Chapter:18 A summer To Remember 2005

Lots of memories in the last 23+years….graduation, weddings….
One of the best memories was Father’s Day of 2005 when Charley and Caleb gave Mike the greatest gift he could have ever received, adoption papers. They were 21 and 18 at the time and could make this decision on their own. Even though Mike had dreamed of that opportunity, he would have never asked them or put pressure on them. It was not possible when they were young, so he had not let himself even think about it, really; and I’m not sure he even put the thoughts together that it was something they could choose to do after turning 18. They had always called him Dad; and believe me, he was and is an amazing dad to all of our children.
It was always sort of sad when the guys got any recognition for their athletics in the paper or awards in school that with their last name being different, it almost felt like Mike didn’t get any credit (which he did not care about at all); but still it was just a bit of a downer. Teachers and friends all knew the last name was different, but sometimes even they hadn’t stopped to figure out exactly what that meant. I’ve been asked more than once if I was Charley and Caleb’s step mom 🙂
Now that’s the kind of dad he is!
We learned to laugh all of that off, like the few times people (mostly kids) referred to Mike and me as Mr and Mrs (last name of the boys)…all good memories though.
So that weekend with the adoption papers, as you might picture, was quite the surprise for him, to say the least. Charley and Ruth were dating; so she was in on it along with Caleb, Charley,our family attorney and me. It took a month or so to get everything legally in place, and it was SUCH a hard secret to keep. I think I’m the one that came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt as a way of presenting to him, so we worked to put clues and such together. They were funny clues such as “This gift is black and white,” (documents) and another clue “We had to go so many miles to purchase,” (meaning miles to the attorneys office)…..about 10 clues in all ….. Then the final clue was, “This is something you’ve always wanted and only we (Caleb and Charley) could give it to you!”
The next stop was an envelope with adoption papers, which still needed to be legalized and brought before a judge in a court room appearance.
The Saturday night before Father’s Day found us all standing there with our hearts beating out of our chests, waiting for him to open the envelope which contained the documents after receiving the final clue.
Just so you can get the accurate picture, we had not let Stephani and Jessica in on the secret, because we thought it was too risky they might say something. They were only 9 and 11. They didn’t have a clue as they stood there so excited as well. The next few moments were so emotional, and surreal. At first Mike was a little shocked as he began to read the pages of documents, which were a bit hard to follow with all the legal jargon. He was not really sure what he was reading (it was so quiet as we are all waiting), and then it started making sense to him as he was reading the papers. Being a man of few words as he is, Mike looked at Charley and Caleb, one of a handful of times in our marriage that there were tears in his eyes…..and sort of asked/declared, “Adoption?!” I think he wanted to verify before he got too excited. Little 9 year old Jessica was busy trying to look over his shoulder as he read. Of course she was clueless, bouncing up and down with the excitement of “dad’s getting a surprise.” Just when the moment was getting very emotional and intense, and Mike had just asked the question, “Adoption?” Jess started clapping and getting beside herself because she thought it meant we were adopting a baby. Hahahahaha such a funny moment tucked inside such an unforgettable memory.

