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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Angels bring tidings of comfort and joy, campers, and yellow towels.

     The days began to turn into weeks at our stay at Primary Children's Hospital.  My days became routine and usually started with a shower in the morning in the common bathroom of the PICU waiting room. I didn't really mind the shower. It was the towels that bothered me.  They were course and felt a little bit like sand paper. They were all white and they had the same smell that Travis' sheets and blankets in his hospital bed had. All of the linens in the hospital had the same smell.  It's not a particularly bad smell, but it made me nauseous. I had never said this out loud to anyone, but I hated those towels.   Mostly my clothes were brought to me by my husband, or sometimes one of my brothers would gather some things and bring a bag.  I remember chuckling to myself as I pulled out of the bag my daily clothing of Travis' Houston Rockets t-shirts, and a pair of mens Texas Longhorn sweatpants.  My wardrobe wasn't exactly on the high priority list, at least it was comfortable and clean.  Another one of my neighbors one morning went to my house and gathered some make-up and brought it to me.  She said she was so worried about how awful I must have felt with no make-up with me at the hospital.  I thanked her for thinking of me and thought to myself make-up had not crossed my mind once.  Looking back, I can imagine what a sight I must have been.  I have very thick frizzy hair that gets really big and crazy when it's not had lots of products and hair tools working on it.  I can imagine between my wardrobe selections, my all natural no make up face, and my Diana Ross hair style, maybe I  should have taken the make up gesture a little more seriously.

     I would try and eat whatever someone brought me, I didn't actually feel hungry and couldn't remember most of the time if I had eaten or not.  I have always been a lover of food, and my husband would bring me different things from my favorite restaurants in town, hoping my appetite and ability to eat would return. I still had such a hard time chewing and swallowing food.  It seemed foreign to me, like my body had just forgotten how to do something that it has always done. I would try each day, and would feel guilty not eating the food that he went to so much effort to bring me.

     We would have visitors come everyday. Some from our neighborhood, some from church, family, longtime friends.  I could tell how hard it was for people to walk in and see Travis for the first time. You could see the shock and overwhelming sadness on their faces  when they would walk in.  I loved for them to come.  It brought so much peace and comfort to know so many people cared and were thinking about us and praying for Travis and our family.

     Travis' vitals and brain pressures had become stabilized  but he still was in a coma, still had spinal meningitis and c-diff and all of the complications and symptoms that go along with those issues and his injured brain.  He had been quarantined in a private room because the infections he had were contagious.  He had so many teams of doctors I began to lose count.  There was the pediatric neuro team, the infectious disease team, the physical therapy team, a nutrition team,  a respiratory team, and a child life team. They would have meetings every day to discuss the game plan and make sure everyone was on the same page.  It was all exhausting.  I still couldn't sleep and I know I was physically run down. It was hard for me to leave Travis' side and when I would go into the room they had for me, the pillows and blankets had that same hospital towel smell.  I would feel sick. I didn't mention this to anyone, I didn't want to add worry to our loved ones that were already brimming over with worry about Travis.  I desperately wanted to sleep and began to privately add to my prayers for Travis, that I would be able to find a way to get some sleep.

     I also began to miss my two younger boys Cade, and Rhett. They were four and 15 months at the time.  I was used to being with them every part of the day, and I missed them so much it hurt.  My friends at church and my neighbors had organized a group of ladies to babysit for them everyday and they would give me the calendar to let me know where they were.  I missed taking care of them and giving them their baths and reading to them. I missed putting them to bed and their little hands in mine. I missed our family being under the same roof so much.  I remember thinking, I would be happy living in a tent if it meant we could all be together under one roof.  I realized during those moments, that is what Heaven is to me.  Our family being together.

     I would email daily usually an update about Travis. People from all over the country and even a few not in our country,  from all different faiths sent me messages of encouragement and told me they were praying for Travis.  Some people even told me because of Travis they started praying again after years, and others visited their church again for the first time in years.  I couldn't believe the army of people who had banned together to pray for our family.  I was always moved to tears every time I would read the emails.

