My cousin-in-law Megan has just spent almost a month at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She is recovering from a horrific accident at the shipyard where she worked. Through no fault of her own, she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when some giant concrete pilings unexpectedly shifted, pinning her against a walkway and crushing her legs. After being trapped for almost an hour and being perilously close to bleeding to death, she was finally extracted and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They were able to stabilize her but were not able to save her right leg, which had to be amputated below the knee. Many people at Harborview remarked that if she had not been in such incredible physical condition that she would have died.
Her courage is absolutely unreal. Heidi and I visited her the day after the accident and if someone had asked me, “Guess which one of your friends this is.” I wouldn’t have been able to. She was connected to so many machines that she looked like a puppet getting ready to be lifted up into the air. She had a breathing tube in and the ventilator was keeping her alive. She was swollen all over from the trauma but conscious. We went in, held her hand, told her to stay strong and that we loved her. She couldn’t reply. She just moved her right hand over her heart and tapped it a few times in response. We were just so relieved and thankful to actually have somebody to visit. To be crushed and trapped the way she was and to be so far away from the hospital it was a miracle that she was still alive. The day before it had been touch and go for hours. Looking at her laying there that day, despite the massive trauma, we were confident that she would be all right.
When she was admitted to the hospital she was given the name, “Doe, X.” That is the hospital’s designation for the 24th female patient that arrives during a specific period of time who cannot identify herself. We were later told what the “X” stands for by Megan’s father… “Xena”. He had to tell me twice because I was so flabbergasted! He even showed me the hospital admittance form where it said, “Doe, Xena.” There could never be a greater nickname for Megan than “Xena", yes, "The Warrior Princess". I know she will amaze people with her strength during her recovery. How fitting and how perfect a name.
She didn’t even know for a few days that her right leg had been amputated. She was in such trauma that just breathing was her major priority. When she was told that she had lost a leg she took a while to compose herself and then the very first thing she said was, “I’m going to run a marathon.”
Rest assured, she will.
I tried to visit her a couple of times after that first day but she was always in and out of one surgery after another. One day I was in the waiting room and I saw her being wheeled by in her bed after a grueling 3-hour surgery. All I saw was the back of her head as she zoomed by. When she passed the check-in counter on her floor she lifted her right hand and waved enthusiastically to the nurses behind the counter. I couldn’t see Megan’s face but I could see the huge smiles on the nurse’s faces. I had to leave that night before she could have visitors but a few days later I was finally able to see her.
I will never forget that day. I walked up to her room on the 7th floor and knocked on the door. The door popped open and there she was, sitting up in her bed, looking like herself again. She paused for a second and then exclaimed, smiling, “Paul! Oh my God!” I gave her a huge hug and then just stood there staring at her. The change in the previous 2 weeks had been remarkable. No breathing tube, no puppet show, and 1/10 the number of machines in her room. Her parents, Connie and Denny, were there as they had been every single day since the accident, giving her the love and support that only a parent can give. They had been doing this for 24 years straight but now, Megan needed them more than ever. And every single night at the hospital, Connie and Denny would tag team it with Megan’s fiancé who would arrive in the early evening and spend the entire night in her room. Over the previous weeks she had constant visits from family and friends, including co-workers that had been struggling to come to terms with one of their own being so seriously injured. There could be no doubt in Megan’s mind how much she meant to so many people. It’s almost as if she had been teetering on the edge of a cliff and just when she started to fall, dozens of loving hands reached out to grab her and pull her back. Starting with the rescue workers at the shipyard, to the helicopter crew, and then to all of the people in the emergency room, Megan was collectively yanked off that cliff and now her family and friends were holding on tight and not letting go. I took some photographs of Megan that evening and then pulled out a photograph of television’s Xena, although with Megan’s face Photoshopped in. I handed her a Sharpie and had her sign it for me. Megan has such a wonderful laugh. To hear it at that moment proved to me that she was going to be OK.
Megan will astound people on her “comeback tour”. She is now recovering at home with her parents and indeed has a long road ahead of her. For Megan though, it’s not going to be just about looking to the end of the road when she’s out there running that inevitable marathon. It will be about the journey itself. I know that along the way Megan will surprise, inspire, and completely blow people away with her energy, her determination, her attitude, and her wonderful sense of humor. She IS a warrior, and she is already worthy of her brand new nickname.
I have a feeling that I will be writing about Xena a lot. She'll be supported every step of the way by all those who love her, and who, by the way, are going to be hanging on to her a little tighter from now on.