A short 6 weeks later our family went on a cruise and Ruth went with us for the first time and her first cruise. There was so much excitement, and the girls were beyond thrilled to share a room with her. She had no idea how exciting this cruise would be. On the second night before dinner and while having pictures taken (a normal routine cruise activity), Charley proposed to Ruth after dating since they were 16, such a happy moment. She was completely surprised and we were all on Cloud Nine. We had loved her since we first met her, so this was a dream for all of us that was coming true. Our excitement would be cut short, however; because two days later on the same cruise, our family was involved in a jet ski/wave runner accident that came close to taking the lives of Jessica and Mike. It was so traumatic; and even though Mike and Jessica (who was only 10 years old at the time) were the two visibly injured, Stephani and Caleb had a deeper injury which occurred in their emotions, hearts and minds. Caleb had a much harder time dealing with the burden he put on himself as being somehow responsible for what truly was just an accident. It is still very painful for him to talk about, and he still battles the demons that want to destroy him with guilt. He and Stephani were on a jet ski together and had lost control of it, hitting Mike and Jessica on theirs, as they flew over the top of them, hitting them in the head….. totally a freak accident; but to say it was difficult for Caleb to live with would be putting it mildly.
Charley and I went with Mike and Jessica in the ambulance while Ruth, Stephani, and Caleb followed in a taxi. The ambulance had no working siren or air conditioner, and it felt like a million degrees inside there. Jess was still mostly unconscious, so I feverishly talked to her to keep her somewhat awake as that is one thing I was told that I understood from the non English speaking paramedics and the difficult language barrier.
Mike was out of it even though he was conscious; he kept having to be reminded where he was, and his behavior was very erratic. I was not out there in the ocean when the accident happened; instead, I was taking it easy at the beach there in Playa del Carmen. I was never one to get in on these type of activities, so I sat there drinking my coke and decided to call my sister. Her phone was ringing when I heard someone screaming my name several yards away down the beach. At first I couldn’t find who the screams were coming from; but soon my eyes focused in on someone running and realized it was Ruth, screaming my name and running towards me still with her life jacket on and dripping wet from the ocean. I knew something was horribly wrong. The big invisible pause button that gets pushed when these types of things happen was pushed, and I couldn’t move.
I had just placed a call to my sister to tell her of the engagement excitement and completely lost track that I still had the phone in hand. It had gone to her voice mail which recorded everything that was said between Ruth and me. My sister would hear it and be unable to contact me to find out if everything was OK for 24 hours. The last thing she heard after hearing Ruth say to me, “There’s been an accident on the jet skis,” was me asking Ruth who was hurt and if they were alive.
Soon Charley showed up; and as we walked/ran to the ambulance, he told me he needed me to prepare for what I was going to see…..and be strong. I asked him if they were going to be OK? He replied he thought “Dad” would make it but he wasn’t sure Jess would…..words that hit me like a million pounds.
As we approached the scene where they had laid Jess on a board and were preparing to bring her to the ambulance, I first saw Steph’s face (she was just 13) and then Caleb’s, both so full of fear. They needed me to comfort them for their own emotional wounds; but I would not be able to help them because of focusing on Jessica and Mike, who were needing me the most. There was not enough of me to go around. Ruth and Charley helped fill in the gaps and were absolutely incredible.
Of course our phones weren’t working except for Mike’s Blackberry (which no one knew how to use but him, as far as looking up numbers). That’s the first time I realized how I know no one’s number anymore; it’s just a name in my phone :/
Ruth could only think of one friend’s number from memory, so she called her to call everyone else to pray. I was in no place to even try to think of phone numbers. My entire attention was on Jessica and Mike….and in that order, since Jess was more critical than Mike, and she was still coming in and out of consciousness.
Back in the ambulance earlier, Mike had a lot of blood coming from his chin which was split open. He was not himself at all after being knocked unconscious and face first into the ocean. He was in a world of his own and not the person he would normally be for me in that situation. We eventually arrived at the hospital which looked like a run down apartment with a garage, the emergency room. Suddenly, I felt fear surround me as the reality hit that this was not a modern hospital, or from the looks of it, possibly not even a hospital. We were obviously in a very poor and scary part of town, but there was no other choice; we needed help.
I’ll never forget being in that one room “emergency room” which literally was the garage, Mike on one side of the room and Jess on the other. Charley and I took turns talking non stop to Jessica to keep her from falling any deeper into sleep which was extremely difficult. She would only open her eyes briefly when we would speak. She still had not really said anything since being rescued by Caleb out of the ocean, ,just moaned and groaned.
Meanwhile, Mike was lying on a table underneath a single light bulb that was hanging from a string as a man (doctor?) pulled out what looked to be a rusty tackle box that he might have fished with before. He opened a bottle of rubbing alcohol and began to pour it over Mike’s gashed open chin. I could hear Mike wrenching in pain. I turned to look at him for a moment and caught sight of a fly buzzing around the light bulb inches from Mike’s face as the man pulled out a needle from that same “tackle box” and began stitching up the large gash.
About that time Jessica began to throw up blood which is probably the worst thing to see after a head injury, a sign that something very serious is wrong. Things seemed to be getting worse.
I felt like I didn’t have time to even pray, but yet I don’t think I ever stopped praying. Everything was happening so fast yet SO slow……I would soon hear words from the doctor that no mom ever wants to hear. Just when I thought everything might be OK, his words literally brought me to my knees.


