Ever wonder what it’s like to finally be with your first love for a little over a year (after waiting about 8ish years), only for him to get in a car accident? What if he lived, but was in a vegetative state, from the brain damage? Well, that is one level of hell I don’t wish on anyone. I lived through it, then wrote about it, and now you don’t have to! I wrote this 1/3/06 and updated it sometime in ’07. I had to write it when social media became a thing, because everyone on Myspace was asking where he was, and explaining this over & over started to be a lot even after the second inquiry, so I just wrote it all down in a Myspace blog. When Facebook came along, I needed it even more. Because everyone was using their real names, we found each other easier. When they couldn’t find Dylan, the questions were inevitable. I basically just copied it and put it under my “Notes” section (same concept as Myspace blogs).
Warning: this is a LONG (but interesting and somewhat informative), rambling by Luci. I’m not one to really “open up” easily, so here ya go. If I told you to read this, it’s because this is most of the reason I am the person I am today, so it explains a lot. If you wish to read, go for it. I just don’t get a chance to talk about it…ever. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer and bring it up outta nowhere, and I think people think if they ask me about it, it’d depress me. They’re probably right, but it would also make me feel better in the end to let it all out, at the same time… verbally… but for now this will have to do. Even on the rare occasion I do talk about it, people don’t ask questions I know they have, questions I would love to answer. So, below is me being a Debbie Downer, having a pity party for myself, whatever you want to call it. Heads up – I am the run-on queen, so prepare yourself.
Well, it’s been exactly three years since I got a call that would forever change me. To be honest, when I saw the strange number on my caller ID the night of 1/3/2002 at around 230am, I almost didn’t answer it. I thought it was Dylan on a drunken binge wanting to yell at me for something he had concocted in his head. Which, if you knew him, he was always thinking “the penguins were throwing triangles” at him. Anyway, I ended up answering it on the last ring. It was our friend he was with, using a hospital phone, bawling and telling me they air lifted Dylan to Hermann Hospital (the major trauma hospital Houston has), because of a car wreck Dylan was a passenger in, and that’s all he knew, even though he was the driver. I called the hospital and all they would tell me was that he was in ‘critical condition’. “What the hell does that mean, specifically?” …I’m still not even sure, although I do know that it isn’t good.
I tried to call his parents about five times with no answer, then I called his brother, Lowen. I woke him and his wife up with a call they probably couldn’t even understand. My throat was extremely lumpy and I was kinda freaking out. He’d been in some doozies before, to say the least, but never anything like this. Then, I called my friend Cara, to take me to the hospital (I sure as hell wasn’t driving). While waiting for her, I did nothing but go on a rampage in my bedroom upstairs. Breaking and throwing whatever I wanted. It was dramatic… probably kinda like something you’d laugh at on a telenovela. By the time Cara got there, I wouldn’t let her upstairs where I had my fit, I actually didn’t let anyone up there until 3 months later, when I moved. Didn’t have the energy or motivation to ever clean it up. Plus, I wasn’t touching ANY of his things. Even the (wrong) place he put his toothbrush before he left was sacred to me now. The select few who were allowed over at all during that time, sometimes joked that I had a dead body up there or something.
So, by the time I got extra clothes and we left, Lowen got a hold of his parents and they somehow got something out of that bitch (who I now realize was just doing her job) who wouldn’t tell me anything at the hospital. I pulled the fiancé card on her and everything, but nothing worked. Lowen wouldn’t tell me what his parents told him at first. Then, I remember being in my apartment’s parking lot at around 3am, on the way to Cara’s car, crying and screaming into the phone at Lowen at the top of my lungs (telenovela-style again). Finally, he told me a fraction of what was going on, because that’s all he could get out without breaking.
We finally get to Hermann and we have to wait… and wait… and wait… So they could “clean him up”. He had a broken pelvis, cracked skull in three places on his left side, skull fracture on his right side, broken ribs, collapsed lungs, oh yeah, and his brain stem somehow got jacked. From what I remember, that’s it… but I’m sure I’m leaving out a few things. About 6am, I called my parents. My mom answered first. I was doing okay, being “strong,” and all that good stuff. I told her what had happened, what was happening, very matter of fact, and somehow didn’t break down. My dad picked up shortly after my mom did. I didn’t know he was on the line, but he heard everything. He paused then said “…Luci, that’s not good.” in a serious tone. THAT’S when I lost it and said “I know.” My dad came up there about 7:30am with coffee for everyone, and being my dad, he made Lowen and I laugh really loud in the waiting room. I don’t remember how, but I remember we needed it.
