Following the arrival of Heath, our second baby, we all adjusted to our larger family with ease. Assisting in our adjustment, Heath was a good sleeper from birth! To be perfectly honest, Heath was a pretty easy baby; he did not play shy, he slept well, nursed well, and was not fussy or colicky. The only problem Heath had was a hematoma on his skull (from his vacuum extraction) that calcified to a hard bump. The calcified hematoma did not cause him any issues, it was purely cosmetic.
The summer Heath was born we had a family reunion for both the George and White families, so we had the opportunity to introduce our newest addition to our extended families. We also took our new baby on a camping trip or two, no small feat for a newborn, but he took it all in stride. Prior to Heath’s birth, I worried Brock might experience some jealousy, but he loved his brother whole-heartedly from the start. The girls did not have any trouble adjusting to life with another brother either, they absolutely adored him.
The summer of 2013 was full of joy and memories, and the fall of 2013 looked like it was going to bring much the same; with Justice entering grade one, and Tapanga off to grade three. However, our lives all took a slightly unexpected turn in October. As you may remember, Dylan’s parents Hugh and Sally are foster parents. What I may not have mentioned previously is that my girls have two older siblings, a brother and a sister.
Up until this time the older sister (for simplicity I will call her Kat, that is not her real name) was living in a group home. Much to our surprise and joy, Kat decided she wanted to be part of a family; big news as Kat had previously not been emotionally ready to join a family. However, Kat had now come to a place where she wanted the stability and love of a forever home. Since there was a family connection to Kat, with her sister’s being adopted by Dylan and I, Hugh and Sally were asked to provide that home for her. In trying to decide if bringing Kat into their home was right for the family, Hugh and Sally not only talked with each other, but also with Dylan and I. Our security, peace, and the stability of Tapanga and Justice were some of the most important factors in Hugh and Sally’s decision. Dylan and I felt that if the placement worked out it could be so wonderful for all three girls. Given Kat’s age (she was about to turn seventeen), having the anchor of a stable and loving family before she reached adulthood would be invaluable. All four adults understood the potential risks, and potential benefits. We hoped and prayed that welcoming Kat into the family was the right decision.
Kat moved into Hugh and Sally’s home in October 2013, right in time for her seventeenth birthday. The perfect time for a joyful reunion between siblings. It had been several years since the three girls had spent any time together, and they were all very excited about the chance to get to know each other, and establish a new family dynamic. While Dylan and I were nervous about the placement, and knew that if it broke down it would be devastating for all three girls, we were hopeful that Hugh and Sally could be the parents Kat needed.
When Kat moved in we thought she should be given time to adjust to her new home before she saw Tapanga and Justice again. However, Kat was very anxious to see Justice and Tapanga so we had a visit in our home within a few days of her moving in with Hugh and Sally. The girls were able to see each other and have memorable visits two or three times in the brief time Kat was in our family’s life. While we believed Kat truly wanted a family, being a part of our family proved too difficult for her. Within a week or two of arriving, Kat abruptly left her placement. Dylan and I waited a couple of days, hoping she would return, hoping we would not have to give our girls the heart-breaking news.
Talking to Tapanga and Justice about their sister leaving was one of the more difficult conversations we have had with them. Tapanga’s grief was immediate and strong; as was her anger. The abandonment Tapanga felt was devastating, “I knew she would leave, I knew it!” As much as Tapanga wanted to know Kat and have her in her life, a part of her was afraid she would lose her. Justice was very sad as well, but it seemed a large part of her grief came from seeing her big sister hurting. We talked and prayed through Tapanga and Justice’s pain, sadness, and feelings of abandonment as best we could, and tried to help our girls to understand what we were having trouble understanding ourselves. The why.
I believed, and still do, that Kat truly did want a connection with her family, with our family. I do not think Kat knew how hard it would be; that reuniting with her sisters could bring up past hurts and memories that she was not strong enough to deal with. Or, at least I think that is why she left. I still do not have an answer to that, and maybe I never will. For now I hang on to the belief that Kat truly loves my little girls and did not intend to hurt them, I choose to believe that.
Despite the pain Kat caused my little girls, the pain our whole family experienced, I choose to forgive her. I may not know with certainty the cause of Kat’s leaving, but I do know that deep in her heart she was a lost, hurt little girl.
I am thankful that Kat did not stay longer, if her leaving was inevitable. The grief would have been much stronger had she stayed longer. I do wonder how things would have been had Kat stayed in our lives; I often wonder about both Kat, and the older brother . I pray they are well.
“The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace. ” Psalm 29:11
Life moved on, the kids all grew and life was good. Dylan was working as an apprentice carpenter, and after his second year of schooling he had the opportunity to work under a different journeyman carpenter. It was while working for his new boss, Trevor, that a life-changing event occurred. On April 16, 2015, I was on my way back from a butcher outside Sangudo with my sister-in-law Megan when my cell phone rang. I had been on the phone with Dylan earlier asking where to find the butcher (he lived down a gravel road), so when I saw it was him I thought he was calling to see if I had found it. We were nearly back to highway 18 with the beef in the back, I was ready to tell him. Instead, when I said hello I heard something that rocked me, a memory that still has the power to bring me to tears.
