There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.
~Henry David Thoreau
It is now the season of Thanks. I have so much to be grateful for. In fact, I am almost overwhelmed with gratitude that it cannot be contained. it brings me to tears. I am grateful for each morning as I wake to the day and I open my eyes. Every morning, I take a breath and begin my ritual of saying Thank You. I take inventory of all the blessings some as simple as the ability to breathe,or the opportunity to start fresh in a new day, for the beautiful nature that surrounds me, for the health and vitality that is gifted to me, for the abundance of the world, for the intimacy of my family, for the laughter we and love we share, for the opportunity to build the life we want to lead.
On October 26, 2018 I have never been more thankful for the gift of life… for all its messy, gnarly, fragile and delicate moments. For all that it encompasses and how precious it really is. On this day, I experienced the fragility of life and why it is so important to be reverent of the gift of life. That joy of living, carefree and that all those things can change in a blink of an eye.
This October, my childhood friend Laura had planned a family vacation to the Bahamas. She and her husband were taking her two boys on a Disney cruise and their last port of call was a private island in the Abaco chain of islands where I live. Earlier that month, she and I were corresponding and lamenting the fact that she would be in my “neighborhood”, but yet we wouldn’t be able to see each other. That was because the port of call does not allow for visitors and doesn’t allow the passengers to venture from their “private island” of Castaway Cay. It was frustrating that she would be so close, but I wouldn’t be able to see her.
Living on Guana, you absolutely crave the friends that you need to leave behind to start your new way of life. You miss the family that they are to you, and knowing Laura would be so close, I felt the deep magnetism to see her and craved the opportunity to let our boys play together.
In a serendipitous conversation with a new local Bahamian friend, Tonkia, I found out that she had connections to the Disney Island. I had inquired if she could arrange a way for me to surprise Laura and her family during their visit to the Bahamas. Turns out, Wolfi had that Friday off of school for Midterm break, as did Tonkia’s daughter, KIKI. We hatched a plan to get on island and spend the day with the kids parasailing, meeting Disney characters and swimming with the stingray and for me to spend a full day sharing umbrella drinks with one of my best friends. Tonkia was able to procure day passes through her brother that was employee of the island. He is given four passes once a year and he was generous enough to offer them to us on the day Laura was set to arrive. All we had to do was provide our passports for clearance and we were getting the VIP guest experience on the island. We were so excited that it all was working out!
Even though Castaway Cay is in the Abaco region, it is not easy to get to by any stretch of the imagination. Tonkia and I, along with our kids, had to scramble to take the last ferry leaving from our small island of Guana Cay to Marsh Harbour Abaco, arrange for taxi transportation to her hometown of Sandy Point which is 45 miles away and then to find sleeping arrangements in the small sleepy fishing village the night before. We stayed at a small motel where we were the only guests in the building! There wasn’t even a guest attendant at a desk…Wolfi said it felt like we were in a scene from a horror movie HA! It was a bit creepy arriving at night and no one was at the motel but us. We settled the kids in for the night. We set our alarm for 4:00 a.m. to catch the employee ferry to the island at 5:00 am.
That morning, we nudged Wolfgang and Kiki awake and got them dressed while wiping the sleep form our eyes. We packed our daypacks and got our suits and sunscreen on for our exciting adventure to Castaway Cay. It was still dark out and drizzling but the sky was lit by the bright full moon as we crossed the sea in the ferry to Castaway Cay. Wolfi slept the entire ferry ride encased in my arms and I distinctly remember contemplating how big he is but yet, he felt so young and babylike in my arms that morning.
The dawn was breaking as the boat was docking, The island was eerily quite just the murmur of carts whizzing by with the employees getting ready to start the day before the bustle of the cruise guest arrive. Soon the island will be packed with frenzied tourists, loud and excited to enjoy their day in paradise. But for now, everything was still and quiet. We took a moment to dance underneath the welcome sign and then we were invited to the employee cafeteria to enjoy a breakfast and some much needed coffee to fuel our day. Wolfi filled himself with pancakes slathered with maple syrup and was entertaining the Bahamians employees with his Fortnite dances and cracking his knock knock jokes. He had everybody laughing. We were all so excited to start the day. After breakfast, it was only 7:00am Laura’s cruise ship was not going to reach the dock for a few more hours, so we were invited to go to the employee housing to wait for the boat to reach.
