Can You Meet The Ambulance?

Posted on August 9, 2011 by


my son was in a bike accident

On Friday afternoon I got a phone call you don’t want to get. Ever. From the police, from my son’s phone, from the site of an accident. Was he okay? Was he okay? I repeated that over and over as I searched for my keys.

The officer wanted to know if  I could meet the ambulance. Could I get there. I could. I would. Was my son okay? They were going to flat board him, take him by ambulance, bicycle accident, they weren’t sure what had happened. The world slowed to the prickly sensation of terror.

I made my way to the accident.

The day had changed completely and yet, nobody else seemed to have noticed. The cars I passed on my way to the accident, the cars that pulled in front of me, or didn’t let me go at intersections, the pedestrians who sauntered across the street. I resisted the urge to honk at all of them — to scream at them to MOVE my son had been hurt. But none of them knew I was on my way to the scene of an accident. Somebody is always on their way to a traumatic scene in their life. Among us all the time, somebody is always on their way.

I saw the fire truck, the police car lights, the gaping innards of the ambulance. I stepped out of my car into traffic, cars screeched, I moved toward the lights, pushed past the EMT with a lineless face and practical ponytail who told me she couldn’t let my  son couldn’t see me upset. My son. He’d seen me upset before. I assured her. But I knew what she meant. I nodded. I would thaw the terror on my face before I looked at him. He would hear and see reassurance.

I called out to him as he was loaded into the ambulance, his size thirteen sneakers first, his bloodied head and face last. I told him he was going to be fine. But I had no idea if that was true. I didn’t want him to go to sleep. I talked to him. I asked him if he could hear me, I told him he was just fine, to relax. I told him over and over that I loved him. And when I stopped, to stare at his enormous paws, his bloodied ears, the white neck brace that pushed beneath his chin, to see the EMT  insert an IV. In those seconds of quiet my huge boy would call for me and ask what had happened.

I had no idea. But I told him what I knew. The rest, I made up.  Because any other truth would have been unbearable; I told him he was just fine. That everything was going to be fine. But I knew we would be lucky if that was true.

Teenagers and cars. Teenagers and bikes, teenagers and drugs, alcohol, long summer days, late summer, boredom and freedom and heat.

I had spent the summer trying to make sure he was busy, safe, productive. I had even considered not letting him his bike across town. He was tired. But I had reminded myself, for the millionth time this summer, that he is sixteen. Let him go a bit, give him room. Give myself room. Give us both room. But I knew, I had also let him go, partly because I was tired of monitoring him. And it was hot. And  he had used up my goodwill for the summer.

On the way, in the wailing ambulance, I cursed myself for letting him go. And I made deals with God that will keep me busy  for the rest of my life.

We look for order in trauma. We look for blame, for reason, for ways to avoid the sensation and reminder that we are not in control.

Earlier in the day,  I’d handed him his helmet. Had he still been wearing it? He had. I looked on the floor of the ambulance, beside the flaps of his pants that had been cut away. The helmet was there.

There was blood on the legs, blood on the hems of his pants, blood on his arms, his hands. He asked where he was. He asked me again what had happened. I told him I was so proud of him, that I loved him. I babbled. I said all the things I wanted to make sure he knew if he never heard me again. If I could never speak to him again.

At the hospital they took him in and a room of nurses and doctors swarmed him. His face was burned  by the pavement he’d skidded across, his face folded toward the center, his front teeth dangled.

His helmet had saved him. His helmet. Doctors and nurses said that over and over. The story would be different if he hadn’t been wearing his helmet. They said that over and over.

Everything fell away. Nothing else mattered. My child in a hospital bed, his skull, his hands, his face. I’ve kissed his face; an irritated cheek or sad forehead or inconsolable eyelid, at least once a day, for the past sixteen years.

We waited to know if he would be okay. Everything changed on Friday. Change is the only predictable variable. I held his hand, his arm, his shoulder. We waited.  He was fine. Battered. Alive. No brain bleed. No cracked skull. The helmet. The doctors said the helmet had saved him. The story would have ended differently without the helmet.

Life is fragile and fleeting and brief and sometimes we are reminded in startling color of that fact.

Yesterday we found out the bike tire, a quick release, had done just that. Released. It had nothing to do with my son being tired or me being lax. How had the tire been jarred enough to pop off? And, what if had happened on a busy curvy road and not the flat stretch of sidewalk green grass to either side? He had been found in a patch of shade. That shade sounded like a blanket. Like a thing placed over him. I loved that shade for its shelter. But what if it had been the shadow of a truck? The mind goes on and on.

Life is fragile and fleeting and brief and sometimes we are reminded in startling color of that fact.

(Image: nicksarebi)

Posted in: Shitty Days, Teens