The doctors did meet on Monday and are in the process of thinking through the next best course of action. The doctor who met with Jen and Matt Monday afternoon was very optimistic and told them there was every reason to be hopeful. When they hear a confirmed 'go ahead' from the doctors, Matt will be updating the blog with a medical synopsis of where Jen has been, where she is currently, and where the next steps will lead in her treatment. As we wait out the deliberation, I thought I'd finish up the last of my two part series on my heroes...
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17
Walking back from lunch one day last week, as we neared the hospital, Matt looked up and noticed a helicopter landing on the roof-top. Knowing the severity of cases who arrive via helicopter, he, sort of off-the-cuff, said, "At least Jen's not on that thing..." My mind immediately flashbacked to a night in September nine years ago when my other sister arrived at University Medical Center in Jackson via, you guessed it, a helicopter. True to the nature of helicopter cases, she was a severe one. So severe, in fact, that doctors in Kosciusko feared she'd never make it to Jackson alive.
On the evening of Saturday, September 7, 2002, Lindsey and her boyfriend (now husband) Eli had eaten supper with his parents and then decided to take a dip in the Dew family's hot tub. Eli had a sore shoulder from the Friday night football game, and Lindsey was suffering a sprained ankle from a tumbling accident. Both thought the hot tub would be therapeutic for some of their aches and pains so they hopped into Lindsey's car and headed into town to get her swimsuit from our house. She buckled into the driver's seat, while Eli slid into the passenger seat. About a half mile from the dirt road turn-off where the Dews live, a truck, piloted by a young man with a host of toxic substances in his bloodstream, veered into Lindsey's lane and hit her car, on the driver's side, head on. The metal frame around the windshield was bent and driven through the left side of Lindsey's skull. The whole left side of her body was crushed, and she was unconscious. Eli hit the windshield and briefly lost consciousness as well. When he came to, blood was streaming down Lindsey's face, and he couldn't loosen her grip on the steering wheel. He began to scream her name in an effort to help her regain consciousness. A man, who had been traveling behind them, witnessed the crash and called 911. Lindsey was rushed to the hospital in Kosciusko. She quit breathing several times on the operating table but the doctors were finally able to achieve some level of stability. They made the decision to have her airlifted to UMC. Just before the helicopter lifted off, a doctor told our dad to say his good-byes to her. She would likely not make it to Jackson alive. The EMT in the helicopter recounted the lift-off scene for us days later when she stopped by to visit Lindsey in the hospital: "As we lifted off the ground, we were desperately trying to sustain this young girl's life long enough to reach Jackson. I glanced out the window for a moment and saw a circle of friends, with hands joined and heads bowed, lifting her up in prayer. I knew right then she was going to make it."
Our mother received word of the accident just moments after. Because she was already in Jackson helping care for our ailing grandmother, she was there at the hospital waiting on the helicopter to arrive. A nurse told her Lindsey was en route and should be landing shortly. Mom ran outside and searched the night sky. In a few minutes, she heard the rotors, saw the lights and thought, "My baby is in that helicopter. It sure looks like a very dangerous thing for her to be doing..." They were doing construction on that part of the building, and Mom could see a huge crane on the landing pad. "I sure hope they are very careful."
My older sister and I arrived from Oxford just as the doctors were performing surgery on Lindsey to remove pieces of bone from her brain. After a long, sleepness night, we were finally allowed into the ICU where she lay, nearly lifeless. The shock of the tubes and lines, head bandages and braces, was almost more than I could bear. An overwhelming feeling of fear nearly suffocated me as we walked into her room. The pump of the ventilator and the beeping of the heart monitor were surreal but I do remember praying, "Don't let these noises stop. These noises mean life." After surgery on her arm and knee that afternoon, she was admitted to a room in the neuro-surgery step-down unit. The neuro-surgeon who performed the brain surgery Saturday night, visited her room to debrief us on what to expect. "We are monitoring for brain swelling. The chances of this are highly likely due to the tear in the lining of her brain and could cause serious problems for her. Even if her brain does not swell, we could be looking at two solid years of a vegetative state. She may then start to regain some cognizant abilities but will likely be starting from scratch. She will have to be taught how to feed herself, how to walk, and maybe even how to communicate." Ugh. I felt all the wind knocked out of me. Brain swelling. A vegetable. Relearning to eat. What were we going to do?