That’s when a perfectly planned day took a turn for the worse. Tonkia’s brother pointed out the General Manager of the island, he was responsible for allowing us the special permission to spend the day enjoying the island. We had stepped out to thank him kindly for allowing us to be there and he told us of all the fun activities we could participate in that day…they were rolling out the red carpet for us! No sooner did we step back into the employee housing, did I hear a blood curdling scream. I knew instinctively what it was. That was Wolfgang’s “ouch” scream. Every mother knows their kids “ouch” scream. So, I ran into the room where Wolfi and Kiki were playing. Wolfi was sprawled awkwardly and contorted on the cement floor. Kiki had a terrified look on her face as she peered down from the top bunk bed where the kids had been playing.
“What happened?” I yelled at the kids. I looked down at Wolfi and I will never erase what I saw. His face was different and his eyes darting back and forth scared and as big as pie plates. “I fell” he screamed, “I hit my head”… “Mom, I can’t feel anything!”
What? “Get up!” I implored…
“Mom, I can’t move!”
At that moment I felt all the blood drain from my body. My skin bristled and I knew this was very serious. I knew. I went to feel his hand and it was limp and had no muscle tone it was heavy in my hands. “Can you wiggle your toes?” I asked. No. No he couldn’t.
I screamed to Tonkia, “We need help!” Oh my god, this was not real. Wolfgang’s face was droopy and he was screaming a shrill and frightened scream. Soon a team of lifeguards crowded into the room. They had a backboard. I kicked into protective “mama bear mode” and screamed “Don’t touch his head!” I wanted to be the one that stabilized his head and neck as they slid the blackboard underneath him. The situation was bad and you can see it on everyones faces as they load Wolfgang’s body strapped to a backboard onto a golf cart. “Where are we going?” I cry…
“Ma’am you can’t ride with him there is no room.” a woman calmly told me.
“What? I’m going with my son!”
I couldn’t be separated from him. They insisted I had to follow in the golf cart behind him. They were taking us to a small clinic on the island.
That ride behind him felt eternal. My head bowed into my hands, I kept thinking. This isn’t real, this can’t happen. I need a rewind button. Who can I call to fix this? This has to be fixed! He can’t be paralyzed. He can’t! This is NOT REAL…but it was very real. I began to call on all his Angels. Out loud I called them by name, My friends Tim, Keely, and Tom, Natalia and Fredrick his beloved cousins Hunter and Connor who both passed away too young from injuries to their brains. Please! Please fix this… if you hear me in heaven, please help my baby!
We arrived at the island health clinic- a place equipped to fix cuts and scrapes, a place to address heat exhaustion or indigestion of an over eating tourist. This was not the place for head trauma.
A medic and a nurse was on hand to check Wolfgang’s vitals and they asked me to recount what had happened. They tested his reflexes and a checked his vision and to see if he had signs of concussion. He had no reflexes, his body laid there…heavy, limp. He couldn’t feel his body. He couldn’t move.
“He’s a soccer player!” I tell the medic. “He plays lacrosse, he swims, he wakeboards, he skis, he dances…Oh God! He has to do all those things again.”
I fall to my knees and begin to pray. “Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee”…”Please!”…protect him, heal him. I’m begging, pleading, oh please!
Then, I realize I have got to pull it together, collect my self. I walk up to Wolfi’s face. His eyes frightened and worried. “You are going to be fine” I assured him. “Everything is okay” I lied…knowing it was NOT okay.
“I am with you, you are going be okay”. I knew I had to be strong now. He needed my reassurance and strength even when I felt so weak and utterly helpless. “Can you give me a smile?” I asked of him. His head was trapped in the neck brace, he couldn’t even smile his face was lethargic, drooped. Oh my god, I might never see his smile again.
Then my phone rang, a Marsh Harbour number…I pick up “Hello??” it was my husband Jim’s co-worker calling to arrange for us to watch his dog for the weekend. I tell him Wolfi can’t… there’s been an accident, he fell and he isn’t moving. I’m sorry I have to go…
I send a text to my “hee haw” girlfriends at home begging them to get down on their knees. Wolfi’s been in a horrible accident. Pray for him. Pray with all your might.
