Seatbelts and Helmets

Posted by Wesley On Wednesday, July 28, 2010 8 comments

Alright readers... serious post here. Is this post about weight loss? No. Is it about your well-being? Absolutely. So it totally belongs on this blog. This post belongs on any blog, for that matter. Because this is some serious crap, and you all need to pay close attention, because it's a matter of life and death. 

What I am about to tell you has made me total wreck for the past two days. I haven't been able to focus at work, so have had zero productivity, have ruined my contacts from tearing up and crying so much, and I feel guilty for even laughing or doing anything enjoyable knowing what pain a good friend of mine is in. This has literally opened my eyes to seeing how quickly life can change for one person. I can't even begin to wrap my head around what he is feeling right now, what he felt when it all happened, or even the pain he and his family and other friends are in.

On Monday I received a tearful, frantic voice mail from my boss asking me to call her right away, that one of my co-workers (my leasing manager) had gotten into an accident, and was in the ICU.

Pissed at myself for allowing my phone to die and getting the message four hours later, I called her back immediately. It was 2AM and I didn't give a damn if I woke her up. She answered, and I told her all I needed was the hospital he was at. She told me, I packed my things up, and got in my car.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was running around asking nurses where I could find my co-worker. I was so frantic, I was getting myself completely turned around in the halls, taking elevators to wrong floors and floors that were under construction, walking through doors that led to empty offices and parking garages, and arriving in wings that didn't even house trauma victims. I eventually found someone and told them I had been searching for room so and so in the trauma wing and asked if she could please take me there as I had been running around aimlessly for about 30 minutes. "Absolutely... follow me sweetie." she said. She could tell I was upset, and was making small talk with me the whole way there, trying to get me to forget what ever it was that I was so worried about. She asked me a few questions about the person I was there to see, if he was ok, etc.

"I, I-don, I'm not, I-I-I-I. I'm not sure. I just, I really... I just don't know. I-I... I'm trying to get to him. I have no idea what state he's in." I said. 

"Well, he's in one of the best trauma hospitals in the city, so know that he's in good hands here. We take our patients very seriously." She said, placing her hand on my back. We walked off the elevator. "Right that way through those doors you'll be able to find your friend. My best wishes sweetie..."

"Thank you." I said. 

I walked through the double-wide doors into another empty hallway, with a few nurses walking around with their clipboards, the sound of EKG's beeping in the background, medical machines lining the doorways to each of the rooms. "I hate hospitals..." I whisper under my breath. My sneakers squeak on the shiny laminate floor as I creep down the hallway looking in and out of rooms, trying to see if any of them are my friend. A nurse approaches me and asks if she can help me find someone. I tell her who I'm looking for, and she looks over at her fellow RN. "Can he...?" 

"I'm not really sure." she interrupts. "Lemme see." She picks up the phone and says a few things just quiet enough so I can't hear. "Are you a family member sir?" she asks as she places her hand over the receiver. 

"Well, no. I-I'm a friend. A co-worker. I just heard about this not to long ago." I say.

She gets back on the phone, says a few more things I still cannot make out, and hangs up. She takes a deep breath and says "Alright, you can go back. But he just got out of surgery, so he can't talk or be bothered much. Understand?"


"Alright. End of the hall, last room on the left." she exclaims.

"Thanks..." I say.

I start walking towards the end of the hall, looking in and out of rooms, still nervous, not knowing what to expect, to see, to hear, or smell. I arrive at the last room, take a quick peek in, and not really recognizing the person occupying the bed, I turn back around, only to see a sign with his last night scribbled on it with some other information. In disbelief, I turn back around and slowly approach the bed. It's him. Swollen, scabbed, bruised, wrapped up him in bloody bandages and a neck brace. 

"Oh. My. God..." I whisper to myself. I couldn't help but study the tubes coming out of him. The hardware in him. The bruises and scabs that littered his face, his arms, his knuckles. The wires hooked up to him. The machines surrounding his body that were beeping, alarming, blinking, and dripping. I could barely recognize him.

I stood there with my mediocre cup of water and started welling up. Tears started pouring down my face. All I could do was stand there... and do nothing. I wanted to help. I wanted to find the person who did this. I wanted to waive some sort of magical wand and turn back time. Or heal him. Or... something. But all I could do... was nothing.

A short moment after, his wife walked in. She whispered a quick "heeeey..." and gave me a quick hug.

"How is he?" I ask. 

"He... he's rough." she says. And then proceeds to run down his list of injuries, his surgery schedule, and what exactly put him in his current state.

