The Return Trip Home
The return trip home
Vicky hurried to finish her shopping and exited the store when she saw a man loading his van with packages in front out in the parking lot. As she glanced at him she noticed a car moving towards him, she called to him but he didn’t seem to hear. So she ran towards him yelling for him to watch out. He turned just in time to see the car and jumped to one side, the car impacted the rear bumper of his van with a loud smack. There was no driver in the car; it had evidently jumped out of gear and rolled backwards, gaining momentum. “Wow, you may have saved my life. If you hadn’t yelled that car would have hit me!”
“It was nothing, you may have done the same thing if the situation was reversed.”
“I would love to be able to return the favor," he replied, " but I’m not from around here so that might be difficult”.
“One never knows,” she smiled, "Some day you may.”
The night, cold and stormy, held a dismal outlook for Ryan returning from a business venture out of state. He disliked driving at night to begin with, and this storm made it seem much worse.
The wind beat hard against the windows on the front of the house. Ryan’s wife Vicky pulled a blanket around her shoulders and took a sip from her freshly microwaved black tea. The weather person on the television, indicating the storm’s severity would not abate soon, showed a bright red patch covering the south eastern portion of the state and half the bay. Texas was known for its storms and Corpus Christi received more than its fair share. The infernal weather radio has been going off every couple of minutes warning of severe lightning approaching and possible tornadic activity. She hesitated to turn it off, there might still be a change that might be important and she wanted to be as prepared as possible.
She jumped at the sound of her phone on the table next to her, then reached over and picked up the receiver, “Hello?”
“Hey Vicky, are you ok?” her mother inquired.
“Yea Mom, I guess so. The storm is bad but I’m more worried about Ryan, he’s driving back in this mess.”
“I thought he got back last night?”
“No he called, they had to stay over one more day and he didn’t get out of the meetings until this afternoon. He’s been calling to keep me posted; I wish he was home already. This storm is getting worse and I know how he hates driving in the rain as it is!”
“You just have to have faith Hun, he’s a good driver and he’ll be ok.”
“I know mom, it’s just my worry side I guess. I’ll call you as soon as I hear something…”
“Ok baby, just relax and I’ll talk to you later, ok?”
"Sure mom….bye,” and she hung up the phone.
She waited by the phone, watching the storm moving in from the gulf on the weather channel. The wind had picked up and she could hear it billowing outside. She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed heavily. Then walked back into the kitchen and poured another glass of cold tea from the pitcher and put it in the microwave.
The recessed median separating the east and west-bound lanes held a build-up of water from the hours of drenching rain and run-offs from the highway. Ryan looked at his watch, eight-fifteen; he grimaced then picked up his cell phone and pressed a key to dial home. His wife answered the phone, “Hello?”
“Hi Hun, still driving…”
“Where are you now?”
“Just outside San-Antonio, I should be in Corpus Christy, in three hours or so.”
"The news said the weather is terrible, how are you doing?”
"It’s pretty bad, but I’m doing ok…I’ll call you when I get closer.”
"Please be careful, you know I worry.”
"I know dear, I’ll be fine. I need to concentrate on driving for now. Ill call you in a couple of hours or so…ok?”
"Yea,” she sighed, “Make sure you call.”
“Ok Hun love you…bye.”
“Love you too…good bye.” She hung up the phone and stared blankly out the kitchen window at the black sky….the rain was coming down heavily. She crossed her arms grasping her shoulders and took a deep breath. She walked into the living room and sat in the chair by the fireplace, glancing at the flames dancing low along the embers. She tossed another piece of wood on and leaned back in the chair, lost in thought, and glanced towards the television set looking at nothing.
Ryan took a sip of coffee from a travel mug, and winced; it was cold. He sat it back down and looked ahead towards the seemingly endless run of highway in front of him. The heavy wind, blowing from the south propelling the rain across the highway in sheets, pushed against the side and front of the SUV. He held the wheel trying to adjust for the hazardous road conditions.
The trucker looked ahead of him. The weather uninvitingly clouded much of the highway for him, but he had seen his fair share and this was just another passing storm. His loaded eighteen-wheeler pressed on though the rain, he could feel the big rig swaying from side to side, rocking back and forth, from the heavy wind. He pushed on; soon he would be home in San Antonio and put all this behind him.