And then, I felt like I was going to vomit. I knew what I had to do next. Dread filled my heart. I had to call Jim. I had to tell him the news that Wolfgang was injured, “I think our son is paralyzed.”
Jim was on a business trip in Nassau, he was just boarding a 40 minute flight back to Abaco when I called to tell him. The plane was taxiing the runway for take off. “I love you,” I cried. We had to hang up I wan’t able to give him any more details than that. “Please get here!” Was all I could say. He managed to make one more out going call to arrange for a taxi to collect him at the airport and shuttle him 45 miles down to Sandy Point. Our Island mama, Donna, rose to the occasion and picked Jim up to transport him that long ride to the south end of the island.
The nurse told me the head injury looked serious and that there was a full medical staff on board the Disney Cruise ship. We needed to move Wolfi onto the ship.
“Are you sure we should move him again?” I was worried that a gurney ride will be bumpy and unstable. “Yes, she said, they are far more equipped to address his situation.”
Minutes felt like hours. My mind going to some dark places, wishing I could switch places, wondering what we did to deserve such a fate, thinking our lives have taken a dramatic, irreversible turn. My beautiful lively child full of vitality and life, confined, harnessed, trapped to a body that could no longer run, jump, play, swim. Our lives that had recently felt like a beautiful dream quickly becoming my worst nightmare.
We arrived to the ship and was greeted by three doctors and nurses. They were an international team, two doctors from South Africa and another from Brazil. I recounted the events leading up to our arrival…The fall from the bunk bed to a cement floor, the loss of movement and feeling in his body, the pain in his head. They begin to examine him. They test reflexes and for muscle tone. One side showed a little response but the doctor was still concerned. Wolfi was asked to wiggle his fingers and toes but he couldn’t. He began to cry. “I just want to go home,” he pleaded. Home. My heart ached. Would we ever return to our island home? There is no way a wheelchair could accommodate island life. Our lives forever changed. They examined his neck and he cried out in pain.
That is when Dr. Ryno pulled me aside. “Mrs. Snyder, we suspect your son has suffered a spinal cord injury. We believe he may have damaged his C5, C6 vertebrae and he his has no reflexes except for minimal reaction in the right arm. We have to do a test that is invasive, but necessary, to determine the severity of the injury. We need to roll him carefully to his side. And I will have to insert my fingers into his anus to feel the base of the spinal cord. Please talk to him and tell him what we are going to do.”
Wolfi just got done learning about vertebrates in Science, so I told him that Doctor Ryno will have feel the tail of his spine to see where the damage is. Dr. Ryno was calming and encouraging talking to Wolfi telling him that he reminded him of Tarzan. Strong and courageous. They carefully log rolled him, one doctor guarding his head and neck, as Dr Ryno inserted his fingers to feel for response. It was quick and painless. It was more traumatic for me than for Wolfi. But Wolfi was so cooperative and sweet. So brave.
“I am sorry, Mrs Snyder, but we didn’t get a sphincter response during the examination. We are looking for muscle tone and response and we did not find one, confirming our suspicion of a spinal cord injury. We would like to take some X-rays of his neck to determine where exactly the damage is.”
The process of getting X-rays was brutal, they had to remove the neck brace, the only thing keeping him from moving his head. He had to be stone still, but he was crying out in pain and they were removing it as carefully as possible. He had a tremendous headache, but the doctors did not want to give him pain reliever because he needs to be able to indicate where the pain is and not mask the pain, while they are trying to determine the severity of his condition. He was being so brave, being so still and not moving his head even though he was in a ton of pain. The X-rays were extremely difficult to get because they couldn’t risk moving his head around too much. It was very stressful, because he was in pain and the fragility of his spine and his condition hung in the balance.
I fell to my knees and once again pleaded with God. I prayed the Hail Mary, the Our Father, and again called on his Angels. His cousins especially, as they are so loved by Wolfi. He talks to them nightly in his nighttime prayers and I really needed them. They left our world too soon, leaving us grief stricken and forever changed. But, I always believed they look after Wolfi and that the two twin brothers were reunited in Heaven. Please Hunter, Please Connor, protect Wolfi. My parents can’t lose another grandson.
