We all have moments of fear when it comes to our children. When they run a high temperature in the middle of the night as a baby. When they run in front of you as a toddler, a little too far away for comfort. When they run on the football field and get knocked to the ground and take a while to get back up. Or when they run up the driveway and into that fast car I talk about with a group of young men. All moments where our hearts can literally skip a beat. What is interesting though, and true for us all, we fear for our children yet we would fear nothing to protect them.
My greatest moment of fear was when Jesse was 7 years old and was hit by a car. A speeding P-plate driver no less.
It was a Wednesday evening, St Patricks Day. I had a nice lunch with a girlfriend and had been excitedly talking about a houseboat trip we were going on that Friday with four other couples. I distinctly remember saying how each of those couples was going through “something” significant in their lives and how lucky and appreciative I was that my family was so happy and healthy. I am an extremely superstitious person and as the events of that evening unfolded I really regretted saying that in such a blasé manner.
Later that afternoon Matthew and I, he would have been 3 and a half years old, went to pick up Jesse from school. Jesse had started tennis lessons only recently and we had just enough time to bring him home for a snack before practice started. He was thinking about his stomach even back then!!
So after a change of clothes and food, we hopped back in the car. Matthew and I always stayed to watch him, Matthew enjoyed running around with the younger siblings of those at practice. For reasons that I can still not explain as I went to get out of the car I looked down and I had my slippers on. Fluffy, leopard print slippers. Now I am absolutely not a slipper girl, ugg boots yes but slippers no. A friend had bought me the slippers as a bit of a joke knowing my association of them to be with “old” people. However secretly I found them so comfy that I did, in fact, wear them quite a bit.
So I said to Jesse, “Oh no. Mum has left her slippers on. I will drop you off, quickly go back home and put on my boots, and we will come back and watch you.” Both boys thought it was very funny and Matthew called me “silly” all the way home.
We had only been home a few minutes when Andrew’s work car pulled up in the driveway. He worked really long hours so it was very unusual for him to be home that early. Matthew was thrilled to see him. Andrew scooped him up and when I told him about my “slipper” situation he said that he would take Matthew with him and go back to watch Jesse. I knew Jesse would be so happy to see his Dad at practice and as all Mum’s know, being at home alone from 4.30-5.30pm to get dinner ready in peace is not only blissful but so rare. I was glad of the change of routine for me. And I got to keep my slippers on.
It’s funny the gaps in my recall of that evening. I have no recollection of what I cooked but I can remember how I lined up all the plates on the breakfast bar and, looking up at the clock, had started to dish up dinner knowing they would all be home in a few minutes. Tennis practice was held at the local club, literally a 5-minute drive.
Then the phone rang. I will never forget the tone of Andrew’s voice. It was quiet, restrained but filled with overwhelming tension. I knew after just a few words something was really wrong. “Lory, you need to get down here, Jesse has been hit by a car.” My blood ran cold. I recall screaming and crying and Mum and Dad said that they later found the phone on the floor in the family room. I had answered it in the kitchen so my reaction was to throw it as far away from me as possible. I have no memory of doing that.
The next few minutes are still a blur. But as I grabbed my bag and locked the front door unbeknown to me I was screaming. Our lovely neighbour’s two doors down, across the road and next door all came running onto the street. I must have a pretty good scream. I was trying to open my roller door to get to my car and I just couldn’t do it. It was the pressing of one button but I couldn’t manage it. My neighbour ran up our driveway and grabbed my hands. I just screamed, “Jesse has been hit by a car.” She thankfully wouldn’t let me drive and piled me into her car. Later on, she said that drive was one of the most traumatic events of her life. I screamed the whole way in her car, urging her to go faster. I do remember feeling like a mad woman. I went to open the door; I wanted to get out and run to get there faster. My heart felt like it was going to explode. And I continued to cry and scream to the point of almost hyperventilating. All this emotion in a period of about 4 minutes. Complete and utter lack of control and fear.
