Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chapter 3: Finding Out, Part 1: Extent of the Damage

Honnah and I finally arrived at the hospital. We were ushered into a small room off the Emergency waiting room. The cell phone might interfere with some of the monitoring equipment, so we were instructed to turn it off as we entered the hospital.

Of course, Joe was already there, waiting. We shared vital hugs all around.

The two of us were anxious to hear the details. Joe filled us in on what he knew. It was not good news.

Arif was in critical condition. The trauma doctor was evaluating him. They were not saying more than that. We would be allowed to see him when they got him cleaned up.

What do you say to each other at such a time? We sat in stunned silence, holding each others’ hands. Drifting in a fog of distraction, I alternated between staring at the others and staring off in another direction. It was as if the room itself faded from my awareness. I felt as though I was afloat among a mass of nebulous objects and beings.

Tears still did not come. Those who know me find that amazing. I am a crier: I cry when I am happy, sad, disappointed, mad, touched, embarrassed ... pretty much whenever a strong emotion looks in my direction.

Our prayers became desperate. I prayed, as I began in the car: “Lord, You alone have the wisdom to know what is best. Your will be done. Please help us to make the right decisions as they are presented to us."

Our assistant pastor walked in with a somber look on his face.

Fr. Joseph was the first to arrive at the hospital – even before Joe got there. When Fr. Joseph saw Arif, there was such an air of Arif’s impending death that he gave him conditional absolution.

Absolution is the remission of sin, or of the punishment due to sin, granted by the Church. The twentieth chapter of John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus gave this power to His Apostles and their successors after His resurrection. Absolution is generally conferred during the Sacrament of Penance when a person expresses sorrow for his sin and a resolve to avoid the sin in the future. Conditional absolution is given in case the person has unforgiven sin for which he has repented, but has not had the opportunity to or is not capable of reconciling it (in Arif’s case, he was unconscious, but still alive). Sin is the obstacle to the soul entering heaven. What a comfort we have in the sacraments. Later we would find that was even more significant than we first thought.

We finally got to see Arif. We wanted to hear his cheery voice, looking forward to returning to school the next day. Nothing could prepare us for what we found.

He lay very still on the examination table in one of those fashionable hospital gowns. They had cut off his clothes. Cuts and bruises covered the exposed areas of his body. His left ear lobe had two stitches, holding it to his head. His left arm and leg and his face were quite swollen.

Routine procedure for serious injuries, we were told, is to ‘drop a vent.’ A breathing tube, ventilator, was inserted through Arif’s mouth into his lungs. Looking at the hose protruding from his face brought me back, momentarily, to the final hours of my mother’s life. This was just the beginning of our education in medical terminology and procedures. At this point, we were in no mood or position to question anything. Over the next months and years, we found that certain things are not negotiable, and others must be thoroughly researched.

Assessment determined that his left leg was shattered. Several pictures of his left arm were needed before they were satisfied that it was not broken. The liver was bruised. His right lung was punctured.

It was stated repeatedly that there was no brain activity. It is funny how the meaning of that last statement did not fully sink in until much later.

Arif was admitted to St. John’s Hospital and moved into the Intensive Care Unit.

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