This week was one for the books: clearly not what I had planned nor expected; not one I would ever wish upon anyone else; and certainly not one I hope to revisit anytime soon. Still, in so many ways and words and gestures, it was a wonderfully redemptive few days wrapped in kindness and courage.
And it all happened in the face of tremendous pain and suffering and uncertainty.
And in the middle of chaos and questions and fear. Lots of fear.
And surrounded by lots of people facing life and death questions and scenarios as others pushed through 12-hour shifts.
That’s because it all happened in the Emergency Room at one of the country’s busiest hospitals—Baylor Dallas, the mothership of the Baylor Scott + White family of suburban hospitals across the Metroplex. Most of us from around here affectionately refer to it as ‘Big Baylor.’
It had the makings of a day doomed from the start—with a heart-stopping phone call, a tragic mechanical failure, and the testing of my sweet, sweet niece, Shannon.
If you live in and around the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, you possibly saw the report on the local news—an elevator malfunction on Wednesday morning at the Bank of America building—the tallest building in the Dallas skyline known locally as ‘the jolly green giant’ due to the neon green lights that outline its towering frame. It was breaking news at the time as DPD and Dallas Fire shut off parts of downtown to work the scene.
The details were sketchy and incomplete at the time, but still heart-stopping when you realize it’s one of yours. All of a sudden, ‘an unidentified young woman’ had new meaning—especially when she’s shown being carried out. On a gurney. To a waiting ambulance. (Here’s a link to the story featured in The Dallas Morning News.)
The calls about Shannon and her safety began coming in around 10 a.m. I was her emergency contact due to proximity for just such occasions. But here’s the deal—I’ve become so jaded by solicitors calling and texting on my mobile phone, I ignored the first call. And the second. And the third.
In my defense, the calls were from an unrecognized number. And they showed to be coming from a nearby suburb that’s been home to way too many solicitors’ calls to my number. So, I ignored them. By the time the third call came in, I was tempted to answer it and yell into the phone, “Quit calling me! Take me off of your list, puh-lease!”
Mercifully, I didn’t.
Turns out it was from my niece’s company’s HR rep, Esmer, who eventually left a message asking me to contact her. Something about “there’s been an accident and they’re working to rescue Shannon.” I thought I was going to pass out or throw up. Or both.
Esmer did her best to calm my racing thoughts. She brought me up to speed on what had happened, Shannon’s status as best she knew, and the team of Dallas’ finest Fire & Rescue men and women working to free her from the faulty elevator somewhere between 50 and 70 stories high.
She encouraged me to head towards downtown as soon as possible and promised to let me know which hospital the waiting ambulance was heading to as soon as Shannon was free.
I threw some things in a bag in the event I spent the night at the hospital and raced towards downtown, pretty much daring a policeman to pull me over. You don’t mess with a mama bear (or mama aunt) when one of the cubs is hurt.
No sooner had I been directed towards the correct ER bay, then I was met with the extraordinary kindness of strangers. Courage showed up soon thereafter.
First, the sweet stuff –
I am not exaggerating when I say the kindness of every single person affiliated with the hospital was like nothing I’ve seen in a long, long time. From the attending docs to the tremendously accommodating nursing and tech staff, no one could have been kinder or more empathetic. I even made friends with sweet Ivy, a kind and helpful soul from the housekeeping crew who saw the panic and fear in my eyes when I got lost in the maze of hospital hallways and she stopped what she was doing to take me right to where I needed to be. Everyone with a badge, to a person, went out of their way to be helpful.
The on-call docs shared an honest evaluation of Shannon’s injuries in a calm and hopeful manner. They talked Aggie football and Rockets basketball and answered our millionth question as if it were the first one and we were the only presenting case on their docket.
They were efficient and encouraging, offering us hope and comfort when emotions got the better of us. They shared personal stories of similar injuries and offered the always-comforting, “if this were me” answers to all our questions.
The nursing crew was beyond exceptional—anticipating needs, providing distractions during painful moments, and attentive beyond belief. They literally could not have done their jobs any better or more graciously.
Saints in scrubs with stethoscopes and syringes and bring-it-on pain meds.
Saints to the scared and the hurt and those that love them.
Saints that have seen it all and don’t flinch at anything.
And then the courage –
A couple of hours in, after tests and scans and consults were being processed, the shock began to subside and the magnitude of what had just happened began to settle in for Shan. The ‘what-ifs’ moved in quickly alongside the physical pain.
Our girl was scared and overwhelmed and understandably, deeply traumatized. She hurt every where, and didn’t even really know what all had happened in the last few hours.
And then she rallied.
And courage showed up.
We spent the day talking and crying, processing the morning’s events more and more as the fog of meds and shock began to lift. With her mom in transit from Houston and dad not far behind, we had more time than we’ve ever spent together just us two. And I saw a glimpse of my sweet Shan I’d never seen before—a strong, brave, and courageous young woman that’s wise beyond her 25 years.
In a crazy mix of emotions, the whole experience was traumatic and scary and redeeming—all at once.
The outpouring of love and support from her family and friends, her work community, and even friends of friends offering love and support and prayers was such a wonderful surprise to sweet Shan. She had no idea how deep and wide and far-reaching her impact had been on those around her. But when word of her story and injury reached a few, it reached many.
It will undoubtedly be a long, long road to recovery with lots of turnouts—both for the unexpected emotional pain and the physical hurdles that await her. But our girl is strong and tenacious and surrounded by loads of us who love her and will travel this unexpected journey with her. It may even become part of our family lore, a story told and retold a jillion times in the upcoming years.
Just not yet.