To resonate is to show empathy in some faculty with the feelings of others. When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering
Chapter 4 has been written from my father’s perspective. I want the reader to have an eyewitness account from someone who saw my motionless body laying on the highway to present day. The goal is to have a sense of relief when he or she reads the emotions felt by my father is very normal to your own. In this chapter, I take a holistic approach to show my father’s feelings, what happened to everyone around, and how this event has affected everyone. The continual struggle to formulate my thoughts in a cohesive manner is therapeutic and at the same time heart wrenching.
After I was done teaching at school, I hurried up and got my things together to travel home. It started out as a typical Wednesday night snowmobile trip out for supper. The entire group looked forward to this time for the males to bond. We met at our normal location, our residence, and then drove to pick up another family friend on the Menominee River. For some reason Ryan and Chad decided to go ahead of the group. The way my two sons were acting was strange because we always waited for one another to the other guys. In other words, we always traveled together and never got too far ahead of the group. I did not tell my sons to wait for the others or be careful that day.
In Marinette, at 4:41pm, I rode my snowmobile around the bend to see a lot of commotion near the four lane highway. After I saw traffic on the highway stopping and Chad’s snowmobile, I knew something was wrong. I thought at first it was Ryan as he was in front of Chad when they drove away from the house. When I saw Ryan standing up; I knew it was Chad. My mind began to race with ideas about what could have happened. I was not able to get to get too close to him as the nurses and doctors from the local hospital were immediately on the scene.
I could see blood on the highway as he layed there like he was dead. Once the ambulance arrived in a matter of minutes, but what seemed like an eternity to me, the emergency response team (e.g., EMT) loaded Chad inside the vehicle, Ryan and I pushed ourselves into the back of the ambulance to travel with Chad to the hospital but the EMT personnel kept on saying to us to get out of the vehicle. We feared that this was a really bad event. The ambulance went racing to the hospital..
After the ambulance left, a million thoughts were racing through my head. Could he be dead? Why God would you let this happen to my son? What does this mean for my family? What did I not do correctly? Why could it not instead be me? I remember being there in the middle of the highway left wondering what now do I do?
At the accident scene, there was about 10 people still around but I still felt so alone. I did not have a way to get to the hospital as it was very unorganized or a frantic situation. I finally got a ride from a driver because the police had been detouring traffic around the scene of the accident. I do not remember what happened to Ryan. I called Lynn, my wife, and told her that there was an bad accident that involved Chad. She should drop everything and go as fast as she could to the hospital. I arrived first at the hospital and was followed shortly after by Lynn. All I could say to my wife was that Chad and Ryan had been racing each other in Chad must have driven into traffic. We uncontrollably wept.
After Chad was stabilized at Bay Area Medical Center in Marinette, he was flown in a helicopter called, “Flight for Life,” to Green Bay’s hospital. The local County police officer, who I knew, gave Lynn and I a ride to Green Bay. The whole time in the police car everything just blurred together as no one said a word.
Once at the hospital I never understood what was going on with Chad with all the monitors and medical devices hooked up to him but knew his life was hanging in the balance. I could not say anything because I was filled with so much pain and anguish that I just cried. My wife first called her dad and Peggy and said to them to catch the earliest flight from Florida to Green Bay. She then called her sister Sandy. The very next morning, Angie and Lynn’s brother Robert, who live in Minnesota, drove as quick as they could because everyone feared that Chad was going to die. Everyone in this town knew of Chad’s accident. My wife’s and my friends were all at the hospital.
Those days after the incident I lived in an emotional shock and could not understand what was going on with my son. I was trying to rationalize what had happened but all my thoughts seemed to blur together. I consistently was asking everyone involved if Chad would be okay, would he come out of a coma and ever again experienced normalcy, would he remember who our family was and what did the future hold for him. Living with him, now, reminds us all of the long road back from where he was the day of the accident to this very day. Everyday is a reminder of the accident- it will never go away.
