Monday, September 21, 2009

If He Makes It Through The Night

Today it has been 2 years since Elliot's accident and I wanted to talk a bit about it.

Elliot is my twinnie.
He is also one of my favorite people and always has been. We have been friends, confidants and partners in crime our whole lives. A united force of two. You know the Siamese Kitties in Lady and the Tramp? Like that, only without the evil (or the frankly horrifying racism... Boo on you Mr. Disney). As an adult, I felt (and still feel) lucky to have an Elliot in my life, but he has always been a barrel of contradictions, a relaxed worrier, a kind man with flashes of juvenile temper, a tangle of over and irri-sponsibility. Vacillating between uncanny emotional intuition and cluelessness. He has a slow-burning and dry sense of humor shot through with veins of quicksilver wit.
He's just as patched together, as complex and incomplete as the rest of us; he is a good man and I love him.

Two years ago today was a Friday. It was unseasonably warm, too hot for someone who was 4 months pregnant and running about 10 degrees hotter than the humans and sweating with the constant barfies.
I had left work early, an appointment unexpectedly canceled. We had friends coming over for a night of board game hi-jinx. I came home and cleaned the bathroom. While I cleaned I played Johnny Cash's cover of Hurt by the Nine Inch Nails on youtube. I had heard it for the first time earlier that day, I played it maybe three or four times in a row, the last time standing with my hands in rubber gloves and tears rolling down my face as I watched the video.

Britt came by, Andy came home and took the pooch out to play.
When there was a knock at the door we though it might be Bill and I opened it grinning.
It wasn't Bill.
It was a policeman. My stomach gave one huge lurch, you know on roller coaster rides when it feels like everything lifts by 4 inches? Like that.
"Are you Elliot Filby's girlfriend?"
"His sister, is he OK?" I sounded calm. I don't know why I sounded calm, everything had slowed to hyper detailed microseconds and inside my head was a nononononononononononononononono sound.
"He had an accident, on his skateboard? He's at St. Mikes. He's alive, he's ok?" He flicked through his pad, looked behind me.
alive alive alive alive ok ok ok ok
"How? St. Mikes... I don't know where that is."
"I can drive you there"
I grabbed my bag.
keys wallet keys wallet keys wallet.
"I have to go get Andy"
We went racing down to the back garden. Andy was standing talking and smiling, he started towards me when he saw me.
"Elliot has had an accident. We have to go. Now. To the the hospital. Now."
He looked at the policeman, and handed Dilly to our friend Sarah. And we went. Britt stayed. As I was getting into the front of the police car Andy worried out loud,
"Erin is 4 months pregnant, should she be...?"
I made a sound between a bark and a whimper and he got into the back of the car.

"I'm sorry officer, I didn't catch your name?" I was polite, incongruously dinner-party polite,
"Joe." He pulled us out onto Church St, "We couldn't find you. He said he lived in... Pape maybe? or Broadview? He couldn't remember, or a phone number, we had to use his paycheck to find out. It took me a while."
I open and shut my mouth. Couldn't remember? I don't know why I wasn't making a high pitched keening sound. My head was.
"What happened?" My stomach was doing little back flips and for a second I though maybe I was going to barf.
Joe flicked on his little computer thing, turned it towards me. "It's right here"
I read. Greenish words. MALE. UNCONSCIOUS. AMBULANCE. ST. MICHAEL'S. Then I did make a sound like a a cat being stepped on and Joe looked at me and quickly flicked his little computer thing away.
"He can talk. He's talking"
I breathed through my mouth. Talking is good. It's good. Talking.

We got to the back entrance of St Mikes, Joe ushered us through the ambulance bay, he nodded hello at a couple of Paramedics and sat us in two plastic chairs. It was an ugly place to be. My leg started twitching up and down up and down. I couldn't make it stop. Andy put his had on my knee, murmuring comforting things. I could barely hear them.
It seemed that Joe was gone for ever and my panic became this icy incoherent thing. too long too long too long. bad bad bad. too long too long. bad bad bad. It crept out of my stomach and was icing over my lungs, each breath just a tiny bit too shallow when Joe came back.
He led us to the staff elevator, onto the 9th floor. Down corridors that felt a million miles long. A sign that read Neurological Trauma had me reaching for the wall mid step, physically reeling. And then the doors. Huge double doors, that you must be buzzed though. They opened too slowly I wanted to slip through them like a fish, but we waited. And then around the ward to Elliot's bed. Faster. Time speeding up.
There he was. His eyes were closed but he opened them when the nurse said "your sister is here". I stood on his left side, the side that wasn't hooked up to anything. His eyes found me
He opened his mouth and croaked, heaved a huge sigh, eyes filling with tears.

Relief, seeing him made me almost dizzy. alive alive alive alive alive a chirpy voice in my head. alive is what matters. ok ok ok ok .
His face. Scraped raw, puffy and strangely relaxed on one side. I was afraid to to touch him, afraid of hurting him. Settled on resting a paw on his bony shoulder.
"You had an accident"
He sort of smiled. Lifted his lips over his broken-off teeth.
"I guess".
He shut his eyes.
I spoke to a nurse. How bad?
His pelvis and his collarbone might be broken. Waiting for the x ray machine.
His Brain. A CT scan. Nothing external but inside "like if you drop jello". A shear, bleeding. Deep. deep-deep. It could get worse. Wait and see wait and see.
"If he makes it through the night without anymore bleeding...".

If he makes it through the night. They might not be the worst combination of words in the English language but they feel like it to me. Brutal. The opening volley in a battle with time, where each dragging minute is a tiny jab, each uneventful hour is a skirmish won.

I called my mum.
Now. Now I know. Then I didn't understand.
The preciousness of the bones and the meat of the person that you made with your own body. The howling terror, the brutal truth of their fragility.

Then I didn't know, told her the unvarnished, meant to reassure,
"He's alive, talking, he'll be OK... if he makes it through the night".

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, that was wrenching. Talented and raw and gut-wrenching.


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