Readers, on Monday evening my friend was on his way back home from a tux fitting for a wedding he was to be in next weekend. Two blocks from his home, a woman ran a red light, slammed into him at 50 miles an hour, sent him soaring above the motorcycle he was riding, over her vehicle, onto her roof, and landing head-first on a curb. He has several broken ribs, a broken arm, a broken shoulder, broken shoulder blades, a broken leg, a collapsed lung, his femur is snapped in five different places, he has two fractured vertebrae, and is missing skin due to road rash. He has an incredible amount of hardware in his left leg holding it together, is in a serious neck brace, and is bandaged beyond belief. In the time he's been in the hospital, he's gone through two surgeries, both of which were longer than five hours. He's got one more surgery tomorrow (Thursday), and another scheduled for next week. There will be more after that. The doctors are keeping him for a minimum of two weeks in the hospital. And are estimating a six-month recovery period. And if you think that sucks, please take into account that he is missing out on the most critical period for him and brand new, two-month old child to bond... because he's going to be too busy in rehab, getting strong enough to walk again.

I visited him yesterday before his surgery, looking no different from the time I had seen him the day of the accident. In fact, his bruises were a little more dark and more apparent. He was laying in bed, and as my boss and I approached, he looked at both of us and lifted his one, gauze-wrapped working arm up in the air and extended his fingers as much as he could. His fingernails still had blood under them. My boss took his hand and he let his fingers relax around it. The look in his eyes was nothing I had ever seen before. It was a look of happiness mixed with desperation, pain, and relief. Too drugged up from pain killers, he held a conversation the best he could, speaking with a hoarse voice and trying to look around the room under restriction from his neck brace. His poor lips were incredibly chapped. The nurses were giving him no liquids because he was to head into surgery soon. He was so desperate for water, he was taking the wet washcloth off his forehead and sucking the water out of it. He eventually found a nurse who was willing to give him a single ice cube to suck on. He kept saying he's never wanted water so bad in his life. It was incredibly and unbelievably hard to see someone who is normally so strong, proud, witty, and active in a state of utter helplessness and total desperation.

Readers, he is so damaged, it's a miracle he's still alive. And every doctor and nurse who's worked with him has said so. They all agree: without his helmet, he never would have survived the crash. I'm going to say that again. Without his HELMET, he never would have survived the crash. Again, without his HELMET, he never would have survived the crash. You see, when he landed, his head hit the curb so hard, it literally split his helmet in half. Those helmets are a lot harder than our skulls. So, WITHOUT HIS HELMET, HE NEVER WOULD HAVE SURVIVED THE CRASH.

The reason for my sharing of this story is this: please be smart like my friend and co-worker. Wear a damn seat belt in your car and a helmet on your motorcycle. And don't give your friends hell when they tell you to put one on, either. I have to deal with that crap all too often, and I hate it. You have an obligation to freakin' oblige and recognize your friends' respect for your life. And you all have the responsibility to show the same in return. I'll let you puke, piss, blow snot rockets, and squirt ketchup packets in my car, all day long, for every Saturday of the rest of my life, and not say a thing about it... as long as you're buckled in.

Please keep my friend in your thoughts for a speedy recovery. I know you don't know him, but he needs every bit of support he can get. Pray for him, chant for him, do what ever you can to send good things his way, because he's got a long road ahead of him, and we're only on day three...


Jennifer Brindley said...

How awful, Wes. :( I'm sorry you're going through this, and for your LM. How horrible.

But, thanks for sharing it. It's a good reminder to the rest of us, and I'm a huge seatbelt advocate.


MizFit said...

SO SORRY FOR ALL THIS and prayers for your friend.

Its always amazing to me that many many still do not buckle in.

xo xo and prayers,


JewliaGoulia said...

I am speechless. I am so sorry for all parties involved, how terrible.

*hugs* and my thoughts being sent to you and your friend.

~ugly girl with a beautiful heart~ said...

Sending love and hugs your way hon, so sorry about your friend. I'm a huge advocate of helmets and seat belts as well!

Ashley said...

Wow, this hit way too close to home. Just last month, my grandpa got into a car accident that put him in the same condition as your friend. Reading your descriptions took me back to when I visited him. It was horrible. He was also pleading for ice, was bruised and bandaged. He's doing a lot better now, has been through intense rehab therapy and may finally get to go home next week. He's been in the hospital a month and a half now.

I'm praying for you and your friend.

Denise + Nick said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your co-worker.  My husband is an avid motorcycle rider (dirt and street bike) and we've heard stories like this all too often. When he was 19, one of his friend’s life was taken by a woman who ran a red light. It is heartbreaking. Luck is already on your co-workers side – as he is still here with us! I wish him a speedy recovery and my thoughts are with you during this tough time.

(PS: Lovin’ your blog, BTW.)

misssarahlou said...

I am sitting reading this wide eyed. What a horrible thing to have happened. You are right to push the message of helmets, and also suitable clothing for motorcycle riders... I see so many people where I currently live who dont wear either, dressed in shorts and tank top I dont know what they are thinking, if they came off it would be so bad.
I will definitely be thinking of your friend. Stay strong for him. Sounds like you have been a great friend so far.

Lisa said...

My word! I am so glad he was wearing his helmet! I hope he recovers fully and fast! My heart goes out to you too because it must be very hard for you to see him like that.

- Lisa