Sunday, February 8, 2009

Marking an Anniversary

Today I'm deviating from my usual topic, books. Before I read my daughter Laura's blog on the subject, I want to share mine. Ten years ago last night, my husband and I received one of those phone calls no parent wants to get: "This is Vanderbilt Hospital. . . ." I give the caller credit for tactful wording beyond measure. She said, "Your daughter Laura wanted me to call and tell you she's been in an accident." That was immeasurably less traumatic than "Your daughter Laura's been in an accident" would have been.

We learned that she was in the Trauma Unit, but that's about all we could find out. I called Susan Furman, my college roommate who still lives in Nashville, and she promised to go immediately and try to get me some information. After all, we were six hours away, and we had no idea if the accident was serious or not.

Susan had a hard time finding any information, in part, we learned later, because Laura had dropped her wallet with her I.D. as she left her dorm room that afternoon headed for a chorus concert. We learned only later that she had been unconscious so they had no idea who she was. The hospital gave her the temporary identification "El Paso El Paso." I guess Jane Doe was taken.

After many frantic and uncertain calls, we decided my mother, who lived just two hours away, would head to Nashville and unless she found reason for me to leave late at night, I would try to sleep and get up early in the morning. Our entire household probably did more praying than sleeping. I got up VERY early and headed out, making the trip in five hours (going about 90 mph, I admit.)

When I arrived, I learned that the accident had indeed been much worse than the calm caller's voice had conveyed. Laura had been riding behind an SUV when it suddenly veered off the road to avoid a full-size van heading straight toward them in the wrong lane. He hit Laura full on (leaving tire tracks from his van all the way up to the windshield of her Volvo.)

Yes, thank God Laura was in a Volvo. It lived up to their advertising claims, and although she had a badly broken arm, injury to her legs and feet, and slivers of glass that kept appearing in her ears for days afterward, she was alive. Not a scratch on her face. When I first saw her though, she looked pitiful. (Later I learned that when Mama arrived and saw her, she passed out and had to be admitted to a room for observation herself. If we had been there, we could have told them that Mama just does that in medical settings.)

Miraculously, after having her arm set, Laura was dismissed, less than 24 hours after the accident. My husband Dick, meanwhile, unable to concentrate on his work, caught the first plane he could find to Nashville. We took Laura to Susan's house. I can remember how much it hurt her just to take a bath.

When my sister-in-law Susan and her husband Richard drove up to check on Laura, Richard went to the lot where her car and the van that hit her had been towed. The pictures were horrendous. The car was unrecognizable. When Richard met the tow truck driver and told him Laura had been dismissed from the hospital,the man was surprised she was still alive (leading to our tears and prayers of thanks.)

Sooner than I would have thought, she was ready to go back to school and to her dorm. If I had reservations at first, they were dispelled when her friends swarmed in. Each of those girls had her own role. One, a nursing major, made sure she took her meds and cared for her injuries; another helped her find clothes she could wear over her cast and put on with minimal discomfort. At the time, Laura's curly hair was at its longest, so her friends even offered to put on their swimsuits, hop in the shower and wash her hair for her. When I saw her friends in action, I knew she'd be fine.

The wheels of justice certainly moved slow. We knew alcohol was suspected, especially since the accident occurred during daylight on a straight road. However, we could not get any straight answers concerning the driver. After two years, with the help of a lawyer, we learned that the blood alcohol test had been filed without anyone taking note. Only then were charges filed against him. We learned later that he had been out on parole for manslaughter at the time. I can't help wondering just exactly where the parole officer was during this time.

Our story had a happy ending. Even though Laura's cheerleading was over for college and she had to drop her piano class, she survived. This year as we mark ten years, we are so thankful to have Laura in our life.


Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

My lord, Nancy, what a story, what a horror to go through, and then the laxity of law enforcement and parole officers on top of that. Sometimes I'm scared to get in a car. Well, most of the time, as traffic around here gets worse and worse. And more and more students go way too fast around the curve below our house.
Thanks again, dear friend, for your help with the writing awards, and for your blog.
And thank you to all the powers of the universe for keeping your daughter alive!

Forever Young said...

Oh, Nancy, I didn't know this story. I'm so glad that I knew that Laura is "alive and well on planet earth" now before I read your account. We had a similar accident with our Russian daughter, Irina, in that the man who towed her car couldn't believe that she was still alive when we went to check on her car. I'm so thankful that Laura and Irina lived through those horrible accidents that were the faults of others. We're visiting with Irina right now and thoroughly enjoying her. Today would be Jay's 41st birthday, so I'm thinking about him even more than usual. I love reading your blog!!