We had now missed the Newmar International Rally in Wyoming and a service appointment in Indiana with Newmar, but we still planned to head West for a couple months before returning to Georgia. Three days before we were to leave Illinois, we accompanied my sister, who was also there to help with my mother, to a Lincoln historic site in Lerner, Illinois. This is when lady luck really left us.
The place was actually called the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. It was the home of Abraham Lincoln’s father. This site, like many others, had actors in period clothes, old cabins and split rail fences along the walkways separating it from the cattle pastures. As we toured the place and were about to leave, Liz went over to a cow that we had observed on the other side of the fence lazily eating grass and moving slowly along the fence. She took a couple steps to the fence and said that she was going to pet the cow. Something we had often done with seemingly calm animals at other places. As she started to pet the cow, it swung its head sideways hitting her hard in the ribs on her right side. This knocked her backwards causing her to lose her balance and fall striking her head on the concrete sidewalk.
I was about 50 feet away and by the time I got to her she had gone unconscious and her breathing had stopped. I patted her face begging her to stay with me. After what was probably less than a minute, but seemed like an eternity, she began to slowly breathe although it was labored. We called an ambulance which took about 15 minutes to get there because of our remote location. She was able to speak but was clearly in severe distress. The first ambulance took her to the nearest hospital in Charleston, IL which was not a trauma center. After a CT scan, the emergency room doctor indicated that she needed to see a neuro surgeon as soon as possible due to her head injury. They wanted to transfer her to Carle Hospital in Champaign/Urbana by helicopter, but storms in the area necessitated transfer by ambulance. This took over 30 minutes.
The surgeon at Carle said that the amount of blood on her brain had doubled since being at the previous hospital and that if he didn’t operate immediately she would die. Liz was in surgery for almost three hours. The doctor indicated that the procedure went as good as could be expected, but that she had a lot of blood on her brain. His only words were that we had to just wait to see how she would respond. Of course the waiting is always the hardest, especially for me who always thinks the worst.
Liz spent two weeks in Critical Care in Illinois. She didn’t speak at all the first week. She moved all her limbs except the left arm which was mostly lifeless. They had to put mittens on her hands so that she wouldn’t accidentally pull out the medical tubes. They also indicated that she had some fractured ribs on her right side where the cow had struck her with it’s head. Finally, after a week she began to speak and started moving her left arm. About the middle of the second week the doctors said that they thought she would be recovered sufficiently to start intensive rehab on the following Monday. I was surprised by this as she could barely stand with the assistance of two people. The doctor said that they’ve found that it’s best to get the patient up and moving as quickly as possible. This was good news but it threw me into a panic as to what the best course of action should be. The motorhome was about 80 miles away from the hospital and I had only my sister there and she was attending to my mother. Decisions had to be made as to a rehab facility, how do we get her there, how long will she need to stay there, do we stay in Illinois or try to get close to home? What do I do with the motorhome? What do I need to ask the insurance provider? What’s best for Liz?
If you’ve stayed with me this far, please hold on for part 2, where I will try to bring this all together and let you know how we handled the situation.