It’s debatable what actually happened, and we’ll never know for sure, but I do know for sure that they were doing a U-turn under the freeway going 120mph (193kph) in a 1990s Honda CRX, which is only a two-seater. When they hit the concrete pillar/column/whatever that holds up the freeway, the impact was on Dylan’s side, and the car basically wrapped around it. Three (and now 15… now almost 19) years later, and there’s STILL green paint from his car every time I have to pass the son of a bitch, which is basically every time I go home to visit my parents. I try to avoid the area when I’m back, but it’s not really in a place for that to be realistic, geographically.
I didn’t know any of this when I got to the hospital, only that he was “in critical condition at Hermann Memorial after a car accident,” so even when I finally got up there to see him in the coma, I figured he’d come out of it okay. I know it sounds naïve or delusional, but anyone who knew Dylan, knew he had COUNTLESS lives. He lived more in those 25 years & 23 days before the accident, than any of us will ever live, even if we get to be 100. Seriously. Literally. Beelieeeeve me. “Make everyday a story” was his motto, and he more than lived it.
So, I guess for about a month I was in denial. For about a week the doctors kept telling us that it was “too soon to tell” what the prognosis was. They needed the swelling on the brain to go down, hence the tube coming out of the top of his head. They told us to talk to him and that he could hear us, and I noticed when I would talk to him, his heart rate would shoot up as soon as I started. I think the highest was 150. The nurse told me he was getting “too excited” and I needed to take a break a couple of times. That made me feel like shit… I wasn’t saying anything profound, but whatever…Okay, so maybe sometimes I was… but what the hell was I supposed to do, besides pour my heart out and tell him everything I wanted him to know? It wasn’t all I was doing/saying when his heart rate freaked out, but still.
I stayed up there the whole next day, then the next night his parents and brothers went to a nearby hotel and I got to stay with him alone. I talked to him, I sang him his favorite songs (poorly, but I did it), I pet his head and told him “everything was going to be okay” (he liked that before the accident, so I figured it would help the most now). I soaked up the blood, that kept collecting in his ears, with a towel every 2 minutes (literally every 2 minutes, at least)… and all kinds of other stuff that I won’t mention, so he can keep what microscopic piece of dignity he has left at this point. I kept asking for towels, for the blood in his ears (because that shit cannot be comfortable), but the nurse in the ICU was much too busy eating her sandwich, sitting at the end of his bed, and talking about what she did the night before to the other nurses. Eating a sandwich? Are you fucking kidding me? I have to wash my hands every time I come in AND out of that damn room and she’s shootin’ the shit, eating a fucking sandwich??? Once I figured out where I could steal towels, I told her to go and I’d call her if I needed her. I would rather not have a witness to me grasping onto anything I can to not make my life fall apart… maybe I’m just a private person like that.
The next morning, I went to the hotel room his fam had stayed the night before. His dad gave me a sleeping pill (thank god), and I slept for about 6 hours. After about a week of this, I finally go back to work. January 8th, to be exact. My shift at Continental Airlines started at 3pm, and at 230pm his dad called me and told me the doctors said IF he ever woke up, it would be months, and that he would have to learn everything from talking to eating all over again. I’ve seen movies like this… I can stick around, it’s a definite bump in the road, but I love him…needless to say, I had to leave work before my shift even started (something Continental Airlines held against me when they fired me five months later for attendance. 9/11 was the previous September, so they were trying to fire anyone they could, because everyone that was getting laid off, also got to keep their flight benefits. I got my personnel record and apparently “Luci claims her fiancé is in a coma and is having brain surgery today… again. She wasn’t able to make it in today.” Non-fact checkin’ bitch! I’d listed him as my companion on my flight benefits, so that didn’t go into effect until 1/1/2002, so that kind of sucked, but it’s not like they didn’t have his name, or I was faking it. I’d do anything for him. I’d help him learn his ABC’s or anything else he needed. I didn’t care what I had to do, I just wanted him back. I also just wanted to bury my face in someone’s chest, and completely lose it…but his was the only chest I wanted to plant my face in, so I was kinda screwed outta that deal… way too many tubes and way too many people around.
