurgeons who told us that there was no way to know if our child was going to be okay or if he’d have long term issues. It included IVs, vomit, and more fear than I can ever describe.
And now it’s been a year.
My son is now a hilarious, busy, incredibly profoundly normal toddler. If you looked at him for any duration of time, you’d never know that he had a brain injury last year. And I could not be more thankful for that.
If you looked at me for any measure of time, you might not know how profoundly damaged I was either. A year and a day ago, I had a level of parenting innocence I cannot ever get back. I obviously knew that there were risks, but I had never faced the reality of those risks. I had severe anxiety about something happening to my child but even with that fear, I had never truly faced the consequences of something happening. My introduction to the reality that my child was fragile wasn’t a skinned knee or a busted lip. It was a bleeding brain. And it devastated me on every level.
I had months where I didn’t sleep because all night long I tried to rescue my child from situations that would harm him. I had months where I didn’t smile, where I functioned at the bare minimum, working just as much as I had to, parenting just as much as I had to. I had months where I never thought things would ever be good again, even though I could see this incredible person in front of me who despite what happened was fine. I was not fine.
A full year has passed and much has changed. I have a level of awareness that in some ways I’m grateful for. I have a level of appreciation for modern medicine that I cannot possibly convey in words. And more than anything else, I am happy again. My marriage is better than it has ever been. I am more appreciative of the things I have in my life because I am truly, immeasurably fortunate.
I will not pretend that Eli’s injury a year ago is something I am thankful for, because I am not and if I could go back and undo it, I would, a million times over. But I have worked hard to make it mean something for my life, for my child’s life, for our family. I have worked hard to use it as a way to be a better parent, not in the helicopter overprotective sense, but in the awareness of reality sense, in the being grateful for my family sense. I have worked hard to be a better parent, a better wife and a better person this year.
And a year later, I am happy. I am truly, genuinely happy. A year ago I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to feel that way again. 6 months ago, I doubted that I’d ever feel this way again. It has taken hours of therapy, a medication I never wanted to take and time. And here we are.
I am not the mother I was a year ago, and I will never be her again. But I’ve stopped mourning that reality, because I realized that now, a year later, I’m better than I was last March. I’m now the parent I wanted to be, not the one who was so held back by the fear of something happening that I couldn’t give my child space to explore. I’m not the parent who was so afraid of tragedy that I couldn’t fully attach to my son and be present with him each day. I am not that mother anymore. I am attached. I am present. And I am truly, in my bones, to my core, happy. And I am grateful for every single day that I get to be this way. For every single moment with my family. I know what is truly at stake in this life and while this year has been indescribably difficult, I’m so glad for all I have learned and for all that I have.
When I think back on my childhood, there were a number of adults who played a major role in my development. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and the like. But if I had to pick one person who wasn’t related to me who played the biggest role in shaping the person I am today, it would be, without question, Kathy.
Kathy was my 5th grade teacher, which I know sounds a little random (and I definitely didn’t call her Kathy then and barely can now), but it was a pivotal year for me. 3rd and 4th grade were years where I was tormented every day by my classmates. I was called every name you could imagine, mocked for any and everything and when my mom brought the issue up to my principal, she told my mom that I brought it on myself (which, what?). The people who were supposed to protect me from bullying didn’t and it made it very hard for me to trust my teachers. Not to mention, on my last 4th grade report card I got a C+ in math, out of nowhere, and when my mom asked about it, my teacher said that she gave it to me “because Katie needed to be taken down a peg.” For real.
So in 5th grade, my mom moved me to a different school and I’m not sure if it was luck of the draw (I suspect not since my mom taught at both my new and old schools), but Kathy was my teacher. On the first day of 5th grade, a classmate who had transferred schools with me started teasing me on the playground and within a matter of moments, Kathy shut it down. For the first time in years, I felt like I had a teacher who had my best interests in mind.
And that year was one of the very best. She fostered in me a love of learning that I had lost. She helped me learn what it was to take responsibility for my mistakes instead of hiding from them. I credit a lot of my work ethic and eventual academic success to her, but more importantly, she gave me self-confidence in a time where others had stolen it away, she gave me trust in adults when I had lost it long before. I came out of 5th grade a different person than I started.