Chapter 19: Faith


The doctor there in Mexico did not speak English with the exception of a very few words. He motioned me into a hall and I followed. I could see the concern in his eyes as he conveyed to me in a few words that he thought my husband would be OK, but then he paused and said, “Your daughter…..not sure,” and sort of shook his head. I quickly asked, “Will she be OK?”
Again shaking his head, he said, “Not good, not sure she will make it.” I choked back tears and panic and thought to myself, it’s probably the language barrier, maybe he just means long recovery. Before I knew it, perhaps thinking this would cut to the chase, I heard myself just coming right out and asking,”Is she going to die?” I’ll never forget the look on his face as he searched for the right words in English to convey to me that he thought that was a big possibility. I know his broken English came through loud and clear and brought me to my knees. He said she needed to be taken to another hospital in town that had a machine to check her brain (I believe it was a CT-scan) to see how bad her bleeding was.
As they loaded up my sweet Jessie back into the ambulance, I knew I needed to warn the others about the seriousness of her condition. I walked into the waiting room where I was met with questioning eyes from the others except for Caleb who could barely make eye contact with me. I explained where we were going and that there was a chance Jess wouldn’t make it (I was only repeating the message the doctor had so seriously given me). I said it without tears or panic just matter of fact which sort of still surprises me. Steph was only 13, but she looked even younger in that moment. I wanted to stay and comfort her and wrap my warms around her, but I didn’t have time; I had to hurry and get in the ambulance with Jessica. I watched Steph go over to a small couch there in the waiting area and lie down as I was walking out. What I would find out later is that she almost immediately fell asleep. Now, this is my child who never ever took a nap, ever! I believe her angels comforted her in restful sleep on my behalf.
I stopped by Mike’s cot of a bed and also let him know of the seriousness and that we were leaving. He was still not fully himself, but he did make sure Charley was going with me and told me to call our friend, an ENT back in Tulsa.

We crawled back into that ambulance (the one with no air conditioning or working siren), flies buzzing everywhere and headed to the other hospital. Jess was 10 years old and much taller than most 10 year old girls but also very tiny in weight, only weighing around 85-90 lbs even though she was already around 5’5″. I looked at her lying there, my baby, the one who just a few hours ago was begging to ride the jet skis and insisting she be the one that rode with Mike on his…..I couldn’t help but think if it had been Steph (who was also begging to ride with Mike), she would have been killed probably instantly because of her height and the way the jet ski was hit. Of course in that moment I thought I was loosing my Jess, and my heart filled with fear and helplessness. I had no faith in the doctors there; there wasn’t even any soap in the hospital bathroom. I wanted an American hospital that could give her what she needed, but I didn’t have a choice since we were in Mexico and at the mercy of what was available.
We arrived at the other hospital within 5-10 min and were met by several men dressed like doctors, but we were not sure what they were. They quickly pulled out her stretcher and started halfway running with her into the hospital. This hospital seemed a bit more modern, but still had that distinct smell of a bad sewer system. They began to motion Charley and me that we could not follow them and pointed us to another area. My heart was in my throat as I thought a million thoughts such as, “What if they let her go to sleep?” Charley and I had worked feverishly to keep her awake and from slipping back into unconsciousness. They had definitely gotten that point across loud and clear that if she fell asleep she might not wake up.
It was probably one of the hardest things as a mom to let these “doctors” take my little girl and tell me I couldn’t follow. I was about to make a scene and insist, but Charley sweetly grabbed my arm and said, “Come on mom let’s go sit down.” I was shaking as we sat there. I know Charley had to have been scared as well, but he was taking over the Mike’s role now and was being so strong for me. It’s a moment special to me and Charley as we sat down and he sort of took over and said, “Mom, we always talk about faith, but now it’s time to practice it.” Then he took my hands and prayed a beautiful prayer of faith. It was a time when all we had was our faith; our trust was not in the hospital or the doctors I can promise!! ALL we had was our faith in God…..that’s when faith is in it’s purest form but also in its most terrifying form. We needed a miracle, and we needed it quickly.

These are pictures of the engagement (two nights before the accident) and some from the hospital.