A couple of months went by, and I didn’t see him. It damn near killed me, but it wasn’t my choice. I almost started to explain, but this is already long enough. He got transferred to TIRR (physical rehab place) for a bit, and he was awake from the coma, but still in a “vegetative state”. The first time I saw him like that (eyes open, staring into the nothingness), I talked to him for a minute, sitting next to him on the bed he was laying on (the hospital bed had him propped up a bit). Then, of course I just started bawling and buried my face in his shoulder/neck (the “nook,” if you will). His head was straight back, laying like anyone would on their back. Then I felt those muscles tense up for a while, and really didn’t know what to think of it. But after a while, all of a sudden his head came straight up off of the bed (shoulders still on the bed), then it shot to the side, which made his head land and rest on top of mine. I cried more when that happened, but it made me feel better, if that makes any sense. Sidenote: For anyone with any education or experience in this area – NOW I’m aware that this behavior, among others that are mentioned, means that he 100% is NOT IN A VEGETATIVE STATE!!! Almost any response at all means it isn’t a vegetative state. We were just told that for 9 months, and I assumed the people taking care of him and visiting him – his doctors and parents – would know the freaking difference… FOR NINE MONTHS.)
They also had a benefit for him a couple of months after the accident. I saw people I hadn’t seen since the hospital right after the accident. “You need to eat!!!”…”You’re so thin!!!”…”Luci, ARE YOU OKAY???” My skinny ass had been hearing that BULL Sugar Honey Iced Tea all my life, so I didn’t really think anything of it when people continued to say it. I was putting on my best “as happy as I could be, considering” act, why were they messing with me? Then a couple of weeks later, I woke up, had a stuffy nose, and went to the grocery store by my house for some cold meds. I got my medicine, went to the counter, and when the cashier looked at me, her eyes bulged, and she said “OH MY GOD, YOU’VE LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT, ARE YOU SICK?!?!”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“WHAT IS IT?!?!”
“Idano, a cold or something I guess.”
“YOU NEED TO GO TO THE DOCTOR AND GET THAT CHECKED OUT!!! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT COULD BE!!!!” I went there all the time, but the way she said it, you would’ve thought I was her daughter coming back from college with an eating disorder.
“Um… can I have my change, please?” But I went home, weighed, and yeah, I lost 25 pounds that I couldn’t really afford to lose at the time. 5’9″ – 110lbs… “sexy”. I still have all kinds of weird health problems I can’t afford (America #1!!!) from that, but yeah. I had no clue.
Anyway, after he got out of that rehab place, he was still in the hospital until about the end of July. I would go up there about once a week (give or take) and spend the night with him. He didn’t have as many tubes at this point, so now I could crawl in bed with him, hold him, and go to sleep… sometimes… but sometimes I’d stay up with him all night. I’d try to go to sleep, so he could get his rest, then I’d look up, see he was awake, and I didn’t want him to be bored. I was assuming he had had enough boredom. I always went at night. There were a lot less people around to judge me or “feel sorry” for me. Or, since he obviously couldn’t talk, less people to see me basically talking to myself, like an idiot. I would do the same things I had always done, but by this time he also had a cd player in his room. So I’d play CDs I made for him, sing to him, talk to him, tell him what was going on…he was a really good listener (…ha.), and sometimes I’d dance around like a maniac while singing (if he knew what was going on at all, it would make him laugh, so I just had to assume he was laughing in his head…none of this was very hard to do, considering the amount of self-medicating Xanax I did that first year). Then I’d try to go to sleep and hold him, again. Rinse, repeat…
We had no idea if he knew who we were, if he even knew we were actual people in the room that he knew, as opposed to some random moving object in the room, it was hell. They also thought he might be blind, and there was really no way to test it. Toward the end of his hospital stay, he was in a nursing home. I visited him there, too. One day I got a bright idea. I sat across the room, waited until he happened to look in my general direction, and then I lifted up my shirt and bra. His eyes went down, and his eyebrows went up. Test taken! Passed with flying colors, as far as I was concerned…my Dylan had his sight, even if it was only in one eye, it was there.
