The Unbreakable Cord
Soon to be released through Amazon, The Unbreakable Cord. It will be available in paperback or E-book. Here is the first chapter.
Numbness draped my mind while I sat in the trauma waiting area, desensitized by the endless replays of the nurse’s comment, “The doctors are working on her; get here as quickly as you can.”
My frozen stare finally forced open the triage curtain. A young physician stepped forth and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Kittler.” I hadn’t jumped to that name since our divorce twenty years before. I didn’t bother correcting him. Gary and I listened as he shared the news concerning our daughter.
“The lacerated kidney will repair itself. The head gash required twenty-six staples. She has multiple fractures of her pelvis, that is our main concern.” He then continued with a slight hesitation in his voice. “It’s a deep bleeder, and she’s already lost a lot of blood. We inserted a central venous catheter.”
As I braced my buckling knees against the wall, my mind screamed, “What are you talking about? Slow down!”
“What did you say?”
The doctor patted the area below his collar bone and said, “A central venous catheter is a tube inserted into the large vein of the chest. It speeds up blood transfusions.”
The nurse directed us to her triage room. I gulped, swallowed hard, swallowing the knot in my throat. “Jennifer”—I held her pale hand in mine— “do you remember what happened?”
She spoke in a girlish voice that was unknown to me. Her colorless face rendered a weak smile, and she whispered, “Thanksgiving at your house. Walmart’s Black Friday. I will never do that again for a three-dollar toaster.” With slurred speech, she continued. “I remember leaving this morning after Weight Watchers, and then I met up with my friends. Are they hurt? What happened?”
Jennifer slipped her fingers between her neck and the thick collar, “This hurts. Why do I have it on? I need to go to the bathroom.” She talked without catching her breath and didn’t wait for an answer concerning her friends.
The attending nurse said, “Jennifer, the cervical collar is standard procedure for rear-end collisions. You can’t get up, but you do have a urinary catheter in place.”
While the nurse scooped Jennifer’s bloody clothes off of the floor, I noticed piles of my daughter’s beautiful auburn hair strewn around. Gary moved bedside and asked, “Are you in pain now?”
A little laugh surfaced. “No, I just need to pee really bad.”
The doctor looked up from his chart and said with a firm voice, “You broke your pelvis. You can’t get up. Pee where you are.” Looking at the nurse, he continued. “I want a CT scan of the neck.”
A male nurse removed her neck, tongue, and ear piercings and then said, “Looks like you enjoy tattoos.”
A smile filled her pale face.
We followed as the aide pushed Jennifer to radiology; her silliness didn’t stop, and she continued to ask to pee. Because of the late hour, the doctor allowed us into the viewing room.
“Jennifer, lie still. Don’t move,” the technician said.
She laughed girlishly and said, “Okay.” Nevertheless, the fixation of the lighted oxygen meter on her finger overrode his instructions. The small light found its new home inches from her eyes.
The male nurse who had removed her piercings slipped on a lead vest and stood near her head. He constantly whispered, “Jennifer, don’t move.”
“Finished,” the doctor spoke through the intercom. “Get her to intensive care.” He pointed at the computer on the desk. “Mr. and Mrs. Kittler, let me show you what I see. There’s a thin shadow around the top neck disc, the C1. I don’t think it’s a concern. Discs are like pretzels: if they crack, they break, and I do not see a break.”
Images of Billy, my brain-injured brother, flashed across my mind. I asked the doctor, “What’s wrong with her? Why does she keep asking to pee and waving her hands?”
He interrupted me before I could ask about brain damage. “I know you have lots of questions. The strange behavior could be from the heavy medication or the trauma. Mrs. Kittler, you do know that the first responders used the Jaws of Life to free your daughter. The car was a tangled mess. The next twelve hours are crucial. Let’s get her through them, and then we’ll schedule the pelvis surgery.”
Gary and I rejoined the family in the narrow hall and shared everything the doctor had said.
My son, Rob, said to the nurse, “I’ve noticed two police officers here the entire time. What’s with that?”
“The drunk driver sustained minor injuries and will be arrested when he’s released.”
My son and his wife, Melissa, enclosed me in their arms, and their kisses lingered. I didn’t want to say good-bye. I watched Gary and his wife, Karen, walk down the hall before I returned to Jennifer’s bedside.
