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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

He is there, He is listening.

     We arrived at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, and were guided to the fourth floor where the operating room and the pediatric intensive care unit are.  We took the over sized stainless steel elevator to get there.  It's doors opened to an all white floor and white walls. I immediately noticed hair all over the floor. We got off the elevator and turned the corner to find our son being wheeled down the hallway on his way to the operating room.  There was an O.R. team  prepping him while they wheeled him, and they were shaving his head.  There were three doctors walking with them, and one turned to me and introduced himself as Dr. Brockmeyer, a pediatric neurosurgeon,  and informed me they didn't have to time to wait for us to arrive they had to move forward with surgery quickly to attempt to save Travis' life. He then asked me "Is this a a bicycle, scooter, or a skateboard accident?" I said  "neither" He didn't say anything and turned and walked through the doors and left us standing there.

     A hospital staff member took us to a small private room with a few chairs, no windows, and a desk with a telephone sitting on it.  My husband and our friend Andrew and myself  sat quietly for over an hour.  Andrew left to go and get us something to drink.  My husbands parents were trying to reach us and he stepped out of the room to get better cell phone reception.  I was sitting there alone when Dr. Brockmeyer walked through the door with the other surgeons.  He told me they had just performed a left craniotomy on Travis, also known as a bone flap.  They had removed the left side of his skull to give his brain room to swell, so that the pressure from the inflammation does not create more damage to the brain.  He was very soft spoken, kind and business like. He told me Travis had a 50/50 chance to live through the night.  He told me that if he did live, and if he came ever came out of the coma, he would be in a vegetative state, he had a substantial amount of trauma to his brain and there was some bleeding also. He seemed to have a sadness in his eyes, but was very matter of fact.  While he was saying these words I could hear everything he was saying, but in my mind I heard the words "Travis will live, and he will be made whole."  He was a tall slender man,  and he had a gentleness about him. He shook my hand and they walked out.  Alone again, in the cold windowless room with the phone, I thought that my knees were going to buckle underneath me. Once again, the warmth came, the peaceful feeling I had felt previously wrapped itself around my body. I was calm.

     At this point it was late in the night, and eventually we were brought into the PICU to see Travis.  He was a sight to behold.  Part of his head was shaved, he had staples in a moon shape from the back of his neck to across the top of his head. He had a feeding tube inserted through his nose. He was on a ventilator. There were wires and tubes everywhere.  He wasn't wearing anything but cloth covering his mid-section and I could see his tan skin.  I looked him over and I noticed there was no other bruises, no cuts, no scrapes.  He had no broken bones, and not a single mark on him other than the one the doctors had just created.  The nurses informed us he was in a medically induced coma so his brain could have very little activity in order to heal. The ventilator was breathing for him, and he may or may not come out of the coma and breathe on his own.

     We Had friends who kept our small children and my husband and I spent the first of many nights at the hospital.  They gave me a small room that was more like a closet with a small twin bed in to sleep in. They had 5 of these small rooms, and they gave the most critically injured children's parents those rooms. My name was first on the list and I was given room #1. Each night I would dread being assigned that room, first on the list , reminding me how critical my son was.  The other parents slept in the waiting room all together, which would become very packed at night. Every chair and inch of floor space had a parent or family member sleeping somewhere on it.  My husband kissed my forehead and gave me the small bed and he joined ranks with the "campers" out in the waiting room. Neither of us slept, I took about 30 minutes and rested on the bed, but went back in to be by Travis' side. Every hour I would look at the clock and feel like it was a little victory that he had made it through the hour. I continued to pray in my mind that he would live, he would be blessed, the doctors would know what to do. I wanted the Great Physician to heal him and take all of this away. 