As we pulled up at the tennis club I jumped out of the car before it had completely stopped and I ran. People must have directed me as to where to go because I ran straight to the first aid part of the clubroom where Jesse was. I got to the door, still quite hysterical and a Dad, whose son practiced with Jesse, grabbed my hands to steady me and said “He is going to be ok. Lory! He is going to be ok. Now have you left anything on the stove back home?” I said a very quick no and he let go of me and in I went.
Jesse was lying on a couch. There were a lot of people in the room around him and Andrew, with Matthew on his lap was to his right. Matthew clearly had been crying and Andrew looked pale and upset. “Mum, ” Jesse said, his eyes full of tears. I knelt next to him and said: “You’re ok.”
And just like that, I became as calm as can be. Getting to him and the unknown of how injured he was or……………..well it was indescribable, terrifying, paralysing fear. But once I could see him and touch him I regained my self-control. I needed to reassure him that he was going to be ok and like a light switch being flicked on my reaction to do that was instant.
We had a ride in an ambulance together where he asked if he was going to die. He was very shaken up poor love. We were whizzed through the Emergency Department at Flinders Medical Centre at a lightning speed where he had x-rays and a CT scan was done immediately. The Doctor in Emergency said that he could not explain to us how Jesse did not have broken bones. He had a theory that Jesse was in mid skip, meaning that at the precise moment of impact Jesse was in fact in the air. Luck of the Irish, only we are not. He told us to buy a lottery ticket. So Jesse’s injuries were a concussion, a nasty black eye and cuts and bruises to his back, legs and left arm.
What happened was after practice had finished Andrew, holding Matthews’ hand, and Jesse walking alongside Matthew, crossed an inactive zebra crossing to get to his car. (Inactive because it was after school hours.) Jesse had stopped to hit a pine cone on the road with his tennis racket without Andrew realising and as the sound of a car engine going faster than it should caused Andrew to turn around and raise his arm, in a signal to slow down to the driver, Jesse was in the middle of the road in the cars direct path. Too late to do anything Andrew and Matthew could only watch as Jesse was hit, flung onto the bonnet of the car only to be bounced off and flung back onto the road as the driver stopped. His instinct was to crawl to the kerb. I can only imagine what that must have been like to watch. Awful does not cover it.
So Jesse and I had an overnight stay in hospital just for observation. We still went on the houseboat weekend but the boys came with us (that was not the initial plan) as we couldn’t bear to have Jesse out of our sight. Our beautiful friends, knowing we wouldn’t go without the boys all insisted we bring them. The boys were very spoilt that weekend.
For a long time, I thought of all the little things that happened that night that were different to the normal routine – remember I am superstitious. A chain of events that were put into place for what reason? I used to be a big believer in that everything happens for a reason – not so much now.
It still is the worst experience of my life by far. The fear that something awful had happened to my child. The unknown aspect of that fear. It was only minutes but fear doesn’t make you think of positive outcomes. One’s mind races away with all kinds of awful.
It showed me that the love we have for our children can make you do great things. I collapsed in a heap after Jesse came out of the hospital and cried to my girlfriends, pouring out all that I had thought and felt since receiving that phone call. But as far as Jesse was concerned there was never anything to worry about because that’s what I told him and that’s what I showed him. I was his security blanket, never mind I was being held together by the tiniest of threads.
We got lucky and the lasting effect for Jesse was it made him extremely road safety conscious, cautious in car parks and when he was riding his bike. Not a bad consequence for a 7-year-old boy. Andrew and Matthew were quite traumatised by what they saw, I know it will stay with Andrew forever but fortunately, Matthew’s memory of it has faded.
And you know what else? The irony of this story is that for someone concerned about being seen with bloody slippers on I spent the next 24 hours in nothing else. In public! And I proved I can run really fast in them too.
FOOTNOTE: The young girl driving the car never contacted us in any way. She was at fault but received no penalty or fine. She got off with a warning. I will never understand her parents not encouraging her or, on her behalf, contacting us, sending us a card, letter or something to show that they cared about what happened to Jesse. That she was sorry. As my boys are both driving now it is something I would absolutely ensure they did if ever they were in such a situation. I like to think they would do it off their own back. It’s the right thing to do in my opinion. Accidents happen but own them. I can only hope it made her a better driver.