    People brought us many things that were so appreciated, food, books, bottled water, soothing cd's, gift cards, gas cards, so many things I couldn't list them all.  One day a dear friend of mine, Pamela McCoy came by to visit.  She brought me a gift and handed to me in a large Dillard's bag.  She said "you may think this is a silly gift, but I thought it might come in handy."  In the bag was One large plush  yellow  towel and several matching hand towels and wash cloths.  She said, "Don't worry, they are clean, I took them home and washed them , and even added some Downy fabric softener"   Tears began to roll down my face.  I took the soft towels out and breathed in that downy fresh scent.  She could have brought me a bag of gold and it wouldn't have meant more to me than those yellow towels.  I will never forget those towels, and the message of love that they were to me.  I knew that my prayers were heard.  I felt my Savior's love, I knew that He knew how much I loathed those hospital towels, even though I had never said it out loud.

      Another day a friend of ours came by the hospital and said he knew someone who had a camper.  It was small but thought some of our family that was in town might be able to use it. He brought it to the hospital parking lot and parked it. My Mom and Dad were still in town from Texas, and it was perfect for them to stay in at night. They didn't have to travel far from the hospital and they could stay close by.  One afternoon my Dad looked at me and said "Why don't you go and take a nap in the camper in the parking lot?" I had a private bed reserved for me in the hospital, and I had not really left the fourth floor much since we had been there.  I didn't want to be out of range of the hospital intercom in case they needed me for something with Travis.  My Mom said she would stay right next to Travis' bed and my Dad promised he would come and get me if anything came up.  I reluctantly agreed.  I walked outside of the hospital for the first time since we had walked into it,  and the sun seemed unusually bright.  It was still spring in Utah, and there was quite a chill in the air.  I found the camper in the parking lot and climbed in.  It had heavy blankets in it that smelled like a camp fire.  I could tell the camper had been used for camping, I could almost smell the woods inside of it.  I didn't know who the camper belonged to, but I could imagine a family in it cooking and playing games.  The warmth of the afternoon sun had made the inside of it warm and toasty.  I crawled under the big blankets, the smells reminded me of all of the camp outs my Dad had taken us on as kids. The next thing I knew I woke up and it was dark outside.  I had been in a deep sleep for hours.

      The Lord asked us to love one another.  He told us that "By this shall men know that ye are my disciples"  To this day I don't know who the camper belonged to.  I wish the owners of it knew what an answer to my prayers it was.  I will never forget the army of angels that came to our rescue in so many ways.  Most of all, I will never forget the One who sent them.

Monday, October 7, 2013

More of The Day the Angels came... through Jessica's eyes.

     I titled the first post I wrote on this blog, "The Day the Angels Came".  Travis' accident happened twelve years ago on March 20, 2000.  I gave it this title, because from the moment I received that life changing phone call, I believe that there were angels rallying around me and all of us involved.  Some of those angels were EMT's, some were friends, some were strangers, nurses and family.  From my experience, at different times I have felt that there were angels beyond the veil of my sight that were with me. I believe that our Heavenly Father uses all types of "angels" to comfort us when we are going through hard things in life.  Some are people we see everyday, some are random people we cross paths with, and some are those that are beyond this life. I believe that they are God's helpers, and whether it is a neighbor who lives next door, or a grandmother, or loved one who has passed on before us,  they are there.  They come to help and to comfort, and we are not alone.  I hope that as you read this, you will look for the angels in your life, and notice them more often.  I hope that you will find ways to be an angel to someone, and be the answer to someones prayer.