So, after that he went home and had the whole hospital setup at his parents’ house (which he basically still does, just not as extreme) about an hour away from me at the time. I’d still go see him at his parents’ house, only it went from once a week to about once a month by that time (it had been about 7 months since the accident). Then one night, 9/26/2002 to be exact, at 11:15pm, I got a call from Dylan’s parents’ house. I was thinking to myself “Ok… deep breath… this is it… they never call me this late…just pick it up and get it over with.” Then prepared for a freak out before I answered. It was Lowen’s wife, Karen. She said “Dylan’s back!!!”
“…What the hell are you talking about?”
“Denise (his mom) asked him to touch his nose and he did it! Then his eyebrow, and his mouth, all kinds of stuff!!! Now we’re breaking out pictures, and asking him to point at people and he’s getting them all right!”
“…..Get a picture of me out, and, uh… Call me back, let me know…?”
I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. I was just…there. He never wanted to be like this. We’d even talked about it. I was honestly just waiting for him to slowly “go” for the past 9 months…now this? Is this even possible after so long? I never thought I would “wish death” upon anyone, much less someone I loved so much, for so long. But, that’s what I had been doing for the past 9 months, even though it broke my heart. I didn’t want him to be like that anymore. It can’t be fun…at all. While everything and nothing was going through my numb brain, Karen called back…”He picked you out of a picture with 4 other people in it!!!”
So, at 11:45pm-ish, I drive an hour to see this. I still didn’t know what to think. By the time I got there, they figured out he was able to pick certain words out when asked to. “Formidable” was the first word he pointed to in the paper when Lowen asked him to. When I finally got there, I put my hand in his, and told him to kiss my hand, then he slowly put my hand up to his mouth, even though he can’t really move his lips that well. When that happened it was unexpected, instant tears of joy. I’d never had “tears of joy” before… it was weird. Selfish joy, but still. I was happy to know he at least knew who I was after all of this, but good gawd… What next? That night, I stayed at our friend Chris’ house, so I didn’t have to drive back out the next day to see Dylan more. We stayed up for the better part of the night talking about it…neither of us knew what the hell to think.
The theory they have is that he was in a vegetative state because they had him on Ritalin to stimulate his brain. Which, ironically, was speeding him up so bad he couldn’t turn his thoughts into words or actions. After they took him off the Ritalin was when they say he “snapped out of it”.
He still can’t walk or talk, or even roll himself over in bed. He tries to talk, but it’s just mumbling and it frustrates him, obviously. He talked a lot better when he first “snapped out of it”. He could only really say “uh huh” and sometimes, if you were looking at his mouth when he was talking, you could recognize certain words. We think he had a stroke about 3 years ago and that’s why he regressed (they’ve since confirmed he’s had a “series of strokes” since then). He still has the feeding tube in, his parents still get up every 4 hours to turn him, so he won’t get bedsores, etc. His parents and I have had our disagreements through this whole process from time to time, to say the VERY least, but I was always thankful about how well they took care of him. Even when we’d have to go to the hospital after he “snapped out of it,” and I’d stay the night up there with him (to keep the nurses in line, give his parents a break, and keep him entertained), they would always say how well he was being taken care of at home. So, I guess I at least had/have that on my side.
He also seems genuinely happy, somehow. He remembers everything that happened in his life, even from when he was in a vegetative state… I know this because I tried to trick him. We had ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cards he could point to, he can point with one hand, the other side of his body doesn’t work as well. He can still do calculus in his head. God, he was brilliant… math, computers, music (he could pick up anything and “figure it out” within about 5 minutes), skateboarding (that’s how I met this “neighborhood kid”). If he cared about it, he could teach it to himself. It was amazing to watch.
I’m not sure how he’s happy now. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t realize what the hell’s goin’ on, maybe he had some sort of “revelation” while in the coma, or while being a vegetative state. Who knows, I never will. I know the old Dylan wouldn’t want to go out this way, and that kills me a lil bit every day. If I could get away with it, I would’ve given him a lethal dose of morphine a long, long time ago. We actually made a pact to do that for one another if this very specific situation ever came about, only he wanted something besides morphine. That’s the only thing I feel guilty about… I didn’t keep my promise… but if I had, I’d be in prison for life right now instead of typing this. So what the hell do I do? Am I being selfish? Am I being smart? Maybe a combination. Guess we both should’ve thought ahead, but who does this insanity ever even happen to?! Well, every kind of person, I found out.
