On October 14, 2019, I got a call during the workday at 4:05 p.m. I let it go to voicemail, thinking it was a telemarketer. When my voicemail icon flashed a minute later, I paused my work timer and sighed. It was probably just an automated message, so I called my voicemail, expecting it to be a quick delete and then back to work.
“Hey, I’m here with Walker, and he’s been in a bike accident . . .”
My heart spasmed and a vice leapt from my stomach to clamp around my throat as I listened to a stranger’s voice ask me to call back. With shaking hands, I dialed.
The man answered. He had witnessed my husband’s wreck, and although he told me his name at least twice, I don’t remember it. Thank God for the kindness of strangers. He promptly handed his phone to Walker.
“Beloved, what happened?”
“I crashed my bike going down Baldwin. I need you to come and take me to the hospital so I don’t have to take the ambulance. I think I broke my collarbone, but I’m okay,” he assured me. “Don’t drive recklessly, but get here as soon as you can.”
“I’m coming right now,” I said, pulling on my shoes and biting my lip to keep from sobbing. “See you soon.”
I threw myself into the truck and squealed out of our apartment parking space. The jolt of the vehicle immediately forced me to slow down.
Don’t drive recklessly.
How well my husband knows me. I focused on the methodical rhythm of driving and tried to breathe, despite the fact that my body was panicking.
He was conscious, he was talking, he hadn’t seemed to be in too significant of pain. He wasn’t alone. I would be there soon, despite the traffic that was already building in preparation for rush hour. Another breath.
God, please help me.
The tears came when I turned onto the main thoroughfare that led toward campus, a relentless flood that spurred the terror that was trying to force me to hyperventilate.
Don’t drive recklessly.
I started to sing then without knowing why. I had punched the radio off, but the hymns pressed themselves into my mind like an embrace. I braked at a stoplight, surrounded by other drivers, sobbing and singing in broken gasps, trying to rein in my panic and begging God to help me drive safely and to protect Walker until I could reach him.
When I turned the final corner, I had regained some semblance of calm, despite the fear choking me. I parked behind the cop car with flashing lights and jumped out. Beyond it, a gaggle of people and a few EMTs milled about on the sidewalk.
I was still scanning for him, jogging toward the group of people, when he called my name.
“Pull the truck up behind the ambulance!” he said, laughing and pointing with his left arm—the arm that wasn’t wrapped in a figure-eight brace. The sight of him sitting on the ground amid the wreckage of his bike and belongings both calmed and terrified me.
I glanced at the cop directing traffic behind me, and he nodded, so I obeyed.
Walker was speaking to the EMTs and another young man when I lurched to a stop behind the ambulance.
“Were you the one who called me?” I asked, sticking out a hand.
He nodded, and I shook the hand of the man and thanked him. Then I collected my husband’s things. His broken water bottle, busted phone and earbuds, crumpled bag, and unscathed helmet. Bright blood glittered like liquid rubies from his knees.
“Are you sure you don’t want a ride?” a brown-haired EMT asked my husband.
“I’ll be good,” Walker said, gesturing to the truck as they helped him stand.
They held out a release clipboard for him to sign stating that he had requested they not take him, gave him advice on which facility to go to, and then returned to their ambulance. During this exchange, I fought a wave of dizziness, realizing I was probably dehydrated.
Not now. I begged God to give me strength. I had to drive, so I couldn’t be ill right then. My vision cleared.
Gingerly, I helped Walker into the back seat of the truck so I could buckle his seat belt over his good shoulder. Leaping into the driver’s seat, I thanked the officer directing traffic and pulled out as smoothly as possible onto the road.
It was slow going through downtown in rush-hour traffic, and as Walker’s shock wore off, he grew quieter, and I wiped my eyes of the constant stream of tears, apologizing for every bump and pothole.
Pulling into the parking lot of the orthopedic urgent care near the hospital, I looped around and punched the hazards, helping my husband out and into the waiting room.
The receptionist’s eyes creased with sympathy when she saw us. “ID and insurance card?”
I fished Walker’s wallet out of his pocket and got his driver’s license. Then I remembered.
