Christine's Cross Written by Joseph Biancardi Published by Joseph Biancardi @Smashwords.com Copyright 2012 Joseph Biancardi License Notes This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. *** All is true except for names of physicians. This is a work of factual occurrences that happened. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or, in the case of recognizable historical events and persons, are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or other persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Christine's Cross On a warm October day five years ago, my cell phone rang, delivering the kind of message you never wish on anyone. It was one of the calls that you hope you never get, but was the reason you purchased a cell phone in the first place. A nightmare was calling. I was at my job inspecting the coatings of paint on the inside of pipeline joints. I was used to someone calling me throughout the day wondering about this pipe joint or the other one that sometimes got away. Department supervisors didn’t like me at my place of employment because I was the one who rejected their hard work, causing them more headaches than they liked to deal with. At first I thought it was a disgruntled supervisor. “May I speak to Joe?” It wasn’t unusual for someone to use my whole name if they were being sarcastic, but this sounded personal. I waited, listening to someone's sigh. “This is the principal at Theodore High School,” the voice said. My daughter never got into trouble, but I knew and felt something was wrong. “I’m afraid your daughter has been in an accident. We don’t know how serious it is, but…” the caller paused, catching his breath lasting for long minutes. I was about to ask the question my mind tried to form with my lips but then the voice continued. “She is being transported to University of South Alabama Hospital by South Flight helicopter. She was apparently in a head-on collision with another student’s vehicle. Christine wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and went through the windshield.” Something grabbed my chest, slowly squeezing the breath out of me. My eyes burned as they began to fill with tears. In the distance I heard the principal tell me that he would be going to the hospital as well and that I should get there as soon as possible. Then he said, "We're all praying for her," and hung up. I needed to call my boss and arrange to get to my car that was a fifteen-minute walk away. As I walked, I tried to call my wife at her work but the numbers on my cell phone were blurring from the tears. She worked at Providence Hospital in the Cardiac Department. She didn’t answer her desk phone, so I left a message with another nurse. “Tell Star her husband called and
it’s an emergency. Please find her and have her call me back.” She didn’t call back immediately. It was when I was in my car leaving for the hospital that I got her call. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I told her, and then all I heard was silence. It began to sink in. We both understood that when someone is flown to a hospital it is usually critical. Time would be crucial to our daughter. We agreed to meet at the emergency room as soon as we could. In all the excitement, I had forgotten about our eight-year-old son. I called our neighbor and told her about Christine. “Don’t worry about Leonard. I’ll keep him here with Cheyenne. He’ll be okay. Call me and let me know how Christine is doing.” As soon as I hung up I received another call. This was from another student, a friend of Christine’s. “Mr. Barrale, this is Josh. They just told me Christine was in a car wreck. Do you know how she is?” I told him only that it was serious and she was going to USA Hospital. He told me he would meet me there and I hung up the phone. By this time I was a few blocks away from the hospital and my phone rang again. “Brother Joe, this is Pastor Sanders. We’re at Knollwood Hospital and I just heard Christine is coming in.” For a moment I was relieved someone was with our daughter. Then I remembered what he told me. They were at Knollwood Hospital. I was going to the wrong hospital. How could this happen? My daughter has been thrown through a windshield, flown to the emergency room and they couldn’t even get the information correct about which hospital. I pulled into a parking lot and turned back the way I had just come from. Grabbing my cell phone I called my wife. “What do you mean she’s going to Knollwood Hospital?” she yelled. “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m turning around and I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” When I arrived at the hospital, I saw our pastor in the waiting room. “She just came in. They’re trying to stabilize her.” Horrible images of my daughter filled my mind. Scenes of the emergency room doctor trying to patch together her bloody and broken body flashed before me. The doctor came into the waiting room as my wife was entering the hospital. “We have her stabilized, but I think it best you take her to another hospital better suited for this
kind of trauma.” We still had not seen Christine and our hearts were aching to know how she was. “What is her condition, doctor?” my wife asked. “She has severe lacerations of the face where she hit the windshield. We don’t have the equipment to check for internal injuries of the skull. All we can do here is stabilize the patients. She'll require X-rays and a CT scan which is not available here.” “I work at Providence Hospital. We can take her there,” my wife said. “Can we get another ambulance?” “The admitting office has already called to have her sent elsewhere. It’s already waiting.” The pastor and friends from our church lingered, praying for our daughter. I told them we were on our way to Providence Hospital and I appreciated their prayers. As he held my hand he asked, “Do you want us to go there with you?” I assured him we were okay and to go home. My wife and I went to our daughter that was being lifted into the ambulance. The upper half of her face, covered by bandages, kept her from seeing my wife sit next to her. As Christine’s mother touched her arm and whispered to her, “It’s okay baby. I’m with you.” they both began to cry. My wife stayed in the ambulance with our daughter as I followed her there in our car. When we arrived, emergency room nurses, friends of my wife’s, were waiting for Christine. She was immediately taken into a trauma room so they could check for internal damage. We had to wait outside while they took her to have the MRI of her head. From out of nowhere, people started showing up. Friends who worked with my wife appeared. They all asked if there was anything they could do. Thanking them, my wife let them go back about their own business, leaving us to sit by ourselves, agonizing over the condition of our little girl. Josh walked through the door and asked how Christine was. Somehow he had found out about the confusion with the hospitals, perhaps because his mother worked with my wife. He sat there with us until we could all go in and see her. When we entered, the doctor said, “It looks like someone has taken a hatchet to
