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Pam's Story

October 31, 1995 started like every other weekday; it would end like nothing we would have ever imagined. That afternoon, our 13 year old son, John, was in a car accident on the way home from school. Fortunately, two off duty life-flight nurses drove up on the scene minutes after it happened and immediately begin life saving procedures on John. He was transported by life-flight to Vanderbilt Hospital. He had sustained a severe brain injury, spinal cord injury, and severe abdominal injuries.

I learned of the accident when a police officer came to my door to transport me to the hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, I knew that if they said John was alive, everything would be okay. I just did not realize what okay meant at that time other than he was alive. We were allowed to see John later that afternoon in the ICU. There were tubes and wires everywhere, machines making lots of noise, and in the midst of all this, John, lying on sheets stained by his blood. The first few days were like riding a roller coaster. One minute you’re traveling up the hill, only to make it to the top and come barreling down again, and then start your journey back up the next hill. One of the most important pieces of advice we received was “be sure and take care of yourself because this will be a long journey and John will need you every step of the way”. Thus, our family’s journey began.

It has been 12 ½ years since our family’s journey began after our son, John, was in a car accident. We call it “our journey” because it affected all of us and we’re all in it together. My husband and I, as parents, never thought we would be providing a life time of care to our son, but we would not have it any other way. We both learned to care for our son’s medical needs such as colostomy care, bladder catheterization, to administer IV antibiotics, feeding pump/tube care, wound care, to oversee his many medication needs, seizure emergency procedures, diabetes care, etc. We also learned to manage insurance, many hospital emergency room visits and admissions, and coordinating at various times the 7 doctors/specialists he receives care from.

Before the accident, we may not have believed that we could have learned to do these things, but it is possible. Our advice is to stay connected with each family member and their individual needs, and please remember to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. It is a step by step process, and you can’t do it all by yourself – ask for help when you need it.

This is not the life we had planned but it is a good life. We take it one day at a time, rejoicing in the good days and making the best of the bad days. John has graduated from high school and is happy with the activities he is involved in. We have learned to become not only an advocate for our family, but for all trauma survivors and their families.

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