“You don’t have a hard copy of your insurance card?” I asked him, knowing the answer.
“It’s on my phone,” he said through clenched teeth.
The phone that had a shattered, dead screen.
“Um.” I turned to the receptionist as she handed me a clipboard with six or seven pages of paperwork. “We’ll get you the insurance in a moment. Can you just, um, he’s in a lot of pain. Can we be put in the system for treatment?”
She shook her head. “We need his insurance info and a referral unless you want to go in as self-pay.”
I shook my head, angry at myself for not insisting more firmly that Walker get a printed card when he had shrugged it off earlier that year. Nothing like this had ever happened to us before, and while I had my own insurance ducks in a row, I had not planned for Walker’s. Mistake. I took a pen from the counter.
“We’ll get it,” I said. “Just a minute.”
I helped my husband sit down in the near-empty waiting room, then scribbled on the paperwork with a shaking hand, hoping it’d be legible enough.
It took almost an hour of calls and unsuccessful login attempts to my husband’s insurance account on my phone before I found the information. We submitted it, but then were told we’d have to go in as self-pay anyway until we could get a backdated referral.
My heart thrummed in borderline panic the entire time. I fought with every breath not to burst into tears, and my thoughts were infuriatingly sluggish. Walker sat with a pale face and closed eyes, responding to my questions and demands with terse, bitten-off words. I didn’t blame him.
After what felt like another hour of waiting in an empty office, we were taken back, Walker was X-rayed, and we were given some bandages, a sling, over-the-counter pain meds, a prescription, and a follow-up appointment. At the time, the experience felt like a whole lot of anguish for a whole lot of nothing. Later, I found out that going to that office, which I had mistaken for the emergency room the EMTs had referred us to (it wasn’t), probably saved us thousands of dollars. Thank God for His mercy when we needed it most.
The rest of the day—really, the rest of that week—was a blur of tears. Tears of panic, tears of relief, and later, tears of grief. Even when my panic had faded that night, the tears didn’t stop. I stared at the uneven texture of our living room ceiling, lying on the futon mattress I had dragged from the bedroom, listening to my husband’s breathing. My muscles ached, my head throbbed, but I was alert and my phone was plugged in nearby. If anything happened, I could call 911.
His breath didn’t cease, and by the grace of God and the generosity of friends, we made it through that week. For six days, Walker was in constant, debilitating pain, nearly immobile even doped up on painkillers, but he was alive and at home, and I could only thank God and cry.
The next couple weeks were a whirlwind emotionally. Walker was able to come off of painkillers sometime during the second week. I shifted into survival mode, juggling now all my responsibilities and helping my husband regain some semblance of normalcy while he underwent treatment for his broken bone and tried to not get further behind at work. A few things I suspected about myself were dragged mercilessly into the light and picked apart. Bitterness, inflexibility, and resentment welled up in me, and I got a good look at the ugliness of my soul while evidence of God’s grace poured out over both of us.
“Would you like me to bring you some dinner? I’m making enchiladas.”
“The bone is in a great place to heal on its own . . .”
“Your helmet is totally unscathed. And your bike just needs a replacement front brake.”
“Yes, you can get more time for your exam next Wednesday to accommodate.”
“I would love to write with you on Sunday.”
“We’re praying for you!”
Now, Walker is out of his sling and the fractured pieces of his collarbone have bound together. Rarely does it pain him anymore. We have run together and he is talking about flag football again.
The terror of the experience has begun to fade in my mind. My heart no longer pounds when it comes to mind, and I can finally put words down without getting choked up. Since that day and because of it, I lost a little of my selfishness. A little of my arrogance. A little, ironically, of my fear.
“Are you going to let him bike again?” a friend asked me.
I pressed my lips together, thinking. “Yes,” I finally decided. “I couldn’t stop him if he wanted to, anyway”—I laughed—“but that isn’t the real reason. I trust God with his life.”
God gives and takes away. That day, by allowing Walker’s collarbone to be broken, by walking with us through that horrific experience, He tore open parts of me and my husband that needed to be brought to light. He drew us closer, poured out His love, and showed us how to trust Him. No matter what.