Timmy Pulson tried to look at the road in front of him, the sheets of rain and wind splashing heavily on his windshield. His defroster wasn’t getting the job done, so intermittently he used a paper towel to wipe the inside of the glass. His classic Chevy Nova was his dream car, but as always it needed some work, and money was tight. He cracked the window on his side to allow some fresh air in, in hopes of averting some of the moisture from inside the windshield. He thought about how he should have waited until tomorrow to head to his Grandparents house in Corpus Christy, the off ramp should only be a few miles ahead and he could get off this highway.
An SUV traveling to San Antonia occupied the right hand lane next to the Semi; it's driver tried hard to see the road in frontas the Semi threw sheets and sheets of rainwater into the front of his vehicle. His wipers doing all they could and having a difficult time fighting wind and water. He could only think about getting back home to his wife and four children. He reached over and turned on the radio to a news station, looking for any information on the storm.
Ryan looked ahead at the bridge in front of him as his car started up the slight incline and the highway turned from asphalt to concrete. The concrete always made him nervous; it can get so slick in the rain, and this was a downpour. He lifted his foot slightly from the gas in an effort to gain better control of the SUV.
Timmy took the paper towel and began wiping the inside of his windshield, the rain was coming down harder and he could barely see the approaching overpass. As his car entered the concrete surface from the asphalt, the car began to swerve. Timmy lifted his foot off the gas trying to keep control. He over corrected and the car started to spin in the opposite direction crossing the second lane to his left glancing off the inside retaining rail. The car continued slowly spinning, sliding and accelerating down the other side of the overpass.
Ryan concentrated hard on the road in front of him; completely oblivious of the activity behind him and Timmy’s spinning car. Then he felt the impact of something hitting the SUV in the rear. He could feel his car turn sideways and head towards the inside of the road and the median. The layer of water on the surface became more like ice as his vehicle continued sideways and entered the rain drenched grass and dirt. Timmy’s car bounced back in the opposite direction and slid off the road on to the easement to the west of the interstate and slid to a stop buried in the mud up to the axils. Ryan’s SUV slid into the two foot deep standing water in the center of the median, and began flipping. The water acting as a wall against the wheels and its forward motion unabated, the SUV continued on towards the opposite side of the highway. Ryan held the wheel; as if in slow motion, he could see his SUV rolling and moving towards the oncoming traffic.
The trucker barely saw the SUV ahead rolling over and over heading towards the open lane in front of him. He threw on the Jake-brake , in an effort to slow the heavily laden truck.
The Driver beside him glanced to his left at the semi and its rapid deceleration then he could see the SUV out of control heading into the lanes ahead. He started to apply pressure to the brake then looked for an avenue of escape.
Ryan’s SUV finally stopped and came to a rest in the inside west bound lane. He looked to his left, all he could see were the headlights of the big Semi closing in fast, a sick feeling came over him in the realization of the pending impact, helpless to avoid anything with-in the split seconds allowed.
Ryan’s wife waited, worry filling her heart, it had been four hours since her husband had called, what could be taking him so long. She tried to call his cell phone but it went right to voice mail. She wrung her hands together her heart tugging hard, her stomach twitching, fearing the worst. The phone rang again, “I’m sorry for calling, but have you heard anything?”
She sighed heavily, “I thought you were Ryan…no Mom, I told you I’d call you as soon as I knew something.”
“I’m sorry Hun but it’s been two hours, did you try to call him again?”
“Yes, still no answer… but it might be that he has no signal.”
“Oh I didn’t think about that, maybe that’s all it is, well,” she paused in thought, “I better get off the phone in case he tries to call. Call me when you hear something, ok?
“Sure Mom, I will; bye. She hung up the phone and looked out the window again. The rain was really coming down now. The light from the lamppost made it barely visible by the driveway, reflected off the lawn revealing the building water and she could see the palm fronds swaying back and forth in the strong breeze.
The trooper stood with his raincoat pulled up high and the collar closed, with the heavy rain water running off the brim of his hat as a rescue worker approached him, “I guess that’s the last one, he’ll be in the hospital soon, nice and warm if he makes it.”