Dr. Ryno stepped out to examine the results of the X-RAY. DR. Mary was holding Wolfis head and neck and asked me to come up to his head. She looked me straight in the eye. She saw my exasperation and knew it too well.
“Look at my finger” she said to me and I look down to her gentle hands cradling Wolfgang’s head. There on her left hand, middle finger was a beautiful, simple silver ring. On it was a cross with a small diamond on it.
“I believe God is Good,” she told me “He listens and he heals”.
She went on to tell me, “Twenty five years ago, as I was giving birth to my son, I suffered a massive brain bleed, an aneurysm, the doctors didn’t think I was ever going to hold my son or live to raise him. But here I am, a doctor, I am the guardian of your son’s head and neck. God heals. God loves this child just as you do. I heard your prayers. These hands are my hands, but I am also and instrument of his work.” She said calmly in her beautiful South African accent.
Tears streamed down my face, I know this in my soul and I looked down at Wolfgang. I believed her. I had no choice. My beautiful son, a child of God. He was my everything. Please heal this child.
Wolfi said he was getting sleepy, Dr Mary said he needs to stay awake even if he is very tired. She did not want him to lose consciousness. So I asked Wolfgang to recite the Lord’s Prayer to keep himself awake. He even learned how to recite it in Spanish at his new school, so he said it over and over again while we waited for the results from the Xray. My eyes locked with Dr Mary. I will be forever grateful for her comforting words, for her gentle and healing hands. For her spiritual guidance that encouraged me to keep faith.
“He can come back from this” she said. I wanted to believe her. I wanted to imagine him swinging from trees and playing and running as fast as the wind, just like Dr. Ryno said, like Tarzan.
Dr. Ryno arrived to tell us that the X-rays are difficult to read because we couldn’t position Wolfi appropriately to get definitive read of the pictures. Just then Wolfi said he needed to vomit. He hates throwing up. He was really scared and the doctors again were worried about rolling him over. It was a precarious situation because had to keep the head and neck immobilized. But it had to be done, so he didn’t aspirate on his vomit, they put an IV drip into him with medicine to help the nausea but the Doctor also said that the nausea is a response to head injury and concussion. He could be suffering from a brain bleed. They determined that they would not be able to treat him, that we were going to have to medically evacuate him to a hospital. Just then Wolfi projectile vomitted. The urgency was real. They had to get him to a hospital.
I didn’t have cell service in the base of the cruise ship so I had to step outside to make contact with anyone…I didn’t want to leave Wolfang’s side, but I needed to get a hold of Jim. My body was trembling, I felt confused and panicked. I needed my husband, he is always the strong, level headed one and I felt so alone and terrified. I stepped out to the blinding light of the Bahamian sun. The cruise ship tourists were busy milling, walking around carefree and full of energy and I felt like I was in another world. Was life proceeding normally for everyone else, yet mine was spinning out of control? It was a bizarre sensation.
Jimbo had landed in Marsh Harbour and was en route traveling by taxi to Sandy Point. He had another 45 minutes of taxi drive to get to the south end of the island. That felt like an eternity… it was already four hours since the accident. I had lost all sense of time.
I got a hold of Laura. Yes, we were on the island, but there was an accident.
“Oh My God,I am coming right away”, she tells me. Come to the medical emergency room. I told her, “Hurry!”
I also get a hold of Tonkia she was frantic and scared. They were being questioned by Disney staff and filling out reports. She was so worried for Wolfi and felt so responsible, I told her it was an accident. Jim was on his way, but I think that we are going to be life flighted out of the Bahamas. Can you get a boat dispatched to pick him up? I knew there are no boats that go back to the main island from Disney’s island. How are we going to get him here? She was with the General Manger. They were on it. I tried to coordinate getting her his number but I had to get back into the ship.
When I got back to Wolfi the doctors told me he had vomitted again, but when they rolled him over it looked like he had a bit of movement in his right leg.
“Oh my god, really? Wolfi! Let me see!” He could slightly move the leg so they tested reflex again. Left side still was unresponsive but the right side looked to improve.
Just then Laura arrived. She held my hand and told Wolfi he needs to play soccer again. She was such a comfort and seeing my best friend calmed my nerves as we joked with Wolfi and talked about him playing someday with her boys. We both cried together and we talked about angels being near us. I told Wolfi how her dad had just recently passed and how he is looking after him too.
