I am almost sure I have said it before in my past posts, almost doesn’t count. Sometimes it just goes.
Almost doesn’t count.
That is, until I almost lost my brother. Suddenly, it counted very much.
Afternoon of August 5, 16 around 3:30 PM on a beautiful day, I almost lost my brother. I received a phone call from our cousin Nicole, she never calls me so I considered not answering. I thought, another pocket dial, since my name is usually at the top of everyone’s list. It would have been one unusual pocket dial though. So I picked up. This could be important.
I start getting questioned when did I talk to my brother?, like how earlier?, did you see him?, it went on. Nicole. I don’t know, what is going on? “I just heard your brother has been med-flighted.”
Let me just get this out of the way: I don’t even know how to piece my words together to even slightly describe the depth of a mothers love, particularly, for her children. It is ethereal, unconditional, and graceful beyond words. I can legitimately only merely imagine what hearing something happened to your child must be like. The agony that ensues never lessens until you see and believe your forever-little-baby is okay. Even then, though, the fear lasts a lifetime.
I couldn’t believe I had to somehow tell my mom about this when I barely understood it myself. It all happened too fast. There was no time to think. I felt my heart rate race and rise, I felt my ears warm up and I fell a bit short on breath. But, really, what’s worse is the absolute horror of relaying the only information I had to her. Cutting her off as she is speaking to a client on the phone – why was I bringing her nightmare to life? Uh, Ma, Nicole just said Justin has just been med-flighted. She wanted him to not get a bike again. I can only assume it went something like this, I’ve heard this conversation between them before: Hunny, don’t get a bike again, they’re so dangerous. (Ma, I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing.) I know you do, Jus, it’s not just that(…). That phone call went dead, her body shook, she turned more pale than she already is. In disbelief, suddenly unaware what is going on with life, she kept saying “No, no, no, no, no, no”. Holding her head, her voice was instantly weak. She became disoriented. Dialing numbers hoping to hear the voice of her son. She calls my grandmother, Mom, where is Justin? Completely unaware that she just gave the worst answer ever, “He just left on the bike about twenty minutes ago..”
She knew it was him. I knew it was him, although my heart tried so hard to fight that realization. We all, deep down, without officially knowing, knew it was him. That was his Suzuki. That’s his helmet. That’s his sneaker. That is my brother. He has just been hit while on his motorcycle.
But, by the Grace of God and all Angels watching over him, it was not his time.
Before we left the house, I sent a text message to two people I had just made plans with. Can’t go. Emergency. Left it at that, and then we left the house.
My mother and I arrived on the route where it all went down, on Route 44 in Raynham, MA. A 19-year old female driver in an SUV hit him by crossing over the two double lines, when it clearly wasn’t safe to do so, and entered through the exit way. That’s all I’ll say about that. He was heading East, she was heading West. The driver was making a left turn, and trying to get out of her way, he steered to the right (because crossing over the double line to his left would have been illegal and an ((even more)) unsafe move), but his brakes locked – like they do on street bikes – and that is when and where he then collided with the passenger door; leaving behind a fresh and bold skid mark that will remind me of this formula of tragedy meets miracle every time I pass by it until it goes away, unlike the memory of it. Before I learned that he was hit by an SUV, I kept thinking was it sand?, was it an animal?, what in the hell caused this? did the merging lanes get messy?
The driver and her passenger are reportedly okay and did not require further medical attention.
We couldn’t get directly to the scene because we were blocked by a police cruiser. I pulled my car aside from the traffic waiting their turn to go via officer directing the cars and we both flew out of our doors running towards the nearest officer. He didn’t give us the answer we truly needed, but he did confirm which hospital he is being lifted to. My mother asking can you at least tell me if my son is alive?! and the calmed officer responded by saying she needs to go to the Rhode Island State Hospital, that’s where we can find him. There was a slight confusion who the operator of the motorcycle was because it is registered under my brother’s friend Shane. Was it Shane, was it Justin?
It was Justin.
The ride there was long, delirious, and a real life version of pure hell.
