Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"This has been the longest day of my life."

The first measurably warmed-up day in Chicago was a couple of weeks ago, when wintry conditions stepped aside in favor of temperatures in the 60's. It was brightly sunny and bit breezy, but nothing overwhelming or uncomfortable in terms of the wind. It struck me odd that anyone would complain amid the mildness. I texted my older and only brother, Steve, that afternoon. He is one of few people I know who can innately notice the silver lining of any given cloud, though his own life has not been without requisite challenge, defeat or turmoil. I said of the lamenting, "I figure if all you can feel is the wind, you're cheating yourself out of all of the sunshine." He wholeheartedly agreed.

I told Steve at the time that I was reminded of a scene in Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon," during which Lee is giving a kung fu lesson to a young male student. Lee grows irritated at the student's lack of concentration and focus. Paraphrasing for my brother, Lee told the student that he needed to "feel" the energy of his emotional center and likened it all to pointing an index finger at the moon at night. The late martial artist iterated that if all an individual could focus on was looking at the finger as it pointed, he'd miss "all that heavenly glory."

The drive and commitment to "heavenly glory" has actually been my brother's sometimes rocky but no less dedicated life mission for several years, just as he's been energized and blessed being a father. His commitment to living for the Lord and for goodness, yes, has alienated a small fraction of those who, for individual reasons, grow annoyed with pontificating Christianity. (He told me to "shitcan the Hinduism," when he felt my Christian faith was wavering and I was tasting too many alternate religious doctrines. Fair enough, but I, like Steve, am an over-curious seeker.) But it's always been in times when we need God the most, Steve's right there with heartfelt prayers and uplifting.

I was out running errands last Wednesday afternoon, before I picked Luke up from school. I happened to text Steve about more people complaining about more things (so I was complaining about people complaining about complaining). We hadn't caught up in a week or so, & he asked how I was doing & we exchanged for a while about what was mutually happening on our ends of the world. He had several major expenses coming up soon, one of which included new tires for his sports motorcycle, and a new washing machine, etc. That was around 2:30pm. 

Luke, and I were on our own (my mom was out for the day/evening) after school and for dinner. First, we had to stop at the grocery store/pharmacy since it'd heated up outside considerably (70's!) and my tachycardia was aggravated; hence, a stop for overdue beta blockers & some sundries. Finding a beautifully decorated and inviting patio table, we sat in Aisle 18 for a refreshing margarita:

More silliness and fun ensued once we got home and, yes, instead of picking something up at the store I could, dare I say, actually cook, we decided to order-in. To me, the concept of Grub Hub is kind of douchey. Yes, there are veritably hundreds of local restaurant choices at your Chicagoland fingertips, but as I said on Wednesday, Grub Hub itself was Douche Point #1. Douche Point #2 was ordering in for delivery. Douche Point #3 was choosing a restaurant 2 blocks away from our house, rounding out Douche Point #4 for not having the energy to walk there.

We got a little snippy in the online ordering process....

Then Luke came up with a brilliant idea:

Which resulted in us receiving our dinner order in this bag:

And we laughed and laughed. It was honestly more fun than Luke & I have had together in ages. Luke and I were just....joyous. We certainly couldn't complain.

A call came in later in the evening, from my nephew, Jake. My brother had been involved in a motorcycle crash in Kane County, IL. He rides what some people call a "crotch rocket," a Honda sport bike. Wore a thick helmet and leather jacket. Had stopped at Ollie's in De Kalb for ice cream with his biker friends before going on a cruise. He remembers nothing from after being at Ollie's to being in an ICU in Rockford.

Though the overwhelming majority poo pooed the idea of the fright of Steve riding a motorcycle, he's nothing if not an adrenaline junkie. "Where does he get this daredevil spirit from?," my mom asked. I told her that both Steve and I have the genetic predisposition to do *something* to the extreme; in Steve's case, the more dangerous, the more he gets a jolt. It always has been. For me, it's booze, pills and a severe mood disorder. It's hard to fault how the Good Lord wired the two of us. In any event, Steve was so filled with adrenaline and in such shock that he tried to get up from the accident, scrapes from his helmet paint along the edges of the guard rail his bike his flew into, after he was dragged several feet. We have no idea off to where his glasses flew. Turning a corner going approximately 60 mph, he lost control of the sway of the bike, hit the guard rail I guess, trashed the bike and was dragged against the rail, landing on his right side, as I understand it. 

He'd been taken to Kishwaukee Hospital in De Kalb, and at the time, was being x-rayed for just a broken elbow. De Kalb knowing his injuries were very severe, transported him by helicopter to OSF St. Anthony's in Rockford, about an hour away and an hour and half from where we live. Anthony's has a major trauma center and it was found he had a broken elbow, broken right forearm, and shattered pelvis on the right, the hip bone so out of joint, it was almost protruding into the bladder. He was in critical condition but was stabilized. He has a herniated disc in his neck, which is stable. He had a brain bleed. One of my friends, a doctor, said, "He's got to be tough, if he's a Miklasz." And he is. He'll be 45 on the first day of summer, and is literally 100% muscle, though appears to be a scrawny little guy. (Special thanks to everyone who keeps asking me how much OLDER I am than Steve....) 