     Last week I was sitting at my youngest son Dallas' football practice when I received a message from Jessica Mellor. She is the older sister of Derek, and she was also in the car when the accident happened.  She said she had written in her journal the events of that fateful day, but had never shared them with anyone.  Since I had started this blog, and began sharing what happened she wanted to share them with me.  I sat on the sidelines of the football field and read her memories of what happened that day.  Tears poured down my face as I read her insights and perceptions of the days events.  It pierced me deep that she was just thirteen years old when this happened, and had to go through such a frightening experience.  It was hard to imagine the street, the smoke, the blood, the red lights, the sounds and the smells.  It gave me comfort to hear about all of the different angels that came to her, in her time of need.  I asked her permission to share her words with all of you, and encouraged her to share this with her family first.  I am so proud of her for being so brave now, and back then.  She was a sweet young girl, and has grown into a beautiful young women. Thank you Jessica for sharing with us.

From the journal of Jessica Mellor:

March 20, 2000 was like any ordinary day after school. It was a Tuesday, I was helping Naomi with a school project until it was time to go to Classic Skating. Now, I never had a deep love for roller blading like Derek and Travis did. Actually, I think they only loved it because it was a social thing. I ran home to make sure my chores and my siblings chores were all done so Dad would let us go as soon as Travis and his cousin, Crissy showed up. All the excitement made Corbin and Nicole jealous, so Dad decided to drive Corbin and Nicole to Classic Skating as soon as he finished up some things. Derek, Travis and I hopped in the blue Mitsubishi Eclipse (which, at the time was one of my dream cars!) We were so excited. Travis, being the gentlemen that he is, offered the front seat to me. I declined because I was shy, I had never met Crissy before, she was a beautiful girl, with a fantastic car and I felt much more comfortable in the back seat next to my brother. Derek put all our skates in the seat next to him, he sat in the middle and I was behind Travis. Travis chatted away as usual, adjusting the radio station to something “cool”! As we are making our way to State Street I began to have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. For some reason, I no longer wanted to go to Classic Skating and I didn’t know why.
The light turned yellow and I felt the car accelerate a little and then slam on the brakes, when I looked up slightly scared, I saw a suburban crossing in front of us. We would have collided if Crissy hadn’t hit the brakes. Then, to surprise us all, a small white truck followed the suburban into the intersection.
It felt like a dream. A really bad dream. I smelled a smell I had never smelt before nor could I describe. My body felt rigid and heavy. I had a pain in my back and my knees. I looked around; it was foggy, like smoke, but didn’t smell like smoke. I couldn’t see anything outside to my right except darkness. I looked to my left and saw Derek. I could barely make out his eyes because his face was covered in blood. Crissy calmly got out of the car and ushered Derek and I out. I started to cry as I realized that this was real. We hit the truck and my brother was hurt badly and I did not know what kind of condition Travis was in. A man with a mustache grabbed Derek and laid him on the ground. Another man brought a blanket that looked like wool. They put it on Derek’s forehead to control the bleeding. They asked him his name and he was so hysteric he only screamed, “I don’t care!” I stood in the midst of choas. I knew I was in shock because I couldn’t cry anymore and I couldn’t focus on anything. All I knew was red; Red flashing lights, red blood, people in red and yellow. A paramedic