Our kind neighbour, with whom we have had minimal contact before, took Jemimah, Maggie and myself across his property – his wife offering us a cup of tea as we went – and home in his vehicle. It would have only been a ten minute walk home, but he insisted we went in his minivan. It is very hard to gauge the level of shock you feel while you are in the midst of it and so though I felt fine, when I sat in that vehicle I realised how much I appreciated sitting down for a minute and being carried home.
By this time, I had spoken to Tim’s Dad who was going to go directly to A and E with Sam, Tim’s brother. Knowing that there would be some family there for Tim, I didn’t feel too rushed in needing to get to hospital. Also, word had begun to spread around church folk who had begun to pray for Tim. For me it was from that point of returning home that I no longer felt so alone in my anxiety.
Our lodger greeted me with fishing rod in hand and gave me a hug telling me he wouldn’t be in church the following day. It’s funny the things we say when in shock, but apparently my appearance shocked him. Then James came and collected the two rucksacks of gear. I was unaware of what I looked like. When we went into the house Suzanne asked me if I wanted a cup of tea or a bath. The bath option had never entered my head, but the cup of tea option was very welcome. My clothes, however, were covered in blood and I’ve since thrown them away. I kept them to show Tim only when he came home from hospital as further proof of things he can’t remember.
After a cup of tea and a change of clothes, explanations of how the accident had happened were shared under the shadow of awareness that I needed to get to the hospital. Suzanne, having suggested a bath, eventually had to tell me I needed to wash my face, because it too had a lot of blood on it.
James and Suzanne had wisely brought distractions for the children; they were watching ‘Tangled’. Josiah had returned not long after the helicopter passed by the house. The others had explained what had happened and he was very easy going about it all, reckoning Daddy would be fine as he himself was after he’d been kicked in the head by a horse! Jemimah was delighted to find her friend Ellie there to play with, when she and I got back. Ruthie looked very pale. Simeon seemed alright. He later explained how watching ‘Tangled’ helped him to sleep that night because he thought of the funny parts in the film instead of the picture he had in his mind of Daddy falling.
Again with the wisdom of an outsider looking in at one who doesn’t fully realise the state of shock they are in, James would not let me drive myself to the hospital. Suzanne took me down. We were having to use the conservatory doors to get in and out of the house because Tim had locked the front door and I assumed put the key in his pocket. I’d said to the paramedics, before they took him to the helicopter that I thought the house key was in his pocket. They’d checked and handed me his pocket knife, but no key. Thankfully, our lodger had found a window to post a child through and open the conservatory doors.
So Suzanne took me to A and E. The lady on the reception desk, that evening, is a governor at the same school Tim’s Dad is a governor and she gave us a private room, in which to wait. I have found at those moments of crisis, God seems to give me someone with whom there is some connection, however tenuous, that reminds me that He is there, and they bring comfort. It was like when Josiah was born and suddenly had to be delivered by emergency C-section, which seemed all very dramatic and serious, the paediatrician on duty turned out to be a chap we had dinner with the previous month. Also, when my father died and Ruth was born, two major events of life within hours of each other, on duty in delivery suite was the mother of my longest standing violin pupil. She didn’t deliver Ruth, but she was there and came and saw me and brought comfort.
I don’t know the name of the lady on the desk but that there was a connection there and that she gave us the use of a private room, brought me comfort. She told me that Tim was in Resuscitation, that the consultant was seeing him and that he was stable. “Stable” meant to me that he had his full faculties back. I think she mentioned that he had been taken for a CT scan. She also said that the patient next to Tim was in a very bad way, implying a need for my patience before I would be allowed in to see him.
I don’t know how long we sat in the waiting room. I do remember moments where I would hear something going on in the department, not knowing to which patient it related and having my blood rush to my feet as I feared the worst for Tim. Tim’s Dad, brother and myself discussed the accident and possible extent of injury. We thought he might have internal head injuries and a broken leg. I sent texts to a treasured few asking them to pray. But Tim’s PA extraordinaire from church had got the word out for people to pray. As the evening progressed I got texts from far and wide that were so encouraging and over the next few days discovered that prayer for Tim had gone global! I am still amazed and encouraged by seeing how people really stood up and did everything they could to be a support to us. We have been carried by the strength of others. There is no doubt about it!
