“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”
“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
-Laurell K. Hamilton
Chapter 3 has been written from my brother’s perspective. I want the reader to have an eyewitness account from someone who saw my motionless body laying on the highway to present day. The goal is to have a sense of relief when he or she reads the emotions felt by my brother is typical after a traumatic event. In this chapter, I take a holistic approach to show my brother’s feelings, what happened to everyone around our family, and how it this event affected everyone. The continual struggle to formulate my thoughts in a cohesive manner is therapeutic and at the sametime heart wrenching.
This is the first time I was ever spoken about my brother’s accident. I do not really understand why this is the case but it is still hard emotionally. I do not think anyone has ever asked my perspective of what happened that day since I filled out the police report. Throughout Chad’s rehabilitation and recovery, it has been a long and grueling process for him and our family has been through a lot these past years. I have gone through a wide range of emotions from anger, guilt, and sadness.
It was the typical Wednesday night snowmobile ride with a close group of friends and family. It was going to be my last trip of the season because I was heading back to college that weekend. We started out meeting at my parents house like we have always done in the past. Chad and I were eager to hit the trails and like usual the first 10 minutes were filled with excitement and fast driving. As our group entered the first big straightaway, Chad and I were heavy on the throttle. I initially passed Chad so I can lead the pack until the highway where my uncle Paul would take over the lead. Unexpectedly, Chad passed just before we entered the woods and came to the Highway 41. We needed to cross a frontage road and then four lanes of highway. Chad took the lead and we did not wait for the rest of the group to catch up to us on the frontage road; I remember thinking, “Why are we not waiting, like we usually do.” I assumed he was going to wait after we crossed the highway. As I turned back around, I saw Chad start to pull out onto the highway. At that moment, our family change forever.
A few seconds later a truck came screaming down the highway and collided with the front of Chad’s snowmobile. As his snowmobile spun, the passenger side mirror stuck the back of his helmet ripping it off his head. The snowmobile went one way and Chad laid there in the middle of the highway, motionless with blood starting to pool underneath him. As I blindly sprinted out to his side even before he even hit the ground. I remember feeling the wind wisp by us as a few cars passed in front, behind, or slamming on the brakes. As I sat over him I remember screaming his name hoping he would wake up.
For some reason I knew Chad was not going to die that day. Chad is a fighter and a tough son of a gun. He was not going to let getting hit by a truck wreck any of his life plans. I assumed he was going to open his eyes and say, “Did you see that?” Once I saw my father’s reaction, I then knew it was there was a real risk to Chad’s life. Thankfully, there was several hospital staff that had been getting off at a nearby clinic. Within a few minutes, my father and I were pushed away by doctors and nurses aiding to my brother. I know it was only a few minutes, but it seemed like for the ambulance took forever to get to us.
The emergency response personnel loaded him into the ambulance and someone was already taking my father and I to the hospital. I remember seeing his bloodstained snowmobile jacket cut off his body. An assistant gave the jacket like I wanted to keep it for some reason. The ambulance drove Chad to the bigger hospital in Marinette.
We were informed that Chad had severe swelling of his brain and there was a 50-50 chance that he would not survive. After he was stabilized, the doctors suggested that he should be flown to HSHS St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay were Chad could be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Meanwhile I drove my grandmother down to the hospital as soon as the helicopter left Marinette. We did not say a word.
By the time my grandmother and I arrived in St. Vincent Hospital, my parents were hysterical with emotions ranging from sadness to anger to guilt. As I saw my parents broke down, I felt that I needed to be strong for them and the rest of the family. I fought back tears several times to be strong for my brother.
As a family, we spent the next week at the hospital for Chad. We had lots of family and friends, come visit Chad and us. The first few days when he was in the ICU, we could only see him through glass. As he layed there motionless in the bed, I kept telling myself, “Chad wake up, I know you can, you are tougher than this.”
The aftermath of the accident, seeing the slow struggle of physical, emotional, and social rehabilitation is very challenging for Chad. It seemed like Chad made great strides within the first six months after his accident. He had a cheerful attitude and appreciative of others; he was battling to live a normal life. I think this is the hardest thing for him.
As much as he had planned on going to college or a meaningful career, things have changed for Chad. There is not a day that goes by that I feel the pain seeing the struggles that he tries to overcome. For example, before he was an avid hunter but now things are different. He is reliant on others to help him set up his ground blind or carry the buckets of corn to bait.
I saw a lot of his friends become more distant acquaintances. As you may believe, Chad struggles with this as well. His friends and family move on with their lives and he was not able to keep up. Whenever I came home to visit, I would often see him sitting in his room. I struggle with the idea of blaming it on his brain injury.
Chad’s accident has changed our entire family. Chad and I were raised to be tough individuals that never showed weakness. I think our father raised us this way so we could be tough athletes and turn into strongmen because that was how he was raised by his parents. I still carry this persona today. We did not talk about our emotions with each other.
The accident did, however, bring our family closer together. It made us appreciate one another more than we have in the past. I think we to each other for granted. Chad’s accident gave me a better appreciation for my family, friends, and life. As Chad was in the hospital, my parents stayed down with him.
My younger sister was in seventh grade so as a family, I decided to drop out of college at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and attend a local college so I could continue my education but also care for Katie. I was 19 years old attending college, working, and trying to take care of my 13-year-old sister. I struggled to sleep at night because I kept reliving the accident and I was dreading receiving a phone call each night that Chad had died.
The one nice thing about Chad’s accident was seeing family and friends come together, we were able to see family that we have not seen in a long time. We have hundreds of people come to visit, some even dropped off food for Katie and me. My sister and I ate like kings.
I learned the importance of friends and family. I saw what love looks like between my parents. I guess you do not know what you have until you lose it.
A long time after the accident, I blamed myself. If I was not driving so fast by challenging Chad, maybe he would not have tried to show off and passed me. I also questioned a lot of the accident, like why was his helmet not strapped tighter or if it was would he have been able to walk away unharmed. What helps me to justify Chad’s accident was; it was God’s plan. He saw our family drifting apart, not talking for months, as we were starting our new lives in different cities. I think He did this to bring our friends and family closer together. What scares me now is that we are slowly drifting apart again. I know I have to do a much better job of staying in touch making a better effort to visit friends and family. and I came out with an appreciation for family, friends, and life in general.