Chapter 20: The Storm

It seemed like an eternity before they returned to talk to us, and much to our surprise they were pushing Jessica on her bed along with them.
Charley and I rushed over to meet them. In very broken English, the one doctor who seemed to be in charge was able to communicate enough with us to let us know that there was no bleeding in her brain, and she could return to the other hospital. I cannot adequately convey to you the weight that lifted hearing this news. We still didn’t know where the blood (that she was throwing up ) was coming from; but she had stopped that as well, so relief is an understatement for what we were feeling.
We headed back to the other “hospital,” where I couldn’t wait to put everyone’s mind at ease. It was probably about 2:00 in the afternoon by now. They told us both Mike and Jess needed to stay in the hospital for awhile; and they were adamant that Jess was not “out of the woods,” so a different reality check was upon us 🙂
For those who may not remember, we were on a cruise and ALL of our things (including passports) were still on the ship…that was leaving at 5:30pm. We had nothing but the swim suits we were wearing.
Charley and Ruth decided they would take a taxi to the ship and pack up everything and bring it back. They had about 45 min on the ship to do all of this, and I’m still in awe of how they managed. We have always said that Ruth and Charley really came through like champs, unlike many typical 20 year-olds.
They managed to pack up the belongings of 7 people plus Caleb’s guitar, get them off the ship and meet with some of those in charge to explain the circumstances surrounding us not making it back.
Meanwhile, Jess had begun to become more aware of her surroundings and started trying to communicate. I remember one of the first things she asked was, “What time is it?”
I told her it was about 4:00 and she said,”Mom, what about the ship; can we make it back there in time?” I tried to explain to her the seriousness of what had happened and that we couldn’t risk it…..I’ll never forget the silent tears rolling down her cheeks as she realized the cruise, for us, was over 😦
She had no way of understanding how insignificant that was compared to her being OK; but of course she couldn’t, since she had been mostly out of it for several hours.
The staff in the hospital began to admit Mike and Jess into a room, (which thankfully did have air conditioning). They charged my credit card 5,000.00 dollars, and of course I would have given everything I owned to have Jess and Mike OK and whole.
So many times I had to practice my faith, for so many reasons. One of the things that was so difficult was watching them (nurses?) put medicine into Jessica and Mikes IV and have no idea what they were giving them. Due to the language barrier, they were not able to tell me. I wanted to say “STOP” but was terrified to do that in case it really was what they needed.
The emotion of the day began to take over for all of us (except Mike and Jess who were floating in the clouds with whatever was in their IVs).
Late that night I remember Ruth just sobbing with emotion and exhaustion. I returned from the restroom at one point to find Caleb at the foot of Jessica’s bed playing his guitar and singing to her, and then I proceeded to have my own melt down.
During the night Mike was able to help with some planning, and we decided all the kids (Charley,Ruth,Caleb,Steph) would take a taxi to the Cancun Airport where a representative from the ship had helped to book flights for them. They left at around 4:00 am the next morning, flew to Houston, then took a taxi (Charley was too young to legally rent a car) to Galveston where we had parked our suburban, then drove 9 hours home.
Meanwhile, the doctors were overly cautious about Jessica, not letting her watch TV or sit up or anything except bathroom trips where I practically carried her.
They continued to give her SO many vials of medicine into her IV and Mike as well. We were in touch with family members and friends, and everyone began to mention that a hurricane was headed for the area and was a Category 4 at the time and expected to make landfall in 48 hours. Hurricane Emily… what would we do? We felt very vulnerable, so unsure, and so we called a family friend and doctor (ENT) who said, “You have to get out of there and soon!” The risk of flying were less than the possibility of being in Mexico during and in the aftermath of a major hurricane. The doctors in Mexico were saying we couldn’t leave because she could die. They wouldn’t release Jessica; they said she wasn’t well enough. Now what?

These are the lyrics to the song Caleb sang to Jessica that night in the hospital.

“Storm” by Lifehouse

How long have I been in this storm
So overwhelmed by the ocean’s shapeless form
Water is getting hard to tread
With these waves crashing over my head

If I could just see you
Everything would be alright
If I see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
And everything will be alright
And everything will be alright

I know you didn’t bring me out here to drown
So why am I ten feet under and upside down
Barely surviving has become my purpose
Cause I’m so used to living underneath the surface

If I could just see you
Everything would be alright
If I see you
This darkness would turn to light

And I will walk on water
And you will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
And everything will be alright

And I will walk on water
You will catch me if I fall
And I will get lost into your eyes
And everything will be alright

