Twinks lies quietly, feet first in the MRI. The light from the window flows through the machine; it is a brand-new, state-of-the-art "open" MRI. This machine is not just "open", but also the quietest MRI I have ever been around. I can clearly hear music playing; it is a local radio station playing on the stereo across the room.
As I watch Twinks, my mind reels back through the events of the last six weeks or so. Of everything that happened that led to us being here, in this room - Twinks trying so hard to lay still that tears are leaking from her eyes, and me, not even trying to hide my own tears of grief, frustration, and exhaustion.
Six or so weeks ago, there was a winter storm. The storm blew up so quickly, and was so dangerous that they turned school out early. I wasn't too worried, because I knew that my pantry was stocked, and the fridge was full, the generator was ready, and there was plenty of ice melt in the garage. Twinks was home, safe. The Wrench was at work, and I texted him twice, trying to convince him to come on home; the TV news was full of stories of people sliding off of roads and into ditches; I hoped he could leave work early, before midnight, and beat the next wave of ice.
I went out to throw down some ice melt. Down at the end of the porch, it looked like the concrete was still wet. It wasn't wet - it was black ice, and I went down fast, and with my right leg at an unhappy angle. Twinks called 911 for me, and when they arrived, they had a bag of ice melt with them... exactly like the one lying by my side on the frozen concrete.
The paramedics checked me over, but I was far more worried about Twinks and my Mom. They couldn't come along in the ambulance, because it was way too slippery for them to try and walk out to the ambulance. One of the medics went inside, and reassured Twinks and my Mom that I was OK, but had to go to the ER to have my knee x-rayed. Twinks was scared, but I called her on my cell, and kept the line open, so that she felt better. The ambulance crew loaded me up, and we literally slid down the driveway to the ambulance. They had to use some kind of device that drops down between the back tires to get enough traction to get going.
We live less than 1/2 mile from the hospital - exactly 10 blocks - and it took 20 minutes to get to the ER doors. TW had to leave work early to come and get me, but I was ready to go home before he got there; it took him 3 hours to make what was usually a 15 minute drive. The ER doc told me it was a "really, really bad sprain", and that I had to stay off of it. He said that it would take six to eight weeks to recover completely.
What he didn't know was that I don't have that kind of time to "recover" from anything. A week later, I put the crutches away, and two weeks later, I appeared (to others) to be back to "normal".
Two weeks after my adventure on the ice, Twinks had to go to the doctor; a local podiatrist. Hospital City is so backed up that unless it is an "emergency", there is a six to eight week wait. We like this guy - he is fairly young, and embraces all of the technology available. He examines her feet, and tells us that she needs surgery on both feet. He proposes doing her left foot first, then the right one. All told, she will be in a wheelchair for at least 90 days; probably six to eight weeks per foot. Twinks is clearly freaked out about it, but she knows it has to be done; she is in pain, and her feet are getting worse by the day. We talk about doing the first surgery in mid-March, during Spring Break. Twinks friends rally around, promising that they will help get her through the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience.
Two more weeks have passed. It was the weekend, and TW had just turned on the local news. The very first story stopped us; a teenager had died in an accident. In our town. Just down the road from our house. The victim's name wasn't being released, but he was 15 years old, and a student at Twinks school. TW & I looked at each other. He turned off the TV, and asked me what the chances were that it was one of "our" kids, meaning one of the group of Twinks friends who regularly come and go here.
I felt numb as I made the walk to Twinks room, where she was happily listening to music, and asked her to bring her cell phone, and come to the living room.
We sat her down on the couch, and asked here where all of her friends were. She looked at both of us, our faces strained and worried. She began listing where everyone was. This one was grounded, that one was sleeping over at so-and-so's house. A group of four was hanging out at another one's house, and they had just texted her a while ago - they were supposed to be coming over in a little while to hang out at our house, and relieve us of some pizza. Oh, and Twin1 was with the four... which really makes five, and Twin2 was with George (not his real name). Why? What's going on?
We told her about the news story. She began texting frantically, trying to reach any, all of her friends. One by one, they responded - some had heard the news as well, and information began to flow between the teens. But the group of kids that were supposed to come over for pizza had gone silent. All of them. None were responding. Twinks finally dialed one of them, abandoning all attempts to get a response via text. He answered. Rapidfire, Twinks nervously asked "What's going on? Why didn't you answer? Do you know who was in the accident?" He choked out George's name. Twinks screamed, and dropped the phone.
I never want to hear that noise come out of my child again. I don't even know what to call it. She just went wild with grief. We held her, and tried to console her. Just like her, we didn't want to believe it was true; my first instinct was to jump in the car, and go over to his family's house and prove that it was all a terrible mistake.
Over the course of the next several days, grieving teenagers streamed through our house. TW & I could do little but pass out hugs, tissues and food. Twinks was shattered; she and George were best friends, and spent every morning before school sitting in the school cafeteria, heads close together, talking about everything. They were not "boyfriend and girlfriend", but more like "brother and sister". They shared so many common interests, and now there is, as Twinks says, "a huge George-shaped hole in my world".