I was somewhere else, I was in and out my own frame of mind. I had to keep it together for her, I had to get her to the hospital as fast as I can and safely. I kept listening to and fighting off a “mother’s instinct“ when I heard her insisting I saw that look on the officer’s face when I asked if he’s alive. I saw it. My baby. Not my baby. I would usually comically argue about which child is her favorite, but not today. Why did he leave the house? Where was he going? Why did he get that bike, I told him not to get that bike. I had a dream twice this week about that damn bike. Over and over again, I heard the same thoughts of hers loop in repetition like a true broken record. Calling the hospital, calling the Police Department, calling her police officers who are friends. She somehow managed to worry about Shane’s mother – someone needs to call Shane’s mother, she needs to know it wasn’t Shane and that he is okay. One mother looking out for another, I guess. I kept assuring her that his mother probably already got (falsely) notified that it was Shane, and most likely knows by this point that it’s not him.
There was a major part of me that kept thinking why would this happen? There is no way this is happening to my family. Why would my brother die? It was a torturous battle between my energies all working together to be positive and then at the same time working against me. The remaining part was trying to understand if this was actually happening or a really vivid, awful dream.
We arrive at the Emergency Center. Some short-long time goes by, my mother begins to become frantic and frustrated. Like any parent, she goes up to the Information Center to see what it is going on with her son. An older gentlemen assists her, and mentions that if it were anything serious (basically, death) that we would be asked to be in a Family Room. Well, a social worker grabs us all and escorts us to where? – the Family Room. My mom is full-fledged mid-breakdown all over again. Why are we going to the Family Room? Just tell me if my son is alive, that guy JUST SAID if it were that serious we would go to the Family Room. Just outside of the Emergency Room is the Critical Care unit, where the Family Room is.
The social worker sits us down and finally says what we’ve all been waiting for,
he is alive.
My mother and I are the first to see him. A nurse arrived and showed my mom the way to see my brother. Leaving us all behind, I get up and follow. She rubs his forehead, he ever so gently blinks and says are you at work? It took him a few to get a sense of where he was. He seems relaxed every time she rubs him, like a child would when their mother is comforting them. Face is full of blood from bleeding through his mouth and nose, body is still as can be. He is quietly moaning. Little, shiny shards of glass resting on his upper body, a result from the impact of her windshield damage. He already has a tube in his chest by incision to release the air between his lungs and some blood; two open gashes on his chin, a broken jaw, two broken ribs, minor fractures around his eye sockets, a broken nose, etc.
A few of his friends already began to roll in, on stand-by with us. My mother, sister, and their dad keep going in the room to be with him. He begs for water for so long, the attending nurse keeps declining. After a while, he [the nurse] hands me a styrofoam cup and two small sponges on a stick. With this, I keep rotating sponges into my brothers mouth, carefully. The water became red because of the bloody sponges rinsing. He eventually sucks all the water out, but the amount I was given was the only amount he was allowed until the next day. Well, later on when he begged for more so I stuck a sponge in my Poland Springs water bottle and gave him just a tad bit more.
Majority of the time I am keeping my eyes on his EKG. Watching it spike, watching it dip; making waves. Quickly, I remember what being near the ocean feels like. I studied his heart rate, watched it steadily fluctuate. When it got too low I low-key became nervous, even though I saw him breathing. Wow, it’s at 93. Oh now it’s at 86. Okay…why is it at 77 now…alright it’s back to 81. At one point when I was in the room beside him I suddenly got a rush of effects. I felt my skin go flush, I started seeing light flashes, I went dull and got light headed – I knew I was about to faint. It just all became too much to bare. I walked away and caught my breath, then returned back to his bedside.
Did you know a heart rate while sleeping all depends on the person? I was told by the nurse, because I asked, “a marathoner can rest and their heart rate being 40 while a drinker at 120.” Different for everyone.
I get a little awkward when fear kicks in me. I become super friendly, ask questions, make jokes that are too soon or too far. I just try to mend the moment for myself and everyone.
We wait hours until he gets moved into his temporary room for the days ahead, his few friends that were present have already gone home. I get a text from Amanda who I was supposed to attend a plan with, and she says I hope your emergency didn’t have anything to do with that accident on 44. It did, Amanda. It sure as hell did.