     Finally after what seemed like countless hours, the first rays of sunshine came through the hospital windows.  Travis was still alive.  Through the night his brain pressure continued to get worse and they decided to do another procedure called a lumbar puncture where they insert a hole in your lower spinal canal to relieve pressure. They shaved another section of his head and put a large metal bolt that would measure more accurately brain pressure.  It looked like a giant spark plug coming out of his forehead.   Travis continued to live from one hour to the next but each hour that passed  seemed to bring with it more complications.   He developed a very high fever.  His brain pressure continued to go up. His blood pressure continued to go up and then fall very quickly. He developed a severe case of "C diff" short for a very long word that causes severe abdominal issues.  As the hours and days went on his fever continued to go up at one point it was at 106. degrees.  Eventually it was discovered that he had contracted spinal meningitis.  Things when from bad to worse.  In my heart I felt like the Lord was telling me that he was going to be o.k.  I began to ask myself "Why was he getting worse if he is supposed to be getting better?" When I would pray and confide in the Lord, I would always have this "feeling" that he was going to get better. He wasn't getting better.  I wasn't sure how much worse it could get and him still be alive. I began to doubt my intuition and the constant thoughts I had in my mind of him getting better, that I interpreted as a still small voice, speaking to my heart from above. I started to think it was just what I wanted really badly, and perhaps I was convincing myself it was genuine answers to prayers. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I tried to, but putting food in my mouth and trying to swallow it was a little bit like trying to chew up and eat a pair of socks.  I had been wearing the same few articles of clothes for days.  I had showered, but dressed without even looking in the mirror and had forgotten about doing hair or make-up.  I can imagine I started to look as alarming as Travis did, only more in a homeless, living under a bridge kind of way.

   After several days of his vitals and brain pressures and fevers being on a constant roller coaster, and continuing to get worse, one day it occurred to me that maybe Travis was scared, upset or confused about what was going on. Maybe he was hurting somewhere, or he was itching and couldn't scratch. Maybe there was something going on emotionally within him, and that is why perhaps he wasn't getting better.  I started to softly ask him in his ear these questions and if there was something he wanted to know.  The nurse reminded me that his ear drums are paralyzed by the medications and he can't hear any sounds.  I continued to talk to him quietly and told him "I know you can't talk to me, and I can't hear you, but if there is something you need, or need to know, ask Heavenly Father in your mind.  He can hear you, even though I can't." A tear rolled down his cheek as I whispered to him.  A few seconds later I had the thought in my mind to tell him about his best friend Derek that was in the accident with him.  I let him know he was cut pretty bad on his head, and his neck was really sore, he would be out of school and baseball for a while, but that he was going to be o.k.  He was actually getting getting out of the hospital later that day and wanted to come straight to the hospital to see Travis.

   Within a few minutes of me telling Travis all about Derek and what happened to him in the accident his fever started to break.  His brain pressures started gradually declining.  His heart rate and blood pressure evened out.  His oxygen levels came up.   Kristi his nurse, who was another angel to Travis and to me, suggested that I go try and sleep, and assured me she would send for me if there was any change good or bad.  I didn't think I could, but I slept for 45 minutes, it felt like 8 hours of sleep to me. 

    Later that afternoon Derek arrived with his family with his face all stitched and scabbed up and wearing a neck brace. It was so good to see him, I was so glad he was up walking and going to be o.k.   Within a few minutes of him being next to Travis' bed, Travis' brain pressures went to the lowest they had been, and continued to normalize from that point forward.

     I didn't know if Travis would ever breathe on his own.  I didn't know if his eyes would open and he would look at me ever again.  I didn't know if I would ever hear him call me "Mom" again.  One thing that I did know for sure, is that our Heavenly Father really is there.  He really is listening, He really does hear and answers a child's prayers, even if they can't say them out loud.  I know He is near, and I know
He answers His children's prayers, even if they are in their thirties and doubting that He's there.



Travis and Derek on Halloween dressed as "2 Cool Cows"

A couple of weeks before his accident at his piano recital. He played Pachelbel's Canon in D

The night before his accident. He was begging me to give him a haircut and wanted me to take a picture of his "long" hair.
He was not happy having to wear a "Jazz" Jersey, he was a huge Houston Rockets fan.

Travis and Derek first time together since the accident.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

The day the Angels came...

It was an ordinary day to us.  The first day of spring baseball had come on a crisp March afternoon.  We had anticipated this day for a while since Travis had been "highly recruited" by the city league baseball coaches.   We had lived in Utah for a year and Travis had played the previous season, he was 10.  The coaches had moved him up to a 12 year old team the previous year, which made quite a stir from a few parents, and then he made the All-star team, which created even more of a stir, since their were other parents who thought their sons were much more qualified.  My husband and I have never involved ourselves much with sports teams politics, so we didn't think much about it.  Travis just loved to play the game, and he was extremely good.  He was good at more than baseball...things always came easy to him.  He never studied and made straight A's, he didn't practice too much and would play his piano pieces beautifully at his recitals, he seemed to make instant friends wherever he went, he had always been an easy child.

