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As many of our friends and family know, Helen and Big Stan were in a head on collision caused by a drunk driver crossing over double yellow lines on Thanksgiving. They were on their way home from our house after enjoying a fabulous meal. We had all just prayed prior to dinner thanking God for our health and successes over 2016. All of that changed within 15 minutes of them walking out of our home.
Helen was able to call Little Stanley and at first we thought it was odd because she called his office number. Little Stanley called her back to have her tell him they were in a real bad accident and it wasn't good. A lovely young woman was there by her side and was able to take the phone to tell us more. Helen was pinned in the truck. Luckily, Big Stanley was able to pull his one trapped leg out and was able to walk away from the truck. Meanwhile, Little Stan was rushing to change his clothing and was on the scene of the accident about the same time as the EMT crews.
At first glance, Helen seemed to better than they thought since she was coherent. They turned away a second Trauma Helicopter thinking they would be able to take her via ambulance instead. As they cut the top of the truck off to get her out they realized the parking brake had gone through her leg and by the time they had her removed and in the ambulance she was losing too much blood as well as consciousness. They had to recall the chopper. She was then loaded and flown to University of Baltimore Shock Trauma. The other driver was also flown away in the first helicopter to the University of MD Shock Trauma. Little Stan chose to drive Big Stanley to the University of MD Emergency Department so that both parents were in the same hospital.
As Big Stanley was being looked over Helen was immediately taken to the OR. They tried as hard as they could to save her left leg and even had to resussitate her twice after releasing the tourniquet. They were not able to save the leg due to the amount of bleeding and in order to save her life they had to remove it just below the knee. They found that she had also broken the left hip. The right leg was severely bruised and possibly broken but not as big of a priority as getting her stable during and after surgery. They were sure there was also internal injuries but wanted to get her stabilized before getting her into a CT or MRI scan. She also received a total of 28 bags of blood during this surgery.
They still could not send her for any scans because of all of the machines and IV's she was hooked up to so she received exploratory surgery and had a piece of hardware installed to put her hip in traction on the 2nd day there. During the surgery they found that because of the pressers to keep her blood pressure stable that her intestines were starting to fail. They had to remove a portion of her large intestines and would later place a colectomy bag that she would have to have for the rest of her life.
Over the next few days as family came to show support and to see Helen we were taking turns staying the night with her. The doctors were calling them rest days and were hopeful she could wean off of the pressers, some pain meds and the ventilator. She was still receiving plasma, platelets and the occasional bag of blood. She finally was off all of her pressers and things were looking a bit better. We knew we weren't out of the woods but we had hope.
On Tuesday, she started running fevers and they were concerned more of her intestines were failing. So back into surgery and sure enough they had to remove the rest and inserted her colostomy bag. Over the next several days there really was no major improvement and although they wanted to do more surgeries they wanted her to be more stable than she was and more alert.
Helen never seemed to fully recover from this surgery. She was back on a few of her pressers. Seemed irritable in her actions when people touched her and Friday evening started a very high fever. Saturday morning together as a family we sat down with the doctors and they informed us that Helen would never make a full recovery and would need around the clock facility care if she were to survive, she would never walk again, never eat again without a feeding tube and we knew we had to make the most difficult decision we have ever made in our lives. Helen would not want to live that kind of life. The doctors explained they still did not know a lot about how her brain would recover because they were not able to get her into the MRI or CT scan but they weren't giving a very positive outlook.
We called in all of Helen and Big Stanley's brothers and sisters, they have 8 siblings each, and waited for all to gather to say our final goodbyes. We surrounded her and prayed over her the rosary and many silent prayers and once we were confident everyone was ready, the nurses upped her pain medication and began stopping all other medicines and machines. Again, she was surrounded by many of us until her very last breath while holding her hand, singing Amazing Grace and, her favorite to sing to her children and grandchildren, Silent Night.
Over the 9 days at University of Maryland, Helen received amazing care from the staff, doctors and nurses. I cannot express my appreciation enough for each and every nurse she had.