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PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS: Sunday brought perfect weather for hot-air ballooning over the Old Mendon Highway -- but when it's over, you still have to pack up. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Paranoia means having all the facts."

--William S. Burroughs, Beat Generation writer (1914-1997)

'Is my sister going to die?'

By Jen Pulham

September 26, 2006 | It was October and I was laughing. I don't know why, but I was. Then Cami, my sister six years older than me, called me on my red house phone. My good mood continued and I made a joke. A joke that quickly died when she told me I needed to go to the hospital right away. Katie, the sister born in between us, had been in an accident. I was shocked. On Cami's end of the phone I could hear voices. Dad. Talking to someone else.

Katie and I were born almost three years apart, but we were only two years apart in school. We had a difficult time going to the same schools, mainly because I made it that way. I loved being annoying when I saw her with her friends and she loved ignoring me. Needless to say, we were both happy when she graduated high school and chose to go to Utah State University. Not only would there be more hot water for the rest of us, but I would get sole use of the car.

I went to the Logan Regional Hospital, emergency wing. Some of Katie's friends were there. Jeremy Wilkins. Jeremy, Katie, and I had Family Finance together the past spring. And Alyssa, Katie's roommate, whom I already didn't like. They told me what had happened. Katie had been long-boarding, something I knew she wasn't skilled in. She had been coming out of Green Canyon and the road began to be steep. In order to stop herself, she took her right foot off the board and tried to put it down on the ground.

Unfortunately, that ground happened to be the gravel shoulder of the actual road. With this unsure footing, she took her left foot off and landed head first in the gravel. Her friends ran to her, calling her name, with no response. Back at the hospital wing, Alyssa and I were admitted into the emergency room to wait for Katie.

My family owned a townhouse in Logan. I still know where it is, somewhere around 550 E. 700 North. Katie lived there her first three years of college. We became better friends after she left. I occasionally came to visit her, which usually turned out to be me coming to visit her and all her friends. She always was popular. I would sit on the couch, staying uncomfortably silent, waiting for the time when it would be late enough for me to go to bed, but not so early that I seemed like a complete loser. She knew when I didn't feel comfortable with her friends and was very considerate of me. But we always had a better time when she came to visit at home. It was during these years that I realized what a good friend she was. When I graduated from high school I chose Utah State, too.

Finally Katie arrived. The doctors and nurses wheeled her towards us and I could hardly believe what I was seeing. There was my best friend lying on a stretcher, and I had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen. The blue, green and purple bruises on her face were accented by the scarlet red of the various cuts. Her lips were swollen and bruised. She had a large wound on her right temple where she had hit the gravel first, and blood was beginning to mat in her blond hair. One of her teeth was chipped. Another was gone. Beyond that, I couldn't tell where else she was injured.

Her clothes were dirty and torn in various places. A nurse began to cut away Katie's jeans. Alyssa started talking to Katie, but I couldn't. I didn't know what to say. She kept saying her head hurt. And that she was cold. I stood in the background and watched the doctors and nurses.

Katie had the car again, and would come visit me once or twice a week. Or sometimes I'd walk to the townhouse after class. There was one day in winter when we were walking down the steep, slippery sidewalk of 700 North when I simply couldn't stay on my feet. I started to slip but caught myself. A young man offered to help me down the hill. Katie found this terribly amusing. I declined, though, and continued walking. A few seconds later, I full out fell. So Katie and the young man escorted me down the hill, much to her delight. I don't know why she thought it was so funny, but the fact that she laughed a lot about it made me laugh a lot about it.

A doctor told me Katie would need to be life-flighted to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake. She had an epidural hematoma, or blood on the brain. The surgery would involve cutting a hole in her skull in order to drain the fluid. At this point I couldn't help but ask the question, "Is my sister going to die?" The doctor, for legal reasons, couldn't tell me yes or no. I followed the doctors, and Katie in the stretcher, to the helicopter. She told me it would be OK. I cried as I watched the helicopter fly away. This would not do. I couldn't just wait.

Her friends took me to her car and I started driving to Salt Lake. By now it was dark outside. When I got to Salt Lake, I began the adventure of the Avenues, trying to find LDS Hospital. I managed to find the University of Utah hospital, which didn't help. Eventually I found it, and Uncle Keith parallel parked my car, a skill I had not yet acquired. Doctors waited to hear my report on what had happened. I gave them a synopsis and went and sat with my family in the waiting room. Katie went in for surgery sometime around midnight. After a while, Mom and Dad sent Cami, Becky, the youngest sister, and me home. I woke up and headed to the hospital in the late morning.

Katie was all right. It was October and I was happy.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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