A few weeks ago I went with a play group to tour the fire station in Pleasant Grove. The fire fighter talked with the kids about fire safety and gave them a tour of the truck and the ambulance. We got to talking about the fire truck and how there was some controversy about how much this truck cost. I mentioned that they used the jaws of life on that very truck to save my husband’s life, so it was well worth the money in my opinion. He asked me what happened and I gave him the 30 second version of the story. His response made my heart swell with gratitude, and tears swell in my eyes. “You’re kidding me. I was a paramedic on that call. How is he doing?” I told him that he was doing great, thanks to the first responders. “We all thought he was dead. I was sure he was dead.” I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and hug him for as long as he would allow, but I resisted. We talked for a couple of minutes and he recounted his memories of the call they received. Will’s story was already amazing, and will forever be a miracle in my eyes, but it became even more miraculous as I spoke with the man who saved his life.
I suppose there are some who don’t know the story, and since I haven’t actually written it down, I figured I would do it now. Five years ago Will had the tire off of his car trying to figure out why it was making an awful sound every time we turned the steering wheel. He had taken the car in to 3 different mechanics, none of them could figure out the problem. (If you want a list of who to never go to, let me know.) Friday night he told me he thought he figured out what the problem was and was going check the rotors the next morning.
The morning of the accident, I was planning on spending a couple of hours at a friend’s house working on a sewing project. I kept feeling prompted that I needed to stay home, and I kept brushing it off. Around 11:30 Will went out to the garage to try to figure out for himself what was going on with his car. I gave him a kiss as he walked out the door and told him I would see him later.
Then as I was getting ready to leave the prompting turned into something more intense, my stomach turned as I grabbed my keys from the hook, and a voice in my heart said “Do not leave.” I put the keys back and relief swept over my body. I stuck Lincoln in the high chair and went upstairs to get my phone. As I was passing the bedroom I heard someone yell. I looked out the window thinking the neighbor kids were playing in the back yard. I hurried down the stairs and saw Lincoln sitting unusually still in the highchair. His eyes were glued on the garage door.
I opened the door to see Will, face down underneath the car. One hand stretched forward with a tool just out of reach. I could see the jack had been knocked over. The tire was off the car allowing the frame of the car to pin Will underneath. My first reaction was to think he was playing a joke on me. “What are you doing?!?!” In that very breath I noticed his other hand stretched back by his body, it already had a dusky blue color. I reached for my phone in my pocket, and called 911 as I checked for a pulse on the arm I could reach. It was weak, but it was there. As I was on the phone giving my frantic plea for help, I ran to our truck to get another jack. I grabbed the jack and only realized once I got to Will’s side that it wasn’t going to fit under the car. I started to cry.
“Are you there ma’am?” The 911 operator was still on the phone. Yes I’m here. I ran to the neighbors house to get a jack from them. Their daughter answered the door and I asked for her mom or dad to come as fast as they could. Then I remembered Lincoln was still in the highchair by himself. I ran back home telling the 911 operator that I couldn’t fit the jack under the car, so I was trying to find another one. She advised me to not lift the car off of Will. Not knowing the extend of his injuries, lifting the car off of him with out the paramedics there was too risky.
I went inside to grab Lincoln and came out to see a police officer pulling up. He ran to Will and grabbed the truck jack. I told him that it didn’t fit and that I was advised to not lift the car. Just then an ambulance arrived. The first paramedic on the scene was Tyler. And this is where his part of the story fills in the blanks. He stood there waiting for the fire truck to arrive, it was only a minute behind him, but it felt like an eternity. As he waited he started an IV in Wills arm to neutralize his blood, so that it didn’t become toxic to his body. When your blood isn’t receiving oxygen, it becomes acidic.
The fire truck arrived and Lincoln started to scream. And I started to feel dizzy. I took in long slow breaths and someone took Lincoln from me. I squatted down on the ground and Tyler told me to go inside. My bishop and RS president (Who both live right next to me) brought me inside. My bishop gave me a priesthood blessing offering peace and comfort.