told me I had to call my dad and tell him we were in an accident. I dialed and told him we got in a car accident under the 800 South sign. I couldn’t talk anymore. I know he was asking me questions but no words or thoughts would come. The phone was taken from my hand. A woman came to me. To this day, I still believe her to be an Angel. She told me to sit by my brother and hold his hand, be strong for him, be calm. She used her gentle hands to help me sit on the road that know had blood and antifreeze on it, but, I didn’t care. I felt peace as I sat cross-legged and held my brothers hand. She asked if she could say a prayer, I nodded. I don’t remember what she said, I only remember the peaceful feeling that we were going to be okay. The paramedics took Derek on a stretcher. A police officer asked if he could ask me a few questions. The only thing I remember saying is, where is Travis? The officer pointed towards the car where 2 Paramedics were doing something to the door. I couldn’t see him. I could only see the deflated airbag and white powder everywhere. I still did not know how Travis was. The officer asked if I was feeling okay. I told him my back and my knees hurt a little. He directed me to an ambulance. I walked on with a medic and a young man was being taped to a stretcher on the other side. I assumed he was the driver of the truck because he asked me if my brothers are okay. I don’t remember answering. I didn’t know of a surety if they were okay. I laid back and I too got taped to the stretcher. Another Medic cut my pant legs to look at my knees and then we were driving away.
I was sitting  in a hospital. I didn’t know where or how Derek and Travis were. I didn’t know where I was or my parents. My chest started to feel tight. All I remembered again, was redness. Someone came and put some stitches in my elbow and asked me pee into a cup. Again, I had no words or thoughts to form words. I just sat there. Finally, I saw a familiar face. My neighbor, Rachelle. She said she was going to take me to the other hospital where my family was.
When we arrived at the hospital I saw 2 more familiar faces. Bishop Roberts and brother Peterson. They both looked sad. They asked how I was, I don’t remember my answer or if I had one. They pointed at the red helicopter and said Travis was being flown to Primary Childrens Hospital. I remember feeling peace, I know that is a good hospital. But I also felt panic. I still did not know how he was. I walked into the hospital and saw more familiar faces. People from the ward, my grandma, aunt and uncle, I saw Corbin and Nicole. I just stood there as they all watched for my reaction. In the corner of my eye I saw another familiar face. My dad. I ran to him and hugged and we both cried. He said he didn’t know where I was for the longest time, he thought he had lost me because nobody knew where I was. Not too long after that my mom came in, and we were all able to see Derek. Derek had white bandages around his head, his face was swollen and shiny and he had a neck brace but he wore a smile as I walked in. Dad said, “See, she is okay.” All the men gave Derek a blessing as my mom and I held each other. I felt peace, I knew he would be okay, I knew I was okay, but still there was that tug… Travis. Nobody would talk to me about him. No one talked about anything to me. I felt invisible and like glass that would shatter if touched.
The next day in the hospital I sat with Derek as he played video games, he had so many visitors (most of them girls from school) but one stands out in my mind. A woman walked in, carrying a basket. She set it down and said, “I just wanted you to know that the community cares.” She turned and walked out, after my mom said Thank you. I told her, that was the woman that said a prayer with me. My mom wanted to Thank her again, we walked out in the hallway, looked both ways and walked out a little ways and she was not there.  She was gone.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

