I spent most of the Sunday of the Labor Day weekend in the
intensive care unit (ICU) waiting room at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary
joining family members from south eastern B.C. in a vigil for a young man, who
just a few hours before was a vital, living-the-moment teenager, but now lay
hooked up across the hall in an intensive care unit bed, fighting for his life
It had started as an excellent weekend excursion as two dads
took their teenage sons on an end-of-summer camping trip into the familiar
hunting and camping back country of the upper Bull River region. The dads, Mike
and Mark, were making supper and the boys who are cousins and best friends took
the ATV down the trail a bit to a point where they could access the river to
get water for the camp. It had been raining. The trail was slick, the ATV slid
over the embankment, rolled several times before coming to rest on the river’s
No hijinks or reckless behavior – just a snotty trail that
sent the machine over the bank.
Josh managed to stay with the ATV, Bryce was thrown out, hit
his head, ended up in the river. A bad head injury and he almost drowned. It is
hard to imagine, let alone describe the fear and anxiety that swallowed the
river bank, into a truck and on his way out for medical treatment.
It was a long haul both in distance and emotionally on a wet
and winding logging road to a point many miles below where they met paramedics
and the ambulance. After initial treatment at the regional hospital he was
airlifted to the Foothills in Calgary, where they performed emergency surgery
to open his skull to provide room and relief for his swollen brain. They used a
treatment often heard of today – a medically induced coma – to put him at rest
and give his brain time to heal.
The waiting began and continues.
It is a serious situation, but how do you describe it. On
one hand the outlook is good. It is a moderate brain injury as opposed to
severe. Vital signs are good. He has a top medical team, and he is a big, robust
looks almost bullet proof. And everyone has God working on his case, as well.
He has everything going for him.
Will he be all right? The one qualifier that applies in so
many situations and with which no one can argue “only time will tell.” Damn
those next 72 hours, if only medical science could somehow narrow the gap on
While every moment is an essential moment in healing and
recovery, they are also the cursed moments of silence and thought which has
anxious parents, grandparents and a large extended family also thinking about a
full range of “what ifs”. Everyone is full of hope and faith that science and
God will prevail, but there is also the persevering corrosion of the unknown.
His mother, Joan, would give anything to hear him ask, “Mom
is there anything to eat?” The kid eats like a forage harvester. His dad, Mark,
would give anything to be talking with him about the next hunting trip. And
younger sister Kendall, would even welcome sibling torment and teasing. But they will have to wait for the
process of recovery to happen.
The event is such a brutal reminder about a couple basic
facts of life. We never know what the next second holds. Your world can change
in a flash. And we must stubbornly hold with the faith that all will be well.