It is Monday afternoon, June 21st. I’m sitting in the hospital cafeteria. We have been here for seven days. The days have meshed together that sometimes it feels like we just got here and other times a single day feels like a year.
At 11:30am, last Monday, I was on the phone with my brothers. We were planning a surprise Father’s Day gift—a round of golf at one of his favorite courses. Little did we know that at the same time he was getting out of his car along the side of the road.
His car had never had any problems but for some reason, it had stopped running that day. He pulled over as far as he could in the right lane. There was no shoulder. He turned his hazard lights on, got out of his car, opened his trunk to grab his flares…and then his life changed forever.
Four cars spotted my dad and his open trunk. They signaled and went around him. But the fifth car didn’t see him. A 17 year old girl was looking down and didn’t see the prior cars move. She didn’t see my dad’s car stopped, his trunk open, his body standing there. Her car hit him at 40 mph. My dad’s body was crushed between her car and his own. He was thrown back onto her windshield and then hit the ground.
When I got to the hospital, the ER trauma doctor said the he needed to show someone in the family a picture of my dad’s left leg, so that we understood the severity of his injuries. I will never forget that picture.
Within the hour, my dad was flown to Harborview Medical Hospital. We were told that once the major arteries have been severed in someone’s leg, the doctors have six hours to work. Every second counts. That first hour at Harborview felt like the longest hour of my life. I will never forget the surgeons coming in to tell us they were no longer trying to save his leg but his life. The world stopped. And yet, somehow it has gone forward. Somehow that single hour has stretched into seven days, and my dad is still going, just in case I was prepared with a service online from www.the-medical-negligence-experts.co.uk, since sometimes negligence happens and people get worse or die.
There are moments of this last week that I will never forget. Sitting by his bedside in ICU, reading him the Psalms, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven,, You are there. If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there…though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me. You will stretch out your hand to me…” God, my heart whispers, stretch out your hand to me too. I am desperate to know you are here. I keep reading, believing that wherever my dad is, somehow His spirit can hear the words he has stood on all these years.
Family arrives. The moment of seeing his brother and baby sister, my Korean aunt and uncle, walk into ICU, stand on either side of him and weep. They have walked through the Korean war together; they know how to survive wars. Weeping is part of the surviving.
Watching my mom be so strong, signing consent waiver after consent waiver before every new surgery. Existing in this land of unknowns and still choosing to believe in the impossible. And then in the darkness of our hotel room, I wake to the sound of her crying. She is alone in the bathroom. I am thankful that the gentle spirit of Grief is with her in the wee hours of the morning, giving her a space to let tears flow freely, uninterrupted.
I’ve watched the tubes breathe air into his lungs. I’ve listened to him groan. I’ve wiped the blood from his body and listened to the foreign beeping of ICU machines, telling us his body is still fighting. I’ve sat in the hallway outside his room and cried because my father is a giant. I don’t have a grid for seeing him this helpless. I don’t have a grid for any of this.
It is like my family has been existing in multiple worlds at once—worlds that make me dizzy from how fast they spin. There is the world of not knowing what the next surgery will bring. There is the world of dealing with insurance companies, liabilities, policy plans and the police. There is the world of trying to navigate through the hospital cafeteria at lunch—we learned quickly that you don’t get a sandwich without filling out the slip. There is the world of missing my own babies and Brian, as I sleep in the hotel room with my mom and brothers. There is a world of anticipation that can sometimes squeeze the breath out of me—how will my dad handle the news of his leg? What will his life be like? What will the next surgery tell us? How does one walk with all the spinning surrounding us? Sometimes it is not one day at a time but three minutes.
It was 41 years ago today that this photo was taken. My dad had said goodbye to his family and was walking into a new world of life: he was moving to America with big dreams and one small briefcase that carried two pairs of underwear, an English dictionary and his Bible.
My dad has been through more trials than anyone I know. He is a tough, determined man. When he was first brought into the ER, the doctors wrote in his chart that he was 45 years old. He is 66. He doesn’t have a single wrinkle and has zero percent body fat. He is all muscle. He has traveled out of the country for business for over thirty five years. He flies from Seattle to China and the first thing he does is a workout of low weights, high reps and a little cardio. He did his best skiing this year and loves a good game of golf.