Coop Care, floor 3, room 321, bed 2: He’s restless, sore, and wants to get the hell out of that hospital room. Every inch of his body hurts. He can’t shake the feeling in his chest, mouth, or back. He wants a cigarette, weed, and his bed. He wants the pain to go away. He wants to cry without showing tears. A vicious cycle for five days.
But he is alive.
Around 9:30 AM that morning, of the accident, I was on the way to a meeting with my boss. We were talking about this, that, and the third. Anything to not let an awkward silence occur. I mentioned how I have always wanted my motorcycle license, but they’re dangerous. Sometimes you have to watch out for the rider and sometimes you have to watch for the driver. My words are direct quotes from myself. I remember it. So, here comes the afternoon and I find out that my life-long best friend has been in a motorcycle accident. I truly felt like the world was against me. But the coin could have been flipped and we could have been mourning a life that night, instead we truly are celebrating it as much as we can. How grateful we feel goes beyond words. I always pick tails.
We are grateful he has been lucky enough to see another day. We are grateful he had no life threatening injures. We are grateful for the support from family and friends who have kept him in their thoughts. We are grateful for the nearby woman who ran to the side of my brother, lifting his head so he wouldn’t choke on his blood. We are grateful for every factor involved to his recovering, well-being.
Visiting hours end at 8, but since we are immediate family and not visitors, we stayed at the hospital until about 1 AM, his girlfriend would stay with him throughout the night. Although we don’t want to leave his side, we suck it up and go. We hesitantly and with full procrastination depart every time. I personally just don’t want him to think that when we’re not there it doesn’t mean we would rather be somewhere else. Night one, he’s extremely uncomfortable and suffering through immense pain. He’s delayed, dazed and confused.
But he is alive.
I spent most of my Saturday in his hospital room and crying whenever I could. I just couldn’t control it. The feelings I felt the night before were for some reason magnified the next day, even after knowing he will be okay. I know, we are lucky he is alive, but that doesn’t change that I thought he wasn’t. The clock stopped for what seems like hours, and I believed I lost my brother. And, still thinking of it, I can’t help but just cry. It’s a quick thought that delivers so much pain. I whip up images of him being airborne, laying on the ground with blood just flowing out of his only breathing units, not being able to move. What was he thinking when it happened? How much time did he have until she hit him? How close was he to not being hit? How much more would he had to have been away for her to miss him? Why the fuck couldn’t she just wait? Did she see him? Did she not see him, or did she just think she could make it in time? A mistake many, many people make.
The independence, passion, and trust has been taken away from my 25-year old brother. He will never ride again, the one thing he loves to do. I hated telling him that now he needs to find a new passion. It takes a long time to build a love up for something. He won’t have strength he needs to do much for a while. The pain he feels may physically never leave. How long will it be until he can landscape again? The thing he grew up doing, loved doing with his dad. All taken away with one careless traffic violation. He turned every single dollar bill he had into quarters just so he wouldn’t spend money while saving for that bike. The bike he started, got on, and rode off safely in with that feeling people get with the wind hitting their face. With a prayer on the back of their mind to please return home. Our rider is not that type of rider to speed, that I know.
You probably looked once, while your foot was still holding down the brake pedal with security, before you began to accelerate to take that quick turn; at the same time, your passenger may have said “you’re good” because that’s what us side seat drivers do.
But, did you #LOOKTWICE?
No one knows how he is alive, but he is. I don’t feel anger towards you. I feel forgiveness. I would go against everything I believe in it I were to feel hostility towards you. Accidents do happen. Everything does happen for a reason. Please, don’t beat yourself up over this life experience.
Fact: Massachusetts State Law, and others, requires a helmet to be worn when operating a motorcycle, for all ages of riders. The States either have a universal law, partial law, or no law. Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire require no law for helmets. The remaining states that have a partial law calling for ages 17 or 20- for example; Rhode Island riders 20 years old and younger must wear a helmet, but Maine’s law is 17 years old and younger.
In no time, this accident was on the TV news and articles were being shared around the social media world. Taunton, Massachusetts man seriously injured in motorcycle accident. It was everywhere, there was no trouble locating it. They found an interest in linking my brother’s motorcycle accident with our cousin, who died in 2006, also in a motorcycle accident. FYI, Nicole (who called me) is the sister (out of 3) of Fabio. Reporters said, this family has seen tragedy before. Fabio made headlines again – thank you for watching over him; you’re still missed, loved, and apparently always around.
