Thursday, December 31, 2009

Info as Requested

Many people have asked me to post this information, so I will, although it is difficult for me to post something asking for donations. My dear friend Rima started a donation drive when the accident first happened to help my family with unanticipated expenses due to temporarily relocating. The link she provided is this:

Again, the miracles have been in the prayers, thoughts, and positive energy everyone has been sending. The support we have received is overwhelming and amazing. If you would like to donate money, we are most grateful; however, we are equally grateful and honored that we are kept in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Test of Patience

He's lying on his back, leg in traction, wounds slowly healing, holding his abdomen at the slightest cough and he tells the doctor, "I feel like I'm recovering." He later says to his friend, "I'm having trouble being patient; I'm ready to get back to things." I think to myself, "He's only three days into his recovery." I hope he can maintain. He has the ability to be in such good spirits despite circumstances and injuries that would devastate most of us. I wonder if I have that "survivor spirit" that he has. I realize that I have survivor something and that's survivor guilt. The theme of the day seems to be "make sure to take care of yourself." I want to take care of myself and usually I'm really good at it. At work I often risk seeming undedicated because I make sure to practice is so important to me. But then I land here in this tiny hotel suite with my parents and my boyfriend, trying to recover from serious trauma, without yoga, without space, without privacy, across the way from the hospital and completely inundated with the daily tasks of managing everyone and everything and I have trouble figuring out what I need. I feel guilty enjoying my life with my brother in the hospital. Then I realized today that I might go crazy (literally). I realized that my brother and I might have the same chance of going crazy in the next couple of months, given that we are both in ridiculous situations. Matthew is a special breed, though and he has the ability to resist the urge to dwell on negative energy. He is seriously an inspiration! I went on a hard run tonight in the drizzling rain and I feel better. I'm starting to resist entertaining guilt when I care for myself because crazy Erin is not exactly the most productive form of my identity. Thank God, I know my brother is happy to see me doing the things I enjoy in life. I know that his positive energy, hope for his future, and happiness in seeing others' joy will move his healing forward tenfold. The doctors are shocked and amazed at the progress he has made already. It is no coincidence that he is held in high regard by so many individuals. The nurse said as we left tonight, "We are so happy to see him like this. He is very special to us too." Matthew makes an impact on everyone he meets. He tries his hardest to give all he has and in return, individuals who have never met him are noticing his kind spirit, his compassionate nature, and his enormous heart. I am so honored to watch my brother heal and to learn from him, every moment I am here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Easing Into It

This experience has been full of so many transitions and with each transition exists an adjustment period. Matthew seemed more at ease today and given his ease, I felt more at ease. He described more of the accident today and more of his struggles once nighttime approaches. He also talked about his hopes for the future and goals. I encouraged him to keep picturing himself healing and to imagine limitless possibilities for himself. I talked to him about the benefits of mindfulness in hopes this will reduce the negative thoughts that approach him when the room is dark and he is alone for the night. I am constantly amazed by his strength and the positive outlook he keeps.

I feel tired today, but also relieved. My life being in flux is definitely difficult, but I know I want to be here. A friend suggested today that I meditate. It's funny because before all of this happened, I tried to meditate much more regularly and I realized that since the accident, the thought of sitting with my breath feels almost scary, foreign, and so easy to talk myself out of doing. So, maybe I will take my own advice tonight and practice mindfulness, coming back to my breath, the fountain of life, coming back to my center and feeling the earth beneath me, holding me, supporting me, grounding me. And I will check in with Matthew tomorrow about how it all worked out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hard Day

We made it through one obstacle and we're on to the next. Today was a reminder of what a long road this will be. We saw Matthew today and he is so aware of everything...his injuiries, his pain, his feelings of loss, sadness, guilt, frustration. He was so scared of the pain; it felt so enormous. He couldn't sleep last night because of panic attacks from the medication and he was informed by the doctor this morning that in six months, he may have the same contraptions he has now. Tears dropped from his eyes ever so carefully as I placed my check on his forehead and tried my best to comfort him. He said, "I feel lucky to be alive, and of course I would rather be alive than dead, but I can only feel lucky for so long."

