Monday, November 27, 2023

The Next Day

When Nebalee had called Deejo and Mrs. Deejo to let them know what happened they insisted on driving up from Phoenix to join us. Junior wanted to come out to Grand Junction, too, but Mom was adamant about him NOT coming. He'd just started a new job and she didn't want to put it in jeopardy. I know that was super hard on Junior; the four of us sibs have always drawn strength from each other and being purposely left out had to sting.

The work started the morning after the accident. Deejo and Mrs. Deejo had arrived a couple of hours after Nebalee and I called it a night. Bill was in Salt Lake City at the Medical Examiner's office, Reba was in Monticello, Utah, and Mom was in Grand Junction, Colorado. Lots of coordinating began very early. Nebalee and I peeked in on Mom, then handed her off to Deejo and Mrs. Deejo so we could head down to Monticello to get what we could out of the car.

Sgt. Taylor had arranged a ride for Reba to see their K-9 vet in Moab, which was incredibly kind of him. During the drive from Grand Junction to Monticello, Nebalee and I took on the onerous task of calling people to notify them of the accident. While Nebalee drove, I dug through our phones to find family members' numbers; those who we didn't have a direct phone number for, we sent FB messages asking them to call us ASAP. The almost three hour drive was perhaps one of the most difficult times of our lives. We hadn't even had time to process our own loss, but still had to make a ton of phone calls and ended up feeling like we were consoling everyone else.

We learned from when a friend of our died a few years ago, that we had to explicitly tell people not to post to social media until we had a chance to notify everyone and publish an official statement from the Lodge. We weren't trying to hide anything, but there were people we needed to speak to prior to it getting out to the general public.

I got a second call from Sgt. Taylor to let us know that Reba's ride had fallen through, and that we'd have to take her to the vet ourselves. Luckily, Moab is right between Monticello and Grand Junction, so it would work out just fine.

We managed to get everyone notified on our way to Monticello, and it was a huge weight off our shoulders to have that task done. Now we could focus on other things. Mom had asked us to get some specific things from their car, and Sgt. Taylor agreed to give us access to the car. Prior to taking us to the impound lot, he sat us down and told us what to expect and that it could be very traumatic. I believe he even offered to have another trooper get everything out so we wouldn't have to see the car. Both of us felt we needed to see the car and try to follow Mom's wishes.

The car was in pretty bad shape, but one glance inside at the driver's seat made me feel much better. I've been on my share of accident scenes and my imagination had gone wild. I've seen some really horrific ways for people to die in car accidents and had steeled myself for the worst. The two or three drops of blood I saw on Bill's airbag were a relief - it meant that he'd been killed instantly. He hadn't suffered for any period of time. Sure enough, the Medical Examiner's report that we received a few weeks later, confirmed that he'd died of an atlanto-occipital dislocation (often called an internal decapitation). My heart immediately broke for the bystanders who had performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived - they didn't stand a chance.

This looks worse than it was, because all of the scattered pieces of the car were just shoved in it to load on the tow truck.

The entire back seat and everything in the rear of the vehicle ended up pressed up against the front passenger compartment. If Reba had been seat belted in, or had been in a kennel, she would have been killed; instead, she was thrown free. 

Though I was disappointed when Reba's ride to the vet fell through, it turned out for the best. Nebalee and I were able to see her with our own eyes to take a report back to Mom. I think it was also good for Reba to see people who were familiar to her. 

Rebs was definitely struggling a bit. Any of you who have met her at the Lodge know she's a sweet, loving dog, so when Sgt. Taylor asked if my parents' dog liked us, I was surprised. Apparently, she did not like the morning trooper and snapped at him. I didn't know Rebs was capable of snapping at a human. It must have been a bit more than just a simple snap, because the looks on everyone's faces when we opened the kennel and urged her out was incredulous. I just picked her up and carried her to the car with her face next to mine. 

It didn't take an x-ray to see that she had definitely broken her "wrist".

On the way from Monticello to Moab, I consciously watched the road near where the accident occurred to see if I could piece together any more information from the accident. Here's what I saw: there were zero skid marks from the car that hit them, meaning they never hit their brakes. There were marks from when they hit and launched Mom and Bill into the air, and marks from when they landed, before rolling on the diagonal. Thomas figures that if Mom and Bill were traveling at 70 mph, the car that hit them had to have been doing over 100 mph for that kind of impact. Of course, we still don't have the official accident report, over a year later. <angry face>

I don't know how we managed to find "her" blanket, but she was thankful to have it.

After splinting.

The vet in Moab was nice enough to keep her overnight for us, until we could figure out how to get her home. She suggested that we amputate Reba's leg, as the break was bad enough she wasn't sure it would ever heal. We were in no place to make that decision on Mom's behalf, so the vet agreed to just splint the leg so we could get her to her own vet.

So much was going on that day, that some events are crystal clear and some are jumbled. I clearly remember the trip to Monticello and back, but couldn't tell you a thing about what happened after we got back to Grand Junction. I believe Mom was moved out of ICU and into med/surg within 48 hours of being admitted. Her list of injuries miraculously shortened, enough that I began to wonder if they switched her imaging with someone else. The mandibular fracture they told us about didn't show up on subsequent x-rays. The brain bleed turned out to not be as big a deal as they originally thought. The flail chest (two or more ribs broken in two or more places) still existed, but the pain from that was mostly eclipsed by the pain in the rest of her body.

Mom kept telling people that they "re-inflated" her lung in the field, but I think we sibs were the only ones who truly understood that it was done by bystanders, not by the flight medics. It wasn't until she talked to the respiratory therapist on the day of her release that someone showed an interest in it and asked to see the puncture wound. I got the distinct feeling that the medical staff thought her memories were jumbled.

People really rallied around us, offering to help in any way possible: 

  • A friend of mine with contacts with the Utah Highway Patrol got me in touch with one of Mom's human "angels".
  • We had many kind offers from friends to help care for/transport Reba home.
  • Mom's friends took on the job of calling and cancelling any upcoming reservations for the Lodge.
  • Nebalee's best friend's family took care of us from afar, sending food straight to the hospital room to make sure we were eating.
  • One of my blog buddies helped us find a Utah attorney with whom he'd worked on other claims.
  • Every. Single. Person we were in contact with throughout the entire ordeal was amazingly kind and generous, not just the hospital staff, but also the hotel staff and waiters at restaurants. Through this horrible period of time, we were surrounded by kindness. (Except for Mom's car insurance - dealing with them became Deejo's job and he did not hesitate to tell them that he most definitely did not feel like he was in "good hands".)
As anyone would, I really struggled with the "why" of Bill's death. Mom confided in us that Bill was convinced he had cancer and had scheduled an appointment with our family NP to follow up just a couple of days after their return from Arizona. I had my "why" answered and felt immediate peace with Bill's death. That's not to say I was okay with losing him, after all, we all expected to have him around for at least another ten years. But after hearing about his cancer fears, it explained why he'd been slowly withdrawing from us for the months prior to the accident. I thought it was just me, but Nebalee mentioned feeling the same way.


Momma Fargo said...

Thanks for sharing. ❤️🙏

Mrs. Mom said...

I know how hard processing an event this horrific is. Always keeping y'all in our knee mails here.

I hope that attorney is a shark, and eats that at fault driver alive. It won't help emotionally, but maybe it will help get the point across.

Love you guys. So much.