“Hello,” I greeted my husband.
In response I heard Dylan, short of breath, gasping and nearly crying in pain say, “I need you to drive me to the hospital, I fell off the roof.”
“WHAT? What happened? Are you okay?” I asked in shock, and near disbelief.
“Uuuh no. I need you to come get me,” came the pained reply.
“Call the ambulance!” I demanded, still having trouble comprehending what I was hearing.
“No, you’ll be faster,” he half moaned, half spoke.
Moments later he hung up.
In a state of shock, I recapped Dylan’s end of the conversation for Megan. “He said he fell of the roof?! What do we do, what, I don’t know what to do!” I told my husband’s sister.
We reached the end of the gravel road we were on, and highway 18 lay in front of us. Barrhead to the right, Mayerthorpe to the left. I turned left and accelerated rapidly, reaching a speed my van had probably not seen before or since. As I drove, Megan called their parents, my parents, and my friend Beth. Megan told everyone the little we knew, and asked Beth to pray for us. In no time at all we reached the turnoff for Mayerthorpe and I turned left towards town. Megan used my phone to try and reach Dylan again, and Trevor answered.
They were at the Mayerthorpe hospital. Trying not to panic and fighting tears I navigated the tiny town, following the green H signs. I was so flustered I made a wrong turn, and had to make my way back to the highway and start again. Megan urged me to take a deep breath, and to not panic. Dylan was at the hospital, and we knew he was at least alive. Megan stayed strong and tried to reassure me, while likely battling her own fears for her big brother. I am so thankful she was with me that day.
Whoa, I need to take a little pause here. That was easily the hardest day of my life so far. I cannot begin to explain to you the emotions that were trying to surface, but I can tell you this much; God was with us. His supernatural grace, strength and peace was definitely around me because although I was badly shaken, I should have been a basket case. The sound of Dylan’s voice on the phone, the pain and fear I heard, kept replaying in my mind. Somehow I kept it together and found the hospital. No, not somehow. God was with me, absolutely.
Back to the story; we did make our way to the hospital (likely more quickly than it felt at the time) and parked. I made my way to the nursing desk and asked about Dylan, telling them who I was. When I first arrived they were still stabilizing him before taking him out of Trevor’s truck.
“Don’t worry, he is okay,” the nurse assured me, reading the fear that must have been written all over my face.
“Can I see him? No, not yet. I need you to fill out this paperwork please,” she replied.
I filled out the required information and waited. Once Dylan was stabilized he was brought directly to X-ray, and I was still not allowed to see him. It was at this time that I met Trevor for the first time.
“Not the best way for us to be meeting,” he said, visibly shaken.
I agreed, and we both continued to wait to see Dylan again, or at least hear news of how he was. While we waited he explained to me how the accident had happened. That morning Dylan and Trevor had been working on the second floor of a house they were building, and they were making great progress. They had the outer walls framed, and the house wrap was on as well. There was a piece of house wrap on the second story wall that was too long, so Dylan went to cut it.
“One second he was there, then he was gone!” Trevor exclaimed, the trauma of witnessing this was evident on his face. “I tried to warn him, don’t forget about the stair opening, but it was too late!” Trevor further explained that Dylan had fallen all the way to the basement. The total distance would have been somewhere between 18 and 20 feet. Thank God the cement floor was not poured yet.
As Dylan’s employer and friend, Trevor’s feeling of guilt was almost overwhelming. However, although the accident surely could have been prevented, it was no one’s fault. It just happened. Normally when they were building a home with a stairway opening, Trevor and Dylan would cover the opening with a piece of plywood to prevent a misstep. On this particular day however, the pre-assembled outer walls of the second floor had been covering the hole most of the morning. Dylan and Trevor stood the walls, leaving the stairwell hole exposed, and a covering was never placed over the hole. Dylan would share with me later that he kept feeling he should cover it but told himself he did not have time. No one could have predicted what horrible consequences not listening to that inner voice would have.
Following the fall, Dylan was in the basement, which had no stairs yet. Despite Trevor urging him to stay and wait for an ambulance, Dylan refused. Stubbornly, and with Trevor’s hesitant help, Dylan got out of the basement and into Trevor’s truck. Trevor called the hospital to prepare the staff for Dylan’s arrival, and then he drove to the hospital. EMT’s met the pair in the ambulance bay, and Dylan’s spine was stabilized before he was brought in for X-ray’s.
While Dylan was in X-ray, between shots, the X-ray technologists allowed me in briefly to see him. As hard as it was seeing my strong husband on the X-ray table, in pain despite IV morphine, relief flooded me. I could see him, and touch him. He was alive. Thank God, he was alive. That was all I cared at that moment. He was alive.
I went back to the waiting room and after what felt like an eternity, but was probably only an hour, I was told I could go in to the emergency department and see my Dylan. The doctor on call shocked us all with the results of his X-rays;
“You’re free to go. There are no breaks, so go home and relax. You should probably take a day or two off work, but since there is no break, try and stretch your neck. Stretching it will help with the stiffness. Here is a prescription for some muscle relaxants and pain killers.”
