Moan. “What happened? Where am I?”
My mother sitting in a chair a few feet from my bed gave me her sweet, sympathetic smile, then said, “Oh, hi dear, I’m glad you are waking up. You are in County General Hospital. You were in a car accident.”
I moaned again as I took inventory of all my aching body parts. I realized I wasn’t feeling anything in my legs. I tried wiggling my toes. Nothing. “I can’t feel my toes!”
Mom closed her well worn Bible and scooted her chair up next to the bed. She reached out and squeezed my hand. “Yes, the doctors have been testing you. They don’t think you spinal-chord is damaged, but it’s hard to tell with all the swelling. They have been pinching you to see if you react, but since you have been unconscious, they can’t tell for sure.”
My mind was in a fog trying to process this. “What happened?”
She squeezed my hand again, perhaps to comfort me. “Well, you were sitting at the signal at Fourth and Main when a car plowed into you from the rear at full speed. Do you remember that?”
I searched my foggy memory banks. “No.” Then I realized my face was heavily bandaged. I felt around my face to appraise the situation. “What’s wrong with my face?”
Mom gave me her sympathetic smile again. “Well, when the car hit you it knocked your car across Main Street and into a tree in the parking strip. That set off your airbag and then the tree fell on the car shattering the windshield. You got shards of glass in your face.”
“A tree fell on my car? Those are big trees on Main Street. It didn’t crush me?”
“No dear, I think God had a hand in protecting you. The firemen had to use the jaws of life to cut you out of the car.”
That didn’t make sense to my foggy brain. “If God protected me, why did I get hit in the first place? Why didn’t He keep me from having the accident?”
Mom sighed a really long, slow one. That meant she was thinking. “I’ve given that a lot of thought over the years, and especially now. The only thing that makes sense to me is that the Bible says, “We reap what we sow.”
I frowned. “I don’t get it. What was I sowing?”
She nervously massaged my hand. “Well, the only thing I can figure out is that when we have more faith in having accidents than we do in God’s protection we bring that into our lives.”
There were times I thought that maybe my mom watched one of those TV preachers a little too much. This was one of those times.
At that point a middle aged man in a sport coat with a white, open shirt came into the room. “Good to see you are awake Brian. I’m Doctor Hiram. How do you feel?”
When did doctors stop wearing white coats? Was I supposed to trust a doctor that looked like he is was on his way to a cocktail party? “Like crap.”
He gave a quiet chuckle. “Yes, you’ve been through a lot.”
As he glanced at the clipboard hanging from the bed frame, I said, “I can’t feel my feet.”
He put the clipboard down and proceeded to rub my toes through the sheet. “You can’t feel that?”
I shook my head. “Does that mean I’m going to be paralyzed the rest of my life?”
The doctor sighed. “We can’t tell, yet. Between your back, neck, and head injuries and the meds we have you on, we just don’t know. We will have to be patient and see what progress you make.”
At that point I realized the back of my head was a major contributor to my pain and I felt I was in some sort of neck and back brace. As I tried to feel behind my neck with my hands my left arm jerked around from having tubes coming out of it.
Doctor Hiram watched me. “The x-rays don’t show your neck or back broken, but you do have some cracked vertebrae and significant swelling. We have your neck in a blow-up cast and your back in a brace to keep them immobile to facilitate healing.”
That explained some of my discomfort.
“Are you feeling much pain?”
My mom jumped into the conversation. “I told the doctors and nurses not to give you anything that could cause addicted. Some pain is better than trying to recover from pain killer addiction. You know how many people have died from that.”
The doctor just gave mom a stare then turned to me. “You get some rest now. I’ll have the nurse order some soft food for you. I’ll be back tomorrow.” He turned and headed to the nursing station.
I frowned. “How long have I been here?”
Mom let go of my hand. “Three days.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You have a feeding tube through your belly button. I have been feeding you five times a day.”
My life was coming back into focus, now. “What about work, do they know I’m here?”
“Yes, dear. I called them yesterday.”
“What did they say? This is serious stuff! How long do the doctors think I’ll be here?”
“They are saying if you recover quickly, six to eight weeks, most of that in a rehab hospital. If it doesn’t go well, it could be six months to a year with a lot of physical therapy.”
“I can’t miss that much work. I just got promoted to department head.”
“You’re right. My prayer circle and I are putting in a lot of good prayers for you. God’s taking care of you.”
I wasn’t so sure about that, after all He didn’t keep me out of the accident to begin with. And the timing couldn’t be worse. At 32 I was the youngest person to rise to the head of the Promotional Media Department. I worked on the second floor of a building with no elevator. A long absence and a wheelchair weren’t gong to help me keep my job. Anger kicked in. My right hand clutched my scalp as the throbbing in my head jumped up a notch.
