The doors opened; we had arrived. After a chilly flight to St. John’s in Tulsa, I welcomed the extremely quick stretch of sunlight from the helicopter to the doorway to the hospital where I was immediately rushed to the Trauma ER.
I laid on a table, in a stark white room, with numerous nurses buzzing about all around me, taking vitals, putting in my IV, etc. They asked about any piercings and after I told them, they proceeded to take out my earrings and my belly-button ring. I was so mad about that belly-button ring…I hadn’t had it very long and here they were taking it out!
After numerous scans and x-rays, I vividly remember the neurosurgeon coming up beside me and saying, “I have good news and bad news, what do you want to hear first?” I do not remember what his good news was, but when he told me, “You’re paralyzed, you will never walk again,” I simply replied, “I think you’re wrong, but I respect your opinion.” This was the beginning of the dislike I felt for my neurosurgeon's bedside manner. It was terrible!
I crushed my C5 vertebrae, bruising my spinal cord at the same time (which caused my paralysis); but before they were able to perform the reconstructive surgery on my neck, they had to realign my spinal column. To do this, they screwed a device, similar to a C-clamp, into both sides of my head, right behind my ears. 15 pounds of weight was hung from this device off the back of my hospital bed. This was the how my parents first saw me...thankfully I do not remember their reactions. However, by 11 o’clock Sat. evening, everything was alligned and I was ready for surgery.
I was in ICU for a total of four days and my memory of those days are somewhat hazy. Two of those days were filled with surgery and I’m sure I was out of it, but I do remember certain people visiting, and a few heart-to-heart conversations. My last day of ICU, I remember quite well – all I cared about was to have my hair washed and my legs shaved. Deena came to my rescue and did both…even braiding my hair just as she had done before numerous MAYB summer games.
After being moved to a regular room, the next eight days were filled with visits from family and friends and lots of sleep. Physical and occupational therapy came in once or twice a day where we worked on sitting at the edge of the bed and working on the arm motion needed to feed myself. The first time I was able to skim a small bit of pudding out of the container and bring it to my mouth was a huge feat…I felt on top of the world.
Speaking of pudding, the food was terrible. I was extremely thankful to Zach and Kirk who brought me Wendy’s chicken nuggets and Olive Garden’s tiramisu multiple times.
On July 29th, one week after my accident, my brother Jason married the love of his life, Heather. I was to be a bridesmaid and after a long talk with them, I told them there was no way they were canceling the wedding. Zach stayed back with me as well as the Erb’s. I was absolutely devastated to miss their wedding but I still had the chance to put on the bodice of my dress and have a quick photo op with Kirk in his tux before everyone left. I remember Jason calling that night and yelling, "Em, I'm married!"
Throughout the twelve days I was in Tulsa, numerous phone calls had been made trying to figure out the next step as to where we would go next. Craig Hospital in Denver seemed to be the most logical place as it was the closest to home. My name was put on the waiting list and we did exactly that…wait. By the tenth day of so, I was medically stable and St. John’s wanted to dismiss me, but no beds were available at Craig. I was dismissed and readmitted each day until the social worker answered my mother’s plea about where else, other than Craig, I should go. TIRR in Houston was the answer and thankfully they had a bed open. The plan was simple in my mind – I would be dismissed and Zach would fly me down to Houston, but the doctors would not allow it; I had to have a medical flight. That itself was another hurdle, but Wayne made some phone calls, pulled some strings and got me on the next medical flight to Houston.
Tulsa was an eye-opening experience for me. Twelve days seemed like an eternity, but I was determined that after some intense physical therapy, I would be just fine.