The Accident

Today marks the seven year anniversary of the accident.   It's hard to believe it's been seven some ways it feels so much longer than seven years ago...  It's feels more like a whole lifetime ago, except every year when the anniversary pops up.   Every year we take a moment to reflect and feel grateful that Warren is here and healthy.   We remember not to take each other for granted and take  time to savor the moment and rejoice.    I guess I remember the accident too when we go into a hospital for any reason.  Just recently when we toured the hospital we went into the ICU unit and I had some PTSD symptoms...nothing serious of course...but I felt short of breath and highly anxious remembering the whole thing.   I immediately was transported back to the hospital in Texas and it took me a good hour to catch my breath normally again.  I was surprised by my reaction because like I said, I rarely think about the accident anymore.

I've never written down the experiences of seven years ago.  It feels like I should record it.   I should so that my kids know one day and also to help me remember, not only the anniversary of the accident, but everyday not take my husband and our lives for granted.

Seven years ago I was seven months pregnant with Andie.  Warren and I decided to go on one final "hurrah" trip with many of our Atlanta friends to a ranch in Texas.  Our friend's family owns this amazing ranch and every year a large group of friends head out to the ranch to enjoy the surroundings, eat awesome food, and have fun.  We'd always wanted to go, but the trip was a bit out of our price range.   For the final child-free trip, we decided to swing it.

We flew out of Atlanta and two flights later arrived in San Antonio, Texas.   We got in late at night and hopped into a rental car for the 2 hour drive to the ranch.   It was POURING rain.   Warren was driving me and three other friends.   I remember I was terrified throughout the whole drive.  It was the kind of rain that you have to go extremely slow and have your windshield wipers on maximum speed.  The road was dark and not well-lit.    I just remember my heart pounding and having a horrible feeling in my gut about the drive.   It's funny because I didn't need to worry at all.  We got to our destination completely safe and I felt sort of silly for being such a worry-wart about the whole thing.   I wonder if somewhere in me I had a premonition about later...or I was just being an overly anxious passenger as I sometimes am.

We walked into the ranch house very late, around 11:00 pm or so.   I remember feeling like I needed a drink after that stressful drive, but again, I was seven months pregnant, so I declined.   Our friends who were already at the house greeted us warmly with hugs, music, beers and a quick tour of the bottom floor of the house.  I was SO exhausted, I quickly excused myself to our bedroom and went straight to sleep.   It turns out I didn't sleep for very long.

Shortly after I fell asleep I kept seeing flashing lights.  I think I was dreaming that there was a fire or ambulance, but was very groggy and never thought there was a real danger.  I was asleep, mostly.   Suddenly I sat up to our friend, Amy standing over me.  I immediately asked, "What is wrong?"  She replied, "Kate, there's been a little accident.   You should come down and see Warren."  I asked if the ambulance was here and she replied that yes, it was.   I barely remember getting down the stairs but I do remember very clearly that Warren was laying on the sofa, surrounded by paramedics. He was as white as a ghost and had blue lips.   His eyes looked at me in a crazy panic.   He couldn't talk but I think he may have lipped "I'm scared."   I don't know what came over me, but I didn't panic.  I knew he needed me to be strong and he needed reassurance.   I went and held his hands among the paramedics circling around him and I told him, "You are going to be ok.  You are going to be fine.  You will get through this.   They are going to take good care of you and you will be fine."   I felt his eyes scanning my face just for validation that it was ok, and I did my best to make him feel safe.   Even though I could see that the situation was very very bad, I felt calm and tried to pass that energy along to him...without consciously thinking about it.  All of a sudden the paramedics moved him to a stretcher and quickly carried him to the ambulance.   I followed and tried to get on too.  They told me there was no room and to meet them at the helicopter landing.  They said to follow them.  I tried to get a glimpse of Warren but the door was already shutting in my face before I could look at him.

I don't know how, but moments later I was in a car my friends, Ryan and Amy and we were chasing the ambulance to the helicopter landing.  Somehow someone had handed me my phone in the rush and then we were off.   The ride to the landing is a blur, but I think it took about 20  minutes or so.  In that time, I didn't know if Warren was going to make it.  I really didn't know if he would be alive when we got there.  I don't think I allowed myself to go too far down that path, but I know the fear was residing there...deep beneath everything else.   We finally got to the landing and I saw Warren being pushed from the ambulance to the helicopter.   He looked at me and his eyes didn't look as panicked.  He almost sort of smiled as if to say, "I'm going to be ok."    That look reassured me...but later I doubted it... wondering if I made it up...or if they had given him a bunch of pain killers and he didn't know what was going on.