5 years later, to the day, and it’s still gut-wrenching as hell sometimes. “Time heals all wounds” my ass. All time does is make new memories and experiences to try to dilute everything else you’ve ever felt and experienced. It seems like the bad memories overpower the good ones…which sucks complete ass. I can’t remember everything I want to about the real Dylan, and that really pisses me off. Granted, some of it is my fault, due to the whole “brain cell” thing I didn’t seem to care at all about for a while. I just wanted to be comfortably numb, I guess. I met him when I was 14, then when I was 22, he was my roommate and best (platonic) friend for about 6 months. Then he moved out, we realized we missed being around each other all the time, so we started seeing each other, and then he moved back in.
We broke up about a month before the accident, but we were still “seeing” each other. January 2nd, 2002 was the last time I saw him when he left the apartment. The day before all this shit happened. I remember I didn’t have any money for cigarettes, so he gave me his last $20 because all he had was a $20 bill on him… and off he went. I don’t even remember him leaving that day. Like it was no big deal, because it really wasn’t, as far as I knew. I realized shortly after that, that the last time you see someone before a tragedy, it never is a big deal. That’s why you have to let petty shit go, communicate with the people you love, and try your hardest to never have bad blood with anyone, if you can help it. Because you don’t know what’s happening in an hour from now, not to mention tomorrow. I also don’t remember the last time he kissed me goodbye, or if he even kissed me goodbye. I’m sure he did, but I have no idea. I don’t even remember whether or not I told him I loved him, even though I’m sure I did, and I know he knew/knows. It was just an ordinary day. “Later, dood.” Who knows…I just really can’t remember. As cliché as it is, I’m going to say it: Make sure you tell your loved ones that you love them as much as you can… meaning every time you talk to them. You might not get another chance.
“Woulda, coulda, shoulda” doesn’t do anything. Dylan did what Dylan wanted, no matter what. Several people feel guilty for “not going out with him that night”, or “leaving town one day too early”. But it wouldn’t have mattered either way, even if “they would’ve been the ones driving”. I have to believe, that for some jacked up reason, he was meant to be in that car and this is the path he had to have in this lifetime. I honestly believe if it hadn’t happened that night, it would have happened soon after. Then a whole new group of people could feel guilty. This whole “living” thing is for the damn birds sometimes, but I think if I can survive this, I can survive anything. Or that’s my “glass half full,” bullshit approach to it, anyway. But some days, today, for instance, I’m just looking at the glass, wondering who pissed in it.
(’07)***The only real update that’s happened lately (that I can think of) is that they all (except his brother, Jeremy) moved off to Minnesota in April-ish. I still talk to him on the phone and his mom tries to translate. Hopefully I’ll get to go up there to see Dylan, Lowen, and Nathan sometime in the near future…but I also have to work, so who knows. Also, I refuse to have my annual “January 3rd sleep off”, where I just take sleeping pills all day so I can sleep right through it…I’m actually going to go to work this year and EVERYTHING! Okay, that’s it.”
(11/23/10)***He still makes his parents call me, and I answer or call him back as much as I can, without losing my mind (I try for at least 1-2 times a month). I’m told he still lights up every time he hears my voice, just like he used to do every time I’d walk in the room. Even though that whole thing was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, it’s oddly just kinda “normal” now. All of this is just “the way things are”. It’ll have been 9 years in January, and I think I’d have no soul if I could honestly say it doesn’t get to me at times, but VERY rarely. 9 years is a mighty long time. His parents flew me out to Nashville for a few days to see them (Dylan included) on one of their road trips in February ’09, and I honestly had a blast. One of my favorite parts was being in the Ernest Tubb record shop on Broadway, and having to wheel Dylan out because he wouldn’t quit laughing and yelling, “Why don’t they have Skinny Puppy?!?!” Not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that only his parents, brother Nathan, and I were the only ones who could understand him, haha 🙂 Things are the same. He’s just livin’… if that’s what you wanna call it.
(10/21/2020)*** Damn, it’s been a MINUTE!!! Dylan is still “alive”, unfortunately… SO much has happened… I may have to write all that out as a separate story.)