When something tragic or evil happens to us, our tendency is always to ask, "Why me?"
I was covering the Atlanta Olympics when the bomb went off in Olympic Park. While everyone was writing the "why me, why us, why now?" stories, I was struck that there are bombs that go off all over the world on an almost daily basis, that people are subject to danger routinely is so many parts of the world. Perhaps that's "normal," and what we in America experience is abnormal. To that, I wondered if the question should be asked when a day goes by in our peaceful bliss, "Why me? Why should I be allowed to avoid the pain and suffering that goes on in this fallen world?"
I am forced to be reminded of that again this weekend, as I sit in the trauma unit of UAB Hospital with my lovely Trophy Wife. I'm surrounded with people who have suffered trauma and their family and friends who sit and wonder in the community of shared pain.
But let me back up.
The Trophy Wife was going to St. Louis this weekend to see her brothers and sisters. Her flight was scheduled for Friday, but one thing after another kept postponing the flights or pushing them back. At one point it got so crazy - two planes that were grounded with mechanical problems - I asked, "What airline are you flying? Fred's Discount Airline?"
Finally, she was told they could get her to Atlanta Friday night - doesn't everything go through Atlanta? - but she'd have to wait to fly to St. Louis on Saturday. Or she could take an early flight Saturday and do it all.
Naturally, the Trophy Wife decided to wait to Saturday ... which pleased me, as it gave me time to get home to see her and spend the night with her again!
Saturday morning, she got up and left the house around 5 to go to the airport. I couldn't sleep, and lay in bed watching reruns of Law and Order on USA (which used to be one of our favorite pastimes; Law and Order reruns). I was half-hoping there would be more plane delays and she'd come walking back into the house so we could spend a day together and go to The Young Prince's baseball game in Montgomery.
At about 6:30 I heard a knocking outside my room and figured it was either the Young Prince or my faithful dog Leo, so I ignored it. Then, I looked out the french doors from our bedroom and saw a policeman walking through the back yard.
Not a good sign.
(It occurs to me it's time to stop using alias for my wife and children. I have always done that because my wife - in particular - values her privacy. But so many people know what happened and care and want to know what is going on, I'm forced to reveal names.)
I get up in my T-shirt and boxers and go to the door, convinced the officer is going to say, "Do you have a dog named Leo? He's ...." whatever.
Instead, the officer said, "Do you have a daughter named Mary Melick?"
"No," I said. "I have a wife named Mary Grace."
"No," he said. "A daughter named Mary Melick."
"I have a daughter named Sara."
"No,'' he insisted. "Mary Melick."
Exasperated, I said, "Yes. Mary Melick belongs to me. What's wrong?"
(Another aside: I know I look old. Heck, I am old. And MG is fabulous looking. But my daughter? Really?)
Then he said what nobody wants to hear.
"There's been a serious accident, and they've transported Mary Melick to UAB Hospital."
"Is she OK?"
"I can't say. I just need to tell you it's serious and she's gone to UAB."
That's not good. I've seen enough TV shows to know the police show up in person when it's really bad news.
So I yell at the Young Prince to get up, Mom's been in an accident. I throw on pants and a ball cap and off we go. ... right past the intersection, where we see the little white car MG was driving pushed up against a guardrail, facing the wrong direction on Highway 280, and the entire driver's side of the car is gone.
This isn't good.
We get to the hospital and I ask for Mary Grace Melick. "I'm her husband I say," while the security guard tells me I have to go back out to his area to go through the screening (but he does so quickly and politely with sympathy).
"We don't have a Mary Grace Melick,'' they tell me. "But that could be the Jane Doe we have."
Again, my heart sinks. I've seen CSI. I know the police only come to your door when it's bad, and that "Doe" is the name they give to people who are dead they can't identify.
But then the nurse picks up the phone and says, "Yankee Yankee - who is that?"
Turns out "Yankee Yankee'' is the code name they gave MG, because she didn't have identification (she'd love that, being the Connecticut Yankee that she is). And they took the Young Prince and I back to see if this was MG.
By the time we got there, they were taking her to the elevator to go to surgery. She was already on a respirator, in a coma, and looking really beat up.
