Monday, April 06, 2015

It's Not Easier

People seem to think that since we've done this before, we know how to handle things, that we're fine.

That's utter bullshit.

The second time around does not make it easier. If anything, it's harder.

Twice I have slept in an ICU with a child in critical condition, holding his hand and tending to his needs. Telling him he would be okay, that we'd get through this, when I wasn't so sure myself.

Three months ago today, I walked into the ICU to see my son just out of emergency surgery with oozing bandages on his head, tubes in and out of his body, and a purple swollen face. Twelve years ago on Thursday, that same son crashed and coded in another ICU and ended up on life support for nine days.

It's harder to go through it again because we know the some of the recovery ahead of us -- yet we know we don't know at all what is to come. We don't know the trajectory, or what curves will be thrown our way in the process. And this time, some of the recovery is happening out of our sight.

In each instance, we've come out the other side with a son who is alive, even if not quite intact. He has more than two feet worth of surgical scars on him now, a bit less lung, and a bit less skull (replaced by titanium plates). But he is alive, and cognitively intact from everything we can tell. He is back at at school.

I'm so thankful he is alive. I cannot put into words how thankful I am for that. I am so thankful that he is on another path to recovery, but I am having even more trouble understanding why.

One kid, two freak incidents. What were his chances of developing ARDS as a 7 year old? What were his chances of hitting that tree as an almost 19 year old, the one tree on the hill that he been used for sledding by generations of he friend's family. It had never been hit before.

I know. There is no point in asking why. It just is.

He'll never be the same. Again.

We'll never be the same. Again.

People around me assume that since C is back at school and there is no active care-taking happening in my home that it's all done and over. Injury+surgery+clearance to go to school=done and recovered. Not quite. He has a traumatic brain injury and still shows some post-concussion symptoms (subtle though they may be). He looks okay, therefore all must be okay.

When people ask how we are and I respond with anything other than, "Fine," it's clear they don't really want to know. They want reality to match the outward appearance. We look okay, therefore we must all be okay.

Right now I need people to have patience with me, but it's hard to ask that out loud. I am trying to process a lot. So is my husband. So is my son. So are my other children. I'm emotional and get upset easily. There's been some extended family drama, too (both sides). We as a family need to have patience with each other, too, and in some moments, that's hard. We are all needy -- and we all need each other not to be so needy. It's a catch-22 that will take time and a bit of faith in each other to get through.