My family has started a Caring Bridge site for Sam, so I feel like I can share what’s going on now.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but our extended family on my mom’s side was idyllic – still is. My grandparents had this massive property with a humongous house (even by today’s standards), a pond, a woodshop, a small farm, and land that went on forever (not really, but to a kid, it felt that way). We could not wait to get out of the car to see our cousins whenever we went up to visit, and my dad couldn’t even get the car stopped before the doors flew open. Grandma always, ALWAYS, had a pot roast on and the house smelled delicious each and every time. The older cousins helped with the meal but the younger cousins (me, luckily) were free to roam and do whatever we wanted to do. We got to play in Grandpa’s woodshop until Uncle T cut his finger off with a saw – and that happened when I was 10. We’d take off for hours and no one worried or even cared. We played in “secret rooms” in the house, setup haunted houses, played “Annie,” in the big windows (orphanage scene), and just made sure to clean up any mess we made. Perfection. We were never scolded by our grandparents and my grandpa made each and every one of us (22 in all) feel like his favorite. It was an incredible extended-family upbringing.
My mom is one of 7 kids and she’s the 6th, but my aunt K came 10 years after my mom. I was one of the youngest grandkids for 18 years until my aunt had my cousin, we’ll call her SK. It was WONDERFUL to have a new cousin, even though we had heaps of second cousins already. Sam came 2 years after that and the two of them really were the family’s babies – everyone enjoyed them so much because we were old enough to dote on them and treat them more like a niece and nephew than cousins. SK and Sam had all of those second cousins around their age to act like regular cousins, so they had a very similar family experience to the older cousins. The second cousins are as close as the first cousins were/are, but just a generation behind.
Growing up, everyone in my mom’s family was close, but I was especially close to my Aunt K, SK and Sam’s mom, for many many years. So when SK’s mom asked us a few months ago if we knew of a sublease that SK could take over for 8 weeks this summer to complete an internship, of course we opened up our house to her. It is SK’s brother, Sam, who was in the accident and is now in critical condition, so this hit way closer to home than it would have just 3 weeks ago before she moved in. SK is 21, and Sam is 19.
Thank God SK is with us.
On Friday, my aunt K called me in a panic because she couldn’t reach my cousin, SK, and Sam had been in an accident. ‘She won’t answer her phone, Sam is OK but has a badly broken leg, B is perfectly fine, so is the other driver, K is being life flighted to Sioux Falls. Wait, here’s the doctor. They say we’re emergency-transporting Sam to SD because of how bad his leg is (broken completely in 3 places with bones sticking out). Wait, we’re not? Court, please tell SK and then please have her call me.’ And she hung up. I kept it together, didn’t ask questions, just listened and took in what I could. I’m good at not asking questions in situations like these and just letting the person talk. I had what I needed to call SK and fill her in enough to be calm when she called her mom.
As calm as I was with Aunt K, I was a complete mess when I finally got ahold of SK. She wasn’t answering for us either (Hottie was trying too) so I had to call her work and have them interrupt her. She cried, but seemed fine. She called her mom, then called me back saying that she was going to wait until later to go up because they weren’t sure yet where they were taking Sam. Her coworkers and I told her to hit the road and just head north, because she would be going north no matter where they took him. We didn’t see her before she left. She texted me when she got there and she was fine and calm, and Sam was in surgery.
He never woke up.
On Saturday we went to see Hottie’s folks and he filled them in on everything (while I was away). When we were loading up, SK texted me asking if I’d spoken with her mom. I had not. “What’s up?” I wrote back. My MIL agreed with me that this was not feeling good so I called SK and she called me right back after getting to a private place. “Sam may never wake up.”
I wanted so badly to be with her, but she told me that she does better on her own. She sent a link to what had happened and it was, most definitely, scary stuff. I was a mess, my kids wondered why I was crying, Hottie started planning what to do, and we drove home (40 minutes). When we got home, I went to put Bryson down and I honestly just wanted to hold him as I cried, but I also knew that SK needed support. I remembered that she and Sam are both very close to our 19 year old second cousin, S, who actually lives down the street from us (weird!) and I texted his big brother to see if he wanted to go see Sam and SK. Within 45 minutes, we were on the road to South Dakota as Hottie booked hotels and figured out childcare in case we didn’t come back on Sunday.
We spent 48 hours with SK and our entire extended family. We got there at 9:00 at night and the waiting room was full of kids Sam’s age, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, spouses of cousins, family friends, etc. We went back to see Sam right away, but it was really Aunt K and Uncle D I needed to see. They didn’t know we were coming, so that started a bunch of emotions and then we saw SK – poor SK. I asked no questions – because I don’t think it’s my business until they want to make it my business. Sam looked great (remember, all he had was a broken leg in the accident) and it was hard to even understand that he was very, very sick. We came home on Monday and SK came home on Tuesday. She’s with us now, trying to get back to a routine (but not normal) while we wait on Sam to recover.
Sam was driving his car with his two friends on Friday morning. He and the other front-seat passenger had seat belts on, but the rear passenger did not. They were on a divided highway when the semi in front of them stopped to turn left (perfectly legal), but Sam did not notice and neither did K in the back seat (B was asleep in the front seat – teenagers!). They slammed full-speed into the stopped semi and K flew into, but not through, the windshield. Sam broke his long bones in his calf in three places, and they were complete breaks. Because of the severity of his injury, he needed a special orthopedic surgeon to set his leg with steel rods so he was transported out of state to a facility better prepared to handle his case.
During the surgery, bone marrow was released and the fatty globules within it rushed through his system into his brain. The lungs and heart should have filtered this out, but they didn’t, so doctors are trying to figure out how it went straight to his brain. It doesn’t really matter how it got there – it’s there – and it’s done lots of damage. Sam has suffered “many” strokes and is in a non-induced coma. He is non-responsive and it’s been almost 4 days. The first 72 hours were critical and we needed him to wake up, but he didn’t. Now, we wait.
K went home yesterday (yes, still happy for them, but so sad for us).
I am confident that Sam will wake up eventually, and as I’ve told SK and everyone else, I’m in no hurry for him to do it. Comas are the body’s way of shutting down so that proper healing can happen, and that’s what his body is doing. As long as he wakes up, he can stay in the coma for as long as he and/or his body wants. What is not known is A) when/if he’ll wake up (I choose “when”) and B) what his capabilities will be when he does wake up.
This is all very hard because as much as time stood still for those 48 hours that I was in SD, life has to go on back home. I’m in no place to just act like things are normal, but I have to do my best to keep SK’s home positive and energetic. I am already preparing for her to be with us longer than expected (she was heading to NYC for an internship on July 9th (she’s CRAZY talented, and this is the opinion of artists everywhere and not just me!) but she’s thinking of not going and seeing if she can stay on longer with her internship here) and honestly, I want her to stay here and stay close. I told my Aunt K and Uncle D to not worry about SK – that I’ve got her and her needs at the top of my priority list and will take good care of her. That is what I need to do.
I know that a lot of you are praying for Sam. Thank you for that. Please keep praying for him and his family. I am linking his caring bridge site here in case you’d like to keep up (by no means feel obligated to do so). Updates are few and far between, but they’re there.