Help Miss Ollie adjust to her new life on wheels


“Life is filled with pain, but it’s also filled with the overcoming of it"  ~Helen keller~

This month, on April 23rd, Marks the one year anniversary of the worst day of our lives.

Last year, 2020, our lives were changed forever. It was the eve of Cody’s  32nd birthday and the first day of his vacation taken from work to celebrate both of our birthdays and our 9 year anniversary. It was at the very beginning of COVID-19  and while life was a bit strange, everything pointed towards a normal day. We ate lunch together with our kids at home, and he did yard work while I completed schooling with our youngest child “Ollie" whom was 6 years old at the time.

In the early evening he proceeded to tell me he would run out briefly and take a crackpot back to his grandmother that we had borrowed and drop off some maternity clothes to his sister. We discussed him taking out Ollie because she hadn’t left the house in 2 months because of quarantine.  We decided it would be fine and she should go. Before she left I handed my girl her stuffed purple dog violet and said “violet will protect you since I am not going" (I needed to put together a bed frame at home). After I handed her violet she in return handed me a stuffed bunny and said “this is for you to remember me by" (this was not her first time saying this, it would always make me uncomfortable,  like she wouldn’t be coming back,)

I took the rabbit and kissed them both goodbye. While I was awaiting their return I stopped my task with the bed frame to check my phone. I had a text from my husband’s uncle who we are very close with. It said “you are going t o get an important call, you need to answer it" in my mind I though him and my husband (Cody) were together and were messing with me. They are quite the set of pranksters so that made sense in my mind.

Sure enough, my phone rang a minute later. A woman was on the other end. After conforming that I was me she proceeded to tell me that my husband and daughter were involved in a severe accident. My heart sank immediately, my blood ran cold and my skin felt numb. I was in immediate shock  they explained that the accident happened on their way home and they were badly injured. Both of them were in critical condition. My daughter in the picu at UC Davis and my husband in the ICU at Mercy San Juan.

I  was told that my daughter was ejected 15 feet from the vehicle (later we found out she was actually removed by a pedestrian) I was told they don’t know if her brain was okay because something hit her in the head (a full soda can). The woman couldn’t offer up much info on my husband though because he was not there at that hospital. I was panicking and running around trying to grab items I would need while at the hospital . I knew I was too panicked to drive myself there. I called my father who couldn’t get to me fast enough, then my sister in law offered to drive me (she lived with us at the time) we jumped in the car and raced to UC Davis where my baby was. All the while I sat whispering prayers for my baby girl. When we arrived I asked my sister in law to go to her brother immediately.  I stepped out of her car and was greeted by a female officer. Then inside was a chaplain with the police dept., and two other officers.

I discovered my daughter had to be rushed back for emergency surgery. They were performing an emergency laparotomy to find out where she was bleeding internally. I wanted to disappear. With every word spoken by someone to inform me of the situation my heart broke into smaller and smaller painful pieces of despair. Our lives hung in the balance. I felt like I was waiting to know if I would live or die.

I then received a call from my sister in law who informed me that the other hospital would let no one, no one, in to see her brother, my husband. I was beside myself knowing that he would wake up alone and confused. Knowing how afraid and angry he would be. I sat and cried, feeling defeated.

While waiting for Ollie’s surgery to end and hear her full prognosis, I sat and answered irritating questions asked by the police. They asked questions that made sense and some very strange ones like “did Cody eat today and if so, what did he eat?” I answered that we had grilled cheese and tomato soup right before he left. They still had very few answers as to what had transpired but I did learn that the people who were in the other vehicle were deceased.  My heart broke even more knowing that someone somewhere was getting word that their loved ones were gone. I prayed I would not end up in the same position.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was called in to a room by two people donning surgical gowns. I have my associated in medical assisting and was always super interested in anything involving medical conditions and human anatomy so I was feeling agitated while they slowly explained things to me in laments terms. The conclusion was that my daughter had a pretty severe spinal cord injury in her lumbar spine (which is very rare at her young age and size, it’s usually death or a cervical spine fracture)and was intubated due to respirations and heart rate dropping , orbital floor fracture of her eye socket, many abrasions and during the laparotomy they had stitched up countless internal cuts and confusions on her small intestine. Luckily none had perforated through the intestinal wall.

Devastated, I said goodbye to the officers and headed towards the room they would be taking my daughter to post surgery. I prayed silently the whole walk there. I have never been so desperate to be with my child and yet so terrified of what I would see. I felt like I was being drawn and quartered.  When we arrived at the room my daughter had not yet arrived. I sat, apprehensive of how  would look and if she would be awake . Finally a bed comes around the corner, one of the nurses assured me that I could go in the room with her. When the crowd of nurses, doctors and a respiratory therapist cleared from her bedside I rushed over to her. My baby was broken, covered in tubes and wires, face swollen and puffy. When I spoke to her I was shocked, she opened her eyes and looked panicked. I very calmly told her that she was in an accident with Daddy and that he was okay, just in another hospital.  Tears rolled down her cheeks and she seemed to let out a sigh although I couldn’t be sure due to the intubation tube that was breathing for her.

I cannot recall very much from the first 2 weeks in that hospital but what I do remember is a traumatic blur of severe emotional pain and distress. Some of it will remain trapped in my subconscious forever.

What I do remember is waking up startled because my baby was screaming mommy and screaming owe. I remember her crying and asking me why I was sleeping, because she was so afraid and in pain and needed me. I only slept at late night hours and only when I was so exhausted that I had no control over passing out. Still, I felt extreme guilt when she’d wake me up like that. I wished so badly that I never had to close my eyes. So that I could watch over her without skipping a beat.

The day of the 24th (Cody’s 32nd birthday) was spent with me pacing waiting to hear the outcome of both Cody and Ollie’s surgeries. They were both in surgery at the same time, although,  Cody’s took the longest.

Ollie’s second surgery,  which was this one I am speaking of, on the 24th, was to explore and repair her spinal cord injury. For this, they called in an amazing spinal surgeon named Dr. Kim Kee. He did a fantastic job of placing FOUR titanium bars and EIGHT screws in her lumbar spine. He came to our room where she lay still asleep from the anesthesia and informed me of how severe this injury was. I could tell everyone was trying To delicately dance around A seemingly poor outlook for ever walking again.

What they didn’t know about me was my history of being a dedicated-decade-long- caregiver to a man who had a Thoracic spinal cord injury and was paralyzed, also due to a motor vehicle accident. So I knew what was likely for us..Ollie was very close with him as well. He watched her grow from birth til his passing. She enjoyed tagging along to my work.  5 months prior to the accident he died unexpectedly due to an unidentified internal bleed. All I can say is that life is very strange...... things tend to connect, If you're paying attention.  

While my husband was recovering from his own surgeries I attempted to delicately tell him of our baby’s injuries and that no matter what, I believed she would be okay.  (He literally didn't believe me that she was alive until he saw her with his own eyes)  He was trying, painstakingly,  to connect the dots in his own mind of what the hell went wrong that night. I ended up not telling him that she was paralyzed until he met me at the hospital in person. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I knew he blamed himself even though the accident was 1000 percent not his fault. However, as a parent we hold ourselves responsible for anything that happens to our children while under our care

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Organizer and beneficiary

Jessica Jean 
Orangevale, CA
jessica brown