When your laid- back daughter in law in California texts, ‘Call me now’, you know something is very wrong. And so it was. My son Vincent had been knocked off his motorcycle on the Freeway by a hit and run driver and had been taken by helicopter to the Intensive Care Unit in Loma Linda Hospital.
Vince is a steady, experienced motorcyclist, expert in ensuring that he was seen by other road users, especially vehicle drivers. He hadn’t had a single accident in over 30 years. Now he was lying unconscious in a hospital bed in a cervical support collar, with a tracheotomy to help him breathe, arms in splints and connected to various machines around his bed. He had sustained a traumatic brain injury, fractured eye socket, ribs, left shoulder blade, fingers on one hand and in the ‘wings’ of his spinal vertebrae. ‘How could a driver knock someone over like this and leave him on the road?’ asked his wife, Janel. I would like to meet him: I’m praying about that.
News like this knocks your mind into a parallel universe where it doesn’t work so well. I’d already booked a flight for later in the month for Vincent’s birthday on the 25th, but couldn’t join the dots when Trailfinders said they could bring forward the date of the outward trip. I had to be in Britain for a Zoom meeting on the 12th, I told them, and made a new booking. Of course you can hold a Zoom meeting from anywhere in the world, but that didn’t register in my altered state. Later, I extended the new flight return date to the end of the month because I couldn’t bear to fly back and leave him still unconscious in Critical Care. (Trailfinders transferred the later flight to dates in November, so I can be here for Thanksgiving: a significant Thanksgiving this year.)
He is making an amazingly good recovery. The swelling has gone, the scabs on his knees are healing, the tracheotomy has been removed and he has been moved into Loma Linda’s Rehabilitation Centre. Next week surgeons will repair his fractured fingers and hopefully remove the cervical collar. Therapists are teaching him how to swallow again, and most importantly, he is spending more time with us and less ‘under water’. He is lucid and responds with his unique sense of humour. Asked if he knew where he was he replied, ‘not in a breakfast bar.’ Today he was taken outside for a walk in the shade in a wheelchair. It will take time for him to regain his strength, but he’s on the way.
My other daughter in law on the East coast is a doctor, and she texted to say that this rate of improvement could only be the result of God moving in answer to prayer. And now that my mind is returning to normal, I can see clearly how throughout this painful journey God has been showing me things to be grateful for – so many things to give thanks for! For my colleagues and friends who have prayed for me and my son and for their affectionate emails. For the good, boring flight (the best flights are boring), and my grown-up grandson meeting me at Los Angeles airport, which is not the easiest airport to navigate. For being able to see Vince every day, and being here with Janel and the grown up children. For visible improvement, and for the expertise and kindness of everyone at Loma Linda University Hospital and its Christian ethos – there are Scriptures on in-patient room computers, Christian music channels on the TVs and prayer throughout the hospital in the evening. For the way we’ve been able to pray for him in his room, and for staff who have prayed with us. For friends who love him and have collected me so we can pray together. For the friend who takes me to a lively church, where the pastor prayed for him. For daily encouragement from colleagues via email.
Giving thanks has brought a balance to my soul and prevented my mind tipping down into despair. Giving thanks has strengthened the sense of God’s presence as Father. Giving thanks has brought a bigger perspective that extends into eternity. The more I give thanks the more I see there is to be thankful for. I can see why it’s what God wants us to do! (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)