It was a January night. Dark, wet and very windy. I drove. Totally numb. A broken leg running through my head. I hope she is not in pain, I hate to think of her in pain and afraid and in hospital. She is 19, but still my baby. How did this happen???? I can’t begin to imagine. Have to get there, just focus on getting to the hospital.
Numb, so numb.
I made it to the hospital, about 45 minutes at that time of night. I walk into the emergency department. I explain who I am and a nurse is waiting for me. ‘Hi, we have been expecting you, please come into the family room and a doctor will be with you shortly.’ I am super confused. Why didn’t they take me straight to see her if she has a broken leg? I find it hard to imagine what is happening, at this time it had not really entered my head that her injuries could be worse than a broken leg. I sit in the hostile little room, fear is starting to creep in. What bridge could she have jumped off? Not the harbour bridge, she would be dead…..right? There are no really big other bridges in the city…..right? Noooo, she must have (for some reason) jumped off of a small bridge and landed badly. All these thoughts, all at a hundred miles per hour, all racing through my head.
I sit with my elbows on my knees and my head bent. Jiggling my body nervously. A man enters the room. ‘Hi I am doctor [no idea]’ for my brain has shut out the little details, let’s call him Dr Bob. ‘Can I see Sarah?’ I blurt out. ‘I am sorry she is still in surgery, all I can tell you right now is that she has received four units of blood and we do have blood pressure.’ A wave of nausea washes over me. Somehow I do not vomit all over my feet. I must have looked a lot like I could at any point though. He continues ‘Somehow she has fallen from a great height, we do not know how this came to happen, the nurses will take you up to the ICU, and we will update you as soon as we can, I have to go back to the OR’. He is gone. My life is irreversibly changed forever. Two nurses make me a cup of tea in a styrofoam cup and guide me to the hallway outside the ICU. A place I will become very familiar with.
During the next 7 hours we wait. Her boyfriend, who was the one who phoned me. My husband. My daughter’s father. And me. I paced. We waited.
At one point during my pacing a patient was rushed past with about 6 doctors and nurses around the bed, and many bags of fluid beside the bed. All on wheels. All jogging with a sense of urgency. I caught a glimpse of the face of the person on the bed. Just one closed eye was visible with all the tubes and people around her. It was Sarah.
Periodically we were updated. At this point we had learned she had internal bleeding on arrival at the hospital, she had her spleen removed, and a broken leg. She was unstable and we could not see her. Two things stick in my mind from those long, long hours. When things are very bad, all healthcare professionals begin their sentence ‘So what do you know so far.’ One nurse came out and said ‘I apologize for the lack of updates, we are very busy trying to save your daughter’s life.’
How could this have happened. I was pacing and enduring waves of ‘This is not happening, it can’t even be real’ to ‘How has this happened, how did it come to a point where my [perfect] and beautiful young daughter was in a life and death situation and it was her fault.’ I felt sick. There were not really any tears, I couldn’t find them. There was just lots of shaky breathing and pacing.
Something worth mentioning here. Although generally there are many people out there who complain, with or without reason, about our healthcare system…….during our time in hospital, every single healthcare worker, whatever their role in my daughter’s care, was completely utterly amazing.