I was still really afraid for Tim, but like I said before, no longer felt that I was alone as I had been in the woods. Eventually, they called me in to see Tim. The nurse was so cheerful and teasingly said to Tim,
“Look who we found!”
Tim didn’t have his glasses on and was still strapped to the stretcher with his neck in a brace and his head cushioned so he couldn’t move it. I put my face up close to him so he could see me, looked into the one eye that was open and took his hand. Straight away he said with all force of fear and confusion he had been exposed to in the woods,
“What’s going on, Em?”
I was shocked to realise that stable didn’t mean he’d got his faculties back. He was still just as confused and frightened as he had been before. That frightened me, then. But he’d recognised me, which was good. His body was still shaking and shivering with shock. Suddenly, he said he thought he was going to be sick. I panicked because he was unable to turn his head to the side and I had visions of him choking if he was sick, so I rather hastily tried to get the attention of the nurses. I think they were just handing over a change of shift. Anyway, they treated me very courteously in my panic and four of them came and tipped Tim sideways. I held the bowl for him and kept talking to and encouraging him. I’ve never said “Good boy” to him, like a mother does a child! But I did then!! One of the nurses cleaned me up later as somehow I’d unwittingly managed to get some of the contents of the bowl on my shoulder.
But when they tipped him blood poured from the stretcher onto the floor. It was another thing that horrified me. So I spoke to one of the nurses as she cleaned it up and she told me that they think it had come from his head, that the head bleeds profusely and it wasn’t the quantity of blood loss they would be too worried about yet.
Tim, meanwhile, was still feeling very nauseous and so would close his eyes periodically. I checked if it was ok for him to go to sleep if he wanted to. He was still asking me lots of questions, lots of the same questions about what had happened. He was very concerned about the beeping of machinery around him, but I reassured him that it wasn’t his. He wanted to know who was snoring next to him, too. I found myself siphoning off what was relevant information for him to try to understand and what wasn’t. So I would couch my answers in reassuring phrases all the time, like talking to a child. When he was quiet with his eyes closed, I would pray for him. I had one moment in that time, that really stands out in my memory because I see how powerful an image it is now, but at the time it brought no sense of peace or comfort. Holding Tim’s hand – praying for him – he was covered in blood, the quantity of his loss, as I said, had worried me. It entered my mind that Jesus’ blood was covering Tim’s blood in that moment, like another layer that we couldn’t see. I also found the words of a hymn we used to sing at school going through my head. The words were from this verse:
Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Ruthie and I later that night discussed what tunes we’d had going through our heads, as she finds a lot of comfort in music and when I sang the hymn that was going through my head to her, she very sweetly said, “I think God was telling you something, Mum.”
The nurses were waiting on the result of the CT scan to release Tim from the neck brace and from having his head held in one position. Tim was feeling so nauseous that he wasn’t coping very well with being tied in. It was such an amazing relief when the nurse came to say that the CT scan results had come back to say that nothing abnormal was found. Tim seemed to me to take that information in and understand it. But now when I talk to him about what went on he doesn’t remember it. He has a few memories like still, grainy, sepia photos of certain things, he says.
I wanted to go and tell Tim’s Dad and brother that the CT scan results were good news, but Tim didn’t want me to leave him. Eventually, one of the nurses went. The staff were preparing Tim to go for an x-ray next to check his legs and back and had removed his neck brace. Tim’s father and brother were allowed in to see him just before he was taken to x-ray and Tim’s long-standing friend Paul suddenly appeared with them.
This was the first time Tim smiled. He seemed to be comprehending well everything that was going on and understanding better what had happened. But again when I talk about that his memory of his Dad, Sam and Paul being there is vague and like a sepia photo. Sam struggled to stomach the sight of Tim, so didn’t stay long.
After his visitors had gone Tim was taken to x-ray. Just before we left the cubicle I picked up his jeans which had been cut from him. We discussed throwing them away, again I thought he was taking in and agreeing with what I said, but he was horrified later when he learnt that his trousers had been thrown. As I went to put them in the bin, I heard the tinkle of our house key in one of the pockets. What a relief! So I wasn’t going to have to go and search the woods. The key hadn’t tumbled out when Tim tumbled.