It is so difficult to watch my younger brother endure that kind of pain. I want him to feel free at least from guilt, but I just have to sit with him through it all. My life is up in the air, which also doesn't help. I know I need to be here to help him through his recovery. I want to be here. I am having such a hard time imagining being a therapist with my brother in this state. I don't know how people do it. How do I move on with my life and continue to support my brother in the ways that he needs? That is the question of the night.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reason To Live

Tonight I am writing and I am so elated and grateful and so very exhausted. We just accompanied Matthew on his move to his own room on the 10th floor. He is out of the ICU! He is out of the woods!!!! Everyone's prayers have been answered, reminding me of the awesome power of a universal intention, a belief in something larger than ourselves, a whirlwind of energy that moves us forward and gives us strength in the midst of such tragedy.

My brother was much more aware of his surroundings today and was able to speak with ease. He recalls his entire accident. He remembers the sensations, both physical and emotional. He remembers feeling and hearing his pelvis crush. He remembers feeling his left leg crush and thinking, "Well, I just lost that leg. I hope my other leg is still ok." He remembers the thoughts he had and describes the accident as "the longest five minutes of his life." He is aware of the extent of his injuries because he recalls the paramedics talking about them. Matthew shared some amazing things today. He spoke about the thoughts that kept him alive. His story is testimony to the power of determination and will to live. I shared with Matthew today how scared I was the day of the accident. I told him that I ran to Aunt Nancy's house when I found out and through tears told her, "I've always been so afraid of losing my brother. He's my only brother and life would just feel so lonely." Matthew said, "I know, I know." He said, "I was so scared, beyond anything. I thought, 'this is it,' and then I was worried that Mom wouldn't be able to handle it if I died. I was thinking about my life and how happy I am with Amber and how much I love you and James. I was looking forward to us all hanging out together and I could picture my future with you guys. I couldn't believe this was happening and I thought, 'Why now?' There were so many moments I could have given up, but I said to myself instead, 'Just stay conscious for one more second. You stayed conscious for the last second, just make it through one more.' The one thought that really helped me through was this: 'Now you can't just go around making people sad. There are people counting on you.' So I kept trying and I didn't give up."

He wanted to live for all of us. He was worried about us and he was worried about the effect his death would have on us. I can't imagine a more selfless act. In courage and in strength he kept himself alive and not even for the sake of himself. I feel that we are all so connected as human beings. We live for one another. We live for the communities in which we were raised and for the communities we have created for ourselves as we move into adulthood. We take the positive aspects and we make them grow. But we lose sight of this. Our busy personal lives serve as a microcosm of our busy society and reflect our neglect of the collective consciousness. We so easily forget the meaning in each of our relationships and the impact we have on each other and on this Earth. We distract ourselves with mundane tasks, about which we complain and use as vehicles to compare our lives to others' lives and wish for something more. We are taken away from the bigger picture, from the meaning in our lives, from the sweet smell of life, whether it be the fragrance of a beautiful rose or the smell of sweat that comes from a loved one alive in a hospital bed. I am convinced we must take the time to attend to these moments, to recognize the connections we have formed with so many others in our world and to recognize how blessed each of us is, to have breath, to have life, to have love.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Matthew spoke today! They took him off the ventilator, which means he has to be less sedated than before so that he can breathe properly on his own. The first thing he said to us when we walked in was, "You guys have to help me get out of here!" At that point, he had forgotten where he was. He then stated that the accident had happened at 10A.M. He was right about the time, but we then realized that he thought the accident happened this morning and that it took us "forever" to get there. He was shocked to learn again that he had been there for eight days and that Christmas had already passed. Initially, it was difficult to hear him speak. I was so looking forward to the sound of his voice, but when I heard it, it scared me. It sounded so low and weak. I knew also that he still was not aware of the extent of his injuries. Somehow, hearing him speak was both a blessing and a reminder of the long road ahead of us. It was hard for me to stay strong. I felt weak. I felt as weak as he sounded. I watched as he tried to move his body, tried to sit up, struggled to get comfortable. Everyday presents a challenge to adjust to the new set of circumstances, to figure out my own life in relation to his. Matthew also said, "I thought I'd never see you guys again." I can't imagine how his life must have flashed before his eyes. I can't imagine the moment of terror he experienced as he realized what was happening.

Luckily, Matthew's sense of humor seems to be intact, as he made all of us laugh with his ideas about escaping the hospital, going out to get a "snack," and taking us to his house for tea. Of course, these ideas were not all in that order and they were scattered with many other thoughts and changes in reality. We continued to re-orient him while we were there and had a good laugh tonight, sharing stories about all of the funny things he had said to us. Humor is the best medicine.

I feel completely exhausted tonight. We all do. I think knowing that Matthew is with us and progressing gives us all permission to relax just a little and lets us know just how much energy has gone into prayer, positive energy, grief and loss, fear and anger, communication with all of our supporters, and so many questions...existential questions...meaning of life questions...and answers, answers to our prayers.