The Afternoon finally arrived and I took my two little ones to sit out on the lawn to watch.  I remember sitting on a blanket and feeling the cool grass on my feet while Cade and Rhett jumped around and pretended to be baseball players. The first drill which was sprints started. Travis one every sprint. The next drill..the team lined up in pairs, the two players that could throw the most throws in a timed period.  Travis and his partner won. He went down a line of partners each time he and the partner he was with won.  Wow, I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was that good, I remember thinking.  Batting practice...smash, one after the other into the outfield, line drive.  Practice ended. His coach came over and shook my hand and told me how excited he was to have Travis on his team. He was also the high school baseball coach, he told me he thought it was going to be a great year.

Travis and his best friend Derryk ran out in the parking lot to meet my cousin Crissy who was attending college near by. They hopped in the car with her and Derek's sister to head to the roller rink.  I really didn't want Travis to go...I told him it was a school night, maybe he better not.  "I've already done my homework and it's early Mom!" I really couldn't think of any other reasons for him not to go, so I hesitantly agreed. I remember thinking to say everyone buckle up...but they rolled up the window and zoomed off, before I could get the words out.

I went home and started dinner and was planning on heading to the gym as soon as my husband was home from work and the little ones were fed.

The phone rang and it was Derek's Dad. The words came out of the phone and it seemed as if the air in the atmosphere changed at the same time.  "There's been an accident, the kids are at the hospital, everyone is hurt. You need to get there fast."   

I arranged for someone to stay with the little ones and I rushed to the hospital, it was a few minutes away.  I walked into the ER and saw Derek, there was lots of blood everywhere, his eyes were open he was alert.  I could hear high pitched shrieks and followed the sound.  I saw Travis in  a room with numerous doctors and nurses frantically rushing around him.  I sensed the gravity of the situation.  I went to his side and spoke to him "Travis! It's Mom! can you hear me? More shrieks and his eyes rolling back in his head...I plead with him to answer.  He looked gray to me.  I knew he was teetering between life and death. No one had to tell me how serious the situation was. I knew.  A nurse came and told me they had to do a brain scan and took me to a small room with no windows and a telephone sitting on the desk.  I later learned that was where they took the people that might have to inform their loved ones of a death.  I called my husband and told him to come quickly, that is all the words I could say.  I hung up the phone and fell to my knees.  The words poured out of my heart.  I told the Lord that if He had a reason to call Travis home, Travis was so couragous, he wouldn't hesitate! He would go wherever the Lord wanted him to go.  I told the Lord I wanted Travis to live and I wanted him to be with our family and grow up and I wanted to continue to raise him!  My heart was breaking as I told the Lord I knew it had to be His will. Travis would want it to be the Lords will, whatever that may be.  As soon as I said these words an undiscribable peace and warmth came over me.  I heard the words in my mind that I had read many times in the bible "Be still and know that I am God"  I felt calm.

My husband arrived and we were able to go see Travis again...still with teams of medical staff moving quickly around him.  It was determined that he had possible bleeding in his brain from the impact of the accident, he would be life flighted to Primary Children's Medical center for further treatment to his brain.

My husband and I had a quick moment for him and his business partner, who was also a good friend give Travis a blessing and say a prayer before we left.  I stood with them and listened, not able to speak, but feeling unusually calm, and listened. Again, the warmth came. My soul felt still.

The ER team turned Travis over to the life flight team.  They seemed like Angels to me in their red suits. The sound of the helicopter was loud, and the wind was strong as it landed.  They loaded my sweet boy who just recently had won every drill on that baseball diamond, into the helicopter.   My heart broke as they informed me there was no room for anyone else, since they needed all of their crew on board to keep Travis alive.  The air became hard to breathe.  I stood there and watched the helicopter fly over the mountain with my boy in it.  I thought I might collapse. I will never forget the sound it made flying away.

My husband's partner, Andrew drove us to the hospital.  We had to drive AROUND the mountain instead of over.  I'm not sure why but I got in the back seat.  I wanted to yell for him to GO FASTER!!!, but no words would come.  I couldn't speak.  Again I felt warm and at peace.  In my mind I could see my Grandmother Sally who had passed away a few years earlier sitting next to me.  I could see in my mind her patting my hand and telling me it was going to be ok. I felt at peace.  That 45 minute car ride was the longest ride of my life.


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