by Carol Sokolsky
As my sister and I finished our coffee and bagels on the gorgeous start of Memorial Day weekend, we got the call that no one ever wants to receive…”there’s been a horrible accident.” We knew at that moment that it was our mom, and it was. Our precious 86-year-old mama, involved in a tragic accident on their farm in Indiana, en-route by ambulance to Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana.
As we listened intently to my step-dad’s trauma-filled words, we knew this was a life-changing event, and within one hour, my sister Gloria, my brother (in-law) David and I were on the road headed to Muncie, Indiana. Those long hours in the car were solemn ones; we were getting snippets from our cousin and our step-brother, both of whom drove immediately to the hospital. We were on the road just about an hour when we got the news that Mom was being air-lifted via Life-Flight to IU Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, which we later understood to be the best trauma hospital in the state. With so many miles looming in front of us, we just kept praying for Mom, asking God to calm our hearts. It was a quiet ride, since most of those 10 hours we were texting and praying and trying to stay calm. David was our driver and such a pillar of strength for us both. I’m forever grateful, on so many levels, for my precious brother David.
The details aren’t important to share, but what is important are several things that we saw, experienced and realized in those first 12 hours. First, we are not in control; God is. And he showed Himself—almost literally—in so many areas that we understood immediately that He was already ahead of us and had this situation handled. Yet, our human side struggled to understand and we purposely had to keep reminding ourselves that we cannot—cannot—go beyond this moment in time.
We knew that Mom was broken apart, her pelvis severely broken—crushed—with internal bleeding; she’s 86 years old. Our Mama, in such horrific pain, flown via helicopter without family, and our hearts hurt beyond words. We prayed that God would keep her alive and that whatever needed to be done, would be, and whatever barriers needed to be removed, would be. Mom was alive. She was broken so badly and burned badly but oh, how God spared her in so many ways. When we understood the severity of the accident and what happened, all of her ribs and her arms should have been broken. None were. Her tail bone was pulled away from her pelvis, yet her spine was intact perfectly. None of her organs were damaged. Oh, how God protected my mama. She was in bad shape, but she was alive. She was in intense pain when we finally got to see her for 5 minutes at midnight in the ICU. Oh, the anguish to see her in such brokenness and pain, but she was alive, and she knew we were there. She was headed into surgery early the next morning.
It was Memorial Day weekend in Indianapolis—and the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500—and the hospital was about 10 minutes from the speedway. We needed a place to stay. My niece did the searching for us and found nothing within almost 100 miles of Indianapolis…no room at the inn anywhere. Then, she checked the hospital website to inquire about hotel rooms that the hospitals hold. There were two in all of Indianapolis….two. We needed two rooms. And both were in same hotel, seven minutes from the hospital. Another specific indication that God had this situation under control.
We arrived back at the hospital early Sunday morning, as Mom was going into surgery to put her body back together again. Her surgeon was amazing and spent about 30 minutes with us, explaining all that had occurred while Mom slept in the OR. He first shared the severity of her condition and shared his thoughts when he heard that an 86-year-old woman was being life-flighted into IU Methodist. He said that with her degree of injuries, internal bleeding and age, she would be an obituary before she landed on the roof. However, once she arrived—still alive—he realized with her healthy, strong constitution, his biggest fear was that she’d eventually do so well that she would try to do too much, too soon. But first, she had to stabilize in ICU. Her summer would be nonexistent, and it would be months until she would know what she could do. We knew at that point to expect the unexpected…we’d have to take each day — each moment — as it comes for a very long time.
She was put back together with several bolts in her pelvis, and she had a steel fixator bar across her abdomen—externally—held on by two bars bolted into her pelvis. She was going to experience pain like never before; the fixator bar would make her crazy, he said, but it was needed to ensure she was held together as she healed. He thought she would need it for six to eight weeks; it turned out to be 10. She had no weight bearing on her left leg, which she could not move on her own yet anyhow.
We realized pretty quickly that we would be in Indianapolis for a while. My brother-in-law flew back home at the end of the week, due to his work schedule. Soon it was just my sister and me living in a hotel for another two weeks, spending every day—all day—with Mom in the ICU and then, finally, in her room on the orthopedic trauma floor. She is the most determined person I’ve ever known. Not one time did she complain. Not one time did she go negative. She kept asking everyone to pray for courage…courage to face the intense pain, the hard work she knew was before her, and courage to face whatever the future represented in her “new normal” world. She told us several times that May 28th was a “game-changer,” and she knew that life, as she knew it, would never be the same. And neither would ours. We had to face a new world — a new normal — as well. How, we wondered, would Mom be able to ever go home again? We all realized that she could not go back to the farm. It was not a safe environment for her, and represented an obstacle course that she would no longer be able to maneuver. The future looked scary and the questions appeared much more weighty than the answers….But God…
Carol Sokolsky, a contributing write for the918, spent a total of 13 weeks in Indiana this summer with her Mother. The next two parts of this “My Journey…Through the Summer that Wasn’t” dives an emotional journey that she was not prepared to face. Taking on the role of a parent to our parents is life changing, and one that no one is truly prepared to face.
To this day, she holds onto these words from Isaiah 43:1-4 (The Message):
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am GOD, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you….That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”