Merry Christmas!

I know Christmas is technically over, but I want to express my gratitude this season. I had some wonderful conversations today, I appreciated moments of connection, and I saw once again how important every moment of our lives is.

I visited my brother today and he looked good. He still has the breathing tube, but he is mostly breathing on his own with just a little help from the ventilator. They are hopeful it will be removed tonight. Matthew often raised his hands (enclosed in huge boxing glove-like mittens) to try to scratch his nose. I offered him support by scratching his nose for him where the tape is holding the feeding tube. He nodded that this felt good and very quickly relaxed every time I helped him with that task. He smiled often today and also fell asleep easily as he is still fairly sedated.

We are all so happy, but at the same time, we are trying to prepare ourselves for the next steps on this journey. We talked today about what each of our roles might be in Matthew's life. It is difficult to imagine all the ways life has already changed and the many ways it will continue to change. I realize how attached I have become to the physical things in my life, the routines, the monotony. I find comfort in these things. We all do. And then something like this happens and life stops, it changes, it moves differently, so unexpectedly. And I realize how much meaning resides in every single moment that I have experienced, all leading up to this, preparing me in some way, lending me wisdom and patience and compassion, the ability to be flexible and strong. I feel I will now do something with this experience. I will find meaning and move forward, differently than ever before. Without saying a word, my brother has taught me more in a week than I have learned in all twenty-eight years of my life. And he doesn't even know it yet.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reading Aloud

I would like to start this post by saying how overwhelmed I feel by all of the support everyone has given. My family and I are seeing so many blessings in the midst of such tragedy. Your prayers and thoughts and energy are moving us in positive directions each day. I don't know how to thank everyone for their donations as well. I feel like "thank you" sounds so empty and is not able to capture the true nature of my gratitude. Thanks to everyone's support, my family is able to stay nearby the hospital and the burden of financial stress is one thing we don't have to think about right now. It is quite a relief and as my mom added, "a miracle." Again, we are grateful beyond words.

Matthew was more alert today for a period of time. When I arrived, I told him I was there and I also told him James was there. At that point, he smiled. I gave him a choice of four different books. He started to become agitated, as if he wanted to say something, so I quickly chose a book for him (A Man Without A Country). I know before the accident, he had just finished another Kurt Vonnegut book and enjoyed it. I asked him if he wanted me to read to him and he nodded. He seemed to calm down immediately. I asked him after every chapter if he wanted me to continue and he nodded. A couple of times he seemed to fall asleep. I read to him for probably an hour. He was definitely more aware of the large breathing tube. Several times, he lifted his arms in attempt to pull it out. I felt so good today, though, being able to bring him some peace, some calm, some serenity.

Matthew went into surgery today after I left. The surgeons decided that they needed to clean his wound and possibly do skin grafting. They do not want to put any screws or hardware in his pelvis until his wound is completely healed to avoid infection. The wound may take two to four weeks to heal. The doctors are also thinking that his pelvis may heal on its own. This would obviously be much better anyway than having to intervene with artificial hardware. The doctor who spoke to us today was very optimistic. He said that the mortality rate for this kind of injury is 60% and that the fact the Matthew has come through it to this point is a very good sign. He said "we're moving towards being out of the woods." He encouraged us to stay positive and to see the blessings. He wished my mom and I a Merry Christmas and he followed it with, "Seriously, Merry Christmas, you have your son."

I never completely understood the impact the medical team has on a family in need until now. I have never been in this dire a situation. I am so grateful for the competent, caring, positive, compassionate team at this hospital.

I called the hospital tonight for a final update before bed, and they said that Matthew will probably come off of the ventilator tomorrow. This is good news, although he is agitated tonight because they are reducing his sedation and he can feel more. Tomorrow is Christmas and my original plan was to be up in the Bay Area with my parents. It was going to be the first year Matthew was not going to be with us for Christmas. I was feeling really sad about it and thinking last week how much I wished he would be with us. Life is so we are...all together. I don't know that I have ever felt so happy as an adult on Christmas Eve as I do tonight. I have my brother and I could not ask for more.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Starting To Feel