That night, Mom, clinging to the side of Lindsey's bed, begged God for healing. "But," she told Him, "she's Your's. She belongs to You. You do with her what You will. If You choose to take her or leave her, prepare us for either." Mom let go and gave her to God. Almost immediately, we started seeing improvement. The next day she was opening her eyes and recognizing our faces. The next she sat up a bit and took a sip of juice. The next, she put her feet on the floor and stood for a few moments while holding onto Mom. Her milestones were simple yet we celebrated each of them as though she was winning the Olympics every single day. Never did her brain show any signs of swelling.
Even though her mind was incredibly cloudy and her body relentlessly sore, who she was in the deepest recesses of her soul still shined through. She hated her breathing treatments, and would say, in a foggy haze, "No thank you," to the nurse when she came in to administer them. When the doctors would come in to talk to Mom and assess Lindsey's condition, she always answered with, "No sir," "Yes sir," and "Will you please be quiet now?" When Eli would come to see her, even though she didn't know his name, she would ask him if he was studying and trying hard in school. If he had a test, she would tell him, "Well, let's go over it." Once, when he was visiting her, Mom sat quietly in the corner. Linds said to him, "You see that lady over there. She's crazy." Oh, if all moms were as 'crazy' as her, the world might be a lot better off.
On Friday, September 13th, not quite a full week from the wreck, our miracle was wheeled out of UMC. Three Friday nights later she was being crowned homecoming queen, and by the end of football season she was back on the field cheerleading. It was a long road to 'full recovery,' and there will always be repercussions from the brain injury to deal with. The confidence she once exuded has waned a bit but her unmatched kindness still lingers. She has always chosen to see the best in everyone and, to my knowledge, has never made excuses for herself or her convictions. When she was at Ole Miss with me the following year, I asked her if she felt like God had given her a second chance since she was so nearly taken from us. "O gosh, no, Lauren. We all get one chance. It just wasn't my time to go. I'm still living in this one chance, just like you are." She's exactly right. We all get one go, better make it a good one. Today she is an occupational therapist, inspired by the men and women who worked with her during recovery.
I have prayed for as long as I can remember to be a better sister. How clever of God to teach me how to be one by using my very own sisters to shape me. We all have people He puts in our lives to 'sharpen' us. I'm so thankful He chose such wonderfully inspiring people for me.
Last night, lying in bed, I realized the day we wheeled Lindsey out of UMC, September 13th, was the day Jennifer was told she had mixed-lineage leukemia. Just as God displayed Himself as Sovereign Lord, Miraculous Healer, and Great Physician in Lindsey's life, we expect nothing less from Him in Jennifer's case. But if it's all the same to everyone else, I think next August 31st (and maybe every one from now until...) I'll lay down to sleep and might not bother to get up 'til October 1st. Like Greenday said, "Wake me up when September ends."
Please pray for wisdom as the doctors plan through the next steps of Jen's treatment. Pray that God will continue to sustain Jennifer and Matt through this very trying time for their family. Pray that the Lord will continue to draw us closer to Himself, that He will receive all the glory, for it is all due Him. Pray that we will be given eyes of faith to see His hand clearly at work in our lives. What a great God we serve.
THERE'S STILL TIME! If you haven't gotten a chance to yet, I'd love to get some more b'day videos for Jen. If you're unable to send a video, then a comment on the blog would be such a sweet gift too! Thank you for the outpouring of love and support she's already experienced during the last three weeks.
THERE HAVE BEEN LOTS OF QUESTIONS ABOUT BECOMING A BONE MARROW DONOR. A dear friend and a precious cousin of our's have been doing some research, and we will get all that information to you as soon as we have a more clear understanding of how to go about all this. Apparently, I lied when I told you it was an 'easy process.' So says the girl who only had to ride an elevator and have blood drawn to see if she was a match. My apologies.