I don’t even remember the accident that landed me in the hospital that day. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember that day.
Family members who read the police report tell me that I was flying down New Road on my motorcycle after a visit to the gym when a teenage girl violated my airspace and literally sent me flying.
With head injury, collapsed right lung, broken pelvis, two broken ribs, plus a broken right arm, wrist and foot, I came within a piston stroke of dying that night. Several people have asked if I saw the bright light some talk of after a near-death experience. If I did, I don’t remember.
What I do remember is something special that happened during the last of my three visits to the Intensive Care Unit while I was a guest of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center for 32 days.
For that last trip to the ICU, one might say that I was a victim of friendly fire. My Facebook friends got to admire a picture of the plastic bag filled with the liquid, vanilla-colored “food” hanging above my bed, along with the caption “Yummy!” alongside the photo. It was my only source of nutrition for a couple of weeks.
Somewhere along the line, that intravenous line slipped me a staph infection, one of those dreaded complications that afflicts many hospital patients. The doctor said the point of entry for the tube leading from the bag was a regulation breeding ground for Staphylococcus bacteria since the germ was warm and had lots of nutrients. I didn’t notice anything wrong until my teeth began to chatter like Spanish castanets and chills suddenly became a hot discussion item. The next thing I knew, I didn’t know anything. My memory, much as it did on the evening of my crash, crashed. My temperature neared 106; many of my gray cells headed for cooler climes.
I don’t pretend to remember what was going on that afternoon and evening after the staff hustled me out of my room and into ICU where doctors and nurses toiled over the infection poisoning me like a rattlesnake bite.
Judging from what I saw before and after, high-tech monitors, the latest medicine and highly skilled technicians, nurses and doctors were all in the room to see I pulled through. They did all they could for me physically, but something else, perhaps more important, happened in ICU.
It was dark, most likely the middle of the night or, even more likely, the wee hours of the morning. I was drifting in and out of consciousness and only dimly aware that a nurse entered my room. She didn’t take my temperature. She didn’t take a blood sample. She didn’t offer me pills. Instead, she simply took my limp hand and held it. I don’t know if she held it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, but this was not a nurse just attending a patient; this was another human being telling me she cared by doing the only thing she could probably think of doing after the doctors were finished with me.
It was at that moment that I wanted, really wanted, to get well. My battered body had no choice but to follow suit.
Like I said, I don’t recall if I saw a light or not, but if I did, it wasn’t technology that took me by the hand and led me back to the life and loved ones waiting for me. It was compassion.
Growing up in West Texas, George Reamy served more than 20 years in the Navy before moving to Central Texas in 1994. He now works at Texas State Technical College System Operations, performing duties related to conflict resolution and veterans’ initiatives.