her forehead and just kept beating on it. You should be prepared for a mess. The neck appears to be okay, but I want to keep it in a brace for now.” A plastic surgeon was in the hospital and he was coming down to take a look. We all waited until he arrived. While we waited, holding our crying daughter, we could hear laughter coming from behind the center court. Nurses were laughing about their personal lives while families agonized over the condition of loved ones. What is traumatizing to a family in the emergency room is routine to the nurses and EMT personnel. This is what they were trained for. Still, had they no compassion for others? Trying to hold back the tears, Christine whispered, “I was in the back seat when another girl’s car turned right in front of us. I must have hit the windshield. What happened to Jennifer?” she asked. My wife and I looked at each other. This was the first we heard about another girl being in the front seat. We had thought Christine was sitting in front. Jennifer was the one that was flown to USA Hospital. That’s where the confusion on the cell phone came in. The plastic surgeon opened the curtain and introduced himself as Dr. Kent. He could go ahead and examine Christine now if we wanted. Since our daughter wasn’t in critical condition anymore, we let him go ahead. He put on the latex gloves, snapping them on and proceeded to examine our daughter’s forehead. I winced as he removed the bloody gauze from her head. The original description was accurate. Her forehead had gashes exposing her white skull while blood began to run down her face. The doctor put the gauze back and started preparing for surgery right there in the same emergency room. Josh asked if he could stay with Christine while the doctor stitched her up. My wife couldn’t bear to stay in the room. Josh and I remained while my daughter’s face was put back together. The surgeon injected something to deaden the pain, but my daughter’s screams still echoed through the halls. All the while, Josh prayed with Christine. He prayed for the pain to go away, and for her to be okay. Christine prayed for Jesus to not let her die. I knew now that my daughter would live. I prayed for the pain to stop and that her scarring wouldn’t be too
bad. Like many other teenage girls, Christine wanted to be a model and an actress. She was well liked by several photographers but now her career was likely to be over. As I watched the doctor squirt saline water in the gashes, Christine would cry. Then he would cut away the skin so he could make a clean repair of the torn tissue. As he cut, I could see the pearl white color of the skull underneath. I couldn’t stop watching. All the while, tears rolled down my face. It looked like the skin was merely lying on top of the bone; a mask, holding back the damage, unseen underneath the torn flesh. Christine would scream as he cut away the jagged pieces of flesh. “It hurts, oh, Jesus, it hurts.” As she screamed with pain, I could hear my wife's cries outside. The doctor washed away the numbing medicine with the saline water that he used to squirt away the blood. Doesn’t he realize she’s in pain? I thought. “How bad is it? Will there have to be many stitches?” As if he didn’t have time to talk and stitch at the same time Dr. Prendergast briskly replied, “There will probably be over sixty stitches on the inside. Then possibly another forty at least, just to pull the skin back together.” He worked on our daughter for over an hour, stitching and cutting away torn skin. He barely talked during that time, focusing on the job at hand. Black stitches appeared as he worked, becoming visible everywhere, forming a jagged cross on her forehead. When he finished his surgery, the doctor pulled off his bloody gloves, dropped them in a red-contamination container and invited my wife back into the room. Star came back in and then took our daughter’s hand from me. Comforting her baby she told Christine she was going to be okay. As she ran her other hand along Christine’s arm she told her how much she loved her and, again, as if our daughter didn’t believe her, reassured her that she was going to be okay. The emergency room doctor came into our little draped room and explained that he would like to keep Christine overnight, just to be sure there were no further internal complications. As he left, the plastic surgeon came in with a prescription and said he wanted to see our daughter in a couple of days so he could check the sutures. He shook my hand and told me that while the damage to her head looked bad she would be okay.
Christine would have two black eyes as well as other facial bruises, but they were temporary. My wife stayed at the hospital with Christine that night, sleeping by her bedside. I went home and broke the news to our son, Leonard, about his sister. The good news was she would be coming home in the morning. Now, five years later, the scars are barely noticeable. After the healing began, Christine continued with her modeling and acting career. Special makeup on her forehead hid the scars and helped her get small parts in three movies as well as a major part in a movie yet to be released. Each weekend she travels to New Orleans, visiting her actor friends and checking on the movies being made there. She still has hopes that she can get that big part. Josh graduated with Christine and they remain friends to this day. He went on to do youth missionary work somewhere in Africa. Christineâ€™s girlfriend, Jennifer has had to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery over the years. Today, she still has noticeable scarring with large gaps in the tissue around her cheeks. Her long dark hair covers the scars on her head. Christine feels that she was given this mark to remind her and her friends about how seatbelts, even in the backseat, can save lives. Another special gift was given to her. Every so often, she arrives at accidents right after they happen. She knows now that she was chosen to help comfort injured people in emergencies. She stays until a medical person arrives and can give emergency care to the victims. Right up until they are transported away, she'll help calm the injured, just as that special angel helped her all those years ago. Things happen to us all that make us wonder, "Why me?" They are given as trials, training so to speak. Preparing us, so that we may learn and help others. Everything has a purpose. Eventually, we come to discover the reason, our purpose for receiving the gift. They have all gone on with their lives, forgetting about that October day when Christine received her cross. But still today, when I look at my little girl and the light flashes just at the right angle on her forehead, I can still see the remains of the cross she carries from that day.