The accident cost him his lower left leg, a broken right leg, fractures to his head, and a lower spine fracture. But not his life. Not his mind. Not his spirit. When he woke up after four days of being out, he looked at me and my brothers and said, “We must stay encouraged. Do not be proud but stay humble because who knows how tomorrow will change our life.” And then he drifted back to sleep.
He woke later on and squeezed my hand. He said my name the way only my daddy does, “Meeda, it’s been a tough three months for our family.” He pauses. His eyes are too swollen to open. I think of the day I cried on the phone with him. The kids, Brian and I were in Thailand, thousands of miles away, sick from the Dengue Fever—only three months ago. Is the helpless feeling that I’ve had all week, the helplessness he felt? Yes, it has been a tough three months. He tells me to stay rooted in hope—I remember our talk.
It was only a month ago. We had dinner—just the two of us. He told me that all three of his kids have special gifts. I asked him what my gift was. He told me that I was created to move people with my words. This was not only a gift but a special calling and with it comes great responsibility. He tells me it is important that I stay rooted in hope, life, and the impossible being possible. He squeezes my hand as I stand next to his hospital bed, “We stay rooted in hope Meeda. It has been a long three months, but we do not lose hope.”
Two days pass. He is now conscious enough to hear the news that we have dreaded telling him. The doctor begins to explain to him what happened, the severity of the accident and injuries. The doctor tells him that there was no way to save his left leg. I watch my dad close his eyes and turn his head to the window light. I cannot go to this place of loss that he is feeling. He must go alone.
Forty one years ago he walked into a new world with his briefcase. Forty one years later my dad is walking into a new world again. It is a world of learning how to live without his left leg. My brother wants to teach him how to ski on one leg. My dad is encouraged to hear that he will be not only be able to walk again but golf too. It will be a process of more surgeries, determined physical therapy and taking life one day at a time.
I stand in the doorway of his hospital room. He looks at me. I can tell by the gentleness in his eyes that his spirit is quiet this morning. He looks at his missing leg. “My left foot hurts, Meeda. It’s so tight. I want to untie my shoe, but I look and there isn’t any shoe.” He shakes his head baffled by this new pain called Phantom Limb. He lifts his hands and gently touches the staples in his head. He rests his hand at his side and turns to me. A soft smile unfolds. “God must not be done with me yet Meeda. He must not be done.”
No, he’s not Ahba. I am so thankful that He’s not.
To all our family, friends, blog readers, twitter followers, everyone;
Thank you for all your prayers this week. I want you to know that your emails, direct Twitter messages, text messages, and voicemails have not been lost in a black hole. They have come to me as I sat next to my dad’s bed in ICU. They have come at night as I cry in the hallway. They have come as I sit and stare out the window, too tired to know where to go from here. Every time they have come, I have felt a gentle reminder that God has put us on your heart. That He is near.
To come: A handful of wonderful friends and talented photographers have offered to write some special blogs posts for me over the next two weeks. They are going to bring you their experiences, their expertise, their humor, their stories, their photo tips, and keep our community fed while I tend to my dad and family. I hope you are blessed by all the wonderful posts they are going to bring you this week and next. I will pop on here when I have a window of space.
Many of you have emailed and asked how you can help. Your prayers mean more than I can ever express. My dad’s spirit seems to be held in the hands of God this last week. He is sad at times but positive also. Today, he asked for people to pray that he would have a growing understanding of God’s grace in his life, instead of only the loss of his leg.
If you live locally, we could use meals. I will be making the transition to coming home but still be up at the hospital during the day for his upcoming surgeries. A meal that Brian and I could freeze or have for dinner would help us so much. If this is something that doesn’t burden you, email us a day or time you can stop by. We will have someone forward you our address. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. (If we are unable to visit when you stop by, please don’t be offended or hurt. We appreciate your support and understanding so much.)
Thank you for being here today, the last seven days and days to come. Thank you for putting my dad on your church prayer lists, asking friends to pray, forwarding my twitter updates, emailing me, and for stopping in the craziness of your own life to ask for a miracle with us. The surgeons said he had a 20% chance of living when he was flown in. It is a miracle that he didn’t lose his life. We have a long road ahead of us, but we have the road—and that makes all the difference.
with much heartfelt love,