John and I the summer of 2010
I can’t tell you how many times over the past year that doctors and nurses told my husband and I that we were running a marathon. Hundreds maybe. Enough that if I were paid a nickel for each time I’d be a rich woman. They were right, of course.
One year ago today life in the Cullen household came to a screeching stop and made a huge right turn.
Even a year later we still don’t know the details of the accident. My husband went on a bicycle ride and took our black Labrador retriever with him. It was something they’ve done before, though not very often.
John fell off his bike and fractured his skull in two places. No, he wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet.
By the time my daughter and I arrived at the hospital, the helicopter was on its way to transport him to the closest trauma hospital.
It wasn’t until months later that I would learn how close we came to losing him. By some quirk of fate John was out with friends a few months ago and ran into one of the hospital staff who was in the ER of the trauma hospital he’d been taken to. She told him that his arrival in her ER was a life changing moment for her. She’d been grumbling that she didn’t want to be there because it was her birthday when John was brought in. His condition quickly deteriorated and the doctors were yelling at him to not give up.
He was rushed into emergency surgery to have part of his skull removed to allow the brain to swell. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for nine days and in neuro ICU for fourteen days.
John is a police officer and his fellow officers were there for him, looking like they were going to take on the world and anyone else for John. I will never, ever forget the feeling of seeing them standing behind the doctor as he reported John’s condition. For the next few months they took care of my family. They drove my kids when needed, they did my grocery shopping, they cut our grass and they never left me alone in the evenings at the hospital. There was always someone there to walk me to my car. Every night.
But that marathon? That was something John and I had to run ourselves. No one could do it for us. And it wasn’t just one marathon. It was one after the other, after the other.
John spent twenty-five days total in the hospital, eventually transferring to a rehabilitation facility where he had to relearn how to walk. For five months he was in speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. The road was long and we’re still not finished walking it, although the pace has slowed. As John says, “You don’t go through something like this without some side effects.” John bears the external and the internal scars and I sport a few of my own internal scars.
But, like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples get farther from the epicenter and life slowly settles into a new normal. There will never be the old normal. That’s long gone. But we have a new version of it. A better version in some ways. We’re both changed people and for the most part the change has been for the good.
Recently John asked if I’d known what was to happen all those years ago when we got married, would I still marry him. Without hesitation I said yes. No doubt. No thought. Absolutely yes.
I’d like to think that we’ve reached the finish line of this particular marathon, but we don’t know that for sure. Truth is, like everyone else in this world, we don’t know what the future has in store for us. We just have to keep running and enjoy the scenery while we do.
John finishing his first 5k. Five months after he learned how to walk again