The helicopter took off and we tried to get one of the paramedics to tell us what to do next.  We chased one down and she gave us directions to the hospital, about 1.5 hours away.   I kept asking her if he was going to be ok and she didn't really give me a definite answer.  She just reassured me, "He is going to the hospital.  We are getting him help.  They are taking good care of him."  She did not say he will be ok.   We quickly left and tried to make our way to the hospital.   On the drive there, I found out what happened with the accident.   Apparently, shortly after I went to sleep the guys went out four wheeling in a jeep wrangler and some four wheelers to check out the property.   Warren was in the passenger side and another friend was in the backseat.   Our good friend was driving.   At some point, the four wheelers were blinding the driver with their head lights and he looked back to tell them.   At that point Warren noticed the jeep was headed straight for the river bank.   He warned the driver and he tried to make a quick turn, but all three of them were tossed from the jeep.    Warren landed on the river bed of rocks.   The other two guys were hurt, but not like Warren.  One sprained his arm and the other had minor scrapes and bruises.   I am not sure where they were tossed out.  Warren doesn't remember much after that, but apparently a friend, Tom got Warren to somehow drape himself over Tom and ride back on the four wheeler.   There is no way a helicopter or ambulance could have gotten to their location on the river bank so they had to get him back to the house.   They knew it was bad because Warren was having trouble breathing.   When they got back to the house, they wanted to come wake me up...but at first Warren wouldn't let them.  Later he told me he didn't want to worry me and knew I needed my sleep.    He wasn't thinking straight.   Once the ambulance got there, Amy came to get me.

Warren probably got onto the helicopter around 2 a.m.   We drove for the next two hours to get to the hospital.   We got totally lost and both of the other passengers were having a hard time staying awake.  We had to stop at a gas station and ask for directions more than once.  Our friend Ryan was trying to make small talk to keep himself awake as he drove.  The last thing I wanted to do was small talk, but I knew he needed to stay awake.  It felt like I was still dreaming.  I was sick to my stomach, lost, and didn't know if my husband and future father of my child was alive.   I was also talking about our friend's recent divorce.   It was completely surreal.   In that time I also left several messages for my ER doctor friends looking for reassurance and advice.  I eventually ended up driving so that the others could sleep.  Somehow we got there. It was light outside when we arrived.

I ran into the ER room, went straight up to the window and asked if I could see Warren.  The lady behind the window told me that it was not yet visiting hours and I would have to wait.  Up until that point, I hadn't cried.  That was my trigger.  I immediately started bawling.   I cannot even remember if Amy and Ryan were with me at that point.  They may have already headed across the street to get a room at the motel and then were gonna come back and check on me.  I don't remember.   All I know is I was devastated.   Minutes later a nurse came from behind the ER room door and waved me over to her.  She asked if I was Warren's wife and upon my confirmation, she walked me back to him.   The first thing she said on our walk was, "He's so lucky to be alive.  He's ok.  His body did everything it is supposed to do.  His bones protected most of his inner organs, but he's broken a lot of bones.  It's really a miracle that he is alive."   I got to see him for 5 minutes.  He was alive and completely doped up.   All I needed was to see him.  He was aware that I was there and reassured me that he would be ok.   We held hands for a few minutes and then the nurse ushered me out.   (He was in a huge room with a lot of other patients on beds close to him.)

At some point in that morning I found out that Warren had punctured both of his lungs and had chest tubes put in so he could breathe (that's a big deal).   He had at least 8 broken ribs, 3 broken neck vertebrae, and a shattered pelvis and scapula.  The nurse was right.  His bones protected his inner organs with the exception of his lungs.   As I waited in the ER waiting room, I made a phone call to Warren's parents.   I spoke with his dad and he immediately booked a flight for Warren's mom to come and be with us.   I called work and told them I wouldn't be in for a while (funny how work is one of the first places/people I thought to call....) and called my best friends and parents.   I talked to my ER doctor friends and they coached me on every aspect of his injuries.  They taught me the questions to ask the doctors and helped me to understand how to advocate for Warren's care in every way.  I remember Adrienne (the doctor) telling me I have to stay on top of the nurses and doctors because if I don't no one will.   The hospital was over-crowded and full of trauma patients....from gun shot wounds to automobile accidents like Warren's.  I saw prisoners and every walk of life you can imagine.