At x-ray, Tim was like a child in not wanting me to leave him but I couldn’t go into the x-ray room with him. I sat and waited outside and chatted with a lady who had broken her ankle six weeks previously but seemed to have acquired an infection in the healing process. We discussed the NHS, as one does in Britain. She commented that A and E had been exceptionally busy that evening with someone having been brought in by air ambulance. I explained to her who that was and she decided that having to wait as long as she had to be seen perhaps wasn’t as bad as some things other people had to cope with. We talked about how valid it is to remember that there are always people worse off than ourselves, when we get frustrated by our circumstances. Tim seemed to be in x-ray for hours and having that lady to talk to helped to quell my worrying for a bit.
When we returned to the resuscitation unit, Suzanne met me with a bag of goodies I might need if I had to stay in overnight with Tim. Tim says he remembers asking Suzanne if SHE was alright as he was wheeled past her, like it was a normal everyday conversation. After she had spoken with us, James got permission to come in and see Tim. Tim then registered that it was Saturday and that we had an important partners evening the following Sunday at church. It must have been the sight of James that brought that recollection, but Tim again doesn’t recall the conversation, himself.
A student nurse came to clean Tim’s head wounds at last. It took her over an hour in total during which time he was taken to the suture room and a doctor began stitching. The student nurse said her brother was a rock climbing instructor so she had some wise words on safety to share with humour! She said too that his head was covered in small minor grazes. She and the doctor were not too sure whether all the damage was just on the top of his head or on the back of his head too so were cautious with how much anesthetic to use. It is from this point on that Tim has complete recollection. Perhaps the sticking of needles in his head was sufficient to bring him round, back to normality. All the damage was just on the top of his head so thankfully to doctor was able to increase the dosage of anesthetic. I found it particularly difficult to stomach when they put the needles in, but just looked away and kept hold of Tim’s hand. I didn’t like hearing that his head was lacerated to the muscle, either.
Close to 11pm another medic came and saw Tim and told us they would be putting him on the orthopedic ward. I still hadn’t heard about the results of the x-ray so asked if he knew. He seem very unconcerned and waited until the stitching had been completed before telling us that the x-ray results showed no broken bones. I was amazed and so relieved!
When I left Tim on the ward, with a very direct, no nonsense, male, Filipino nurse his parting words to me were,
“I’m amazed they’re keeping me in overnight.” I smiled and laughed to myself thinking,
“You have NO idea!”
Sam collected me from the hospital. He and Tasha had chosen to be the ones to look after our children and animals, overnight, and were the first to make use of our sofa bed! People did so much for us that we so appreciate.
It was nice to be able to unlock the front door. I found Ruthie was still awake, so I suggested she come and share my bed for the night. We lay chatting for ages and she had a good cry. I understood that Grandma had prayed with her before bed that evening when the shock of everything had overwhelmed her with tears. We had very interesting and meaningful discussion. She expressed to me how she had recently learnt that when she found things difficult, if she smiled it seemed to make it easier. That led to me telling her of the prophecy that was given twice by different people at her birth, amounting to whenever she found things difficult in life she would overcome the difficulties with joy.
I only slept for two hours and when I did, I dreamt of the friend who had lent her car to us as playing her part in helping us, though she was away on holiday. I had been amazed at how supported I felt by people in church, a feeling which continued throughout the next few weeks as they provided us with an evening meal every evening and took our children into the school at church for a week. Josiah, in particular, was struck by seeing love in action towards us in ways he’d not seen before, or not registered before. It really pleased me that he could see people he knows well not just teaching him about God, but truly demonstrating and being inspiring in their expression of God’s love. It struck me that the last thing I want is my children being entertained by their experience of church but instead I want them inspired by the actions of faith in the lives of the people around them.
I was very concerned for the impact that Tim’s accident might have on the Sunday morning service and the way people might feel, but I was quite taken aback by the fight that had risen in people’s hearts and the unity of feeling and expression in overcoming adversity. It was the words of a lady I barely know that blessed me most. She said, “You know these things happen and you’ll back in time and see how much stronger you have become through it all.” These words echoed the feeling of my own heart that God was strengthening me and my closeness with Him.