"She was responsive when she came in,'' the attending told me. "We're going to surgery now. She's really in bad shape ..." or something like that. "you can wait on the waiting room on 5, and I'll call the hospital chaplain if you want."
My brother-in-law worked as a hospital chaplain for years, and I said yes, I'd like him to come by.
The Prince and I are waiting and this man comes up - the chaplain. We talk, and he sees my "Evangel" windbreaker I threw on, and says, "I see the Evangel on your jacket, and (to the Prince) you look familiar. We homeschool my daughter through Evangel."
Well, the Young Prince - Grayson - played basketball for Evangel, and the Chaplain's daughter Kayla played basketball as well. So here we were at step one, and the "randomly" assigned chaplain is a guy who shares our experience and our faith through Evangel and homeschooling!
Homeschoolers are indeed everywhere!
Tracy Hipps of Christian Service Missions - where MG works - is next up. Soon, other friends and pastors show up.
A Mountain Brook policeman comes in to see how MG is doing.
"Everyone is concerned,'' he said. "We all want to know."
Later, we're told she'd moved to the trauma unit on nine and to go wait up there.
Finally - and I don't remember what doctor or who told me - but they let me know what was going on.
And here again, Catherine Brown - one of our teachers and parents from the Co-op - was on call that weekend. She was another one of those God had "randomly'' placed in our path during this "random'' day.
MG had broken seven ribs on her left side ... all seven were apparently broken multiple times ... surgery was done to remove her ruptured spleen, repair lacerations in her liver, and stop internal bleeding.
Her pelvis was crushed - left side hip socket really busted up, plus a clear break in the back of the pelvis and a smaller one on the right side.
One rib on the right side was broken.
One vertebrae near the top of her neck was fractured.
And there were multiple cuts and abrasions and bruises - a collapsed and bruised lung, blood in her urine, etc. etc..
Besides the ventilator, MG had tubes coming out of her chest, down into her arteries and/or veins from her shoulder, a neck brace ... it was like the table of Dr. Frankenstein. I can't even count the tubes coming into and out of her.
After getting her into the trauma unit after surgery, they did a full-body x-ray to see if anything else was broken. When it was determined nothing else was seriously damaged, they put a pin in her left leg just above the knee and put that leg in traction, to pull it away from the destroyed hip socket.
You get the idea.
I love the medical term for all of this: they call it "insults'' to the body.
I look at my lovely Trophy Wife lying there, paralyzed and in a coma, wires and tubes and pins and pulleys, attached to multiple monitors, and I have to ask, "Why not me?"
Not why MG, but why couldn't it have been me?
I can accept that stuff like this happens. I'm on a floor full of people to whom horrible things have happened - burn victims and accident victims and a guy who had something as freaky as a deer run into him while he was riding his motorcycle. There is a floor full of pain - some caused by choices these people made, but some - like MG - not in any way of her doing.
I wish it could have been me.
MG is the one who is so good at caring for people. Chances are, if you're reading this and know her, she's cared for you in some way. That's what she does.
She cares. And she's taught me to care because when she met me I was pretty heartless and lived inside my head and believed bad things happen and there's nothing we can do about it.
MG taught me there is something we can do about it; we can care for the people it happens to, and their family and friends and the people who care for them and the strangers we come in contact with every day.
This is way too long. I'll do more later.
This is where we are for now: tomorrow, surgery. Maybe surgery to begin reconstruction of her pelvis, maybe surgery to go back into her abdomen to see if everything is still in place so they can go to the next level.
Oh, I forgot one other "coincidence:" besides the Evangel-father chaplain, and the friend on call this weekend, and an orthopedic resident who happens to be best friends with the son-in-law of one of my best friends (didn't tell that story), when The Heir was coming back from The Citadel (a story in itself), he's in the Atlanta airport, possibly the busiest airport in the world. He's in the mens' room, fixing his uniform, and who should be in there but Jack Baker, FCA Director for Alabama, and a family friend. Jack is there and they fly together from Atlanta to Birmingham, side by side.
Tell me God isn't a step ahead every step of the way.