He was 18, a senior in high school and a drummer in his high school band. His mom got the call in the middle of the night, a call that all moms of teenagers imagine in their deepest fears. The anticipation of the call keeps us awake, or haunts us in repeating nightmares; we cannot fathom how we will respond to that call. Or how, once it arrives, we will survive.
“Your son is in the emergency room after a car accident. Can you come right away?”
He was in a coma with a severe TBI (traumatic brain injury). As a mom, you listen intently as the doctors give you the facts, and his future. Multiple cerebral contusions, subarachnoid hemorrhage, lung puncture, fractured clavicle, broken femur. You hear the odds, and the numbers. You don’t really hear it all; instead, you are taking in his broken face, his closed bruised eyes, his steady breath on the ventilator. What you do hear is that he’s 18 years old. That, alone, through it all, gives him a hopeful prognosis. You hang onto that.
Joe held on, as well. In coma, his fingers would pick at his sheets, at his bandages, all unknowing. But JoAnn, his nurse, asked his Mom to bring in his drumsticks. She put them in his hand. Not at first, but slowly, his grasp on them became purposeful, and he began to improve.
Six months later, Joe walked back into our ICU. He saw JoAnn, and all of us. He had no memory of any of us, or the three weeks he spent with us. We knew him intimately. We knew every crevice of his body; we had turned him and suctioned him; had changed his Foley and replaced his nasogastric tubes.
We knew that his mom snored when she slept beside him on her back and that his dad arose from his vigil three times a night, when it was his turn to watch, to update his mom. We had read every note from his classmates that were pinned on the board beside his bed. And we listened at his bedside to the tapes he had made of his gigs as a drummer with his high school band.
We knew Joe so well. He knew us not at all. He looked blankly at the ICU bed and room he had occupied for three weeks. Not a glimmer of recognition.
Perhaps, underneath, we wished he had remembered us. We had worked hard for him, willed him to awaken. But, in honesty, we were glad those three weeks didn’t exist for him. He was free of his struggles, of the past; and now could play forward, a healed musician, whose fingers, if not his mind, might remember how the feel of his drumsticks stole him away from oblivion. #LeadingInsights #StoriesofHope