You guessed it. October started with football, and ended with football. We had lovely fall weather, so it was especially nice going to games.
Alex's soccer season continued throughout October, too. We enjoyed the opportunity to see him so often. It took the sting of him leaving home and made it so much easier.
On October 16, our family was enjoying a typical Sunday afternoon. We had finished watching Colton play his final tackle football game of the season. Shannon headed to church for a meeting prior to the evening service at 6:30. Jackson, Chase, Colton and I drove a couple miles from home to celebrate Colton's season with an impromptu football pizza party with some of the other players. Alex was home visiting from college, and stayed with the younger kids.
We left the pizza party at 6:00, drove the two miles home, and pulled into the driveway. The other children were outside playing, and were ready to leave for church. I got out of my parents van, which I had been driving. Alex came out of the house and got into the van because he was going to drive it back to college. He had decided to come home with us following his soccer game the previous day in Dubuque. We were planning to drive to Ankeny to see his soccer game on Monday, so my parents said he could drive their van back to school, and they would drive it home after his game, saving us the trip there and back after church Sunday evening. Hudson asked if he could ride to church with Alex. I said sure and buckled him into the rear passenger seat of the minivan. They headed off to church.
Without even going into the house, the other seven children and I loaded up in our van. Katie ran back into the house and grabbed a sippy cup for Macklin. We headed out the drive and made the six mile trip north to church. As we pulled into the church parking lot and unloaded from the van, I heard the sirens from the hospital across the street. Often times I will say a prayer for those in need as I hear the siren. On this particular day, I did not. It just didn't even occur to me.
We were a few minutes early (very uncommon!), so I stood in the fellowship hall visiting with some of the other teens. My cell phone rang, and the screen said it was Alex. That was when I realized that he and Hudson should have beaten us to church because they left before we did. He immediately told me he had been in an accident and had crashed the van. I asked him where he was, and he said he was south of town and had lost control on the gravel and gone into the ditch. I grabbed Jackson and told Alex we would be right there. It wasn't until then that I remembered Hudson was with him. When I asked how they were, Alex said he was fine, but Hudson had a cut on his face.
As Jackson and I left the church, I spoke with a man in the parking lot and asked him to find Shannon and have him meet us at the accident site. Then I called Alex back and told him we were on our way. He said the ambulance was there already, so we should just meet them at the hospital. We went directly to the hospital, and had to wait about 15-20 minutes for them to arrive. We were able to contact Shannon, and he met us at the ER.
I was not prepared for what I saw when the ambulance arrived. Hudson was wheeled in first. His face was bloody and swollen. He was in a cervical collar. He was strapped down onto the gurney. There were many EMTs, doctors and nurses surrounding him, all talking at once. They would not let us see him immediately. I was SO close to breaking through those doors!
Alex was able to walk in on his own. They conducted a physical exam on him, and he was cleared fairly quickly, with only a superficial scratch on his arm from the air bag. Hudson was on the opposite side of the curtain from Alex, so we could hear part of what they were saying. We were only expecting Hudson to need some stitches. The more we heard, the more scared we became. He was in and out of consciousness. He had one large pupil, one small, and they were not responsive to light. His left eye was swollen shut and he had multiple lacerations on his face. It was determined that he needed to be intubated since he was losing consciousness and he had swelling in his neck. It took them 6 attempts and 40 minutes to intubate him. He was X-rayed to make sure the tube was in the correct place.
We were informed that they had called the University of Iowa Hospitals and were going to transfer Hudson via life flight helicopter. We would need to drive ourselves there. At this point I called across the street and asked our pastor to spread the word and begin praying for our boys. Although Alex was physically okay, he was quite emotional about the accident and felt responsible.
I had called my parents and they drove over to deal with the van and be with us. The sheriff deputy met my dad at the scene of the accident. Alex had lost control on the gravel and entered the ditch. It was quite steep at that particular spot. The van then collided with a concrete culvert, skipped over it, and landed in a creek. The driver's airbag deployed, saving Alex from serious injury. Hudson was thrown forward, colliding with the hard plastic hand hold on the back of the front passenger seat, typical in many minivans. Alex's door wouldn't open, so he had to climb against gravity through the side van door, and jump down about four feet into the creek. He thought he saw smoke in the van, so he unbuckled Hudson and removed him from the van. As he climbed up the ditch, a man in an SUV stopped to help him. He was on his way to church in the same town we attend church, and he is an EMT. He helped Alex call 911, since Alex's phone kept dropping the call as he dialed. Another lady, also a former EMT, came upon the accident from the opposite direction. They immediately immobilized Hudson and applied traction to his neck. We were told later that Alex did an incredible job staying calm, and comforting his brother.
Back at the hospital, we were making arrangements for our other children, who were still at church. Fortunately, we had gassed up the car earlier that day. I found comfort in the details of planning. It was such a surreal experience. I remember our pastor praying over Hudson with the EMTs, nurses and doctors praying right along with us as they artificially breathed for Hudson. At one point I looked at Shannon and told him I didn't think I could do this. Things like this don't happen to our family. Shannon held me and told me we really didn't have a choice. We just had to deal with it and do the next thing. This was similar to what I told Alex as I held his face in my hands as he cried. I assured him God was in complete control of the situation. Even though we were scared and unsure of what was going to happen, God knew from the beginning of time that we were going to be standing broken in that emergency room at that particular time. He was watching over us and would guide us through all that was yet to come.