George's family asked Twinks if she could speak at his funeral. She was determined that he not be remembered as the victim of a horrible accident, but as the bright, funny, friendly, loving person she had known for years. She spoke eloquently, and from the heart. I was so proud of her; even deep in her own grief, as she reached out to try and comfort his family and friends.
Twin2 survived the accident, but witnessed George's death. George's (now former) girlfriend, has been put on suicide watch, and she and Twin2 are both going to counseling. Some of the kids have responded with self-mutilation; one girl stood at the bathroom mirror, took a large safety pin and pierced her own lip. Another girl is so angry that she is almost non-functional. One of the boys is nearly mute, and almost won't speak; another can't stand to be alone, even for a few minutes.
"We are falling apart." Twinks observed.
After the funeral, there was a candlelight walk to honor George. Just at sundown, Twinks walked with a large group of George's friends. They walked about a mile, the candles flickering and bobbing in the darkness as they walked through the park, and across the footbridge. George's family met them on the other side of the bridge. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.
The candlelight walk was over, and Twinks and her friends were ready to come back to our house. As Twinks was walking back over to where I had parked the van, she heard a huge POP in her knee, the knee collapsed, and she hit the ground. Two of her friends swooped in from either side, and helped her up. As they near the van, I can hear her telling them "Don't tell my Mom, don't tell my Mom!". She was clearly in pain, and the knee was already swelling. She refused to go to the ER, because of a planned sleepover for that night. We took her home, propped her up, and the girls consume massive quantities of popcorn and Dr Pepper.
The next morning, the girls head out to the school gym, to decorate for the school dance that night. Twinks friends swear that they will find her a "sit down" job, that won't hurt her knee. We picked them up at noon, and took them home to get ready for the dance. Twinks is still limping badly, but pleads to go to the dance - her dress is a confection of pink satin, spangles, sequins, and tulle. She looks incredible - beautiful and grown up, and heartbreakingly adorable - and because the gown is floor-length, nobody has to know that she is wearing her tennies, instead of the dyed-to-match pink pumps she had planned on. She dances one dance, and then holds court at a table for the rest of the evening with her friends. Most of them don't feel much like dancing, anyway - they are here only because George's family has insisted that they need to go on, and go to the dance.
Friday we are back at the pediatricians, because Twinks is running a fever, coughing, and achy all over. They swab her nose, and it comes back positive - she has the 'flu. Never mind that she got the 'flu shot last fall. Because we caught it early enough, a round of Relenza is prescribed, and we go home to nurse her through another uncomfortable weekend. I disinfect everything, and pray that my Mom won't catch it from her.
The following Wednesday, we are back at the pediatricians - Twinks still can't put any weight on the knee, and it is hurting worse than when she injured it. The doctor orders Twinks into a wheelchair, and starts working with our insurance company on getting an MRI approved.
Twinks barely gets through the day, Thursday, at school, in the wheelchair.
Thursday night, Twinks is in so much pain that she doesn't sleep at all. First thing Friday morning, I call the pediatrician's office. She calls back right away, and has already organized an emergency orthopedic consult, and has the insurance company on the other line to approve the MRI on an emergency basis. Her nurse already has the MRI time slot reserved, and as soon as we get done at the orthopedic consult, we have to go straight to the MRI.
The new Orthopedist is one of the best in the Greater Metro. Ordinarily, we would have had to wait three to six months just to get an initial appointment with him; our pediatrician went to med school with him, and calls in a favor. I make a mental note that I owe our pediatrician at least one...
He examines Twinks as gently as he can. His nurse, and his assistant buzz in and out of the room, but he remains focused on Twinks. He listens carefully to what she says, and where it hurts. He asks to hear the story again - of how it happened, what the POP sounded like, how it felt. He is genuinely surprised when she tells him that she was just walking along - not running, not playing any sport - just walking.
He braces her knee for stability, and to hopefully help with the pain. He tells us that he will see us on Monday, with the results of the MRI.
We leave his office, and drive hell-bent-for-leather to make it in time for the MRI appointment.
During the last two weeks, I have also watched my Mom continue to deteriorate at an increasing pace. She is steadily losing the fight with reality, and every day now, it seems as though there is another little part of her that we have lost. There are fewer and fewer flashes of my "real" Mom. I'm already grieving for her, for what she and I will never again share - even though she is right here with me.
And here we are...
The MRI continues to hum, and Twinks lies still as stone. So much has happened in such a relatively short amount of time. I realize, with a sudden shock, that it has been six or so weeks since I have had the time to even read most of my friends blogs, let alone update this one.
Finally, the machine beeps, and the technician enters the room. She praises Twinks for holding still so well, and helps her off of the table, and back in to the wheelchair.
Monday we will have the results of the MRI - another doctor's appointment, another meeting with the new Orthopedist.
I'll let you know what we find out...