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, 2016.
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 the previous 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.”
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, 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 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 accident when I looked at our bank statement) and I got hold of the San Antonio hospital.
I spoke to her boss Jim who lived in San Antonio. He beat me to the hospital and was there for us every step of the way.
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.
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 tibia 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 had nerve damage in that arm and it only healed at a few millimeters a month.
They fixed the break, but the elbow was pretty disfigured 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 year 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.
He still hasn’t recovered from that and has an IEP in school just to help him get by.
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 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.
Here we are – 15 surgeries, two months in the hospital, and another month in a skilled nursing center later. Johanna was not back home yet, but I had been home with Ash since June.
We got her back to Midland and she started at a rehab center because she still couldn’t walk and was only at the start of her rehabilitation stages. We had a long way to go.
By January, Johanna could walk again and was back to work. She refused, and still refuses, to take no for an answer. She is a real superhero.
Johanna’s boss at the time said 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 Metahuman Chronicles series, 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. 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 NANOWRIMO kicks up again in November.
But this means finding more economical uses for my writing time.
When May 14, 2016, 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.
It is four years later and 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.