As if my mom read my mind she leaned over, “You know, negative thoughts thwart quick healing. God can have you out of here in no time if you can cast your negative thoughts out and give gratitude for His love and goodness. You’ll get rid of your pain, too. Peace belongs to those who praise the Lord.”
The last thing I remember thinking before I passed out was how ridiculous that sounded.
“Brian, dear, we have some dinner for you. Are you going to wake up?”
Mom had to repeat it several times before my foggy brain woke up. I said, “Dinner?” before I opened my eyes.
“Yes, dear, you have some soup and a touch of mac and cheese. Doesn’t that sound good?”
Another female voice spoke. “We can raise the back of the bed so he can sit up to eat.”
I opened my eyes. A brunette in her forties wearing a pink vest and white blouse and pants reached for a switch on the side of the bed. The bed whined as the back of it came into a sitting position and the bottom folded raising my knees to keep me from sliding.
My mom swung a tray table over the bed. “Let’s try the cream of mushroom soup first. I told them you liked that.” She filled a spoon with the soup and lifted it to my lips. “Open wide!”
I couldn’t say anything with a spoon in my mouth so I just rolled my eyes.
Mom chuckled. “I guess you would rather I didn’t treat you like a baby.”
She was right. “So, who hit me from behind?”
“That’s all? A lady. Had she been drinking?” That would make me mad if she were drunk. Aunt Mary had been killed by a drunk.”
“She didn’t make it. The policeman on the scene said he didn’t smell alcohol, but we have to wait for the coroner’s report to know. Now, you don’t go thinking up a storm of hate for her. You need to forgive her no matter what the circumstances if you want God to heal you.”
I sighed as I took the spoon to feed myself. “What does God have to do with my broken body? That’s strictly a biological issue. God has to do with saving souls.”
“Well, when you ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ it unleashes a power that rejuvenates the body, but if you harbor hate you neutralize that power.”
“Where does it say that in the Bible?”
“I don’t know. I’d have to look it up, but it’s true. Just watch God’s Hour on TV. They talk about miracles like that every week.”
I closed my eyes from the pain in my head before I rolled them.
When I opened them again I was staring at a man in a suit standing at the foot of my bed.
“Good morning, I’m Mike Danielson. I’m with your insurance carrier. I wanted to check and see how you are doing.”
“I’m alive. I hurt a lot, and I can’t feel my legs or toes.”
My mom turned to him. “Have you learned anything about the woman that hit Brian?”
“Yes, we got the coroner’s report today. She had a stroke which is why she couldn’t stop the car.”
My mom’s brow dropped. “Oh, my. Poor soul. How old was she?”
“She was a widow in her fifties. She leaves two kids behind.”
“Oh, my, those poor things!”
My hate for the lady melted away. I shared my mother’s sympathy for her and her kids.
Mr. Danielson looked at me. “Don’t worry about your bills. Anything her insurance doesn’t cover our company will.”
It hadn’t even occurred to me to think about insurance at this point, but since he brought it to mind I asked, “What about my car?”
Mr. Danielson’s expression saddened. “It was totaled. The lady’s insurance will compensate you for it. If and when you can drive again, you can use the money to buy another car. They should also pay to compensate you for your pain and suffering. I would advise you to not settle with them on that until this is all behind you. You never know how long your recovery will take.”
Driving again seemed like a dream at best right now, but it also seemed like a dream not to drive again. I had been driving for 16 years-half my life! It was like a foreign concept to not drive again.
After the insurance man exited my Mom got on her religious kick again. “So, now you don’t have any reason to be mad at the lady. You can be grateful you are alive.”
“I’m not mad anymore.”
“Good. You know, my prayer circle is still praying about your recovery. How is your pain?”
I had to take inventory. I hadn’t been thinking about it. “I’m sore, but not aching.”
“See! I knew the Lord loved you! We’re going to work on your legs now! You keep thinking good thoughts!”
I didn’t want to dash her hopes, but I sure didn’t feel like the Lord was working in me. “Mom, I don’t think I can take this if it lasts six months or more. Oh, my God, what about my apartment rent? How am I going to pay that?”
“You just cast your burdens to the Lord like the Bible says to do. He’ll have you up in no time.”
The next morning I woke to my mom’s cheery voice. “How does scrambled eggs sound?”
I rolled over and opened an eye. How can my mom be so cheery in the morning? “Fine.” I wiggled into position as she pushed the switch on the bed to raise me up into a sitting position.
“While you were sleeping the doctor came and said you were making good progress. If you continue to keep your food down he can have the feeding tube in your belly removed.”