My mom and I arrived early Thursday afternoon, and Steve was in really bad shape. A nasal-gastric tube was down his throat emptying his stomach. He was on a morphine drip. Hooked up to a nasal canule of oxygen, the cervical collar was obstructing him from breathing comfortably. Surgery had been done the midnight before to put 2 long rods in the broken arm to stabilize it. The pelvis was being held in place by a rope and 3, 5 lb weights. His throat hurt to talk and while he was quite lucid when he was awake, he'd drift back to sleep every few minutes. The surreal feeling of having SO much fun with Luke the night before to feeding my brother ice chips one-by-one on a spoon the next afternoon was maddeningly shocking. The brain bleed eased very quickly, which was a good sign. 

Steve had the Steve Austin "Bionic Man" large action figure when we were kids. You could open him up & see all of his complicated, mechanical, faux computerized parts. "We can rebuild him. We have the technology." That, friends, is exactly it. My brother's limbs may be shattered, but he'll no doubt become The Bionic Man in due time. He loved this action figure he had as a boy, which I coveted highly. I immediately thought to buy a vintage Bionic Man doll on eBay, which I should have for him by Sunday: 

When the upper extremity ortho doctor visited Thursday, he had Steve go through a series of dexterity and mobility tests on the affected hand, on all of which he did a good job, despite massive swelling. His left (good) hand has some numbing in it, which we understand is from the herniated neck disc. He told the doctor, "I'm a drummer. I have to be able to drum." The doctor said we were at step one of 80 and the idea is to get him functional again. He whispered to me on Thursday, "This has been the longest day of my life." 

Steve lifts 100 lb boxes at his job, but it's unlikely he'll be able to do that anymore. The plan was to tentatively operate on the arm this Monday, and the pelvis yesterday, both of which were complete, successful but require an immense amount of kid glove caretaking and an eagle eye watch. My mom and I left Thursday night, as I had to begin my summer semester at school, and Jake had to return to NIU in De Kalb for his finals. My mom left Sunday to spend the surgical days with him and will be coming home later tonight. 

When he's awake and lucid, he's VERY TYPICAL Steve. He's ornery. He's got a roommate in his present room, who's driving him nuts. He told the nurses, "I'm VERY particular," which is also tried-and-true Steve. Keeping in mind the only surgery he's ever had was a tonsillectomy as a little boy, he's not used to that feeling of being ripped open from stem to stern every time you move. (I'm a surgery pro myself.) On the good leg, the left, those who know my brother know he's a chronic tapper, like lots of drummers, myself included. Not hooked up to anything, even mostly asleep, he was tapping his left foot up and down. 

Steve was moved out of the ICU and into the ortho floor on Saturday. Pain control and comfort are the foremost concerns. 

He's stable but in wretched pain, especially when turned on his good side, but is necessary to prevent bed sores (he has a large, sutured gash on his right leg) and is on IV antibiotics. He began running a low grade fever last night, which we've heard is common post-operatively, which has gone away.

The worst of the work of reconstruction is completed, yet the worst part--the rehabilitation--is just beginning. It's likely he'll be in Rockford for about 3 weeks, with rehab in De Kalb or Rockford for several months. 

The immediate outpouring of love and prayers of comfort from every end of the earth has been overwhelming and so powerful for our family. Between sharing information with his work friends, his church friends, his friend-friends and our extended family, thank God for social media; otherwise, my mom and I would be on the phone 24/7. I've connected with some wonderful people at NIU where Steve works (and has the odd nickname of "Bossman," ha!) and met some of his church friends. It's truly amazing to see the depth and reach of one person's life across the board. I've tried keeping Facebook updates public, so that others can just cut/paste what I'm updating, which is exhausting enough. I know if he could, he'd wrap me in his arms like he did when we were little. 

Frankly, I don't like those who are commenting to me that Steve was being "stupid" on his bike. Even Steve said Thursday that he thought the whole thing was "stupid." He wore a helmet and a heavy leather jacket. He happened to hit a bum turn that almost caused him his life, but it was an ACCIDENT. To assign blame or hypothesize on Steve's IQ or riding expertise is a waste of time.  Accidents are just that--it happened & we can't change that. We can only go forward and be supportive during his recovery & rehab. It's been a distracting, demanding, headachy several days & I'm STILL not caught up on my Spring papers, with summer starting. I had to take incompletes for my classes & have a couple extended weeks to finish WHILE I'm doing my summer course work. As George Harrison sang, "It's All Too Much." Some people are unwittingly ignorant or stupid themselves to say something as insensitive as that to a struggling immediate family member. 

Sunday, he tolerated clear liquids (There's always room for Jello!) but was nothing-by-mouth after midnight, since Surgery was Monday and Tuesday. He's back on clear liquids now.  Both of his reconstructions were a success and his musculature is allowing him to do VERY well. 


 There's even talk that he may be moved from the hospital to a rehab facility as early as this Friday. My mom came home early this evening and we'll head to Rockford for Mother's Day and to celebrate..what's....

Tomorrow's my 41st birthday. The best gift I could ever receive is continued healing and prayers for my brother. 

My band's playing Saturday night...I put in a special request for one of my brother's favorite songs, "Mighty to Save," which he played with my band at our church picnic in 2011. In fact, divinely, the whole set list Pastor Dave picked out for May are songs Steve either loves or has performed in the past with my band. I told my band mates I'm going to drum forcefully and loudly, and I don't give a damn how loud I am. I'm rocking it out. 

Thanks to EVERYONE for the outpouring of love and support. My whole family is pretty worn out, but we're coping, and just glad Steve's alive and he WILL mend. He WILL drum again. I hope the longest day of his life will remain a faint memory in the future and he can press forward with whatever he chooses to accomplish.

God bless.

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