Her influence didn’t end there because Kathy and my mother have been good friends for years and she continued to be in my life long after that year. She has been to birthday parties and holidays, she insisted upon doing the calligraphy for our wedding invitations (and it was amazing!) and threw a baby shower for Eli that was incredible. She came to my 30th birthday party last year, which besides her was exclusively family. Because honestly, she feels like family.
And now she has cancer. Last week she had major surgery for an invasive abdominal cancer and had to have a second procedure yesterday for a complication that arose. It surprised me not even a little bit to learn that she ripped out her breathing tube yesterday (she’s pretty feisty) and has kept her doctors very much on their toes. She’ll be starting chemotherapy soon and has a long road of healing and poking and prodding ahead of her.
There is no donation fund here, I’m not looking for money or food or anything that will cost you money, but I can’t lose her. And so I’m sharing Kathy with you. I’m hoping that if all of you take a bit of our story with you and love her a little bit that maybe think about her or add her to your prayer lists or your thoughts, that things will start to make a turn for the better for her.
I’m not someone who tosses the world love around easily and the other day I was talking to my husband and without even thinking I blurted out, “she has to get better, I love her.” And truly, I mean it. I love this woman as if she was my own family. I am who I am, so much, because of her and to be honest, I’m scared right now about what she is facing. I’m not ready to imagine a world without Kathy and if you knew her, you would understand. She makes this world a brighter place every single day.
So as a not overly religious person, I’m asking for whatever you can give. If prayers are your thing, please offer some for Kathy and her husband Jim. If thoughts are more your speed, please send good thoughts her way. And if neither of those suit you, please tell someone in your life how much you love them and how much they mean to you. I know I’ll be doing that the next time I see Kathy because right now I hate that I’ve never done it before.
If you want to keep up with her journey, Kathy has a caringbridge page here.
I’m sure it’s no secret that I’m a relatively sensitive person. I wear my heart of my sleeve, I’m easily hurt and easily saddened and have a bleeding heart for a lot of causes. But I don’t think my feelings right now have to do with being sensitive, but instead, with the gravity of the situation.
Over the weekend, a family put their 2 year old to bed like they have every night for the previous 2 years. At some point in the night, the 5 month old baby woke up and was fed and then everyone went back to bed like always. In the morning, when Meredith went to get her 2 year old up, she discovered that he passed away in his sleep. Jack was a completely healthy 2 year old child and yet, he’s no longer here. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is literally every parent’s greatest nightmare.
Since I heard about Jack’s passing, I can’t get an image out of my head. I’ve never met this family, they are friends of a good friend of mine (and have given permission for me to post their story), but I am devastated for them. I cannot imagine how heart wrenching this has been for Jack’s family and I am left, like most people who knew them or knew of them, feeling entirely helpless for these parents.
I can only speak for myself, but when things like this happen, I want to do something, to try to make some tiny bit of difference to these people who are suffering in a way I cannot even imagine. I can’t comfort this family in any kind of tangible way, but I can pass along Jack’s story and I can, in some small way, help defray the cost of Jack’s funeral.
I’m going to post the link to a fundraising site for the family. I can’t promise this money is going to Jack’s funeral and not to any number of other items. I can’t promise that the overflow will go into a scholarship fund or to a charity as the family has promised. All I can promise is that a family lost their little boy this weekend and that giving a little bit of money to help pay for a funeral they never should’ve had to plan or pay for in their lifetimes, is the very least I can do. Also, any money generated here in ad revenue this month and next will go towards Jack’s fund, because I have no desire or intention of profiting in any way from this situation.
If you’re interested in helping out this family, please check out their fundraising page. And if you can’t or don’t want to donate, please keep them in your thoughts and if you’re the praying type, pray that they may find peace again and be able to honor their beautiful son, even in his absence.
I have long been an impatient driver. I pass people who are driving slowly, I stick to the leftmost lanes virtually at all times. I try to be within 10 mph of the speed limit, but there are plenty of times where I’ve gone above that benchmark. When I was maybe halfway through my pregnancy with Eli, I took a step back and realized that it was time to drive more carefully. It wasn’t just me anymore and I needed to be more responsible.
