July 18, 2011.....It started out as an ordinary summer day. Shane and I were headed out to work and our children, Gabby (age 8) and Tucker (age 5) were going to the zoo with their grandparents. Gabby was suppose to go to tumbling camp that week but when Nannie asked to take both kids to the zoo and then a sleepover, we thought "what a great plan." This would had been the first time Tucker got to spend the night at Nannie's and Poppy's and he was so excited. It was something he had been wanting for a long time. Nannie knew there was only two weeks left of summer break and she felt time seemed to be slipping away before school began. It was also mine and Shane's 13th wedding anniversary and so we thought we could go out to eat to celebrate that evening.
Nannie and Poppy came to pick up the kids around 7:35am. The zoo is about an hour and a half away in Knoxville, Tennessee. My work was unusually busy and I needed to get out of the house and to work on time. But for some reason, I didn't seem in a hurry at all the last minute requests. First, Gabby had a rock in her tennis shoe, so instead of trying to shake it out for her (figuring I wouldn't get it all and she would notice), I went and got her another pair for her to wear and I put them on her feet. Then, Nannie said she didn't bring a camera. I told her she could borrow mine...but then I told Gabby "Maybe you would like to bring yours" (Gabby had a pink camera we bought for her a year ago hoping she would love taking pictures as much as Shane and I do). She quickly said yes. I then changed the batteries out because I wasn't sure if they were still good. I looked at the time knowing I needed to leave and then took everything out to my car that I needed for work. I was going to come back in to say goodbye when Nannie opened the door and said "Wait they want to give you a hug and kiss goodbye". I gave them a hug and kiss them both but for the life of me I can't remember what I said. I am sure I said "Have a good time" and I hope I said "I love you". I didn't see the car leave our driveway. I had ran back inside to shut all the doors, make sure the dogs had water, etc. When I got outside, the car was already driving off. Shane said that they rolled down the window and was waving goodbye and saying "I love you". Oh how I wish now I wasn't in such a hurry and would have heard these words too.
We both went to work. I remember I didn't go to lunch because there was so much going on at work but I thought "well, we will have a nice dinner for our anniversary tonight". Shane had been at work but out of the office all day in meetings and I hadn't spoken to him. I was late leaving work when my phone rang. It was after 5pm. I thought it was Shane asking where I was. It was Shane but his voices sounded odd. He asked "has anyone talked with you?" I said no. He said "Mom, Dad and the kids were in a horrible wreck. Dad called me and told me it was really, really bad but he thought everyone was going to be OK" He said they had been air lifted but wasn't sure if they were headed to Johnson City or Knoxville and to meet him at the Johnson City ER. I was in a panic but kept clinging to his words "...everyone is going to be OK..."
When we got to the ER, Gabby and Tucker had already arrived via helicopter. They wouldn't let us see either one of them and our panic began to grow. It didn't help my nerves when a chaplin showed up very quickly in the waiting room. After what seemed an eternity, they let us back to Tucker. He was talking and although cut up, he looked great in my eyes. His ear was bandaged but they told us it was purely cosmetic. They wanted to get him to surgery that night to repair it. I breathed a sigh of relief seeing him but was very worried about Gabby. Someone came to say that one of us could go to Gabby and so Shane went leaving me with Tucker. I kept asking everyone I saw what was going on with Gabby. I was then told the cat scan revealed that her brain had been injured. I kept asking over and over "what does that mean?" but no one would give me a good answer. Someone finally came and told me they could take me to Gabby who was up in PICU. About 4 individuals escorted me to PICU. When I got there, the room was full of doctors, nurses, advocates, chaplins, and Shane. I will never forget seeing Gabby. She was hooked up to all kinds of machines and she wasn't conscious. Her face was swollen but physically she didn't have many cuts or scrapes on her. The doctors said they wanted to place a devise on her head that would allow them to monitor the pressure on her brain. They also wanted to try and reduce the swelling with medicines. They said her injury was inoperable and also a stint couldn't be used. They wanted to do a test in the morning to see how much blood flow is going to her brain. They left us with these words that still ring in my head "....She is a very sick little girl....she couldn't be any worst...."
We spent the evening going back and forth between Gabby and Tucker, crying, praying, worrying. Although we knew we needed to have faith everything could turn out OK, it was hard for me forget what the doctors said. And then they kept saying it several times that evening..."she couldn't be any sicker." I wanted to scream at them but I didn't. I know they were trying to tell us the truth but I didn't want to hear what they had to say. After they inserted the monitor, we notice Gabby's toes and hands moving (slightly) every once in a while. We thought this was a good sign because before she wasn't responding to any "pain" therapy at all. But the monitor they inserted was not showing the numbers they wanted. They wanted it to get down to "20" but everytime I looked at it...it was in the 50s or 60s. Tucker was in the room beside Gabby. He slept most of the evening. They held off on surgery for him because of his lung. They were concerned his lung would collapse during surgery but thought he would be good in a few days to have surgery.
Morning finally came and they took Gabby down to radiology for her test. While we had hope, it was deminishing. At least for me it was. The doctor's didn't arrive to talk to us about the test until 1pm. They told us that the test revealed no blood flow to Gabby's brain. As I am typing this still I don't want to believe it. How could this happen? From the first day we found out our daughter was born, Gabby was the perfect child for us. I do believe I love her more than I could a biological child. She was and is perfect and lacked all my character flaws. She bonded with us from the very first moment we saw her...falling asleep in her Daddy's arms. I love her more than life itself. She is beautiful, sweet, kind, and always had a beautiful smile on her face. She use to whisper in my ear "I will love you forever and ever Mommy", I do hope she knew just how much I loved her and will always love her. She was my world and now I am left with a huge hole in my heart that will never be repaired. Although Tucker prays "God, please help Mommy's broken heart" I know it will never be fixed.
The picture above was taken July 17th. Shane had taken the kids out to pick the tomatoes off the vine. As you can tell, we spend the entire day in our pajamas...playing, watching TV, working puzzles, and living an ordinary life....with extraordinary kids.