|Adam at a public hearing regarding the accident|
four months after the near-drowning
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
13 Years and Remembering....July 24, 1998
Adam nearly drowned (25 minutes under water) on July 24, 1998...13 years ago. We honor his new birth every year at this time and recommit ourselves to his continued recovery. The following is Chapter 1 from Sharon's book "Ceramic to Clay" which was published last October.
THE FIRST DAY
I awoke to a beautiful summer morning. I had an eight-week break from my job as a high school counselor. A long to-do list awaited me, most of the activities related to my younger child, my son, Adam. On Sunday, he was to leave for a hockey camp at Providence College in Rhode Island. A large duffle bag was lying open in his bedroom, overflowing with clothes, supplies, hockey equipment, and a few surprises. This would be his first week-long experience away from home. He was excited and nervous, and I was an anxious mother. Sleepovers were difficult for him. I half anticipated checking into a hotel near Providence College so he would feel safer. I shouldn’t have been so worried, because he was attending this camp with his good friend, Stephen. Both had been playing hockey for at least five years. Adam had chosen the position of goalie and demonstrated great skills. Just that year, we had customized a helmet for him with the words “no fear” and a tiger’s roaring mouth.
I planned to pick him up later that day. He had been attending an adventure camp at the local community college and was just returning from an overnight camping trip. After the pick-up, we were going to head directly to a baseball tournament. He was playing for an all-star team, and though hockey was his favorite sport, baseball was a close second.
I was filled with thoughts of my boy this day, missing him and wondering how tired and cranky he would be after this adventure and more adventures to come. Adam liked to keep busy, so this kind of schedule was nothing unusual for him.
The day was proceeding according to schedule. My 14-year-old daughter, Aimee, was working at the YMCA. She called to say that she needed a ride home. I left as my husband, Philip, arrived home from work. He then received the phone call that all parents dread with every fiber of their being. Adam was at Baystate Trauma Center. He had been in a swimming accident, and his condition was critical. Phil was told not to come alone. He got in the car and searched for me as I was driving Aimee home. We delivered Aimee to a friend's house and headed to the hospital.
I drove. I don't remember what we did with the other car. I remember thinking that I was in better shape than Phil. He just kept repeating the words, “Don't come alone. Don’t come alone.” I focused on driving and was distracted by only a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wasn't sure that I could make it to the hospital without vomiting.
Minutes before we arrived at the hospital and I could actually see it directly in front of us, I experienced a strange feeling. I felt “flooded with calm.” I looked at Phil and said, “Adam is still with us. I would know if he was not. . .” I could not have been more certain of anything.
We parked the car directly in front of the emergency room, where a social worker was waiting for us. She explained the seriousness of Adam's condition and the circumstances of the accident. No one from the camp was there. The doctors at the trauma center were attempting to stabilize him. It was critical; he had been underwater for a very long time.
The social worker then left us alone in a closed room—no one to talk with, no one to question. Phil and I just kept looking at each other, repeating what we knew. We could not make any sense out of this incredibly frightening turn of events. I remember feeling intense cold. I could not warm myself. I kept asking for blankets, wrapping myself as I paced back and forth.
Finally, the social worker returned. It felt like many hours had passed. She informed us that Adam had been stabilized enough to move him to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He was on a ventilator and had been placed in a medically induced coma. We didn't and couldn't understand any of this. Adam was going to his baseball tournament; he would be late. We were invited to accompany Adam in the elevator with his doctors.
My son, my Adam, lay on a stretcher. His eyes were closed, and he looked puffy and gray. He was receiving oxygen, and two doctors were monitoring his transport. One doctor was very kind. He spoke compassionately and encouraged us to touch and kiss Adam. I was screaming silently, No, no, this is not my son. My son is not on this stretcher, not in a coma. I need to leave now to pick him up at the community college. He's going to be late for his game. This child on the stretcher was Adam, but he wasn't Adam. He bore little resemblance to the wiry, hyper, athletic 12-year-old we had said good-bye to yesterday morning. He felt untouchable—too cold, too gray, too far away. He was freezing; I was freezing.
Phil leaned against the wall of the elevator and crumpled over, weeping. Those tears poured out for days. He would look at me and say, “I can't stop crying. . .” He felt totally out of control; he was inconsolable. I had never before witnessed this depth of emotion in my husband.
We settled in with Adam in a private room in the ICU. Our watch began; we were afraid to look away from the monitors that registered continued signs of life in this pale, silent son. Machines were holding him steady. I heard the words, “The next seventy-two hours are the most critical.” The doctors were most concerned about fluid building up in his brain, the “secondary assault” so common in brain injuries. Several CAT scans were done. Adam missed that second assault. What did all this mean?
Phil, Aimee, and I settled into a huge chair at the foot of Adam's bed. Aimee was to begin high school in a few months. None of this made sense to her. She did not want her brother to die, and she questioned us constantly. We could not assure her with answers. We held each other, watched the monitors, watched Adam breathe, and waited. I remember sitting there, closing my eyes, and reaching deep inside to search again and again for that “flooding of calm.” Each and every time, I found it. Though I shed many tears and I felt intense anxiety, I never spiraled down into the deepest place of grief and unimaginable fear. As long as I could find this “calm,” I believed that Adam was with us and would stay with us. I did not, however, have any idea what to expect from his brain injury. When he opened his eyes, what would we see? What would he see?