Now everything is alright
Everything’s alright

Chapter 21: Arrived in an Ambulance….Departed in a Taxi

Mike was for the most part back to some sort of mental normalcy after his blow to the head and concussion. They kept his IV full of unknown drugs that made him pain free and not overly concerned. He was beginning to realize some things needed to be dealt with, and I remember him making a phone call to one of our doctor friends in Tulsa, an ear,nose,and throat specialist.
Mike explained our predicament, which was the category 4 hurricane approaching and the doctors there in Mexico telling us Jess was not stable enough to leave the hospital.
He told Mike in no uncertain terms to get out of there and that the risks of staying were greater than the risk of leaving and flying home.
Mike hung up and immediately called the airlines though I’m sure our odds of getting through were very slim to none as no doubt every tourist in Cancun (the closest airport) was trying to find a way out of that area before the hurricane made landfall. At this time it was briefly a category 5. Be that as it may, the first call Mike placed was answered immediately and as I recall, he was not even placed on hold.
He explained our story to the airline representative on the phone, but of course left out the part about us planning to leave the hospital under the doctors vigorous and loud advice/commands not to because we would be risking Jessica’s life.
The representative felt very bad for our situation and said, “You know, I think all of my seats out of Cancun are sold”…. But then she said she would check one more time. She was back on the line after a very brief pause and in a very pleasing voice said,”Yes, yes I do! I have only three open.” Three were the EXACT number we needed, and she went further to say they were in first class but she was not going to charge us the first class price. Mike hung up, and we were more determined than ever that this was the right thing to do. It was not by accident that we had just secured the last three seats on the last plane out of Cancun before the hurricane and first class to boot.
By this time Mike had requested they take his IV out and when they brought their “tool kit” in to take Jessica’s blood, Mike refused to let them and told them we would be leaving.
This started quite a disturbance among the nurses and the one doctor on duty, who immediately came to our room and began to try and persuade us not to leave unless it was by medical helicopter or medical plane.
We had no way of making that happen in the time frame we had, so they made us sign all types of documents stating we were leaving against their advice and putting Jessica’s life in jeopardy. The one thing that really helped us have the courage was knowing what our doctor had said from back in Tulsa, so we stuck to our guns.
We called a taxi, but it was the strangest feeling walking out of that hospital to get into it. Jess was so weak she could barely walk, and Mike had been off of his IV for about 6 hours. His pain was kicking in and was becoming almost unbearable from not only the blow to the head but also his busted chin with stitches and a broken bone (very small) in his face, we would learn later.
It was frightening, I must admit, to leave against the advice of the doctors there; part of me thought they knew nothing, but yet part of me was so thankful for all they had done….I was torn.
It was dusky dark when our taxi arrived (around 8:30 pm or so) to pick us up. We climbed in and asked our driver to stop at the first little store of any kind, as we were absolutely starving. Mike ran in and bought three orange Fanta’s to drink, a can of Pringles potato chips and another bag of chips (there was hardly anything in this tiny gas station of a store to choose from). I can tell you orange Fanta has never tasted SO good. Just getting something in Jessica’s stomach and in Mikes seemed to have an immediate positive affect and on me as well. I began to gain a little more confidence that this whole ordeal might be close to being behind us.
By this time it was dark and we made the 45 or so minute drive to Cancun. We stopped at a hotel in downtown Cancun that had a room open, but it was far from tourist friendly. It was rather old and kind if smelly and a bit on the scary side but we couldn’t keep driving around looking for something else. By this time, Mike was in excruciating pain and we didn’t have as much as an Advil with us.
It was after 10 by the time we found this hotel and got into our room (only to find out there was no air conditioning, and remember, this was in July!)
Our ENT doctor friend had told Mike that he and Jess needed to use Afrin nose spray that night before the flight the next morning to keep pressure down, so as soon as he got us settled in the room he went walking looking for a pharmacy to buy that, something to snack on and of course Advil. He walked because he thought surely there would be something close by since we were downtown.
He ended up being gone almost an hour, walking, and finding nothing for blocks that turned into a few miles. What he did find wasn’t open at that hour. When he returned he could hardly talk from the pain that was taking over, the overexertion from his walk, coupled with the incredible sticky tropical heat. Jess had fallen asleep while we waited and as soon as Mike took a cold shower (only kind you want to take in air conditioner-less room), he followed suit.
Later on, as we lay there side by side, all three of us, I was almost overcome with thoughts of fear as the reality hit me that I was the only “healthy” one. I was going to have to be the one to help encourage and bring confidence that we could do this, while swallowing my own doubts and fears. It was a long night filled with many thoughts of whether we were making the right call or not. At this point there was no turning back. Right or wrong we were going to be taking another taxi very early the next morning to the airport, the same airport I had seen on the news earlier that day with lines of people stretching through the entire airport and onto the outside, stretching down the side walk for what seemed to be miles. I wasn’t sure Jess and Mike could even stand in line at all much less for hours. I didn’t have a clue how this would ever be possible, but I knew I would need to figure it out. Somehow we had to get on that plane and do so without letting it show to the attendants that Jess and Mike might not be fit for travel. It was a sleepless night for sure.