In the 13 months Eli has been here, I have made an effort to tailgate less, to stay close to the speed limit and most of all, to drive defensively. I still speed unintentionally from time to time. I still throw my hands up and occasionally my finger up at terrible drivers, but I try hard to drive safely and responsibly. And after last week, I will try even harder.
The drive to Vegas is not a terribly arduous one. There are no windy roads, there are no especially steep grades to climb. It is hot and dull and long. From our house to Vegas, without traffic, would be about 3.5 hours. I knew that if I timed Eli’s nap right, he would sleep for a considerable portion of that, so we left around 10.
About 2 hours into our drive, the freeway narrowed to two lanes in each direction. There was a nice consistent shoulder on the right, I assume for the big rigs that would need to pull off in an emergency. On the left there was a wide dirt area between the two sides of the freeway. At some points the dirt was level with the road, at other points there was a big drop off. And at some points there were large bushes/trees scattered throughout.
I noticed that when the road narrowed, there were a few people who were driving less safely than I was comfortable with. They were weaving between cars, speeding faster than the rest of us (who were going a solid 75mph in a 70 speed limit) and so I turned my music down, slowed my speed a little and focused. I felt like I needed to go into that defensive mode, and I’m endlessly glad I did.
A few minutes after I started to get uncomfortable, I was preparing to pass a big rig and was a few car lengths behind the person in front of me, which was probably a little too close, but there were a lot of cars and it was just sort of how things were moving. I noticed a car behind me on my right, coming up toward the back of the big rig. It was a greenish gold compact car and it was going faster than the big rig, but not faster than I was at that point. I assumed that car would fall in behind me since I was very close to passing the rig and there was a fair amount of space behind my car.
I wasn’t paying much attention as the greenish car approached but soon I realized it was driving right along side me and that he was rapidly approaching the back of the big rig. And then something strange happened. The greenish car’s front bumper was maybe a foot in front of mine (the big rig was CLOSE ahead) and suddenly the car made a move to cut in front of me. There was almost no room between the big rig and me and certainly if I didn’t get out of the way, we would’ve collided. And so I swerved into the center divider, going 75 mph, holding onto the wheel for dear life. I fishtailed and skidded for a long way before coming to a stop.
When I finally stopped, I had so much adrenaline coursing through my body, I am amazed I didn’t vomit or pass out. I was flushed, my heart was racing and before I could even catch my breath, I was crying. I stayed in the center for several minutes, trying to calm myself down. I looked in the back and Eli was sound asleep, completely unaware of how close we came to a really severe car accident.
People have died along this stretch of highway, it’s not uncommon due to the speed people drive and the way the road is designed. And as we traveled on, I noticed that if this had happened even a mile down the road, we’d have likely rolled due to the big drop off on the left. I don’t know what would’ve happened to us if we hadn’t gotten as lucky as we did.
I don’t know if that greenish car was trying to pass me or just made an honest mistake. I know that I saw many other cars driving recklessly that day, all in an attempt to get somewhere sooner. Those people rely on everyone else to drive safely, while they speed and weave and put their desire to get somewhere quickly ahead of everyone else’s wellbeing. And the reality is that they’re only going to get to their destination a few minutes ahead of everyone else.
The fact is that we were lucky. This happened at the very perfect place and if it hadn’t, the result could’ve been horrible. A car accident next to a big rig at 75 miles per hour, especially involving a 5 foot drop off the shoulder would’ve been catastrophic. I know this and it shakes me to my core. We could’ve been seriously injured. We could’ve died. I’ve nearly gotten in many accidents in my 14 years of driving, but nothing that even compared to this.
My intention in writing this is simple, I want people to slow down. I want people to drive more safely. I want people to stop taking advantage of safe drivers to pave the way for their reckless driving. I’m not asking you this because I have a child, it’s not about that at all. I’m asking you to do this because I am lucky to not have been serious injured and because as a former reckless driver, I wish someone had told me earlier how stupid I was being. Maybe you’ve driven the same way for 10 years or 20 years or even longer, but that doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t stupid or unsafe.
Getting to your destination 5 minutes earlier is not worth the risk of reckless driving. Put your phone down, pay attention to the cars around you and slow down. Please.