So much has happened in the last weeks, I can’t begin to tell you…!
Julia moved into a different room in the ICU – one with a window. Julia is a nature freak so maybe I was seeing what I wanted to but it seemed she opened her eyes more. It also helps regulate her sleep cycle.
She had her 2 major surgeries – 1 to set and repair her right leg, the second to repair her facial and skull fractures and her sinuses and to replace her skull cap. She came through both with flying colors. After both of which, she was very tired. After the head surgery her eyes were swollen shut most of the weekend. Following the surgery on Friday to replace her skull cap, her face and eyes were pretty much swollen shut for the rest of the weekend. In the moments she was awake, despite her closed eyes, she attempted to sign. Which generally consisted of the sign language equivalent to “yes” or “O.K.” Despite the weight of the comatose exterior, it became clear, inside, she was awake!
On Saturday, her nurse case manager sat her dad and I down and said, “Julia is beating all the normal expectancies of progress – we need to start thinking about Rehab.”
Sphincter say what..?!
We visited Moss the next day (Sunday) and Magee on Monday. I felt immediately at home at Magee. A 15 foot Christmas tree greets you upon entrance with a million tiny gold ornaments with the same word: “Believe”. As I glanced down at my #JFBelieve bracelet (Thank you Nina!) I thought, “Do I even need the tour?”
When we got back to Jeff, I was so ebullient from the visit to Magee, telling her about the “Believe” tree and the meditation room, etc and suddenly a Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist burst in and say, “We’d like to sit her on the edge of the bed if you don’t mind.”
“On the edge of the bed. To look out the window.”
Sit? As in… up?
Before her incredulous dad and I could blink, they were turning her, in concert, to sit on the bed’s edge. She looked like a little lump of lead. The PT kneeled on the bed behind her, bracing all her weight against Julia’s back. Julia struggled to crane her neck to hold her heavy head barely upright. The OT, facing her, held her mangled leg out straight, and asked, “Is she an athlete?” To which we answered, very much so.
Julia holds a squezzy stress ball in her right hand to prevent her from picking at her head sutures. The OT hands her leg to Pat and makes a hoop with her arms and stands back from Julia. “Julia can you make a basket?” I glance at her like she’s crazy, while Julia cocks her hand back and makes a basket. Pat and I cheered like the Eagles won the Playoffs.
Next, they asked, “Does she have a favorite song? Our pre-party pump jam is “The Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine. The therapists not only knew this song, they called up a Youtube version of it where the band is singing it to a sick girl in the hospital. (HUH?!)
As it plays, Julia watches the singer, Florence, sit on the girl’s hospital bed, and sing. Suddenly, Julia grabs my hand. She threads her tiny fingers in between mine and starts moving our conjoined hands up and down against her good leg. Awkwardly to the rhythm at first, but then gradually picking up pace. Astonished, I ask her, “Are you dancing Jules?” To this, she points to me… then back to herself.
“Are WE dancing?,” I corrected.
To this, she nods her head, right on beat.
Pat and I FELL OUT.
Florence & the Machine is singing to a young woman in a hospital room, somewhere in the world (we’re all connected). My daughter, who was run over by an SUV, exactly 4 weeks ago, is now watching all this. Sitting up and watching. And mouthing the words. And dancing. DANCING. (And people think there isn’t a God.) Pat and I are laughing so hard we’re about to get remarried. (Kidding Chris) Laughing and laughing and rejoicing, with gratitude, for the laughter. My daughter is such the teacher. This is quite the semester. The tuition, so far, unbelievably, is worth it.
The next day, when she woke, I told her how great it was to see her. She made a sign that is bringing her fingers to her chin then pulling it forward. It means ‘Thank you”. Julia’s first word, as a baby, was Thank you. It began as Ah-hee. Then eventually became thank you. She said it all the time… long before Mommy or Daddy. Watching her brain struggle for words, now, that her trach prevents her from forming, then recalling a signing gesture of “thank you” brought me back to teaching Julia to read when she was younger. I would correct her frequently, (which I hated when I was learning something new as a child, remembering what a frustrating excercise it was. But not for Julia she would say thank you everytime she was corrected.) Just like now. She’s being poked and prodded all day. it takes forever for her to do the things that she possibly can do. And all it is from her the same thing constantly… Thank you, thank you, thank you.
My daughter never met a learning curve she didn’t like. The way she is embracing this blows my mind. I said to her the other day, “Honey, the grace with which you are walking through this is in-credible. You are teaching me so much, you have no idea. It’s like I can not believe I got picked to be your mother. I want you to know I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because you have re-sized my heart exponentially, and it has swelled past the point of capacity. With sheer wonder, it’s like I’m walking around high on inspiration drugs. You are truly my hero. An can I tell you something else? You’re Daddy’s hero, too”
i am? She asked.
Yes, I said.
And her faint little voice she said, ” That’s pretty cool… To say the least.”
When we put a pen in Julia’s hands for the first time and gave her a notebook, she wrote, “nice is nice.” She probably meant “This is nice.” Which is incredible enough. Her graphic artist cousin, Patrick, added a tree and a butterfly and Aunt Jen and Uncle Matt had them made into T-shirts. Bright yellow ones.
The goodness and compassion of others has been astounding. People who don’t even know us! I can’t keep up with thanking them! Julia has re-colored the whole hue of humanity for me and it’s a shade as bright as Matt and Jen’s shirts!
It hasn’t been all rosy. She’s making so many cognitive connections, I can get ahead of myself. Like when she sang the entire Eagles Fight Song, in her soft faint voice. Or when she said about the noisy neighbor next door who grumbles vociferously, constantly, “Dont let it bother you Mommy, he’s probably just hallucinating.” (Ok Ghandi.) But the other day when Pat told me she hadn’t remembered him after dinner was a tough one. That kind of broke my heart in pieces. I hadn’t realized her memory was so spotty. That was a therapeutic cry on the way home from the hospital that day, for sure.
The next day I asked her, “Honey do you remember me?”
“You’re my mom. Why do you ask?”
“I’m not sure… you hit your head pretty hard. It would make sense if your memories are fuzzy.”
Julia takes my hand. “You’ll always be my mom. 100%”
When she sees the smile spread across my face, she corrects herself, “101%’
Today the Hawk Paper on St. Joes campus is running an article on Julia for which I’ve been asked for a statement. Of course, that can be tricky where legalese are concerned, but in Julia’s name I feel the need to be as honest as possible.
I hope public safety on SJU campus improves. I also hope they know the gratitude the Furey-Bastian family feels for their outreach and support on Julia’s behalf.