I tried to make sure Chad had the best care during the time of the accident. We were lucky for the location of the accident occurred so close to a local clinic where nurses and doctors have been just coming off their shifts. The medical team helped save Chad’s life. After getting Chad into the ambulance, getting to the Bay Area Medical Center and getting to Green Bay’s HSHS St. Vincent hospital was a shock to all family members. Once at the hospital, it was 100 days of constant “hell” because it was a long road back home. From the ventilators, neck braces, trach tubes, feeding tubes to the conversations about TBI with doctors and what expectations the medical team had for Chad. I still remember the doctors saying to my family that Chad would be in a vegetative state once he came out of the coma or if he ever did come out of a coma. The first time the medical team brought him to physical therapy, he was unable simply sit on the mat. He could not move or talk. I could not bear the emotional pain that I felt so I walked out and cried- thinking this is not my son, this has to be someone else. Lynn and I were with Chad for those 100 days from start to finish. I guess it will never finish because we are still there everyday for him.
My emotions went from a high of being with friends and family and doing what we did every Wednesday night to fear why my sons were so far in front of the group, anger, to finally feeling nothing. No love, no security, and no hope for the future. To this very instant, the range of emotions on the day of the accident to our everyday lives have consistently changed. I grieve everyday since the accident because we, the family, have never really been able to sit down and talk about what happened and how it affects each member. Living with Chad is a daily reminder of the accident and the struggles he goes through. I always wonder why God chose Chad and what was His goal for Chad to accomplish with his daily struggles. Chad has come a long way since that day but if I could change places with Chad I would in a heartbeat; just so he could have a normal life. Chad is strong-willed individual that will fight to the very end; and that is what made him survive. He has unbelievable inner strength but I just wish he could remember his family is fighting for him too. He struggles with his emotions and takes them out on those close to him. We are here for him and always will be. He’s our son. We have the same feelings for all family members-we are here for them.
The event has changed my life and the entire family. A person might have heard the saying, “Time will heal,” but that is not true. It will never be the same for Chad or for our family. A person might also have heard that tragic events like these should bring families closer together but seeing the daily struggles that he goes through everyday and how the family members do not understand his emotions are a part of his brain injury. The daily battles with Chad with his emotions, behavior, language, treatment of Lynn and I, plus the way he acts towards other family members has made it very difficult for all.
When the accident first occurred there were many people around asking about Chad’s condition for about two weeks. Then when he was out of the coma and started to make some recovery; he had a lot of friends and family visitors. As time passed, close friends and family moved on and left him behind. When I see how lonely he is on a daily basis and his only true friends are his mom and dad is heart wrenching for Lynn and me. I will never forget that day, I live with it every day, blaming myself for the accident daily because I was responsible for my son’s and did not say, “Stay with the group,”-that one time.
As a result of the event, I have become more emotional and the little things that did not bother me before really bother me now. I feel we as a family are not as close as we were before – something of yours have moved on because he or she have their own lives to live, goals to accomplish, or families to raise. I just wish we could be a tighter family but do not really know that it will ever happen. Chad carries a lot of emotion and hate towards his accident and the only people he can take his emotions out on is his family. It is given the family apart but his mother and I still love him. I wish Chad would realize that “all” his family is here for him and it is not a constant battle. At times, I think Chad holds the accident against the family and is angry because he cannot be like everyone else because of his disability. The reminder of the accident is there everyday, from buttoning shirts, folding his laundry, watching him unable to use his left arm/hand. Chad has come such a long way and is very successful but he often forgets is too hard on himself.
I have learned that a person should not take the day to day stressors or experiences for granted. It can change in the blink of an eye and never will be the same again. I wonder many times throughout the day what would life be like if this event never happened to Chad and our family. What would he be like? What would he be doing? Would he be married – have kids? Would he have a career? Those are the questions that will never have an answer for Chad or his family. I have also learned how much strength there is within an individual. Chad is such a strong person and has so much to give to others I wish he would realize how much he is taught everyone and how much more he can give to everyone.
I blame myself everyday and will continue to play myself until I die. I was responsible for my sons and did not take care of them. You do not get over something was so traumatic for everyone that was involved. It is a daily reminder of how the family chemistries have changed forever. It will never be the same but we as a family have accepted it. That is what families do but then again it is easier said than done. I wish Chad stop blaming himself and others for the accident. He has such great qualities within himself and he has to remember to keep being the motivated person he was before the accident.
Thinking about the incident now still sends shivers down my spine because I am with Chad everyday. I do see all of his struggles, just one of the many, every morning before he goes to work he either asks my wife or I to help him with buttoning his dress shirt and/or tying his tie