As the 7th anniversary of her son’s tragic accident approaches on June 12, Charlotte mother Tammy Garlock courageously shares the events from the normal summer day that changed her life forever. Read her previous posts:
To watch an emergency trauma team at work is to witness a carefully choreographed dance, executed with swift, exacting precision… When you are in dire need of those services, you cannot fully appreciate the skills and abilities of said team; that comes much, much later…
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In the midst of a life and death crisis, you don’t have time to think about anything; all you do is react.
Consequently, I missed my chance…but then, I simply didn’t know any better… I had no clue what was coming next.
That being said, if you knew it was your last opportunity in this life to ever speak to someone you love, what would you say?
I’ve had seven years to consider that question and I’m still unsure; how much can actually be said in fifteen seconds?
To say that Jeff was an angel driving an SUV would be an understatement. I climbed into his car, breathless and wheezing, relieved to know that Brian was at the hospital, grateful for the ride there. I quickly called John to confirm that he was with him. The car had wings-we fairly flew to the emergency entrance of CMC-Pineville. Had Jeff pulled any closer to the building I might have stepped into the trauma room itself. As I barreled through the entrance, I see John, then a staff member. The rescue team (EMTs, firemen) is still here, our heroes from the highway, the front line in the battle to save Brian. At last…I can see my son…from the waist down. The tiny curtained area is buzzing, humming with activity; we are not allowed any closer, but we can SEE him, part of him, anyway. What happened to his sock and shoe?
I start asking questions, trying to figure out what I’m observing. At some point, standing beyond the fray, a helpless outsider looking in, a switch flipped in my head. I feel calm, almost clinical, demanding information. “Has he regained…can we go to…his injuries…when can we…do you know…what about…have insurance information…transferring when…done here ...is that a…does he have…do we have time…I’ll be right back?” One of Brian’s nurses overheard my rambling interrogation, and asked “Are you a nurse?” “No,” I replied, “I just need to know as many facts as possible.”
The physician finally stepped out to speak with us. Brian’s injuries required more than what they were able to provide at this facility; he was brought here to be stabilized (due to the proximity to the accident scene). The decision had been made to fly him to CMC’s main hospital. Once he was aboard the helicopter, we were to drive over to the other ER and meet him there. Dear God…please help my family, my son. Brian, what did you do? We still didn’t know exactly what we were dealing with…
Whump…whump…whump…in the time it took to update Brad & his father (they were in the waiting room), the air ambulance arrived. We were told that we were lucky-an actual physician would be accompanying him on the flight. Brian was hustled past us, wrapped up as in a cocoon; John said “I love you Brian, we’ll see you over there”. I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t think; the calm facade was gone, crumbled to dust as he left my sight again. Just a glimpse of his face as he went by…
I have no idea how we got to the main hospital. I was on the phone again, calling the girls, my mom, voice mail…in the blink of an eye we were there. Where to go: Children’s ER or Main ER? Pineville said to go to children’s; they were wrong. Winding around, losing precious minutes, finally the main ER, John having to move the car, trying to get to the little curtained area (like before) to Brian, DENIED. We are escorted by a chaplain to a small room, off the side of the main ER waiting area. Our girls arrived, safely delivered to us by friends. Sunny (Brian’s girlfriend), Brad and his family, Brian’s friends, Grace’s friends, parents of those friends, all began to arrive as well, overfilling the space.
And so we wait, tears dried for the moment, pacing, phones ringing, praying, raging, wondering, meaningless small talk filling the empty air, impatiently waiting for news. Scared to know, terrified from not knowing…at last, a doctor. She introduces herself and sits down. Addressing me, she asks, “Exactly how much do you know?” I respond with the facts as I know them: “We have been told that he has been unconscious and bleeding; he has some broken ribs and a collapsed lung, his heart rate and pulse have been erratic, but they were stabilized before he was transported here.” The silence is deafening. It seems as if she takes a deep breath (perhaps steeling herself) and then she pushes full steam ahead, informing us, very matter-of-factly, “Your son actually expired at the scene; they were able to medically bring him back…he’s still in surgery…”
Whatever else she said, I do not remember, as I was no longer able to hear. My tenuous grip was slipping away. I made my escape to the parking area outside of the ER (please, get out of my way, let me pass), dialing my mom (please, please answer), looking for a hole in which to crawl (I need to hide, to vent, I’ve got to let it out), seeing people I know all over the place (where can I GO). I couldn’t disappear, so I squatted down, put my head between my knees, and begged, “Mom, I need you to get here, it’s bad, really, really bad…”
*As we approach the 7th anniversary on June 12th, we continue to give away pink & black silicone bracelets. To request one or many, please email the quantity desired and your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org