I am so thankful to all of you that left kind words, thoughts and prayers in response to my post on Saturday night regarding my niece, Emily. I've been trading text messages with my sister, Eileen, for the past two days and Emily is thankfully on the mend.
(Emily and I doing our trademark "cheek-to-cheek" circa 1993.)
Considering she was descending the hill at close to 37 miles per hour when another cyclist swerved in to her path (not car as I had originally reported) and she flipped over the handle bars and landed on her face and head, it is nothing short of a miracle that her injuries were not worse and most importantly - that she is still with us.
We are extremely thankful.
Yesterday, she was transferred from the ICU to Pediatrics, which was fantastic news that her critical condition had been so quickly downgraded.
(Emily and our beloved Monty dog in 1995.)
Today, she had to undergo surgery on her knee in order to remove gravel and dirt that was embedded from the fall. Her doctor indicated that because of the depth that they had to incise to remove the gravel, her recovery time could take six months (or more). The doctor also told Eileen that with any head injury the long-term prognosis is not known. So Emily will be routinely following up with neurologists to confirm that she did not sustain a (more significant) brain injury.
As my cousin Bob pointed out, with our strong Coleman genes and the vast number of devout Catholics in the family that have been praying round-the-clock, the chances are excellent that Emily will make a full and complete recovery.
It's important to note here that a few years ago (alright, it's been 18, where does the time go?) Charlie was involved in a zero mile per hour bike crash. He was at a standstill, balancing on his pedals when his bike slipped off a curb and he smacked his head, suffering a concussion. Yes, he was wearing a helmet. And like Emily, it's a DARN good thing he was because if not, he very easily could have been killed.
If you are on a bicycle: WEAR A HELMET.
Although, I'd also like to add that I know far too many people who are injured when riding on roads that are shared with cars ... so I'd also suggest that if you are riding a bike, go on a TRAIL. Cars + Bikes = Dangerous Combination. Take it from someone who has been hit by a car while on a bike not once, but twice.
(Emily and the man who would become her Uncle Charlie, circa June 1992.)
When I spoke with Eileen today, she told me that on Saturday night - she left her hotel and returned to the hospital. She climbed in to bed with her daughter and stayed there all night, praying. As she lay there, she said that she could feel God's presence as surely as she could feel Emily next to her.
I have no doubt.
While there might not be a rhyme or reason to why things happen, I always try to look for the positive. I always try to seek out "God's Fingerprints" in even the most seemingly unholy situations. And what I think - and told Eileen this afternoon - is that Emily is at a formidable stage in her growth. She is on the brink of adulthood trying to determine what to do with the rest of her life. (It's really no easy task growing up.)
To be involved in an accident as severe as this, at this juncture in her life, I'm certain there will be long-term ramifications. Hopefully, in a very positive way. It is my wish that as Emily recovers, she is called to use this experience for the good.
I told Eileen, "You never know, Em might decide to pursue a career in Sports Medicine as a trauma specialist, that enjoys spending her spare time driving up and down remote roads in northern Michigan looking for someone in need!"
That's when Eileen reminded me that her husband, Clark, was critically injured on a bicycle when he was a teenager. He was hit by a semi-truck, pinned beneath the tires, and spent three months in the hospital, recovering. Despite all odds, he did recover. And drawing upon that experience, Clark pursued a career in medicine and is now a doctor.
So, in summary, my takeaways from all of this:
1) You are an amazing group of people and I am so thankful for each of you.
2) Life is fragile and precious. Treasure it and shower the people you love with love.
3) If you are going to ride a bike: WEAR A HELMET THAT FITS. (Preferably on a TRAIL, sans automobiles.) There is no question, Emily would not be walking out of a hospital less than a week after her accident if she didn't have a helmet on.
4) In this day and age, the internet is an incredibly powerful tool and social networking is the bomb diggity. Within hours of Emily's accident, there were hundreds (more likely thousands) of people lifting my niece up in prayer. By virtue of my large family's 1000's of friends on Facebook, Twitter and blogging ... the word was out and Emily was added to prayer circles, the world over.
5) When there is nothing to do but pray, the fact that so many people were holding my sister and my niece in their hearts made our hearts so much lighter. Positive thinking and prayers really DO work.
At least I certainly think so... because although her road to recovery will be long, the chances are looking very good that Emily, who was knocked unconscious on Saturday, suffered a fractured skull, face, collarbone, brain bleed and endured surgery today - will be released from the hospital, possibly as soon as tomorrow. This isn't solely a function of insurance moving patients quickly. This is a function of youth and miraculous healing.
There really is no other word to describe it.