A family is in a severe auto accident that changes lives.
|Kenneth Barnham struggled to wake up. There was a crushing pain in his chest, like an elephant sitting on it. His eyes were slits but he saw flashing red lights. He also heard a woman screaming and sounds of a power saw.
His last memory was of a cute little cocktail waitress, a pretty bird shaking her tail feathers at him, hoping for a good tip. He was sitting in his favorite strip joint, "The Gold Room." The girls there were classy looking and took everything off. He had been frequenting strip bars since he was fourteen and could get a fake ID. Now he was forty.
A Life Insurance agent, he depended on commission, making just enough for rent and groceries. Going to the bar was a rare treat these days. He had three ex-wives and a child by each who had his check garnished so he was broke before he ever got it. Then four DUI's in the last two years and was still on probation. He had just gotten his driver's license back for work only. God, they would put him away this time. They treat you like a murderer anyway. Time in jail had shown him what a real murderer was like, nothing like him.
Suddenly, a dark curtain seemed to fall, no more pain but he could still hear a stupid woman screaming. Why wouldn't she shut up?
Danny and Sarah Slater were on a family vacation with their two children. Mike was ten and Alex was five. It had been a great trip through the Smoky Mountains. They had rented a chalet and went skiing. There was even a bunny slope with a children's instructor.
The mountains and streams were breath taking. As you traveled closer to the bottom of the mountain chain the leaves were changing. There was bronze and russet orange, and red and golden delicious apples is how Mike described them. The river that ran along the road was lovely, the rushing water over small dams made the rocks underneath appear polished.
When the sun filtered through the trees it was like an opening to Heaven, a celestial mirror shining on the water. Where the river runs into eddies, you could see the gills on a trout. A really fast guy could reach in and have his pick for dinner. They found several places to let the kids climb on rocks. Even though they all held hands, Sarah was a wreck as they all put their bare feet in the water's edge..
"Danny, don't you dare let them go any further!"
"They'd be safe, honey. God wouldn't keep them. He has more important stuff to worry about."
"Oh, you guys are a pain!"
They all loved teasing her.
"Mom, you are such a dork".
Then it started to rain and the road was just two narrow lanes. Danny was driving very slowly, cursing at himself for not buying wiper blades when he bought oil. They needed a new car, all the seals were leaking on one with over 150,000 miles on it.
As visibility got worse, he pulled off the road with his hazard lights on. The boys were hungry and bored. Alex was excited about kindergarten so they talked about that. Mike was upset because club meetings would only be on weekends in the neat tree house Danny had built with Mike. No more all day trips to the beach to build sandcastles and swim.
Danny was thinking about the case load that awaited him at work. He was concentrating on a favorite mantra by Gibran; Faith is found in the smallest of things. Danny was a Case Manager for The Children and Women's Protection Agency; lots of headaches and little pay. When he placed abused children into a good foster situation or helped a parent get into a rehab for crack cocaine, he felt satisfaction but still driven.
Sarah's mind was on her secret. She had taken a pregnancy test right before the vacation and it was positive. Oh, she prayed for a little girl, ribbons and curls, and to use her dusty sewing machine to make dainty dresses.
For her surprise, she planned a special evening the night after they returned. Pizza for the kids and put them to bed. Merlot for Daddy, bruschetta in garlic and olive oil, pasta with Alfredo sauce plus salad with plum tomatoes, ripe olives, provolone cheese, fresh pepper and garlic. Then veal and meatballs, to finish off with espresso and canolli.
An oldies station was on the stereo. 'Three Dog Night' singing 'Jeremiah was a Bull Frog.' Just sitting there, they all began to sing along.
Sarah felt so blessed to have this wonderful man and his children. They had a special life. Mike was making croaking noises when a force, like a freight train, hit their car.
The cars were so mangled; it looked like they were fused together. All five injured people arrived at St. Joseph's Trauma Center by helicopter and ambulance.
The police reported a Kenneth Barnham, driving a Ford Explorer, had lost consciousness at the wheel, then crossed the center lane. He hit the driver's side of the Slater SUV. Mr. Barnham's alcohol level was 0.25, legal limit was below 0.08. He had blacked out at the wheel and didn't even realize he had hit someone.
Kenneth had sustained massive trauma with crushed ribs that had damaged his heart. He didn't have a seatbelt on and the airbag did not deploy. He drifted in and out of consciousness, screaming with pain and cursing about a woman screaming.
The paramedics could smell alcohol coming from his pores. This man was a hard-core alcoholic. When they ran his stats up, they saw he had the four prior DUI's.
'Why did he have a valid license, what idiot judge screwed up this one?'
It didn't look like Barnham would live. One arm and leg were crushed and he was losing blood fast. The next set of paramedics took over with Kenneth.
The Slater family was a different situation. If it hadn't been for the siderail and thick trees, their car would have landed in the bottom of a ravine. All would have died. Danny was barely alive, he still had a pulse but his head had been crushed on one side so he had massive head trauma and they couldn't do much in the field.
Sarah was in shock and she was the one screaming, she couldn't seem to stop. The fact that she was alert and her words were understandable was a good sign. After her neck was immobilized she couldn't turn so that agitated her more. Vitals and pulse ox weren't tanking so It was decided a sedative was needed. She was moving all her extremities. She had lacerations and a fractured wrist.
Mike was a rag doll, blue and crumpled in his seat. The door on his side had been caved in by the force against the tree. A side airbag was punctured and was of no use. He had certainly died from massive internal injuries. Alex was barely alive with multiple injuries. The paramedics did a quick triage and decided Alex was who they needed to move first then Sarah.
Through the fog of the sedative, Sarah whispered,"I'm pregnant. Don't tell ...want it to be a surprise?"
Donnie and Amy were working on moving Sarah around. You could hear the tears in their voices after that revelation.
Amy managed, "Your secret, I promise".
Six months later
Sarah Slater sat in a rocking chair, knitting a blanket in a delicate shade of pink (seashell). The baby, Danni Michele, would give an occasional kick.
This child was truly a gift from God. It was keeping Sarah alive. She ate and slept for this child.
Alex suffered from nightmares, living the crash over and over again in his sleep.
Sarah would wake him and then rock him to sleep. He had emotionally become like a baby again and the therapist said that was normal. He was being home-schooled and going to rehab five days a week. He had crushing injuries to his legs where bones were held together by pins, plates and grafts. He cried with pain so they gave him narcotics for two months and then again when he was learning to walk with a walker. He was so brave.
Kenneth Barnham sat in his cell where he would spend the rest of his life. He never really felt guilty. It was an accident, could've happened to anyone. But in spite of his lack of guilt, about fifty times a day, he felt a sharp pain in his chest, a squeezing. Every time he played cards, read or did anything enjoyable, it felt like his heart was shredding. It brought tears to his eyes and occasionally he cried out loud.
When it started happening they took him to the hospital and did a battery of tests. They couldn't find anything wrong. After all he had the heart of a previously healthy thirty-one year old man in him.
After the accident he had required a heart transplant and amazingly one was available that very night. It was the same blood type, he didn't know whose heart he had but he hated the damn thing.
The pain from it made him wish he had died in the wreck.
The heart belonged to Danny Slater. Danny had signed a donor card and his heart was almost the only thing on him that wasn't damaged. Sarah had to give permission for a transplant. She had no idea to who. Amazingly enough, the few people that knew were not able to tell due to confidentiality laws. There were no laws to forbid such a case.
Kenneth was being punished in the worst way possible. A lethal injection would have been kinder.
Faith is truly found in the smallest of things.
By Kathie Stehr