Every once in a great while my job requires me to go out of town, fine and dandy… extra money and all that jazz.  Today I had to go to Cedar Rapids.  Good enough…Today I’m driving… listening to my favorite morning radio talk show, laughing my ass off… Then I look over I see a sign.

Iowa City 40 Miles.

I stop laughing.

My chest tightens.

I can’t breathe.

My mind turns off.

I no longer hear the banter of the D.J.

I’m back there.

It’s the 4th of July and I’m back to the back seat of my mom’s Kia.  My step dad is driving, my younger brother next to me, my mom in front… 85 miles an hour.  I see that sign…  Iowa City 40 Miles… There is no way we can beat the helicopter…We are all blank. Dead inside.  They have my bubba… My sweet baby brother.  We speed up.  Hoping there are no cops… maybe hoping there are so we can drive faster.

My mom’s phone rings. It’s the hospital… They need a recorded permission to take him to surgery… My mother speaks with the courage of a thousand Roman soldiers.  I hear the wavering in her voice.  She’s not crying though. She can’t… None of us can.  The Doctor. or whoever was on the other end of the phone asks for the details… What happened?  We don’t know… He fell of course… how do you not know???? Everybody must know by now….How far??? We don’t know 50 – 75 feet maybe further, maybe not as far… The Doctor tells her nothing.

But we’re closer now…. Iowa City 27 Miles

My mother is pleading with the surgeon to please not take him back yet.  Let us see him… Let her see him… Before the surgery… It’s brain surgery for crying out loud… Just 27 miles… We’re almost there just please wait another 27 miles.  They can’t. They have to take him back now…My step-dad drives faster…. We’re not going to make it in time.  We all know it’s a waste of energy to try to make it there before they have to take him back… We still drive faster.

Iowa City 6 Miles…. 6 MILES we’re only 6 miles away from where he is… From where the doctors are performing miracles.. We are too late to see him.  He’s already in surgery.  We know this… We still drive faster… We’re there… FINALLY we’re there… We can’t find the entrance… There’s no “Panicking People To the Left” sign… There should be… (remind me to put that in the suggestion box).  We go in… We can’t see… Still blank… It smells like sick people.  Like fake real flowers and wax… There is a player piano… (I will later find this very disturbing and somewhat humorous.) Elevator… up… Okay, waiting room… We sit… and wait.  The lady at the desk is clearly ready for her shift to be over.  She tells us the surgery will last up to 4 hours…

4 hours… OK… 4 hours… How do you function for 4 hours while an 11 year old is having brain surgery??? We pace… We get a Pepsi… It has no taste… I think we talked about who was going to drive what car when this was all over…  I don’t think we knew if this was going to be all over.  Then my husband was there.  The one who saved him, the one who scaled almost 45 feet down a bluff without shoes to save him.  Blood stained and covered in mosquito bites. Blood.  So much blood….

Then over the P.A. system my mothers is called to the triage desk.  He’s done… He’s in post-op… He’s okay… or at least will be.. They won’t be able to tell until the next day or so if he has any brain damage, but the outlook is good.  Over 200 stitches. I’m terrified to see his face.  His sweet cherubic face cannot be tarnished.  Post-op… The second worse place in the entire world. (Only to be outdone by the children’s cancer ward in Peoria… story for another day.)  It’s sterile and cold.  Dead.  It smells worse than the lobby.  Like saline and metal.  They try to make it pretty with florals and leafy shit.  It doesn’t work..

They let us see him, my mom first.  He doesn’t say anything.  Then me… Bandages cover his head.  His face is swollen.  He has a drainage tube coming from his head.  It’s so cold. I lean down to kiss him, his warmth radiates through my entire body.  My sweet bubba. He says nothing… He can’t; the drugs are still doing their job.  Then my husband… He comes out crying.  My brother told him thank you… The first words he managed were to tell him thank you. That still radiates deep. It was then I knew he would be OK.  My bubba…

It all came back to me.  In a red hot flash… Like a ton of bricks…The day my little brother fell 45 feet from a look out point at a park in a nearby town, while at a family reunion picnic. Thank God for my husband who scaled the bluff to try to rescue him and for my son who alerted us and for the amazing rescue team who was able to get him out.  It was straight out of a Rescue 911 episode. Except real… and not re-enacted for your viewing pleasure.

I wasn’t afraid to drive to Iowa City. In fact the thought never had crossed my mind that it would sneak up and haunt me.  But it did.  I don’t do that.  I don’t freak out.  I deal well with most things.  I cope well with most things.   I think what scared me most was how it took me off guard.  Then it was over as quickly as it started.  The rest of my drive was fairly uneventful.   Maybe this was my mourning.  Maybe this was my way of closure and coping. I really don’t know.   But now… He sleeps.  On my couch.  I had to go pick him up… I had to be with him tonight.

His face isn’t tarnished, except for a small Harry Potter-esqe scar on his forehead.  His back is still sensitive.  He did suffer a compression fracture to his spine after all… But HE his fine.  He is still my sweet amazing cocky little brother.  He still gets in trouble at school and gets mouthy with my mom.  We are so lucky to have him.  I could not imagine my life with out him.  I thank the good Lord every day for that.  My sweet bubba.