When the fire truck arrived, they used the jaws of life to lift the car off of Will. They estimated he was under the car for about 7 minutes. As they pulled him out from the car he was dead. No heart beat. And he wasn’t breathing. They did several chest compressions and performed a Thoracentesis to remove any fluid from his lungs. He was blue, and they were sure he was dead. Then he took a quick gasp of air. And his heart started beating. I came back outside as they were loading him into the ambulance. I told him to keep fighting and prayed that wouldn’t be the last time I saw him.
Two weeks before the accident, Tyler had picked a special interest for his paramedic training. He picked therapeutic hypothermia. This was a fairly new technique, and he was the only one on the team that was trained in it. They start a catheter in your leg and slowly drop your body temperature down to reduce swelling in the brain. As Will had a suspected traumatic brain injury, Tyler made the call to start therapeutic hypothermia.
He only was able to do this because of the training he received TWO WEEKS BEFORE!!! This saved Will’s life. Without a doubt. He is here with me today because of this man. If only there was another word in the english language to express immense gratitude. Sometimes “thank you” just doesn’t cut it.
One of the neighbors took Lincoln and another one drove me to the hospital. On the way there I knew Will needed prayers, immediately. I called my mom, Will’s mom and my sister, and told them Will needed as many prayers as he could get. As I hung up and we were nearing the hospital, I quickly posted on facebook, “Will is in the hospital, please pray for him” We ran into the ER and a social worker was there waiting for us. He ushered us into a room. And told us the doctor would be in soon. He asked me how I was doing. I looked at him with swollen red eyes and couldn’t muster out more than a squeaky “Okay”. I twisted Will’s wedding ring around on my finger as we waited. They had given it to me with all of his other personal belongings. My heart was beating so fast I wondered if it would ever slow down.
My sister Soni called after reading my post on FB just as the doctor finally came back in. I put her on speaker so that she could listen to the details I knew I was to emotional to pay attention to. The CT scan showed minimal swelling, and he had no broken bones. They would keep his body cool for 24 hours to reduce swelling, putting him in a medically induced coma. After that they would slowly bring his temperature up which would take another 24 hours. And we would go from there. The possible outcomes ranged from death to brain dead, to years of recovery.
I walked up to the waiting room with my my neighbors who had brought me to the hospital. We waited for what seemed like hours for them to let me in to see Will. I was waiting by the doors when someone with a crash cart came rushing by. I panicked and begged them to let me back to his room. But I had to keep waiting.
Family and friends slowly trickled in to the waiting room. They sat with me, cried with me, and prayed with me. I asked my friend Heather to tell me that Will would be okay. I knew it wasn’t a fair thing to ask, but I just wanted someone to say it, even if it wasn’t true.
They finally let me go back to his room. His whole body was shaking, and his eyes were swollen. He was on a breathing tube and had a neck brace on. I gave him a kiss on the head and held his hand. Our friend Dave gave him a blessing. My eyes popped open as he said the following words “I bless you with a full and complete recovery” In my heart, I wanted it to be true, but everything else was pointing in a different direction.
Will’s mom and brother caught the first flight from California. They got to the hospital around 9pm. There wasn’t much we could do at that point, and Lincoln needed to be fed, so we all came back home to attempt sleep. My sister Soni started driving from Oregon and arrived sometime in the early morning. (This was the second time in a year that she came running to my aid.)
That first night was hell. I could’t sleep. I prayed and cried, until two AM I got a call from the hospital, letting me know that his temperature had reached 91 degrees and they would start the 24 hours. I tossed and turned for a couple of hours, and decided I would turn to the scriptures. I started in John 14.
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27
At that point in time, I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I just new that everything would be okay. At 4 am I got a text from Heather, telling me that she couldn’t answer when I asked before, but she felt that Will would be okay, and that I was strong enough to make it through this. Then 5 minutes later I got a call from my mom saying that she had prayed and felt at peace. She too knew that Will would be okay.