Alex wanted to go to Iowa City with us, so he prepared to contact his RA at school to tell him he wouldn't be back that night. He wasn't able to contact him, so Alex called his soccer coach, who attends church at our previous church in Nevada where we lived and served for 9 years. They of course prayed for our boys, and word spread throughout our Baptist association. Alex's college, Faith Baptist Bible College, was notified and they began praying. Another Faith student who attends church in Nevada immediately upon hearing of the accident called her parents who are close friends of ours in Clear Lake, and their congregation began praying. Members of that church work at the Iowa Regular Baptist Camp, and spread the word when they got home from church. In an unbelievably short amount of time, word of the boys' accident had spread across the state and beyond, and God's people were appealing to Him to heal Hudson. You can imagine how the prayers multiplied once our request was posted on Facebook.
As the helicopter arrived and we spoke with the medic, I asked him to take good care of my baby. He hugged me and assured me they would do their best. We had provided them with telephone numbers to reach us 'just in case'. One of the hardest things I've had to do was to see my little boy loaded onto that helicopter and not be able to be there with him. As we stood in the parking lot and watched the helicopter leave, I remembered that when Hudson was a little baby I prayed to God and 'gave' my baby to Him. I trusted God, but I wasn't ready to lose my boy. Many of the hospital staff and EMT's were crying as we left the ER.
Alex ended up staying home. My parents made sure the other children were settled in at our house, then took Alex home with them to keep an eye on him. Shannon and I began the hour and a half drive to Iowa City. My sister Kim is a nurse and works in the clinics at the hospital, so she was able to be at the hospital when Hudson arrived. Shannon and I spent the trip praying fervently for our little guy. I contacted family and friends asking them for prayer. We sang praises to God and appealed to Him for mercy and healing on Hudson.
About half way there we received a call. I was almost afraid to answer the phone. It was the social worker from UIHC calling to make sure it was okay to share medical information with my sister. Hudson had arrived, and they were beginning testing and CT scans. She told us where to park and met us at the doors, then escorted us to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Kim was with her, too. When we arrived in the PICU we were greeted by a resident and given a preliminary progress report. The CT scan appeared to be normal, although they were still waiting for the official report. There were no brain bleeds found. He had facial and orbital fractures. The tendon that attaches his left eyeball to the bone had been severed. Many different doctors and residents were attending to his needs. He was scheduled to be seen by neurosurgeons, oculoplastics, ophthalmologists, radiologists, and a slew of other providers. It was quite some time before we were able to see him. They had him in a drug-induced coma. He was quite agitated with the tubes and restraints when conscious. Although the reports were positive, we were warned that there could still be permanent damage, and we should plan to be at the hospital for about a week.
The pastor and assistant pastor from our previous church in Nevada drove two hours to be with us at the hospital, after spending the day preaching. They stayed with us for several hours until we knew Hudson was stable, then drove back home in the wee hours of the morning. Their friendship and support meant the world to us in a very scary time of our lives.
Throughout that first night, the doctors would bring Hudson out of his coma to test his responsiveness. Although scared and uncomfortable from being intubated and restrained, each time Hudson was able to respond to our voices and squeeze our hands and move his feet.
By morning they had ruled out brain damage and were confident that his eye could be repaired. He was put on the surgery schedule as an "add-on", so we didn't have a specific time for surgery. About 1:00pm they came to get him to prepare him for surgery. He was gone for about three hours. When he returned, they had been able to remove his breathing tube and the repair of his eye and lacerations had gone well. He had just over 20 stitches, beginning across his left eyelid and continuing along his left cheekbone in "Z" pattern. Within minutes he was talking to us, trying to remember what had happened. He was sad that he was missing Alex's soccer game. We had told Alex he could play as long as he felt okay. He had been able to play about half of the game before getting dizzy. When Alex finished his game, he called to see how surgery went. The first thing Hudson did when talking to Alex was to thank him for saving him. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.
Hudson was quite charming the rest of the evening. He was able to visit with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Kimmy, Uncle Jeff and his cousin Mason, and pastor Nemmers and his wife.
On Tuesday morning Hudson received a special honor. Our PICU nurse was able to arrange for him to go up to the roof of the hospital and see the helicopter he had flown in on. One of the medics gave the special tour. We were able to see the little cot that he was strapped to, and the seats for the medics and the pilot. We were allowed to take as many pictures as we wanted, and they even gave him a stuffed panda bear as a gift.
The biggest surprise of all, though, was the news that we were being discharged. Not from PICU to the floor, but HOME. The doctors said there was no reason for us to stay. Our PICU nurse had no idea how to discharge a patient home. She had never done it before. Shannon had to go out and buy clothes and a booster seat since Hudson arrived with neither.
In less than 42 hours from the time of the accident, we had been told that Hudson might not make it, if he did live he'd likely have brain damage, and he'd possibly lose his left eye. But because of our merciful, all-powerful God, we were able to walk out of the hospital with 'only' facial fractures and sutures. We firmly believe that Hudson was healed because of the faithful prayers of our friends, family, and the community members surrounding our rural home. There's no medical way to explain it. It was just God.
We had incredible opportunities to share our faith throughout the ordeal, and give glory to God. Our children have been shown clearly that God DOES answer prayers. My sister, who was saved as a child but has not found time in the past twenty-five years to serve God, saw up close and personally that God is active and present in our lives if we allow Him to be. We were shown so much love and support throughout the relatively short time following the accident by friends and family, and even virtual strangers.
We are truly blessed.
Hudson has been given a clean bill of health from all of his doctors. His vision is perfect. He has quite a scar, but I find it a daily reminder of Who holds us in His hands.
Hudson has learned that God ABSOLUTELY answers prayers. He's got such amazing faith. A week after the initial surgery, Hudson and Macklin were tussling, and all of Hudson's stitches got ripped out. We loaded him up and headed back to Iowa City to have them repaired. On the way there, Hudson looked at Shannon and I and said, "Aren't you going to call everyone and have them pray for me?".
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD." Proverbs 16:33