“Willy, its momma, time to wake up!”
“Come on, baby, rise and shine.”
As I open my eyes, the room slowly comes into focus, but, this isn’t my bedroom! The walls are the wrong color, the room is cold, the bed feels uncomfortable and I feel restrained. Something is in my mouth. I’m in a hospital room! The monitor above my head is beeping and that brings in the nurse.
My name is Will Smythe; I am an African American Male, 30 years old. I am about 6 feet tall with an average build. Some people say I look like a young Morgan Freeman. My hair is kept in a short Afro. I could stand to lose a few pounds but that comes from being behind a desk most of the day. I have no brothers or sisters. My family was not a very close family. My parents passed away years ago. There are no family get-togethers or even exchanges of Christmas cards. I don’t remember the last time I received a birthday card. I am a Database Consultant working with Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, mainly with growing businesses in the Philadelphia area. I prefer to work with computers rather than to work with people. That is one of the reasons that I am a consultant rather than working in the corporate world. For most of my clients, I can log into their networks, see what the symptoms and indications are and fix them without ever stepping foot into the office. I like New Age music, reading and the outdoors. I think I would love to camp, but my wife is not the outdoor type.
My wife is Sandy and she is my dream girl. She is about 5 feet 9 inches, 120 lbs., light brown skin, long silky brown hair. Many nights she would sit on the floor at my feet while I brushed her hair and we would watch TV. Sandy has beautiful brown eyes. They sparkle when she smiles. Her smile is something else. She could melt any heart and light up any room when she smiles. She keeps her body trim by her weekly routine of running 5 miles a day, weight lifting and calisthenics. Sandy is a lawyer, practicing with Lou Pickerelli and Associates in center city Philadelphia. She handles the City of Philadelphia accounts for the firm. She is an up and coming lawyer and she is good at her job. She recently got a BMW as a bonus. I know now why they call them Beamers. She beams every time she sees it. Hers is a 4 Series Convertible, silver with tan interior.
If it weren’t for Sandy, I would be a loner. Her beauty and intelligence bring a lot of people into our lives. She is very outgoing where I am a loner. Sandy is the center of my life. Most of our friends are co-workers of Sandy’s. We have a couple of neighbors we talk to, but being new to the neighborhood, has limited the number of people we have met.
Jennifer has been working the ICU for several years. She is a techie and a nurse which is one of the reasons she loves working in the ICU. Everything is state of the art. Jennifer is Caucasian, about 5 feet 7 in, light brown hair and slim build. She is divorced with no children. She loves to fly and owns a 2005 Cessna 185T that she keeps at Wings Field in Blue Bell, PA. She can be found on her days off, flying up and down the coast or doing Flights for Life missions which is a volunteer outfit flying donor organs and patients where needed.
Jennifer is halfway through her 12-hour shift when the first alarm goes off for Will Smythe. She has been watching over him since he arrived in the ICU. She thought he was a good-looking man.
The heart rate monitor is over 120 beats per minute and respiration is up sharply. This is the first time this has happened since the accident over 2 months ago. She gets up and walks into the room.
“He’s AWAKE!” Jennifer calls out. “I will be right back, I have to get the doctor,” she tells Will.
She quickly leaves to find the doctor.
What has happened to me? Where is my wife? I try to call her back but I can’t speak. This tube in my throat won’t let me. I have never been claustrophobic, but being tied down and having all this stuff connected to me so I can’t move is beginning to stress me out, a LOT.
Jennifer returns to the room and begins taking Will’s vital signs.
Oh, good the nurse is back. What is she doing now? Take this thing out of my mouth so I can talk. She’s not paying any attention to me, just looking at the monitors and writing stuff down. HELP ME!
Fear is building up inside of me as I continue to wonder what and why.
The doctor comes into the room and after checking the vitals says:
“You need to remain still while I take out the tube in your throat, okay?”
I nod my head.
The nurse and doctor begin to remove the tube and some of the monitors.
The doctor says, “Take a small sip of water... Good!”
“Thank you!” These are the first words I have spoken since the accident.
“I’m Doctor Hamel and this is Jennifer.”
“Do you know where you are?”
“In a hospital?” I reply.
“Yes, do you remember your name?”
“Sure, it is Will Smythe, where is my wife?”
“I’m not sure, but we will find out. I have one more question for you; - do you know why you are here?”
“We were in a car accident. A truck came onto the Schuylkill Expressway and didn’t yield.”
“Good. Now we have some tests to run and after I get the results, I will be back. At a minimum, you are going to need some physical therapy. Get some rest for now.”
Jennifer finished recording the vital signs and annotating the chart. She looks at Will with a warm feeling in her heart. It is always good to see a patient wake up when they have been in ICU for so long. She wasn’t sure he ever would. For now, he needs to rest.