He said to us, “so is Michael.” “Who is Michael?” I didn’t know any Michael? Wolfi said “Archangel Michael is the strongest of all the angels. He is the great protector and he was looking out for him. “Oh,” I said, I didn’t know about him, but I am sure he is here too.
The doctors came in and told me the life flight was dispatched. Wolfi’s blood pressure was really high. They gave me a pile of forms and waivers to complete and sign. I could barely remember my name at this point. I was still in complete state of shock. Luckily, I placed my ex-patriate insurance in my wallet “just in case” the night before. I had to explain I was no longer living in the States but staying in the Bahamas on my husband’s work visa. We were not residents. Not tourists, not residents, not US residents any longer. We don’t even have a physical address to fill out forms. Pretty confusing. My address is the cottage name “Sandy Feet”. I wasn’t sure how to fill out the releases for medical attention. Just had to trust in the process.
We had our passports by the grace of God with us. Because, I am not sure how we would get into the US or back if we didn’t have them with us. I told the doctors…I want to go to the United States if possible. I knew there was a mayo clinic in Ft Lauderdale. I didn’t want to go to Nassau. I wanted the United States. They informed me that they could not choose, it would be up to the discretion of the pilot and they will most likely take us to the closest available hospital. I demanded to go the US. We needed the best medical minds and neurosurgery available. I pleaded desperately. I love the Bahamas, but I was still a US citizen I want to go to the United States!
Dr. Ryno told me that they would have to insert a catheter into Wolfi. He was being pumped with fluids through the IV and if he didn’t expel waste it could become toxic to his body. Right now, it isn’t look like he might have control of his bladder and he would need the catheter to help him, especially for the long flight ahead. Again, I had to tell Wolfi that they had to do another invasive procedure but to be brave…he was pretty weak and tired by now but he bravely agreed.
As they inserted the foley, Wolfi let out a blood curdling scream. “What are you doing to me???!!!!” he yelled.
The pain was so severe he even kicked his legs! Dr Ryno looked at me and the then at the other doctor…
“This is great news that he can feel that!” He had feeling below.
“Um, Yes I CAN!” Wolfi confirmed! “That was the most painful thing EVER!”
we had to laugh in relief…I felt horrible he had to endure that but, because he could feel this I was optimistic that things were starting to turn around. His blood pressure was still sky high. He kept complain of his head hurting, I reassured him that his Daddy was on his way. Hang in there buddy.
Tonkia arrived at the ship, they had found a boat to dispatch to Jim to pick him up. He finally had arrived to Sandy Point and will be boarding the boat shortly. The doctors informed us that the Coast Guard will be arriving soon. I told the doctors we could not leave the island without my husband. They were prepping us to leave, giving me nausea medication for the helicopter ride, going over all the documentation needed to medially evacuate. Dr Mary approached me and told me they gave her clearance to fly with us, she knew his condition and also needed to be present to provide medical care if he takes a turn for the worse on the flight over. They were concerned about a brain bleed as his head was continuing to hurt, probably pressure in his head getting worse, as his blood pressure was indicating.
“I won’t leave this child’s side,” she said to me.
I was so relieved to know she was coming. She saw the severity of his condition from the beginning and she was my touchstone throughout the day. She had a calm and determined demeanor and her presence meant the world to me. I felt confident in her care.
They had just pulled me aside to tell me I had to pay in full for the medical services rendered before they could discharge us to the Coast Guard when Jimbo arrived. I didn’t get a chance to even hug him, but he collapsed over Wolfi sobbing.
Wolfi perked up reaching his right hand weakly toward his dads face. Jimbo reassured Wolfi that everything was going to be okay. Wolfi even smiled for the first time! Praise God!
I told Jim they were prepping us to leave. We had to pay $4000 to be airlifted out. Credit cards and passports were processed, Jim was downloaded by the doctors on his condition and things were chaotic. I said goodbye to Tonkia and thanked her. I said goodbye to Laura and apologized for the mess that this turned out to be, but was so thankful for her presence in the scariest moments of my life. They both kissed Wolfi’s face and offered him encouragement and love.