He Calms Storms

     Primary Children's Medical Center became our home, the pediatric intensive care unit would be where we spent most of our time in our new home. The hospital was an interesting place, almost like a Universe that you didn't know existed until you accidentally fell into it's galaxy.  Sickness and pain are hard to watch in anyone, but when it's children that are suffering, and suffering children are all around you, it's life changing.  There is really not words to describe what it's like to be in a community of suffering, broken, tattered little angels everywhere.  The most delicate of those broken angels were in the PICU with Travis.  The PICU was  a long corridor with beds lining each side of the room. They were open except for a curtain that could be pulled around the patient for privacy.  I was a little surprised at how visible each child was, and how close we all were to each other.  Since our stay, they have built individual rooms, but when we were there, it was all open. There was a tangible feeling in the room, almost like it was a holy or sacred place.  Actually, exactly like it was holy and sacred.   My husband had a hard time walking in the unit.  It was almost unbearable for him to see such suffering all around us, and to be helpless.  For me, I didn't seem to notice the other children so much until Travis' brain pressure's and fever had began to stabilize somewhat.  Travis was still in a coma, still had spinal meningitis, still in very critical condition, but he was at least not getting worse.  It was then that I began to be aware of the others around us.  People that would impact me and I will remember all of my life.

     There was the three year old girl that was playing in the bathtub and slipped under the water for a little bit too long.  She too had a brain injury and was in a coma.  She had young teenage parents who elected to take her off the breathing machine,  she was expected not to make it. Her parents left and never came back.  She did make it.  She breathed on her own and her heart continued to beat with no family around her to celebrate.  The nurses all championed around her, and so did my Dad.  The nurses started asking him to come pray over this little angel each day, which he did.  When I was next to her,  I felt a peace and a warmth so strong that I loved to be near her.  She seemed to have this giant spirit in her little body.  I couldn't see anyone, but I could sense the presence of angels around her bed.  She was still there when we left.

    There was the boy next to us that came in during the night.  He was around 13 or 14 maybe with almost white hair and freckles.  He was playing in his football game and collapsed on the field.  He was brought in and it had been discovered that he was in advanced stages of leukemia.  He was also in a coma.  He was beautiful and looked like a linebacker angel with freckles lying there. I wanted to hold him. We prayed for him, his family prayed for Travis.

     There was the 14 year old girl who came in with a head injury and broken bones and punctures to her lungs.  She was playing in her front yard, when a reckless care spun out of control and hit her while she was playing.  She had a similar brain injury to Travis and I began checking on her frequently to see how she was doing.  Her sweet family also began checking on Travis frequently and we began to pray together each day for our children and the others in the hospital.  Each day she seemed to get worse, and her parents heart along with mine was breaking.  My parents had come from Texas to be with us, and they seemed to find a comforting presence in my Dad.  They would ask him to come and pray over her each day, which he did.  After several weeks, her delicate lungs gave up.  She stopped suffering, and our friends were no longer residents with us at the hospital.  There is not words to express the sadness I felt that this little angel hadn't made it.  I also didn't have a chance to say goodbye to her family before they left, and I hadn't thought to get any contact information from them.
The next couple of days I thought about them throughout the day and night and wished I could be at their daughters funeral. I was so worried about how they were doing. It was reported about on the news, and I was at least able to hear a little bit about it.  The next day I was sitting by Travis' bed listening to the sound of the ventilator and in walks her family.  They came to check on Travis, and to see how WE were doing.

     A few days later I was walking in the PICU, punching in my code to open the doors and I heard the words in my mind to "smile, and be of good cheer"  I was still sleeping less than a couple of hours a night, and still could barely eat any food. I certainly didn't feel like smiling.  I thought it was kind of an odd thought to have. Suddenly the past few weeks passed through my mind as I walked through the doors and I realized all of the small milestones Travis had made. One little miracle after another. How each time I thought I might not be able to handle it, I would be calmed, feel at peace.  I thought about all of the kindness of others that had been given to my family.  I thought about how much love I had for my husband and each of our children.  I didn't think I had the capacity to love my family more, but since the day of Travis' accident my heart grew, and I loved them a thousand times more than I did the day before.  I had a smile on my face. I went in and sat by Travis and put my hand on his.

     I noticed a young couple, with their tiny little peanut newborn were next to us.  Their brand new baby girl had a big hole in her heart and was going into surgery shortly, for the first of many operations she would have to have on her tiny little heart.  I spoke with her Mom briefly, but they left shortly after for the surgery.  Late that evening they were back with their tiny angel, and she came up to me and hugged me.  I was a little surprised. Tears began to run down her face. She explained that she had been struggling that morning and was having a hard time having any faith, she felt angry with God, wondering how he could let something so awful happen to her baby.  She told me she had prayed for help and said she heard the words in her mind to "smile and be of good cheer."  She said she thought she was crazy and didn't feel like smiling.  She said she looked up and saw me sitting next to my sons bed, holding his hand with a smile on my face.  She said immediately a warmth came over her and she felt at peace that everything was going to be o.k. She thanked me again for smiling.

     I have read the stories of Jesus since I was a little girl.  My Grandmother Sally used to tell me a story about Jesus walking on water and calming the waves in a storm.  She told me about Him walking the streets of Galilee, and healing the sick.  I didn't know that one day I would be in my own drowning storms, and sinking, at different times in my life.  I didn't know I would be desperate for that same healing balm of Gilead that was given so many years ago.  I have learned during my stay in the PICU,  that He still calms storms.


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