Call Me Al
When tragedy strikes it feels like a moment in a movie when the main character freezes but everyone else around them keeps darting past, they are surrounded by normal chatter and laughter, and yet they stop moving, stuck in one place, silenced by their internal thoughts. Everyone else just keeps on living. Isn't that the strangest part? How people keep on going with their daily lives while yours crumbles to the ground? Have you ever witnessed someone go through this? How do you get them moving again? How can you possibly try to convince them to keep going? That is the question I asked myself on January 23rd.
The nomad family went on a wonderful vacation to St. Thomas Virgin Island. It was a babymoon of sorts - I was 34 weeks pregnant with wee little nomad #3 and wanted to have some quality time with the husband and girls before the new member arrived. Did the flight attendants look at me with terror in their eyes? Sure thing! Did passerbys question my sanity? Of course! Did I lounge in the sand with a stretched, swollen belly embracing all the glamor of a beached whale? Yep! With a virgin piña colada in hand! It was a really lovely trip, we were surrounded by turquoise ocean water and the girls soaked in the sunshine and it glowed out from their wide smiles.
As we packed our suitcases and prepared to check-out, dreading the return to icy cold weather back in the states, Alex got a call. I saw it. The glazed look. Then I heard it. The gasp. My stomach dropped as I anticipated the worst.
Allan, best friend and honorary uncle to our children, had fallen and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury.
He is a genuinely amazing person. His charismatic smile is contagious, he is a friend to all that cross his path. He is handsome. He is kind. He is incredibly athletic. Like run a marathon without training type of athletic. He is just the greatest, end of story.
Meet Kaitlin, his equally amazing girlfriend.
She is the kindest, most beautiful, most wonderful woman. And I feel privileged to call her a friend.
Allan was a groomsman, and Kaitlin was a bridesmaid in our wedding.
Okay, I'll stop professing my undying love for these people now and continue with my story....
My husband is a Neuro ICU nurse and Allan was being admitted to his unit post surgery. You know that saying, ignorance is bliss? It is so, so true. Alex called a nurse on his floor to ask about Allan and received a very grim report. Allan's brain scan was black, he had no reflexes. If Alex had received this report on another patient he would have thought - so sad, he most likely won't make it. But this wasn't just another faceless patient, this was his best bud. This was the guy that he had written a silly song about in high school "big ole al had a big ole beard". This was the guy that had stood by him when he said "I do", that had jumped into lakes with huge rocks to sink them to the bottom, the guy that he declared as his brother. This was Allan.
They had done a surgery to remove part of his skull to allow for swelling, he was on a ventilator, and now all we needed to do was wait. Wait and wait and wait.
Alex stared out the airplane oval window, cheeks shining with silent tears, and I wanted to reach over and tell him that his friend would be OK, that he would pull through this. But I couldn't, and the silence seemed to crush us under its weight. We landed in Chrleston around 1AM and he rushed to the hospital, occasionally returning home to shower and change clothes that week. Allan had a slew of complications; seizures, pneumonia, intense neuro "storming" and swelling. He took one stride forward and ten strides back. It was excruciating to watch his family and Kaitlin question if he would survive, and if he did what kind of life he would live.
Weeks passed and I searched for my husband. I wanted to pull him out of the sea of pain and stifle the incessant screaming thoughts in his head. We were driving home from visiting Allan's family and friends in the waiting room of the 9th floor. We weren't talking because talking about Allan was too painful and talking about anything else was too trivial, too empty. That is when it struck me. Our baby's name was Allan.
Alex and I had been battling over a name for the entire pregnancy. When I say battle, I mean tears were shed, and I may have yelled a time or two. We could NOT agree on a name. With only weeks until my due date, I was starting to fear that my baby would never have a name. That might sound silly, surely the baby would have a name eventually, but in my pregnant, hormone-infused, exhausted mind... I really thought my baby boy may never have a name. It was no coincidence that we had not chosen a name yet, the name Allan was waiting to be discovered. We told Allan's family and Kaitlin our thoughts about naming our baby after Allan and everyone smiled, truly smiled, it was wonderful. Allan's mom made a comment about how he might be born on Allan's birthday - March 11th - and I laughed at the hilarity because I was due March 6th and was convinced that this baby would come early, not 5 days late. Absolutely impossible, no way, no how!
Allan miraculously began to recover. It was still unsure what deficits he would have, but he was alive. And that was more than enough. He was transferred to Shepherd, a intensive rehabilitation center in Atlanta, GA specifically geared towards traumatic brain injuries. Alex rode in the ambulance to transfer him there, and I prayed that I would not go into labor with baby Allan while he was with big Allan nearly 6 hours away. (spoiler alert : I didn't).
March 6th came and went with no baby.
March 7th... Nothing.
March 8th, I had reflexology on my feet to initiate labor - nothing.
March 9th, I walked miles and miles, ate spicy food, drank what felt like a gallon of red raspberry leaf tea, and still baby boy was not budging.
The night of March 10th - I made myself a delicious castor oil milkshake, chugged it, and went to bed (not sleep- there is no sleep for a 40 week pregnant lady). Thirty minutes later I began to feel the contractions, or was it abdominal pain? I questioned the pain for a solid hour because I was so scared I would go into the hospital and the doc would tell me I just needed to poop and send me home. So I waited, a little too long. And by the time I got in that stiff white hospital bed I was 8cm.
Baby Allan was born at 6:30 AM on March 11th weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds 1 oz.
Allan continued to take strides toward recovery, not baby steps, but large leaps! He had his trach removed, his g-tube removed. He could breathe and eat on his own. He graduated from milkshakes to burgers within days. He not only talked- but cracked jokes, and his memory was like a wise old elephant on a good day. Gosh, he is so amazing.
We didn't name our baby boy the name Allan to remind us of tragedy, suffering, or pain. We named him Allan to remind us of the healing power of love and family. We gave our baby a name that inspires us to be grateful for each and every day spent with the ones we love. We don't say Allan and think of stark hospitals, crying, and devastation - we say Allan and think of hope, laughter, and amazing friendships that transcend this earth. The stars had to align perfectly for Allan to have survived - location of fall and hospital, time of ambulance arrival, resident on call... The stars aligned for Allan to share his birthday. Allan doesn't mean loss for us, it means that the impossible is possible and to always have hope no matter what.
Big Allan has truly gained superhero status with his speedy recovery, but his road toward rehabilitation is not over yet. He is working incredibly hard and will continue to need the care of trained therapists. If you would like to contribute to Allan's medical costs I have setup a GoFundMe
- every penny counts! Thank you!