Just then the Coast Guard arrived. I will never forget the feeling when one of the rescue pilots turned the corner. He was tall and in full jumpsuit and helmet. The United States Flag proudly displayed on his chest. I had never felt so patriotic than in that one moment. He walked right up to Wolfi.
“Hey Buddy,” he said, “Want to go for a helicopter ride?”
Boy did he ever! It was as if Wolfi’s super hero had arrived. All the gear, all the bravado, all that confidence here to rescue him. The relief that they were here flooded the room.
We hugged Dr Ryno. I will never be able to express my gratitude for his care and capability when caring for Wolfi, the Disney medical staff were top notch and I was so grateful. Dr Ryno told Wolfi that after surgery, Tarzan will swing from the branches again. And he gave Wolfi a high five. They were like life long friends at that point. Bonded. It was really beautiful to watch that exchange, we had all gained some optimism that he was getting better. And I will never forget the doctors and staff that looked after him that day.
Time was moving in slow motion as we approached the whirring helicopter. The sounds of the blades, the motor running, the heat pounding on our bodies as we climbed into the chopper. All senses were being assaulted, we settled in. DrMary got out her equipment to monitor his vitals and we buckled in as they laid Wolfi carefully onto the floor of the copter. Wolfi looked so tiny so, small, but yet his spirit so big as I could feel him responding to the fact that he was with US Coast guard. The yellow helicopter said CLEARWATER on its side and that is where my grandparents were from. A little Godwink that they were with us in the sky as he was being life flighted.
Dr Mary tended to him diligently, and the Coast Guard rescue pilots kept Wolfi entertained by showing him funny pictures of dogs and their kids on their phones. His spirit was definitely lifted, as was mine. But it was a roller coaster of emotions happening as the days events swirled in my brain, a day of utter shock, dread, disbelief and fear.
Even though, he looked to be turning a corner, I knew there still could be complications ahead, especially if they needed to perform surgery. I was relieved and thankful he could show his smile as the Coast Guards gave him their glow sticks and showed him funny pictures. I had pulled his favorite stuffed animal out that was stowed away in his backpack from the night before and he held it in his hands showing he had regained movement in his hands. That relief set in, but I also knew that things aren’t perfect. I weeped silently turning my face out the window so no one could see.
My soul had been rocked. My carefree, optimistic spirit shaken to the core and now forever changed. I felt different and scared and skeptical. I can’t imagine how parents cope with severe trauma and tragedy. Does their spirit ever recover? The guilt, the panic set in my heart and I kept looking at Wolf’s smile and he reassured me in ways he will never know.
I held my husbands hand. Remembering the promise we made 11 years ago to be there through thick and thin, in sickness as well as health and here it is going to be tested. Here is the moment that we never wanted to walk through. Here was our worst possible scenario playing out.
When moving to an island with no medical facilities, the biggest concern is what happens in medical emergency? Well, we were finding out. This was what we never wanted to have to do. And we hope we never have to do it again. We are forever thankful for the assistance of the US Coast Guard for escorting us to medical care. I asked the pilot where we going and he told me Miami. Oh, thank God!
I typed a note on my phone to tell Dr Mary the gratitude I held in my heart for her healing hands and her encouragement. I will never be able to express how thankful I was that she crossed our paths. I know there are Angels that walk among us. I might never see her again, I don’t even know her last name. But her care was monumental in Wolfi’s healing. I was sure of it. I will forever hold her in my prayers.
The helicopter was blazing through the sky. I prayed again for Wolfi’s full recovery. The ride from Bahamas to Miami was extremely fast 40 minutes to travel over 400 miles. We landed at Jackson Memorial Hospital and was brought into the trauma unit. There, we were greeted by 15 doctors scrubbed up and ready for neurosurgery. The sight was surreal, Wolfgang on a stretcher, Coast Guards, surgeons and his parents surrounding him. Dr. Mary dowloaded the head neurosurgeon of his condition, presented him with his paralysis for hours and marked improvement in the last hour or so, and their assessment of his injury of the C5 C6 with possible contusion to the brain. She had to fly back with the Coast Guard, so we embraced and I wept on her shoulder and then she looked me in the eye and told me “God is Good. Always.”
