One week ago today, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I usually ignore those calls, as 9 times out of 10, someone on the other end of the line is selling something. But for some reason I answered the phone. “Heidi, this is Lisa,” the voice said. It was a neighbor who lived down the street. “This is going to sound strange, but I think your son is hurt.”
Those are words no mother wants to hear. Ever. Lisa told me the that her grandson had walked past my 14 year old son, Zach, lying in the road. I got in the car and raced to the spot where I found him there, surrounded by several neighbors. He was breathing, but incoherent.
He had been riding the new electric skateboard he had worked so hard to buy just a few weeks ago. The helmet had always been a point of contention. “You need to wear your helmet,” we had said. We showed him videos about head injuries and had countless discussions. We let him choose the one he wanted. He wasn’t wearing it.
The first to the scene before I arrived was an off-duty EMT. Then there was a nurse. And a family practice doctor. All who just happened to be going by at that time. I wonder what their stories are.
A firetruck arrived next, and then an ambulance. The medics put Zach on a stretcher and loaded him in. I said I would meet them at the hospital. I took the fastest road to Alta View’s ER and arrived before Zach and the ambulance. I paced for five minutes weeping, waiting, in the lobby. A woman brought me a tissue. When he arrived the doctors and nurses rushed to examine him and do x-rays and a CT scan. My husband and mother-in-law arrived shortly after. The doctors told us Zach would need to go to Primary children’s hospital because there was a five inch crack in his skull and some bleeding on his brain. My mother-in-law, Kerry, offered to drive me while Scott went in the ambulance with Zach. At first I told her I was fine to drive but she insisted I just sit. It was the first of my trying to be strong and only after an act of kindness realizing I was not.
I cried the whole 30 minutes to the hospital. Out of fear, out of despair, out of guilt. How could we have let our son bring something so dangerous into our home? I cried. It’s my fault he wasn’t wearing a helmet. It’s my fault. Please let him be OK. I couldn’t even see straight. I’m so glad I wasn’t driving.
We learned at Primary’s that he had no broken bones. A second CT scan on Zach’s brain, 6 hours later, was required to determine whether he would need surgery. Thankfully, the scan revealed no further bleeding. Doctors told us they were confident Zach would heal with no permanent complications. We would just need to wait and see what his recovery would look like. The first day he only occasionally knew his name. He asked questions repeatedly that we had already answered. He didn’t know what month it was. He didn’t remember the accident. I was hopeful, and at the same time, terrified.
I’ve never really been in a position to desperately need the help of family and friends. I mean, I’ve been in the hospital when I’ve had babies and accepted gifts and meals, gratefully. But this past week, I truly needed to be carried through the trauma. At first, when asked, it was easy for me to say “I’m fine. I’ll be OK. I don’t need anything,” when people asked. But I watched as people didn’t take no for an answer. My mom and mother-in-law came to sit with me. A friend set up a “meal train” to bring our family dinners every night so I didn’t have to worry about cooking. Friends came to the hospital to sit with me and let me cry to them, and then brought me dinner. Zach’s football team dedicated their game to him and wrote his name and jersey number all over their arms and legs, then won 35-0. My mom brought us fuzzy blankets and cookies in the hospital, both of which made a dark situation a little brighter. My mother-in-law gave me her coat and socks because I left my house without anything and was freezing. Loved ones called and texted to ask how he was doing and how I was doing and how our kids were doing. People took over my carpools and offered to take care of my four year old. Our bishop and ministering brothers came to the hospital to give blessings and bring the sacrament. Our whole ward had a special fast for Zach. So many people offered prayers. I’ve never been on the receiving end of such intense love and concern.
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, recently spoke at BYU. He said there is one skill at the center of any healthy community: “the ability to see someone else deeply, to know another person profoundly, to make them feel heard and understood.” I have come to recognize that this is my village, one where people have seen me deeply and made me feel heard and understood. Brooks said that there are “weavers” among us who are able to connect with others and be emotionally available. The weavers around me have allowed me to be vulnerable and have helped me know that I am tied to something greater than myself or my little family. They held me up when I could have easily crumpled.
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma taught his people to have “their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21). I understand now that phrase more than ever. With every visit, with every phone call or text, with every meal, with every carpool taken over, with every shoulder to cry on, with every prayer, and with every warm fuzzy blanket, I have felt knit together. These individual acts of kindness may seem simple on their own, but they have sustained me during this trial. I will be endlessly grateful.
Zach is home now. He knows his name. He knows what month it is and can remember more than three numbers at a time when asked. It’s going to be a long road. He is extremely tired. His head hurts. He is moody, more than his previously typical teenage swings. His back is having muscle spasm that wake him up in the middle of the night and cause him to shuffle around like an old man. But he’s going to be ok eventually.
I know the trials we go through come for a reason. I know they make us stronger and teach us important lessons. I am trying to be grateful for trials. But what I know for sure is that I am grateful for the weavers around me who have let me know how much I am loved. Thank you, thank you, thank you for holding me up.