It took me a long time to collect myself today to be able to write. Today was quite emotional for me. My mom is fighting a cold so she can't go visit Matthew until she is feeling better. My dad went back up to Pleasanton for a couple of days to get things more situated. So, I was on my own visiting my brother today. I started to talk to him. I asked if he could hear me and he nodded his head. His eyes were barely open. I told him how blessed he is. He nodded. I told him how much I love him and I promised to always take care of him. I then told him that I can read to him if he would like me to. He burrowed his eyebrows and I thought he was trying to tell me that he didn't think that was a good idea, so I immediately said that I won't read to him if he doesn't want me to. Then I noticed something changing in his face. He looked distressed and he kept pressing his head back into the pillow. I suddenly realized that something was wrong. I asked him, "What's wrong Matthew?" At that moment, tears began to stream down from the corners of his eyes. He was trying to breath harder. His heart rate and blood pressure shot up. He was balling and there was nothing I could do. Everything else I said to try to comfort him made him cry harder. I felt helpless. I couldn't comfort him. I couldn't hold him. I couldn't stop his pain. I ran to the nurse. She wiped his tears and tried to comfort him. At that point, another nurse began asking him if he was in pain. He shook his head. The nurse asked if he felt anxious. He shook his head. I said to the nurse, "I think he's sad." She asked him, "Are you sad?" He nodded his head. My heart shattered into pieces. I wanted so badly to save him from this. I wanted to lift him up and hold him in my arms. I wanted him to know that everything was going to be ok, that he is loved, and prayed for, and admired, and held dear in so many hearts. I worried that maybe he was not wanting me to see him like this. But then, luckily, my mom's dear friend reminded me that he was probably feeling very comforted in the moment; he probably really did want me to read to him. He was probably feeling so safe and loved and supported and this touched him somewhere in his core. I understand his pain...I feel it too. Pain is universal, which allows us all to have compassion for each other and act in kindness. I know Matthew always acts out of compassion and kindness and now I hope he sees that his efforts are being reciprocated. I love him so very, very much.

I checked with Matthew's nurse tonight and he said that Matthew may have his breathing tube removed tomorrow. They are going to try to reduce his pain medication so that he can start breathing on his own again (the pain meds inhibit his drive to breathe). There is also a possibility that Matthew will have surgery tomorrow to temporarily pin his pelvis together. If this happens, though, he will not be removed yet from the breathing machine. I will continue to keep everyone posted. Please keep praying and sending your warm thoughts, wishes, and energy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

had a good night...

Matthew had a good night last night, according to his doctors and nurses. They gave him the day to rest today, since he has already undergone four surgeries and another procedure. These surgeries have not yet addressed his pelvis, which will have to be pinned together with screws temporarily (probably Thursday). The surgeries so far have been to slow and stop the internal bleeding. Today, he continued to have a fever and seems to be fighting a cold or sinus infection of some kind, so please, once again, pray for him. He is so strong. I told him that over and over today. He looked at me and seemed to make more eye contact. He seems to be more aware that there are many tubes and contraptions in his mouth because he scrunched his face up as if to try to get rid of them. I made him promise me that he would stay strong and keep fighting. (I think maybe he nodded ever so slightly...It's really hard to tell, but I'm going to believe that he could hear me and was motivated by my comments.) :)

Thank you again to everyone for sharing your love for Matthew on this forum. Sometimes it can feel vulnerable to lay your heart on the line, but I know he can feel all of our presence and I know that he has made himself vulnerable to all of us for our sakes at one time or another. Love to everyone and I will continue to keep you posted.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome Everyone!

I wanted to start a blog so that I can give updates and create a space for all of Matthew's supporters to share thoughts, memories, prayers, wishes, and intentions. I believe in the power of community in healing and overcoming some of life's most tragic obstacles. As many of you know, my brother Matthew and I are very close. This accident shook me to my core, made me re-evaluate my purpose in life, is helping to inform the direction I want to take in my work, and is giving me a renewed faith in prayer and spirituality. I am overwhelmed by the amount of support that everyone has shown.

Today, Matthew seemed to be more alert than he has been. He is still in the ICU and is not "out of the woods" yet, but is making amazing progress. His pelvis is badly broken, so the entire medical team has worked day and night in attempt to control the internal bleeding. Thankfully, the bleeding has slowed and he is needing much less blood than he did in the beginning. He is not aware of the extent of his injuries at this point and is going to need the support of all of his family, friends, and loved ones to get through the shock that will inevitably follow.

The miracle I witnessed today is one that filled me with love and hope that I will never forget. I took my brother's hand, as I have every time I have seen him since the accident, called his name, and told him I was there to see him. He opened his eyes and kept them open, turned his head, despite his neck brace, and smiled the biggest smile he could, given the number of contraptions and tubes going into his mouth. Thank God. That's all I can say.