The neurosurgeon did a brief assessment and told me that they would have to do a CT scan of his brain and neck. With the possibility of brain bleed, they may need to perform surgery and they had to locate the sight and severity of injury.
Jim went with him for the testing and I stepped outside to call my parents. I asked them to also pray for WOlfi’s healing and recovery. I sent word to my friends and family that we are now in Miami and Wolfi will probably need surgery and asked them for their continued prayers and that I will update them shortly. I told them of his progress and hoped he would continue to improve.
Again, minutes turned to hours and when the doctors came back, they wanted to do ultrasound his neck to see if there was damage to soft tissue of his neck and carotid artery. The doctors told us the results of the CT is back, there was NO DAMAGE to the vertebra, no evidence of fracture, no bleed on the brain, not even a bruise that they could find. The soft tissue looked fine and they would like to do an internal scan of kidneys and liver. Again, nothing, it looked perfect.
They carefully removed the brace on his neck to palpitate the neck and Wolfi had no pain as he did on the ship. They performed a strength assessment and reflexes and Wolfi had regained all movement in all four limbs. He could move his neck and head in full range of motion. He was laughing and joking with the doctors. His blood pressure was normal and all his vitals looked good. The doctors could not explain it.
They said that he had what they term as (SCYWRA) Spinal Chord Injury Without Radiographic Evidence. They know that his head trauma coupled with spinal hyperextension caused the paralysis but could not explain his full and complete recovery with no evidence of injury. Their was no bruise or lump on the skull, his pain had completely abated and his vitals were perfect. He looked like a perfectly healthy boy.
I was dumbfounded. I kept asking how this could happen and they had no answer other than he was fine and they would like to discharge him to go home!
“Wait a minute…you don’t even know if he can walk!” I exclaimed. How in the heck are you going to send us away? 8 hours ago he was lying paralyzed in my arms. I am not taking this child home!”
I asked the trauma doctor to send the pediatric neurosurgeon. How can this be? She said to keep him overnight for observation. Which I was relieved to hear. She then asked Wolfi if he would like to try and walk? They removed his catheter and he walked without a problem. She wasn’t convinced he was through the woods, even though he looked to be in great condition and to err on the side of safety we stayed in the hospital for 3 long days. When she discharged us she told us she didn’t want him flying back to the island, where we wouldn’t have access to a hospitalor medical care, not to mention have to travel by boat to get home. We were told to stay two weeks in the United States before she would clear him to fly.
My brother offered for us to come stay at his home 4 hours north in St Augustine for Wolfi to rest and heal with family around. Hunter had Neurosurgeons that we could get to in case of an emergent situation.
Staying in Miami was expensive and Wolfi could hang out with his cousin and recover. We rented a car and drove up to St Augustine. Jim stayed with us for two nights but had to return to work in the Bahamas. It was so nice to stay with family and five days after the accident, Wolfi was able to celebrate Halloween in Florida. Of course he chose to be his hero, a Coast Guard rescue pilot. He ran from house to house collecting his candy as if he wasn’t laying lifeless 5 days ago. My heart leapt as I heard his laughter and saw him running and playing, as if it never had happened.
Soon he was swimming in the pool and asking to play at the park. I had to beg him to slow down. But trying to keep a 9 year old boy to sit still is like trying to catch a wave upon the sand. We walked along the boardwalk, where his cousin used to love to stroll. We sat on the bench that commemorates Hunter’s life. We paused to think about his presence and thank him for looking after Wolfi from heaven. He himself was a survivor, a medical miracle and there is no doubt that Wolfi has that same survivors strength. So thankful for the blessing
I am not sure what transpired in those 8 hours. Doctors can’t explain it with their science. And if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes, neither could I. I do believe in miracles. I believe that bad things happen to good people. We are not in control of our life’s trajectories. We have blessings that we often take for granted. Sometimes we get caught up, we struggle and we rebound. But all the while, we have something greater than ourselves that help to guide us. We have the ability to ask for help, love and guidance and God’s love and grace can be present in the most dire of circumstances. My spirit is forever changed. I will be forever thankful the gift of life. For the ability to spread light and love. We are all connected. We are all God’s love in human form. We get one chance to live our human life and I am here to remind you, it is short… live life to the fullest. Be grateful and be blessed.
“May The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
And give you peace”