“How long has it been since the guys left to put the four-wheelers up?” I asked.
“I’m not sure, it’s been a while though. Surely it wouldn’t take this long. I have a feeling something is wrong.” Tess answered.
“I’m sure everything is fine,” I stated, knowing Jeff is a fun-loving guy. I assumed they were just out taking a joyride.
We hopped in the golf cart and went searching for them. We got down to the end of the street, and the battery started to die.
“We better turn around before we get stuck out there. Let’s go back and get the car,” I told them.
We went back to the house and got in Brittany’s car. “Something is wrong, I have this feeling,” Tess insisted.
“Nothing is wrong, Tess. They are just out goofing around. You know those guys. I bet Jeff took Brian to see the Ingram Road,” I assured her.
We started driving back out of the driveway. Right about that time, we saw one pair of headlights from a four-wheeler coming up the driveway.
“There they are. See, I told you they were fine!” I exclaimed.
Then we realized that the second pair of headlights didn’t follow. That’s when my heart sank.
“Why is there only one set of headlights?” Tess asked with fear in her voice.
Still not wanting to accept anything bad had happened, I reasoned, “I bet the battery died on the other one. That’s what took them so long.”
Then as they got closer, I realized that Brian was carrying Jeff ’s unconscious body on his four-wheeler. I was in the backseat of Brittany’s two-door Camaro. When they saw the guys, both of them jumped out of the car, leaving me in the backseat. I was screaming at them to let me out, panicking and trying to push the seat up myself so I could climb out of the car. They must have been afraid to let me out because they didn’t want me to see Jeff. Tess pushed the seat up though, and I leaped out of the vehicle. Jeff ’s limp body was lying across Brian’s lap. Brian had taken his shirt off to wrap around Jeff ’s bloody head.
My first thought was, This can’t be happening. We don’t have insurance! When my friends said we needed to call an ambulance, I told them it didn’t look that bad and we could just drive him. They looked at me like I was insane and said we had to get an ambulance. That’s when it began to sink in. I made the 911 call.
“Is he conscious?” the operator asked calmly on the other end of the phone. I looked at Jeff just lying there; I looked at Tess and Brian and repeated the question to them. Only, there was no sign of calm in my voice.
“No!” I said.
Just as calmly as before, the operator asked, “Is he breathing?”
I didn’t know. My eyes widened as the severity of what was happening began to sink in. I started yelling the questions at Brian in terror. He assured me that Jeff was breathing. After a few minutes, Tess took the phone, and I was told to go wait by the house so I didn’t have to see Jeff like that.
I began to go into shock. While we were waiting, I remember feeling very calm and organized, in a panicked kind of way. I ran back in the house and grabbed my purse and overnight bag. Since we were already packed, I figured it didn’t hurt to take it. I felt silly doing it because I thought surely they would just take him to the hospital, he would be fine, and we could go home.
My heart was racing, and I had tunnel vision. I felt like I was on autopilot. I was trying to think of everything that I needed or needed to do before we left. At the same time, I wasn’t thinking; I wasn’t processing. My mind was blank yet full simultaneously.
When the ambulance got there, they put Jeff in a drug-induced coma to take over his breathing. I tried to show the EMS crew that I was all right by offering information. I was spouting off his birthday, social security number, medical history, anything I thought would help them. The crew told me they thought he had fractured his skull. They tried twice to airlift him to the hospital, but the helicopters weren’t able to get there. I rode in the ambulance to the first hospital. The whole way, I kept muttering under my breath, “Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay,” over and over. I don’t know why; I guess I was just processing everything.
We got to the first hospital to wait for the second airlift attempt to a hospital in San Antonio. The helicopter got all the way there. I could see it getting ready to land; then suddenly, it turned away and left. The EMS said they got a call for somebody worse than Jeff. They didn’t want me to ride in the ambulance to San Antonio, so I got in the car with Brittany. The car ride from the hospital in New Braunfels to the one in San Antonio was the longest ride of my life. Growing up in New Braunfels, I have made the drive to San Antonio many times, but it never took as long as it did that night. Time was standing still. I had a million thoughts running through my mind; then, I would look out the window and realize we had only gone a mile or two.
I didn’t know how bad it was, so I didn’t know if I should call our families yet. I didn’t know how to make that kind of phone call. I decided to call our parents. It was about 2:00 a.m. when I started calling. No one was answering their phones. I couldn’t bring myself to leave a message, so I just kept trying. I had been trying for a few hours to get ahold of them and couldn’t.
By that time, we were at the hospital, and I knew it was pretty serious. So I sent out an e-mail to our small group at church because I knew that people needed to be praying. It said, “Uh,
I’ve been trying to get ahold of our parents first, but they aren’t answering, and we need prayer. Jeff was in a bad accident and is in ICU right now. He has severe head trauma and isn’t responding. I don’t know much more than that, just please pray.”
I eventually started calling Jeff ’s sisters, hoping they would answer and could go wake up his parents. One of his sisters finally answered; by that time, it was 6:00 a.m. It doesn’t matter how much I practiced that call in my head, actually saying the words was another story.
When I heard the voice on the other end of the phone, I tried to stay as calm as possible. Jeff ’s been in an accident.”
I could hear the panic in his sister’s voice. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know,” was all I could choke out before I started crying. I told her I’d been trying to call his mom, but she wasn’t answering. I told her where we were, and she said she would get ahold of their family and get there as soon as possible.
When I finally got to the hospital, I could barely walk; I was in so much shock. Brittany had to help me into the hospital. Every room we were moved to, I was looking for the trashcan because I felt like I was going to throw up at any moment. We waited for hours. They told us that he was stable but still unconscious. They were running tests and doing CAT scans and X-rays. A chaplain came by several times to talk and pray with us. I was sitting in the waiting room with Brittany, Tess, and Brian.
We didn’t know what to do or say or how to feel. I tried to hold it together, but sometimes, I couldn’t do anything but put my face in my hands and cry. However, right about the time I would start, a doctor or someone would come in the room and start talking to us, so I would try to pull myself back together. In the midst of it, my friends tried to lighten the mood a little.
Laughter helped me immensely through this journey. It helped to keep me sane. Jeff made everything into a joke, so by joking about the situation, it made me feel more connected to him. I remember Tess was wearing sandals, and her feet were black from walking in the dirt. She wanted to wash them off. There was a water fountain in the waiting room, so she stuck her foot in it to wash it off! We started cracking up. Looking back, I don’t know why she didn’t just go to find a restroom, but it lightened the mood a little.