I spent all day in the hospital on no sleep.   I got to see Warren in periodic, short moments.  I remember he asked about his wallet and got very upset he didn't know where it was.  I asked around and when they couldn't find it, I balled.  (It was at the ranch).   Amy and Ryan went to sleep at the motel and I refused to leave the hospital.  My battery on my phone died and I bawled and bawled and bawled.  I remember sitting outside of the hospital on the sidewalk in a ball...unable to catch my breath from crying so hard.   I was seven months pregnant, swollen, exhausted and my diet had consisted of vending machine food.   I think I believed Warren was going to survive at this point, but I had no idea what his recovery would be or if I he could take a turn for the worst.   Finally, a friend from the ranch drove up to me freaking out in the street and convinced me to go take a nap at the motel.  They were going to pick up Anne, Warren's mom and they told me I had to sleep for the sake of the baby. Ultimately, after the nurses and friends pressured me to take a break...I let my body relinquish itself to sleep....feeling guilty that I was abandoning my husband.

An hour or two later, Anne and the friends showed up at my motel room door.  I changed quickly and we all headed back to the hospital.     The friends went back to the ranch and Anne and I stayed.  She sat by Warren the whole first night while he was in the ICU.   Knowing she was there allowed me to get some real sleep.   The next 12 days in the hospital are a blur.   We spent our days waiting and watching Warren recover...closely monitoring his oxygen intake and outtake, giving him sponge baths, praying for the liquid from his lungs to be clear, watching him wince in pain every time a nurse moved his body, seeing him try to stand for the first time and learning to use the walker.   In between caring for Warren there were phone calls to friends and family and less than mediocre meals in the hospital cafeteria.

Finally, after 12 days Warren was allowed to go back home to Atlanta.   He was not allowed to fly because of the pressure on his lungs, but he could make the long trek back home in a car. His dad flew out  and his parents insisted I fly back while they drive him back.   He was in a lot of pain for the ride, but he made it.  I cried throughout most of my flights and my whole layover.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted but felt like I couldn't be this way because Warren was the one who was truly struggling.

When we returned home the outpouring of love from friends and family was unbelievable.   Friends arranged meals for us for months.   Amy painted the baby room.   Cards and care packages were delivered daily.   Pledges were made to give up or change something until he got better!  The love was amazing and really got us through that month.  Warren's recovery was even more amazing!  He knew he wanted to be better for his baby's arrival and he fought like hell to make it happen.  He worked so hard on getting well again!   Despite pain, he pushed through his physical therapy exercises.  He was motivated and it showed.     One funny memory....  we were taking a family walk soon after he returned home.  He had a walker with the tennis balls on the bottom (like you see in nursing homes).  I was 8 months pregnant and our dog, Lola, only had one ear.  We were a sight!  Every car that passed by us drastically slowed down.  We thought it was hilarious.  During that time, we both knew we'd all be ok again.   The support and love of family and friends coupled with Warren's motivation to recover and the soon to be baby made the time easier.

Warren is totally, 100% fine now.  Like I said, it can be easy to forget how bad it was.   I am SO SO SO grateful that he is here with me.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  He is my best friend and the ultimate partner for me.   Also, if he didn't come out of that ok, Zoe wouldn't be here....which I cannot even think about.  Who knows what life would have brought for Andie and me.  Thank goodness he is here!!!

We are all here and we are all ok.  We know not to take health for granted and we appreciate where we are in life.  Every year on April 20, we celebrate Warren's health and our family by doing something active together.  In the past, Warren and I have ran a race.   Once the whole family started running, we all ran together.  This year, there are no races in Fiji, but that's ok because we took a family walk together along the sea wall.  It was beautiful... in more ways than one.

Walk along sea wall

Healthy enough for shoulder rides!

Parents acting silly.  Children not amused. 

Hide n' Seek from Daddy on walk. 

Run with the Wolves/Celebration of Health 2014

2013 Sweetwater 420 Annual Celebration of Health 


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  2. WOW!!!! Seven years and looking at the beautiful pictures one would never know the PAIN and SUFFERING and FEAR that was put in your lives. I am so grateful Warren ended up ok and the Girls have their daddy and you have your Hubby. Miss you, but so Happy For you as well. This is a day to celebrate. Great narration as well :)

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about Warren's accident. I know it's been seven years since it happened, but it's completely understandable how traumatizing and haunting that experience has been. I'm at least glad to know that you and the family are faring better these days. I hope you're well, Kate. Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you! :)

    Sabrina Craig @ Medical Attorney NY

  4. It’s great to know that you’ve been holding up pretty well, despite the tragic incident you’ve gone through. It’s also nice to know that you celebrate Warren’s health, to serve as a reminder that each day is a blessing. Thanks for sharing. All the best!

    Joanne Krueger @ Kurtz & Blum


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