By three in the morning, the pain medication had subdued the girlish Jennifer. The cold intensive care unit matched my lonely heart, and the smell of the disinfectant hurled me back fourteen years to a California trauma unit. “Your brother has brain damage and will be a vegetable. The family should discuss removing his ventilator.”
I blinked away my tears and softly cried. “Oh, Jennifer, why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I insist that you spend another night and help decorate the Christmas tree?” Please, dear God, heal her brain. I see the life my brother lives daily, and I don’t want that for my daughter. I know to You, twelve hours is only a flash, but to me, it’s forever. Please help me trust You, and give me strength. I’m scared to close my eyes; I’m afraid that she’ll die while I’m sleeping.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kittler. Jennifer remains stable. One of the best orthopedic surgeons in the area will be performing her pelvis surgery tomorrow morning, so I’ve ordered another blood transfusion.”
Stepping outside, I asked him about brain damage. “Too early to tell. With the high-speed rear-end impact your daughter endured, it’s lucky that she survived. Let’s focus on one thing at a time. She isn’t out of the woods. Please go home, and get some rest.”
I can’t believe he expects me to leave.
I replied as nicely as I could. “Thank you for your concern.”
The teeter -totter movement of Jen’s hand started immediately when she awoke. The light rested inches from her eyes. The nurse removed the oxygen meter from her finger and said, “Jennifer, let’s move this to your toe. You’ll rest better.” With the offending light motionless, my daughter drifted back to sleep.
Gary and Karen arrived at around eight in the morning. Glancing at Jen’s IV pole, Gary said, “I know the pelvis is a deep bleeder, but you would think that she’d have a little color with all of the blood she’s received.”
I said, “I know. The nurse said she was on her ninth unit.”
Exhaustion tugged at me, so Gary dropped me off at the closest motel. After a brief nap, I returned to the hospital and to reality. The orthopedic doctor was in her room, and he said, “It’s an open-book pelvis break. I’ll be screwing a small metal plate onto the pubic bone and pulling it back together. Surgery is scheduled for nine a.m. tomorrow.”
“Will she walk again?” her dad asked.
“I’m sorry, I can’t guarantee anything; time and rehab will give us the answers. I will see you in the morning.” His firm handshake was comforting.
Gary and Karen stayed until late afternoon. I walked as far as the elevator with them and promised to keep them updated.
Helplessness covered me in the quietness of Jen’s room while I watched my sleeping beauty. My heart cried, seeing her hands restricted. But when they were free, she pulled her chest tubes. She’s so different when she’s awake—she’s giddy and even silly at times. I hope it’s the medication.
“Mrs. Kittler, here’s a toothbrush and toothpaste in case you want to freshen up while we prep Jennifer for surgery.”
“That sounds great, thank you. I’ll run to the coffee shop while you are here and be back in a minute.”
A stuffed black-and-white cat sitting in the gift shop’s window caught my eye and drew me in. It reminded me of Slippers, Jen’s cat. On the way to purchase the fluffy feline, I noticed a stuffed dog. Around his neck hung a little sign that read, “I’m on sale today.” With the cat returned, I counted out ten seventy-five and handed the money to the sales clerk. She stuffed the little doggy into a white box. “Would you like a sack?”
“No, I’m good.” Juggling the little box and my coffee, I rushed to the elevator. The elevator is taking forever. Why did I look around so long?
“Jennifer, open wide,” the technician said. “The doc wants a picture looking through your mouth.” As he pulled the cylinder away, he said, “Thanks, Jen. You did great.”
I asked, “Who ordered the X-ray, and why?”
“Doctor Barker ordered it, but we don’t know the reason,” he said as he rolled the portable machine out the door.
I haven’t met Doctor Barker; I wonder what kind of physician he is. I laid the little stuffed dog on her tummy.
“Look what I got from the gift shop. Isn’t he cute? Can you think of a name?”
“Woody, Woody. He looks like a Woody,” the girlish voice said.
“A black-and-white spotted dog doesn’t look like a Woody, but since he’s yours, Woody it will be.” I untied her hands from the bed rails. Jennifer giggled and embraced her new friend. Immediately, she lifted him in the air; I stood there, ready to retrieve her wandering hands.
Thank you for reading my first chapter.