David was in the ICU for almost a week, then in the hospital for two more weeks, followed by two weeks at a rehab facility across the street. While the most obvious challenge was saving his right leg, he actually had more surgeries done on his left leg, specifically his knee. For him, the worst part of all was having to go to the hyperbaric chamber periodically which was supposed to help with the healing. It was excruciatingly painful. A couple of times, he simply refused to go.
His parents returned to Alabama once he was in a regular room (except for some weekends when they traveled back to Atlanta). I went to visit him every evening during visiting hours (except for some weekends when I was traveling back to Alabama to visit my parents). I’d sit with him, we’d talk about our days, and we would watch TV together. Once, I was allowed to spring him out of the hospital for the day, and we went down to Auburn to collect some of his things. I know it was November 16th because we listened to the Auburn/Georgia game on the radio coming back to Atlanta. Sadly, Georgia won it in the 4th overtime.
I definitely fell in love during those weeks. I was amazed by his bravery through the whole thing. Although he was frustrated by the situation and in a lot of pain, he never gave up, never got down and depressed, and never blamed God for what had happened. He was still the same David I had always known. But now, he was also my hero.
Taking care of someone stuck in a hospital bed can create interesting and awkward moments. I remember one time he leaned over to rearrange the sheets, and I got a glimpse of the very top of his read end. (It was no more than what you might see from a plumber….) In a very strange way, that was a turning point for me. Before then – with the exception of those very brief moments when I had wanted to kiss him – I had really never thought of David as a MAN. He was just a friend. A buddy. And he had felt the very same way about me.
David’s feelings for me were changing, but it was an incredibly confusing time for him. We did finally kiss sometime in November (can you believe I don’t remember the date??) and several times after that, but it just wasn’t really working. The sparks still weren’t flying. He was on all kinds of medication (including major antibiotics for an infection that developed in his right leg – I had to put on surgical garb to go into the room for several days), and he was trying to figure out what his future was going to be like now. How would he finish his degree at Auburn? The Monday after the wreck he had been scheduled to finally become a driver for UPS after working there for several years. For the foreseeable future – and maybe beyond – that was no longer an option. How would he make any money?
A few days before Thanksgiving, David went home from the hospital facing a major decision. All of the bone between a few inches below his knee to his ankle had been completely crushed in the wreck and removed during surgery. He was unable to raise or lower his foot at the ankle, and his leg was being held together by external stabilizers.
There was a procedure that might be able to save his leg by gradually regrowing the bone. It involved wearing an Ilizarov apparatus. The process would likely take at least two years, during which time David would likely be unable to work or return to school. It also wasn’t guaranteed to work. Some patients came down with infections during the procedure that caused it to fail.
The other alternative was amputation.
When I went to David’s parents’ house to visit during Thanksgiving break, he asked me what I thought he should do. It was time to decide.