Those of you who’ve read my last two miniposts know that my son sustained a serious injury Saturday night. A brief recap for those who didn’t read those posts, then more recent developments.
Saturday, August 10
I was camping with my wife, stepkids, and most of my sister-in-law’s family in Redwood Falls a hundred miles west of the Twin Cities. A bit before 10pm I got a phone call from a friend of my son telling me that my son Nate had gotten a concussion earlier that evening in a Muay Thai match, had been taken to an Emergency Room, had a CT scan which found bleeding in his brain, and was about to go into surgery.
My brother-in-law and I drove back to the Cities, him at the wheel, me sending and receiving phone calls and text messages along the way. Dark thoughts creep in, things I don’t want to happen but have no control over. We made good time until getting close to the hospital. For those not in the know, Minnesota has only two seasons, Winter and Road Construction. It’s not Winter.
Sunday, August 11
Now past midnight, spent some time finding the right waiting room. Several of his fellow Muay Thai fighters as well as some of his non-fighter friends were there. Wait, wait, wait. Mumbled concern amid a lack of information. Talk about anything else whenever there’s too much silence, a discussion of the life and films of Nicolas Cage fit the bill.
After 3+ hours in surgery, the neurosurgeon came in to speak to me. My son had bleeding in the brain, a blood clot, and they’d removed a part of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain. He held up his hands to show me the approximate diameter. Bigger than a baseball but smaller than a softball.
Then more waiting while he was moved from surgery to the Intensive Care Unit. Eventually, just us two family members were allowed in to see him.
A breathing tube down his throat, bandages on his head, tubes everywhere. Blood. I successfully resist the urge to draw my iPhone from my pocket and record the scene for posterity. Monitors blink and my sweet boy lies there heavily sedated. He may be 26 years old, but in this place and time, he’s my baby. I stroke the side of his head that’s not bandaged, tell him that I love him even though he can’t hear me (on a conscious level at least). Eventually a nurse says I need to take care of myself. Go home, get some sleep. I try, not all that successfully.
Later Sunday, went back again. The breathing tube has been removed and he’s nodded answers to some Yes/No questions. 98% sleeping most of the day. Eventually speaks a bit, very softly, but more than a bit confused. Then back to sleeping moments later. When prompted, will eventually move his arms and legs.
Finally remembered to call his remaining grandfather to tell him what had happened. Very painful conversation. A few more hours of intermittent sleep.
Monday, August 12
Fool that I am, I go to work. With only four days until my scheduled retirement. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Meh, it’s a way to occupy what’s left of my mind. But I lay out the situation to my boss and coworkers. I am here physically but not mentally. I’m choosing which projects to work on and will stick to ones I can do on autopilot. If I get a call from the hospital saying my boy’s taken a turn for the worse, I’m walking out the nearest exit and not coming back. I’m working fewer hours than usual. None of this is negotiable. Nobody argues with me.
Later, we head back to the intensive care unit. My son recognizes me and his stepmom. Can open his right eye all the way but his left eye (the one that was dilated) only a bit. Answers a few questions with just a few words. And then drops back into sleep. Seems to have some long-term memory, but not short-term. Knows his name, what year it is and who’s our Sociopath-in-Chief, but guesses at the month, thinking it might be July.
The head of neurosurgery stops in on his rounds. Almost casually, he mentions in passing how fortuitous was the timing of my son’s arrival at the ER and that given the seriousness of his injury, that he would have died if he’d been brought in five minutes later. He did not look like a man prone to hyperbole.
Tuesday, August 13
My son had his eyes open maybe 75% of the time. Talks a bit more. Both suggest that he’s going to survive. But also that his cognitive deficits are more obvious. He only speaks when spoken to, and then only a few words. But the pressure in his brain seems to be abating a bit, there’s talk that maybe they’ll replace the missing piece of his skull on Thursday.
The hospital is a Level 1 Trauma Center with highly skilled staff but happens to be in a somewhat sketchy part of town. As we leave to walk back to the parking garage, I find that there are still people who think no more of dropping an empty pack of cigarettes in the street than a dog thinks of where to relieve itself in somebody’s yard. I want to pick it up and hand it to him saying “Excuse me sir, is this yours? I think you may have dropped it” but this is Merica! so he might pull out a 9mm. I walk right past him.