Tonight I will focus on the people we need to thank, more often than we do. The people who do their job but their jobs affect them in ways we may never know. Yet what they do is AMAZING. The Lewes Volunteer Fire Department, The Lewes Police Department, Delaware State Police, and Doctors, Nurses, Physical Therapy and the other staff in Beebe Hospital and Wilmington Hospital; they all had a hand in this collaborative effort of search, recovery, evaluate, treatment, care, rehabilitation, and Recovery for me.
It started at 4:00 p.m. on Sept 13, 1973 when I was not home and mom came home and could not find me anywhere. I just think of how scared she must have been and it makes me hurt, actual physical pain. I cannot imagine. She calls the Police my uncle, Lou Fisher was the Chief in Lewes at the time. I became a “Missing Person” and the State Police become involved very quickly all of those people get leads and start following up on every one. Simultaneously the Lewes Fire Department, Station 82, is searching the marsh, Block House Pond..
My brother was a volunteer at the time and he was with the men who found me, he did not recognize me, saying, “That’s not my sister.” That too is difficult to know but telling of what strength and courage it takes to want to do that kind of work at any level. He was a brave young man and he is one of the many people who can never erase the images he saw or how he felt at that moment and I am not sure how I could ever really thank him and all of them properly; for finding me.
Thirty years later, I am doing research for my book and I read in the Trial documents; (700 pages, costing $1.00 per page) and I read that the Lewes Fire Department went in the Marsh and began their search they a very small sound, “I’m here.” I was saying almost in a whisper. I had always remembered hearing them call my name, but I thought my call back was only in thought and not in actual words. When I read that a firefighter picked me up in his arms and I actually passed out. I closed my eyes as I read this and it all flooded back to me, I could actually feel him pick me up and the safety I felt being his strong arms and knowing I was still alive, it was the first flashback I had that was attached to real emotion. It wasn’t just a memory. I sat here in my office and just cried. I had to stop reading for a while after that. Those intense feelings after years of trying not to feel them needed to be processed, so I took some time and did some emotional work so I could start again.
I was admitted to Beebe Hospital for three days where I do not recall much except one day when many people, friends and family were in my room, I was sitting up, and they all seemed so happy to see me. They were happy to see me alive. I only heard I was an absolute mess black and blue from head to toe and I know just seeing me that way must have been so difficult for them. My next memory is I am freezing and I am struggling to get away from it, the mattress is like ice, it had water running through it, and I cling to the side rails of a crib. A kind nurse peels me off and puts a sheet on me. I do not remember anything after that until Nurses and my families are all standing over me, I am in ICU at Wilmington Hospital and they are all smiling. My mouth is wired shut and I am being fed juices, jello, and anything soft. I have a broken jaw. I have an infection in my jaw and I had a reaction to the medications they gave me. This would be the Fifth time I almost died, from the many things that occurred in short succession, being beaten and hung, cardiac arrest, Steven Johnson Syndrome, Status Epilepticus, and infection.
The Nurses, doctors and aides were just wonderfully cheerful and helpful, tending to every child’s needs in that ICU. I think now how did they come to work every day with little kids either on the brink of dying or on their way to being well? They were amazing people who never let me go without anything I needed. How do you thank them for all they have done? Maybe, they are all too satisfied to see you go home alive and on the mend, but I never got a chance to actually thank them. They even let me get away with squirting them on Halloween with squirt guns. They were so very kind and fun.
Then there is Uncle Lou, he is the man that has to arrest this beast that beat his niece to a pulp. He has to write reports and be refrained from killing him; like anyone who loves you would be inclined to want to do. He arrests him and then goes on with all the duties he must, without ever flinching and never once did I see him alter his ethics, although I am sure he wanted to many times. He was careful to take someone else as a witness with him.
While at the Wilmington Hospital, my feet and hands begin to turn in and there was a Physical therapist there who had this very thick German accent. She came to my room and gave me Physical Therapy and we went upstairs to get physical therapy. I had to start wearing sneakers to bed, (How Cool is that, Mom never let me do that.) and she made arm splints for my hands out of plastic molded to my hands and lower arm, tilting my hand back just a bit to stretch the muscles back into place. One day while I was there, I heard this boy screaming at the top of his lungs. I asked as well as I could because I did not speak well yet, “What was wrong with him?” she told me that he was burned and they were putting him in a whirlpool. I did not understand what that meant until later in life I read, because I had to know about that little boy’s pain, the whirlpool sloughed the dead skin off and it was excruciatingly painful.
I later received physical Therapy at Beebe Hospital from my dear friend Jerry Frampton, he and I still talk many times a week, for a very long time. He believed I would never walk I was told. But he did his very best and he, Agnes, and Margaret were very good with me. He did not really believe that my seizures were as bad as they were or that they came on as quickly as they did and so he worked with me walking me with a gait belt and making me lay on my back outlining squares on the ceiling. This does not sound like much but I literally had no control of my limbs, I could not point at an object, my arms went in circles and this exercise helped me learn to control my limbs.
I had a seizure just as my family told him, and before he knew it I was down as we walked the hospital halls. He decided to get me a helmet. It was hot and wool inside and leather on the outside. It really looked like a 1940’s Football helmet, and since I loved sports I thought it was cool. Jerry put cool stickers on it, “Super Bee” a bumblebee with a cape, he had to sell this idea to me or so he thought and it worked. I later added Philadelphia flyers and the Baltimore Colts stickers. I wore that thing everywhere for 2 years. One summer I dove in our pool (I will tell you about that later) and I was going head first to the bottom. I got out of the water, I had my helmet on it had become a part of me, actually that day for the very last time. We hung it on the line and it dried in the hot sun, never to fit my pea-sized head again.
I never wore a helmet again even when I rode a bike all over the place Salisbury, Lewes, Snow Hill for 20 some years and my foolish logic was, I’ve had one head injury the statistics of me having another was slim. I am WRONG! The statistics are higher for someone who has a head injury to incur another just because they had one to begin with. Therefore, after being hit by a car on my bike (another story) I started to wear a bike helmet. No I did not get another head injury from that. Life number 25!
All the professionals who help us are Amazing people, they see horrific things, they are compassionate and professional all at the same time and they deserve more thanks than we could ever give them. I know without all of them I would not be alive to say, “Thank you.” My Neurologist called me, “The Miracle”. Every time I saw him, he actually introduced me to people like that. His face would light up and he would hug me, what a wonderful man. He made me want to be a doctor, actually a Neurosurgeon, was my goal as a child. I later realized I was such a spaz that I’d be out of business in no time giving many people unnecessary lobotomy.
I want to especially thank my brother Jan he endured things he should not have had to endure, he is my hero. He is a good man and has always been a loving brother. I also want to look to the heavens and thank Uncle Lou he is no longer with us, he too loved me well and took care of the people in Lewes the best way he knew how; he did well.
Time to pay them back, by being the best I can be.