It was just a normal day at the motocross track for us. My son Lance was so excited to get on his bike. He began his ride and everything was going fine. It happened so fast. He hit a newly built jump wrong. He was thrown over the handle bars and flew almost 50 feet through the air, his bike landing on top of him. Another man saw it happen and ran over. He said we needed to call 911. I was too panicked to even think. I remember Lance being in and out of consciousness, screaming in pain.
When Dustin called my phone that morning I immediately knew something was wrong. After dropping our youngest son off at my parents, I rushed to OSF. When the doors to the ambulance opened I didn’t expect Lance to look like that. To see your 11 year-old son covered in blood, with a neck brace and unconscious jars you to the core. We were ushered into the waiting room where it felt like we waited an eternity. I remember a whole team of doctors coming out to us. They told us his injuries were severe and he had significant bleeding on his brain. He needed emergency surgery, a team was already prepping. We were expressionless and I remember them saying do you understand. But it was all too much. We were in shock. We went back into his room before they took him. He looked so small and fragile. He was in and out of consciousness. We prayed and then I pressed my lips to his forehead, not knowing if he would come back.
There were so many roadblocks that first week after surgery. His body was broken. Because of his traumatic brain injury, the top of his skull was removed to allow the brain to swell and heal. He also had five broken ribs, a punctured lung, two broken vertebrae and a severely broken arm. It was a rollercoaster. One day his eyes would flutter and open or he would squeeze our hand and we would have hope. But he also lost feeling and function on his left side because of the trauma to his brain. As a mother it was impossible for me to consider leaving him. I stayed with him all but one of the 17 days he was in the hospital. With a traumatic brain injury it is a waiting game. We just didn’t know what was affected. Like when the doctor asked him if he knew his name, he spelled out L-A-N-C-E. He couldn’t remember how to say it, but he knew the right letters. In the days, weeks and months after his accident he had to relearn how to walk, to verbalize thoughts, even how to remember things. The nurses and doctors were amazing. They treated our family with so much respect, they made us part of his medical decisions. We never wanted for anything, they let all our focus be on Lance.
Honestly, I can’t remember much. I have some memories of going to physical therapy, my school making cards for me and the food in the hospital. I try not to linger too much on the past or what happened. But I am different. I don’t take risks like I used to. I second guess myself a lot because I know how bad a mistake could be. My mom remembers one of the first nights I could talk, asking her why I was still here. It is something I still struggle with. Why did God save me? What is my purpose? It’s really overwhelming. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep wondering why this all happened and figuring out what it all means. I know I am still here for a reason, I just have to find what it is. I don’t want this traumatic brain injury to define me. It changed things, but I am still me. I started keeping stats for the basketball team last year in 8th grade when I didn’t make the team. And since I can’t play football, I am on the crew that films the games. That way I can still be a part of everything. I also love to draw. Not artsy stuff, more architectural. I love it. I think I’d like to be a designer when I get older.
When I think about everything that could have gone wrong or could have been worse, I know we are lucky. Our son is alive and three years after the accident is a normal 14 year-old boy. Without children’s hospital in Peoria he wouldn’t be here today. They saved him. I don’t want to be grave, but there were so many procedures and decisions to be made in such a short amount of time. There were only minutes between life and death. It gives me goose bumps to think about how close we came.