"He was in pretty bad shape, wasn’t he?”
"Yea, I guess, but you and I have seen a lot worse.”
“That’s true enough, but for the life of me, I don’t understand how he was even involved. The SUV rolled in front of the truck, according to a witness; he wasn’t even in the path; he was in the far lane heading north.”
“Wait, I don’t follow. How did he end up in the median if the was in the outside lane?”
“I’ve been trying to figure this all out; I can only come to one conclusion.”
“Please tell me, ‘cause I’m totally confused?”
“He had to drive his vehicle into the path of the tractor trailer, it doesn’t make sense, but the only way for him to get where he is to have done just that.”
“Well maybe it was an accident, maybe he had a tire go down or something; it might have been a coincidence that it all happened at the same time.”
“I thought other possibilities, but the tires are all good, no blow out, nothing to suggest anything. I might have missed something; all this mess on the road, and this rain make anything hard to determine one thing from another.”
“Knowing you the way I do, I can’t believe that?”
“No,” he paused and shook his head, “I guess not but…nobody would intentionally drive their vehicle into the path of that truck,” he paused then another ideal, he held up one finger, “unless…..”
“No, I thought of that too, I’m not sure what happened except for speculation, but I’m gonna find out.” He pursed his lips and shook head.
"Is that the kid over there?” the paramedic asked glancing over to the troopers car and the boy leaning against it.
“Yea, said he lost control of his car and he thought he hit the bridge embankment.”
“Isn’t it always the way? He comes out of all this without a scratch.”
“I don’t think it was his fault, he just lost control.”
“It just doesn’t seem fair does it; how’s the trucker?”
He’s fine, his truck just missed the SUV, he said he saw them collide and spin out of his path. He said they were fortunate because he would have never been able to stop in time.” I examined him but he was ok, he’s headed back to San Antone’, should be there by now, or close anyway.
“At least two of them got out ok.”
“Yea. I guess so,” the paramedic shook his head. “It might have been a lot worse; he paused and glanced at the crumpled vehicles. He shook his head and continued. “I guess I’d better head back, with this weather I’m sure we’ll get a few more calls before the night is over.” He shook his hand and said good bye. Then, turned and walked to the ambulance; loaded his gear on the truck and headed back.
The trooper stood there in the rain, it was starting to let up a little. He glanced around the scene to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Tomorrow morning the investigators would be here and go over everything again. He walked back to his patrol car; climbed inside and finished his report.
Vicky saw headlights shining into her house from the driveway and ran to the door. She threw open the door, then she saw them and a wash of emotions came over her, two police officers walking towards the front porch. Her heart began pounding and she could feel tears starting to build in her eyes, her worst fears now becoming a reality.
Candice Quinn worked as quickly as she could to deal with the onslaught of patients coming in. The ambulance driver wheeled in another one; “Ok Candice, here’s a male, forty-five, San-Antonio, lacerations to the face and arms, stats130 over 80, temporal wound, puncture to the left lung, restricted breathing. Where do you want him?”
She shook her head,” they just don’t seem to stop coming on a night like this!” she continued working but stopped long enough to glance a the patient, “Thanks Scott, If that’s the one you called in…put him in three, have Thompson run an airway and start whole blood with a saline drip. I’ll be there as soon as this one is stable. What else did you bring me?”
“That’s all from me there’s one more on the way in unit twelve, right behind me.”
“Is that it?”
“Yes, why don’t you have enough to work on?”
She grimaced and shot him a stern look, “That was uncalled for, I was counting beds, and you can leave now!” she turned sharply dismissing him and turned back to her patient. Give me compression here stat!! I need more gauze and a retractor! Parker, place a call to surgery, this ones coming up…. Nurse, clamp off that bleeder and let’s finish this one, we’ve got others to work on…”
Scott stood there for a moment wishing he could take back his last comment. “Sorry Doc, We started IV and a second unit of whole blood;” he continued, “The puncture wound still has the object embedded, I didn’t want to take it out in the field, I wasn’t sure of the extent of the damage.”