I spent the next couple of days back and forth between the hospital and my nursing baby. They slowly brought him out of his coma. I cried tears of joy when he was able to wiggle his toes and raise his hands. The next day they took the breathing tube out, but his voice was too weak and raspy to talk. After several hours he woke up and I showed him a picture of Lincoln. I asked if he knew who he was. He nodded his head and softly said “Lincoln.” I asked if he knew who I was…..he looked at me confused and shook his head no. I started to cry, and his nurse wrapped her arms around me and held me. “He knows you! He knows you! I promise he knows you.” The next few days proved that he did remember me. He now claims that he was just trying to tease me. Which is not cool.
Will had to relearn how to walk, how to feed himself, how to go to the bathroom. Even talking took a day or two. He had about a 1 minute memory. So we spent a lot of the day answering the same questions. He was transferred to the rehab unit on day 5. Every day he saw a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, and a neuro therapist. The things that he wasn’t able to do worried me. Simple things like complete a 24 piece puzzle, name 10 fruits, repeat a simple story.
Physical therapy was a similar story. When asked to stand on one foot and put his arms straight out, he couldn’t do it. He insisted no one could do that, and challenged the PT to give it a try. Who was a very sweet, patient guy I went to high school with. I said “look!” And easily completed the task. I ran up the stairs as he struggled to make it up a few, and I threw the ball up in the air AND caught it. I know it wasn’t kind, and I was not being supportive, but I was so frustrated. Will insisted he was fine. He insisted he was ready to go home, and all of these “exercises" were dumb.
The next exercise was on the wii fit. Will went and couldn’t complete the easiest level. “You try it!” I knew he needed a win, so I purposefully lost.
The days were long. Will would forget where we were and why we were there. He had to wear an eye patch because of the double vision he had from the force of the car hitting his head. So every minute he would ask why he was wearing an eye patch and would take it off. He was frustrated that we couldn’t go home, and didn’t understand why he was in the hospital. Every night he would beg me to stay, and didn’t understand why I had to go home. People with TBI are often more aggressive, as the frontal part of the brain is responsible for impulse control.
I brought his guitar to him one night, thinking it would help him relearn how to play. Something about the music and the connections it would have. He was excited but frustrated when he tried to play a simple song, and couldn’t manage find the cords. He threw the guitar down on the bed. I stepped out of the room and started sobbing in the hall. One of the doctors asked if I wanted to talk. She brought me into the nurses room and gave me a tissue. In tears I asked how long he would be like this. They didn’t have very many answers for me. Where he would end up cognitively was unknown. They said complete healing from his type of brain injury could take years.
I felt defeated.
Thanks to many prayers said on our behave, and lots of support, including my sister and niece watching Lincoln every day, we kept going. And everyday Will was improving. After 6 days in rehab, they sent him home. (It was our 3 year anniversary)
I was trained on how to help him walk and we were to come back in for therapy twice a week. A neurologist sat down with us to go over discharge instructions. She told us that her recommendation was to take it easy for the next six months. She strongly encouraged Will to take a break from work and gave us disability forms to fill out. To which Will said “That’s not going to happen.”
Will seemed to recover much faster at home, and Lincoln was happy to have him back. As was I. Within 2 weeks Will was back to work (against the doctor’s advice). When we went back for his outpatient care, the therapist who cared for Will were all amazed. They all told me after he was better, that they didn’t think he would make it. They figured he would be brain dead. It is a miracle he is alive, let alone completely back to normal, guitar skills and all.
The whole ordeal has taken me a while to process. (Five years later I am actually writing it all down) I spent the first couple of weeks having a mini panic attack every time I walked into the garage. I still feel anxious and nervous if I see someone working underneath a car.
As I was looking back through Facebook posts to remember the timeline of everything, I re-read all of the comments from dear friends and family. I know it has been a long time, but thank you. Thank you for all of your love and support. The first year of Lincoln's life was a rough one. I leaned on others through Lincoln's hospital stay and surgery, when my step dad passed, and then again with Will's accident. I would not have survived with out you. I will always remember those who offered their support, cried with me, prayed for me. The small(and not so small) acts of service that you may think went unnoticed, made the biggest impact. There is so much evil in the world, but there is also a lot of good. There are tragedies and there are miracles.
"If you are helpless, He is not. If you are lost, He is not. If you don't know what to do next, He knows. It would take a miracle, you say? Well, if it takes a miracle, why not?"
~President Boyd K. Packer~