This next entry is going to give us all a little more perspective on Harrison’s time in what we believed to be comatose, vegetative and minimally conscious states. We thought that he made a natural (and slow) progression through these levels of consciousness because of the outward signs he was giving us with his body. This is just one of the flaws with testing someone’s mental status in these situations, because as we see with Harrison, he isn’t even able to follow simple commands like “squeeze my hand” at THIS point in time (because of motor planning problems), so forget about it 8 months ago. The more I talk to Harrison about those early days, the more insight I gain into what was really happening, and to me, it’s mind-blowing and could have saved me months of intense anxiety and fear. But that’s beside the point. Now let me take you back to the first days after Harrison’s accident.
The ATV accident happened at about 7:00 on Friday night. Boom, he is unconscious at the scene. He got to the hospital around 7:45, and I followed in a car shortly thereafter. The craniectomy (surgery in which the neurosurgeon removed Harry’s frontal skull bone) began sometime after that. It’s really hard for me to remember details but it was something like 10:00. I finally got in to see harrison in the ICU around midnight. The room was dark and the nurse told me to speak softly and barely touch him because it would overstimulate him. It’s hard for me to remember the next moments. I touched Harry, I cried and I told him I loved him. I hugged the nurse, Sharon. She told me the next 48 hours would be the worst of my life, and she was right. I tried to sleep on the floor of the ICU waiting area with those words resonating in my head. I kept seeing Harrison’s body laying still down in the ravine. Every time I woke up to use the bathroom (my body was just as upset as my mind), this disturbing reality would hit me again and again. I hated that night, but I was thankful that my friends Megan, Taylor, Emily and Sarah were there for me…sleeping next to me on that ICU floor. After being in and out of sleep and Harrison’s room, the morning finally came. I was called back to the ICU to speak with one of the trauma surgeons. He told me how terrible Harrison’s injury was and that he was sorry because he didn’t think he would ever wake up or even live. And you guys know the gist of the rest of those early days.
After he officially emerged in November, we started asking questions like “Do you remember this?” or “What about when I said this and you cried?” But in the craziness, we never really explored anymore of Harrison’s mind during the early days. Not until today. Today I actually sat down and thought about it and wondered if Harry was really just minimally conscious or totally conscious (because you have be conscious at some level to make memories and we knew there were certain things he remembered from his time “asleep”). So I asked Harrison, “What’s the first thing you remember after your accident?” and what he said blew me away. He said that he remembered “the doctors talking about my injuries in the ICU” and he “heard the doctor say he was very sorry because he didn’t think I would wake up or live.” When he typed this, I knew exactly what he was talking about.
It was the first morning when I talked (right beside Harrison’s bed) with the trauma surgeon. He is the only doctor I spoke with right beside Harry’s bed. The other doctors always took us into the conference room in the ICU waiting area. So I knew he had to be awake the next morning, Saturday, August 15th. Thinking about his inability to make his awareness known to us broke my heart, and I asked him what was going through his mind and he said, “I thought about how much you were hurting (he said he heard me crying) and I thought ‘I’m here. I’m awake.'””I also wondered how the doctors could tell I wasn’t awake. They couldn’t see that I was aware and doing fine in my mind, and nobody would know that for three more months.” When I asked him what it was like to be in there for three months without any way out and without anyone knowing, he said this: “It was the hardest thing I have ever been through, and everyday I wondered why no one could discern my awareness. I just wanted to comfort Hayley because she was heartbroken but she didn’t know the truth. I was awake the whole time.”
So there you have it. You are looking at a true miracle right here, friends. Harrison’s life and mind were spared from the beginning because God had (and has) a plan. And you know what makes me laugh about this? We prayed so fervently for God to wake Harrison. Some of you went outside each night at 9:30 and yelled “Wake up, Harrison.” I know I sure did. I asked him to wake up about a million times, and I asked God about a million more times than that. But God had already answered our prayer. We just didn’t know it yet. Talk about a God who goes before us, am I right? He answered my prayer before I even prayed it. And I could never be more thankful for His mercy and His miracles. He surely has something beautiful in mind for Harrison and me. We are thankful.