We could hardly believe it, Dylan had fallen so far and he had no broken bones, he was okay, and we were going home. It had to be a miracle; falling between 18 and 20 feet, through an opening that was probably only 3 feet wide by 7 feet long, and coming out with not one broken bone! Thankful does not begin to describe how we felt.
At about 3pm Dylan was discharged and I drove him home, but unfortunately, we were in for an unpleasant surprise. That evening at about 9pm, while Dylan was trying to relax on the couch, I received a very concerning phone call.
I have not used the real names of the physicians as it would not add to the story, and would violate their right to privacy.
“Hi, this is Dr. Jack, from the Mayerthorpe Hospital. I’m going to need you to go get Dylan a neck brace from the Barrhead Hospital. The radiologist just called me and it seems he actually has a compression fracture of his C6 vertebrae. Tomorrow head in to the Royal Alex for a CT with Dr. Joe.” The Mayerthorpe doctor also explained what a compression, or wedge, fracture was; but I was barely listening. I was again in shock. We had been sent home, told Dylan was FINE, and now we were being told he had a fractured neck! I felt nearly sick. Thank God Dylan’s neck had been too stiff to stretch! I told Dylan what I had learned on the phone and he could hardly believe it either.
I did not think that me picking up a neck brace at the hospital was the best way to handle the fracture, since I do not know how to properly use a neck brace, so I called the hospital. The nurse I spoke to was already aware of the situation, and advised me to cautiously drive him to the hospital. We called Dylan’s parents to come watch Heath (the other kids were away on sleepovers), and I drove Dylan the three blocks to the hospital where he was fit with a temporary brace. The next morning Dylan and I left early for the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. After a bit of a run-around, and a bit of a wait, Dylan was taken for a CT scan. The spine specialist informed us that Dylan would either be going for surgery that day, or going home. Once Dylan’s CT results were in, and he was fit with a better neck brace, we were told we could go home. We still did not know what the CT had shown.
Several days later, our family doctor called us. “Dylan is a source of some controversy, it seems,” he began. “I’ve looked at the X-rays myself, and sent them to three other physicians, and another radiologist, and we all see the same thing. He has a compression fracture at C6. It is subtle, but we all agree, it’s there! However, his CT results say there is no fracture.” What now? Was Dylan’s neck broken or not? Since we did not know the status of the C6 vertebrae, we all agreed leaving the neck brace on was the best choice.
In time we saw the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB), and their physician. “Why are you wearing the brace when your neck is not broken?” WCB’s doctor asked. Dylan and I explained the contradictory results we had been given, and the doctor agreed with the continued use of the neck brace. To clarify the status of Dylan’s C6, the doctor ordered a bone scan. Following the bone scan, we learned that yes, C6 still “lit up” (indicating it was likely fractured). We also learned that the chest pain Dylan had been experiencing was the result of a fractured sternum. This was two weeks post accident.
When Dylan began physiotherapy six-weeks post-accident, we learned he had another injury; a separated shoulder.
In the end, the tally of Dylan’s injuries was: a fractured sternum, a compression fracture of his C6 vertebrae, numerous abrasions, and a separated shoulder. Bad enough, but not too bad considering the height Dylan fell from. Some might even call it miraculous. I know I do.
“The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace. ” Psalm 29:11
One of the most impactful aspects of this accident was, for me, how we went through it as a couple. The day Dylan fell was probably the worst day of either of our lives. However, I can still look back on it with gratitude and peace. Throughout all the trials, setbacks, pains, and frustrations, we knew God was with us.
We were frequently asked “how are you so calm, how are you so okay?” Trevor was probably the first to ask us how we were so at peace. How were we not falling apart? There really is only one answer to that. God was with us, and we knew He was.
Despite the peace and assurance we frequently felt, the journey through this accident was incredibly hard on our whole family. Plenty of tears were shed by Dylan, our kids, and myself. Dylan’s accident shook us, but it could have broke us. For some time following the accident Dylan was in pain, and he required extensive rehabilitation. Further challenging him, Dylan was physically unable to do many tasks he normally completed with ease, he felt helpless and burdensome. The effects of the fall were more extensive than we first perceived.
Dylan’s injury was a great challenge for me as well. Watching my strong husband in pain, watching him go through rehabilitation, and watching him unable to do many things he normally took for granted, was indescribably hard. Dylan’s inability to perform a number of physical tasks required us to shift our regular roles in the home; he began to cook more while I had to do some of the more manual tasks.
We bent under the pressure at times, but we were not broken. That which was meant for our destruction has been used to build our family stronger than ever. Through it all, we knew God was with us, and we thanked Him for the hidden blessings of what was an unquestionably difficult time. We thanked Him for the time Dylan was able to spend more time with the kids, and the growth He helped us both to achieve. We thanked Him that we overcome the challenges with a grace only He could provide.
We thanked Him that we are overcomers.
I guess there was a little more story to tell before I could get to Luke…next post, I promise 😉