Until I saw my brother and knew he would be okay, I spent my time trying to figure life out. I tried to imagine what my life would be if we were to lose my brother that night. I think that is what I was trying to sort out while rushing to the hospital. I was mentally preparing, I guess. I really felt like my brother died and I was just trying to somehow cope with it.
With his wheezing breaths, that meant he was alive.
With his darting and confused eyes, that meant he was alive.
With his red and raw open wounds profusely bleeding, that meant he was alive.
We all slowly regained ourselves, and starting feeling alive again too. The concern, support, and compassion started to pour through. The calls, messages, posts, visits – one by one they strolled on in. The thoughts, prayers, and best wishes can not be counted. The list continues to go on and on. I have seen the most unexpected faces walk through that hospital room to visit my brother. I have seen grudges and hard feelings get dropped. I have seen petty worries disappear. I have legitimately seen people come together all for one person, and it’s such a beautiful thing. It settles my hurting heart to see how loved by many my brother is.
He has been coherent this entire time, so I know every face that has shown up while he has been bedridden will not be forgotten. He is aware of the people that drove all the way to only watch him sleep. To see for yourself that someone you love is still breathing truly is a gift and a reassurance we all need.
There has been many lessons and blessings throughout this life check. I have learned so much. To hear my brother say how thankful he is to still be alive just brings me to tears. It’s just something I never thought he would have to go through or us as a family. We have been there to assist him in what he needs to pee, to cover his feet, to turn his fan on, to feed him drinks and food, to be a hand he squeezes when they need to insert an IV multiple times because those veins are too stubborn to let out the goods, he has the fluffy (his preference) pillow I sleep with every night, his caring, thoughtful, and selfless friends have purchased him a memory foam pad to put under him to maybe bring even a little comfort to his body. I’ve comforted his legs when he’s moving them uncontrollably, due to pain and discomfort, they’re the only thing he can move without inflicting more pain. We’ve all come together as one. This experience really shows you the power of fear and love. I have such an itch to be around my brother and my family there with him. I want to hug and hold them tighter than ever before. I haven’t enjoyed being anywhere except at the hospital ever since this damage has been done.
In the wake of this weekend I have learned a few things, looking back at the unfortunate events for my family and other families:
One: life truly is short.
Two: If it can happen, it definitely will happen – don’t ever make the mistake thinking you are an exception of that law.
Three: Family and friendship is everything; those who love you will be there for your rise and for your fall, unconditionally and undoubtedly.
Four: Always check your surroundings; I always check a thousand times for motorcyclists, but now I will only double that.
Five: Having a big heart and being a kind person really is your stamp and it will never fade as long as you’re consistent and true.
Six: It’s unfortunate it takes a scare to bring people together, but in the end those who are meant to stand together, will.
Seven: Forgiveness – because that is important to a peace of mind. I won’t forget the phone call or how the world somehow went silent, but I will forgive it. I will forgive the thoughtless neglect for a motorcyclist, that happens way too often, this one time because it will be the last time for him.
Eight: I get it now, there is someone so much higher, wiser, and stronger than me that somehow manages miracles.
Nine: We almost lost my brother.
Ten: We didn’t.
We are lucky to have a survivor, understanding that many people in this world can’t say the same, but just know your rider protected ours and we’re deeply thankful for it all. Not one for religion, but I am forced to believe that there is something or someone that went out of their way, yet again, to save my brother. I believe in it willingly and wholeheartedly, I wish I could face and thank this icon a million times. Jus keeps wondering why would this happen to him, I can only respond by saying everything really does happen for a reason, and it’s up to you to figure it out. You stayed alive, it was a shitty lesson to receive but here we are. He was discharged on the morning of August 10, 2016. I brought him home, we settled him in, and beside him on his nightstands are pictures of him and Fabio. Like I said, he [Fabio] is always around. Out-loud thinking on the way home, I said life’s crazy, huh?, he said Yup..One day you’re here, one day you’re not.
My motor-loving brother has been saved time after time in his life, and I just want to kiss the feet of the person who keeps on deciding he should live.