“That’s good. I keep bumping it. It’s uncomfortable.”
“He cut your medications way down for pain and brain swelling. You’re going to be one of his miracle patients!”
I didn’t feel like a miracle, but it was too early in the morning to get into a debate over it.
Just as I was settling into an old movie on TV when my best friend Jared appeared at the door.
I turned off the TV with the remote. “Dude, you look like death warmed over!” His shirt tale was half untucked. His hair was a mess. He looked wilted with sweat spots on his shirt.
He stumbled into the room. “I am. I’m glad you’re looking better.”
Jared looked around. My mom’s chair was the only one in the room, so Jared sat on the end of the bed. “I, ah…don’t know how to say this. My mom is the one who hit you last weekend.”
I felt like a pallet of bricks fell on me. My mouth dropped open. “I, I, I, don’t know what to say.” I had mixed feelings. She was verbally abusive when she drank. I teared up anyway.
My mom stood and rushed over to Jared and grabbed his hands. “Oh, my Lord!”
Jared teared up. He closed his eyes and wiped a tear. His lips trembled.
I managed to squeak, “We heard she had a stroke.”
Jared tilted his head. “Where did you hear that?”
I tossed him a facial tissue from the box on the table next to me. “Our insurance man was here. He saw the coroner’s report. Didn’t you know?”
He turned, swung his arm around to lean on, but hit my feet instead.
“Ouch, that hurt!” I exclaimed.
Mom jumped up. “Brian, you can feel again!”
I stared at my feet. I wiggled them. I could feel them-not perfectly, but never-the-less I really had some feeling in them. Tears rolled down my cheeks. A load of worry flew off my shoulders as I explained to Jared that they hadn’t been working.
Mom handed me a facial tissue as she snatched one to wipe her tears away. “Praise the Lord! I knew he could do it!”
I didn’t know what to say. Was it a coincidence? As I regained my composure I remembered out topic. “Yeah, so the coroner hasn’t contacted you?”
“He looked sheepish. “No, but I haven’t been home. It’s been rough the last few days. The night my mom died, I went and got drunk. Then I got arrested-DUI.”
My mom put her hand on her mouth. “Oh, my.”
Jared looked up at her. “Yeah, it gets worse. Last night, I couldn’t take it. I started figuring out that I couldn’t afford to stay in our house, so I went drinking again. Same cops picked me up again.” He started sniffing. “Now, I’m going to have to sell my car. This is my third DUI. They took my license and impounded the car.”
“Oh, my,” Mom cooed again.
“What about your sister?“ I asked.
“She in finals at college. I told her to stay there since I haven’t arranged for a funeral, yet.”
This was happening so fast it was hard to process. “So, you are selling your Beemer. Isn’t that enough to stay in your house?”
“Not really, it’s five years old now. It’s worth half of what I paid for it. I’ll be lucky to pay off the loan.”
I sighed. “Wait a minute, I need a car. What I get for my old Sentra won’t cover the cost of your car, but I’m supposed to get some pain and suffering money.”
Mom smirked, “Yes, and I’m sure you will drive that Beemer responsibly, right?”
I rolled my eyes. “Mom, it’s the SUV one, not the coupe.”
Jared closed his eyes and held them shut. “Now, I just have to figure out how to get to work and how to move. I guess I can take the bus to work.”
“Dude, will you rent me your mom’s room? I could move in with you and pay rent. Your house is closer to my work than my apartment is.”
Jared smiled. “Yeah, I could probably make the payments if you rented from me. And your work isn’t that far from my work. Could you give me a ride?”
I laughed. “I can’t believe it. I’m going to be driving a Beemer, and living in an air conditioned house with a pool!”
Mom smacked my shoulder. “See, God’s working everything out for both of you. That’s no coincidence!”
I stared at her. “But why did God cause Jared’s mom to have a stroke?”
She frowned at me. “Who said He did? The Bible says ‘I am the Lord who heals you!’ Why would the God of love who heals people cause a stroke?”
I wasn’t going to give in so easily. “Yeah, how come at every funeral they say, ‘God took the person!’” With Jared there I couldn’t add maybe she deserved it.
Just then the doctor entered. “I’m sending you to the rehab hospital tomorrow. If you keep improving like you are, you’ll be out of there in a week.”
Mom jumped up. “Praise God! I told you God would have you out of here in no time!”
I turned to the doctor. “What do you think? Am I your miracle patient? Did God do it?”
The doctor stroked his chin. “It’s true, studies show that when patients have a support group praying for them, they have better outcomes than those who don’t.”
I turned to Mom and sighed. “Ok, praise the Lord!”
Mom danced around singing, “Hallelujah!”
I rolled my eyes.