“Will, you need to rest. I will see about your wife and let her know you are awake. But for now, just get some rest. If you need anything, just push this button.” She shows me the call button attached to the bed. As I drift off to sleep, Jennifer returns to the nurses’ station.
Questions would be answered later, which means she needed to contact his wife. A quick look at his records reveals that his wife’s name is Sandy and there is some contact information.
Jennifer calls the phone number listed in the records and gets a recording that no one is available at this time, please leave a message. But the message queue is full. Her next step is to see if perhaps she was admitted to the hospital as well. When she pulls up the records, she soon finds out that Sandy Smythe was DOA with massive head and body trauma. She died immediately in the accident.
Jennifer says to herself, “Someone has to know that Mr. William Smythe was is now awake”. She continues to search the records for any contact information for either William or Sandy. Nothing was found. No parent information, no children, and no siblings were found. He is alone.
I fell asleep after the Doctor left. My sleep was restless and dreams did not come to me. All I could think about was the accident. Bits and pieces came to me in a jumbled mess. The crash, the sounds of tires locking up, horns blowing, the smells of burnt rubber and fuel spills, the flashing lights of the emergency crews and their loud, loud sirens. The ripping and roaring sounds as the Jaws of Life were used to cut me out of Sandy’s new BMW, a gift from her boss for some work that she did on a big case involving the city of Philadelphia and SEPTA. Sandy saved the city millions of dollars with her research and findings. That was the last thing I could remember. Hopefully, Sandy will have some more information. How long have I been here? I can tell I don’t need a shave so it couldn’t have been very long. Once Sandy gets here everything will be alright.
As I wake up, I find the staff in the hospital is pretty busy and it takes a while before Jennifer comes in to check on me. My vital signs are good and she tells me they will be serving breakfast soon. Her shift is over in 30 minutes and another nurse will be looking in on me. Jennifer leaves and I am left with my own thoughts. I review in my mind what happened. More details return. I remember traveling into the city on the Schuylkill Expressway when the 18 wheeler came off the on-ramp at Conshohocken. It never slowed down or even looked as it merged into traffic. Sandy’s new BMW slid under the bed of the 18 wheeler and that was it. The rear wheels rolled up over the car, crushing the top down on us, then the SEPTA bus that was following us crashed into what was left of our car pushing it into the stone wall. From there only bits and pieces come to me as if I was opening and closing a book at different sections. Sandy would be able to tell me what happened after that.
The last thing for Jennifer to do before she left for the day was to let Will know about his wife. She had promised him she would find out about his wife. This was going to be one of the hardest moments of her life. She had found out that his parents had passed away years ago and that he did not have any known family. Apparently, he and Sandy did not have any children. The only good news, if you could call it that, was that Sandy had not suffered. She died instantly.
Jennifer walked into the ICU room where Will was sleeping. At first, she thought that she would be able to skip out on telling him the bad news. As she was turning to leave, Will opens his eyes and says hello. Her heart sank as she realized she would have to tell him.
“Hello, Will. How are you feeling?”
“Fine, I guess, still a little tired. Did you find Sandy? When will she be here?”
Jennifer is trapped. She has to let him know, but she can’t seem to spit it out. Finally, she takes a deep breath and says.
“Will, I sorry, but Sandy died in the car accident. She died instantly and didn’t suffer. I am really sorry. Her parents have taken care of everything.” she says.
“When is the funeral? I would like to attend.”
At this point, Jennifer realizes that he has no clue how long he has been here.
“Will, do you remember anything about the accident?”
“Bits and pieces, I remember the truck coming on the highway and it didn’t yield. I also remember bits and pieces of the firefighters cutting me out of the car.”
“Will, that was over two months ago. You have been in a coma all this time. We weren’t sure if you were going to recover or not. When you woke up, I was very surprised and happy that you did, so many of our long-term coma patients never wake up.”
I don’t know how to take this all in. My mind is refusing to comprehend that Sandy is gone, I have been in a coma for four months and now I am alone in the world. It is all too much for me and I break down and cry.
Jennifer, being the woman that she is, understands this pain he is going through and walks by his side bends over and hugs him. His face on her shoulder, she just holds him as the pain and tears work their way out of his system. It is after 9 pm before she leaves the hospital. Will was sleeping again. This is one day she will not forget for a long time. The joy of being a nurse and helping people and the pain of letting them know they are alone will be in her heart for a long, long time.
I finally cried myself to sleep but it is a restless sleep. I dream of the accident with more and more of the details coming through. As I start to wake up I remember seeing a light just before the crashes into the stone wall alongside the highway. Not the white light that everyone talks about with near-death experiences but more of a bluish haze. I remember hearing voices and then wake up with a startling thought.