The doctor quickly walked over to the next patient and cut back the shirt to reveal the injured area, “You did right, we need to get him stable and get him upstairs. Call up and let them know what’s coming.”
“Yes Doctor,” the nurse assisting replied.
"There’s one more ambulance coming in; get two and seven ready, I’ll take the next patient in one of those. Rainy nights always seem to be the worst!” She grimaced shaking her head and prepared him to move out.
“Are all these from the same accident?” one of the young nurses assisting queried.
“No, the paramedic replied, this one and the one coming in, were from the accident on the interstate, the others are from separate incidents. They’re coming from all over.” He turned over his chart and started filling out his report.
The Emergency staff continued working as fast as they could to handle the high influx of people and their individual needs. Dr Quinton glanced around the area. She tried to put the patients in order of their severity, and then shook her head, this is going to be a long night; she thought and continued with her work.
After she received the call Mindy Taylor drove three hours to the hospital. She walked into the ward and approached the nurse’s station, “Excuse me, But I’m Mrs. Brock Taylor, could you tell me which room my husband’s in?”
“Yes certainly, but first, do you have any identification?”
"Oh yes just a moment,” she began rummaging through her purse and brought out her driver’s license, “will this work?”
"That will be fine Ma-am, follow me this way.” She walked around the counter and led her to his room.
Timmy’s parents arrived at the police station to pick him up, He ran to them, his eyes welling in tears, “Mom…Dad it was an accident, I didn’t mean to……” he embraced them both and began sobbing uncontrollably. His mother’s tears began falling on her face, grieving for her son and the emotional torment he was feeling. His father rubbed his shoulders consolably and held back his comments, trying to imagine what his son was going though.
Vicky arrived at the hospital emergency room, and was directed to a waiting area. She waited restlessly as a gambit of emotions ran through her. Finally the surgeon came from behind the large double doors, his uniform covered in perspiration. On his face shown his exhaustion, emotionless he walked towards her.
Mrs. Wallace, I’m Dr. Peyton, Your husband is in recovery now, he will be back in his room in a little while. We just need to make sure he’s alright before we send him to his room. You can wait there.”
"Is he going to be alright?” she asked apprehensively.
“Yes He’s going to be fine. He’s a lucky man. You know he had an angel watching over him.”
"It appears like that, I will have to say a special prayer of thanks.”
“Have you met him yet?”
“Who?” she asked curiously, “The angel?” She chortled, maybe one day…” She smiled and nodded to the Dr. and walked down to the floor her husband’s room would be.
Ryan was sitting up in bed and drinking a cup of ice water, when the nurse came into the room. “Well Mr. Wallace, how are we doing?”
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a….he smiled, I’m doing ok.”
“Have you talked to your guardian angel yet?”
“Was saying a prayer just a minute ago with my wife.”
“No”, she laughed, “Not that one, the one in room 23C”
“Right”, he chuckled then winced, “Don’t make me laugh.” He forced a smile.
“You don’t know, do you?”
“The nurse smiled and began to explain.
Brock winced as a run of pain went up his leg, the cast was heavy and ran from the ankle half way up his thigh. His left arm in a temporary cast, waiting for the swelling to abate, was also throbbing, “Nurse?” he said pleadingly,” WOuld it be possible for us to meet him?"
Can I get something more for the pain?”
She smiled, I’ll see what I can do, First let me see about something for the pain, let me call the Doctor and see if he’ll prescribe something stronger.Then we'll worlk on the other." She placed her stethoscope around her neck and walked out.
AN hour later Vicky walked into the room pushing her husband's wheelchair. Though he shouldn’t have been out of bed, they both felt compelled to meet the stranger that saved him. They looked up at the man lying in the bed, one foot elevated in a sling, his other hand immobilized. His wife was holding a cup and straw for him to drink out of. He looked over at them and smiled, “Hi, how do you feel?” he asked Ryan.
Ryan smiled, “Alive, I was told that I may not have been if it weren’t for you.”
“Maybe…maybe not, I just thank God we all made it out.”
Vicky looked at him and with a sudden realization, “I know you, you’re the man from the store…her heart began to swell with gratitude “Looks like you were able to help me after all, she smiled as her eyes welled up in joy and thanks.