|"Crosswalk" by Vermont artist Gillian Klein|
That's all he remembers.
Back home, I was flitting between tasks, and beginning to wonder why my husband was late. I thought, given the balminess of the day, that he had chosen to walk home from downtown Ottawa which takes about 40 minutes. Elder daughter had left to do homework at a friend's, and of course, she didn't know the number. I had instructed her to call it in when she arrived, so when a classmate pounded on our door a few minutes later, I went prepared to say that elder daughter was gone, and as yet, unpinpointed.
But that wasn't why she was there. Her dad, who knows the Resident Fan Boy from church, had been driving his daughter home from hockey practice when they saw the Resident Fan Boy knocked to the pavement. Her father had the presence of mind to pull his car in front of the RFB's supine body, ignoring the honks and rude gestures from his fellow commuters. His daughter remembered we were up the block and hightailed it to our front steps.
I was attempting to keep calm. I didn't know where elder daughter was, and I couldn't leave younger daughter alone in the house. Luckily, the classmate guessed elder daughter's whereabouts and hauled out the ubiquitous cell phone.
Somehow, I remembered to turn off the mini-quiches baking in the oven, and she agreed to wait for elder daughter at the house, while I led younger daughter down to the intersection where I could see flashing lights. Pounding on the traffic signal, I bounced impatiently on my heels watching the paramedics shift the Resident Fan Boy onto a body board. Several cars sailed through the red lights past the ambulance before I made it across the road.
It was, as I've noted, a warm evening and there was quite a crowd: the ashen-faced young cyclist who gave me a slip with his information; a medical student who had been waiting for a bus across the road; a pediatrician who patted my arm, saying apologetically, "Wrong kind of doctor!" and her husband. Of course, RFB's fellow church-goers were doing their best to reassure me and fill me in.
The paramedics were asking me questions. "Hasn't he told you himself?" I stammered, gazing at my husband who looked back at me with mildly bewildered eyes, just before they had to tip the board to allow him to vomit. We were gently steered away before younger daughter saw this; she had begun to cry quietly.
Not much to do. Fellow Church-goer offered to drive younger daughter and me home to pick up things and proceed to the hospital. While my husband was loaded into the ambulance (his first post-accident memory), I watched the passing cars in fascination, honking impatiently, cutting each other off, their drivers chatting on cell phones, oblivious to the irony.
My late grandmother imagined Hell would be an airport. I've always imagined it would be an emergency room: bleak, noisy, frightening and dull, all at the same time. I was not overly surprised when the Resident Fan Boy didn't remember the accident, but I fought back the panic as he asked questions I'd already answered.
I'm the daughter and the sister of physiotherapists. I know the symptoms of brain injury. At one point, they sat him up in a "peri-chair" to make room for other casualties. He crossed his legs and dozed, occasionally waking to complain of the pain in his head (from the road-rashed haemotoma on his right temple), and his dislocated shoulder.
The really frightening part came when the doctor arrived with the results of his CT-scan, and suddenly he was bustled back to bed.
Two "internal bruises" they said.
Transfer to the Civic campus of the Ottawa General Hospital, they said.
Neurosurgeons, they said.
And, dear God, that's when I had to leave him, because our younger daughter is Special Needs and I had to get her to bed with the best semblance of normalcy I could muster. The nurses and doctor assured me they would take care of the Resident Fan Boy, but oh, I hated to leave him, all hurt and curled up awkwardly on his uninjured left side...
Home to smooth things over and prepare for a night of phoning Emergency at intervals ("slight bleeding to the brain", they told me at 2 am) and a day of getting younger daughter to second set of a battery of psycho-educational tests.
Obama was sweeping to victory in the States, and in bed, watching the older African-Americans, those who remember Little Rock and Selma and MLK, weep quietly during the acceptance speech, I grieved that Resident Fan Boy, a long-time election junkie, was missing this.
As of today, nearly 48 hours after the accident, the RFB is still in hospital getting mightily ticked off, which is the best sign of all I think. With each phone call and visit, he sounds more like himself.
But oh, you drivers, quit with the cutting off and honking and cell phones! And oh you cyclists, wear your helmets and remember you're a vehicle too! And as for us pedestrians? Practise defensive walking, I guess, because even crossing at the crosswalk with the signal is no guarantee...