The Day My Life Turned Upside Down

It is kind of strange how you can be just moving through life and then something happens that just completely throws everything out of whack, changes everything in one instant, and makes you reevaluate everything – and I mean everything – in your life. That happened in my life on May 15.

On May 14, everything was normal. My wife Johanna was at work, selling shoes at CHAMPS. I took our son Ash to a carnival in the parking lot of the mall and made sure to send Johanna lots of cute pictures of Ash as he was riding rides and enjoying all the carnival games. I had finally started writing for 411mania again and my Alternate Takes columns were starting to take form for the first time since I stopped writing last year to get my Stephen King dollar baby book written and published.

I was getting ready to start the second draft of my new fiction novel Fallen Star and hoped to have it done by the summer.

Things were “normal.”

Then…

GoFundMe Medical Assistance

Johanna had left early Sunday morning for a funeral in Houston. I stayed home with Ash and we went to Best Buy, where I got him a flash drive for his tablet. When we got back home, there was a police car in front of our apartment. The police officer asked if my name was on a white Cobalt, and when I said it was, she asked if I have a young child. When I pointed out Ash to her and she informed me that Johanna had been in a car accident outside a town called Junction, Texas. She got me on the phone with a state trooper who only told me that she was alive but that was all.

I got no further news.

I called the hospital in Junction and found out that she was there. They said she had a punctured lung but they were able to inflate it. They were sending her to San Antonio to a trauma center there because they didn’t have what was necessary to treat her in Junction. They also said her feet were “really messed up.”

I got Ash in our van and started to drive to San Antonio. I had no idea what was happening. Finally, we stopped at a gas station (which ironically, I learned that Johanna had stopped at before her wreck when I looked at our bank statement) and I got hold of the San Antonio hospital. The nurses wouldn’t tell me anything but then the doctor got on the phone and had to tell me because he needed my permission to operate because Johanna was unconscious. He said that she lacerated both ankles. Chance for infection, which could mean amputation. Lacerated elbow and no blood circulation to her hand.

I told them to do anything they needed to help her.

The injuries were worse than I imagined.

GoFundMe Medical Assistance

Johanna almost tore her heel off of her right foot. It needed a flap and we found out over two months later that she also severed her Achilles’ tendon. She tore a lot of skin off her left leg and had to have a skin graft taken from her thigh to create the flap to cover it. The graft seems to have taken well, but she will need plastic surgery in the future if it is to ever look normal again. She broke her tibula and fibula on that leg as well.

She didn’t just lacerate her elbow – she severed the artery in it and dislocated the elbow, causing three breaks. They fixed the artery and got the blood flowing again. Because of the loss of blood, she has nerve damage in that arm and it only heals at a few millimeters a month. They fixed the break, but the elbow is pretty disfigured right now and also might need plastic surgery to regain a normal look again in the future.

Johanna also had some discoloration in the lobes heading to her brain. No one knows what that means, but what we do know is there was memory loss. She has no memory of leaving for her trip. I slept in her hospital room and was there 24 hours a day for almost a full month, outside of leaving each night once for food in the cafeteria. She was unconscious for four days and didn’t respond to anything. She woke up and was in and out for another week. She was awake normally after that but was weak and tired. I took care of her. I hand fed her. I made sure she had everything she needed while I was there.

When the school season ended, I had to leave to get Ash enrolled in summer camp (which was made free thanks to a grant by the YMCA due to our accident). He had been without me or his mom for a month and that wasn’t good for a six-year-old. Johanna and I decided that it was best for me to return home to take care of him while her mom stayed with her in San Antonio. Here is the kicker – Johanna doesn’t remember me being there at all – feeding her, taking care of her, talking to her. She has no memory of the first month after the accident.

My dad had a brilliant idea of starting a GoFundMe campaign to help us. We got nowhere near what we will need to make it through this, but received more than I could have hoped from friends and family who reached out. I also received money from people directly to help me eat while I was at the hospital and received money both from Johanna’s work and her old sorority in the form of donations. A friend of Johanna’s ran an Avon fundraiser for us and the dollar movie theater in Norman donated a percentage of their weekend snack bar sales to us. We received so much help and it is something we will work to pay back all our lives.

GoFundMe Medical Assistance

Here we are – 15 surgeries, two months in the hospital and another month in a skilled nursing center later. Johanna is still not back home yet, but I have been home with Ash since June. We are hoping to get her back to Midland by the end of next week or the start of the week after that, but at a rehab center here because she still can’t walk and is only at the start of her rehabilitation stages. We have a long way to go.

Johanna’s boss said maybe I should write a book about this entire ordeal. I like the idea, but in a different way. I don’t think I have it in me to write a non-fiction memoir about this entire incident and don’t think anyone would really want to read it anyway. However, I have been working in my mind on the second book in my now titled Steve Samson Chronicles, of which Fallen Star is the first book in the series, and I think I will implement this incident into the main storyline and that could give me a chance to really purge myself of all the feelings that have built up inside since I almost lost the only woman I love.

But, that means it is time that I reevaluate my writing career. I need to get to the point where I am writing my books, but with all these new medical bills, I am worried I won’t find that time. That is unacceptable. I will have Fallen Star finished and published before the end of this year and I will have the new book underway by the time that NANOWRIMO kicks up again in November. Last year’s NANOWRIMO really pumped up my creative juices.

But this means finding more economical uses of my writing time, finding some better writing clients, and probably stepping out of my comfort zone of entertainment and sports writing and finding clients in more serious topics to make the money I need to afford my time writing novels.

I’ll also have a short story ready to go in the next two months.

When May 14 ended, I was just coasting along. Writing for 411mania again, getting ready to proof Fallen Star, and just doing what I do every day of the week. By May 16, everything in my life was turned upside down and nothing that was important on Saturday mattered anymore. Things are improving and we will have Johanna back home soon. Until then, it is time that I really started working on what I plan to do for the rest of my life.

It’s time to get to work.

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  • Horatio Green

    I almost lost my wife on May 27, 2014. It, too, was the day our lives went topsy turvy. In less than a second it turned completely upside down. It will never be the same again. Kathy suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage and was medflighted to a major medical center in Boston. She, on top of everything else, was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Balance has been a problem for Kathy and one day she fell and broke her left humerus. She had surgery to repair the bone. Since then, she has spent much of her life in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and rehabilitation facilities. Today we are still struggling with all that that entails. No cancer, but she still can’t walk and memory is still a problem. You’re going to have many good and bad days–peaks and valleys on the way to recovery. Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Ogilvy, always says, “hang if there, Okay!” in the hospital and when we leave following every visit. So, Shawn: hang in there. I know how hard it is for your Johanna as well as yourself. I hope and pray things get better sooner rather than later.

    • Thank you so much. I read your story and realize how much more the two of you went through than we have and it gives me a reason to be thankful for many things. At the same time, it is so wonderful to hear that the cancer is gone. With all the other struggles you and your wife go through every day, that proves that things can and hopefully will get better. Thanks so much for the comment and kind words

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