Late afternoon. The market ladies were starting to close up shop when I drove up with a van full of Canadian visitors wanting to replenish their produce supply. We unloaded the baskets from the back and just as I started off towards the vegetable stand, a friend appeared.
"Give your keys to John. There's been an accident. Travis was hit by a car. He'll be fine, but you need to come with me now." Lance tried to hurry me along but I was more concerned with getting my weekly quota of vegetables and made sure the folks had my list as I handed over the keys.
The next hours were a whirlwind. When I got to the hospital I found ten-year-old Travis moaning in semi-consciousness as the staff cut away his shorts and t-shirt, took X-rays and did tests. My husband, Tim, the hospital administrator, lay white-faced on a bench outside the X-ray room.
Someone told me later that when he received word, he began running to the accident scene, nearly beating the ambulance to reach Travis.
We were living in a small jungle town on the eastern edge of the Andes mountains. Travis had been playing with his sisters and friends, celebrating Carnival (Mardi Gras) in the typical Ecuadorian way by throwing water balloons at cars, pedestrians and anyone within range. A careless road crossing resulted in a hit and run accident, with Travis tossed and thrown across the road. His older sister, Cristal, just 12, rushed to his side and held his head while an Ecuadorian friend gave him artifical respiration. Cristal then ran for help.
"Travis has a head injury. We don't know how serious it is and since our hospital doesn't have a CT Scan, you need to fly to Quito," Dr. Steve Nelson had been our family doctor for 12 years and spoke gently.
Everything was done for us. Cristal and our youngest child, Ashley, helped friends pack bags for us. Arrangements were made for the flight and for an ambulance to meet us at the Quito airport. We signed papers and answered questions in a daze.
During the one-hour flight to Quito I sat in the back of the small plane, behind the nurse who accompanied Travis. Tim sat in the front beside the pilot. I could rest my hand on Travis' leg and speak to him, but that was all. He seemed to respond to my voice, calming somewhat as he struggled against the darkness. My prayers were wordless, my thoughts swirling.
Another ambulance, more tests, a CT scan and friends awaited us in Quito. By 11 pm Travis was settled in the Intensive Care Unit, the gashes over his eye and on his scalp stitched. The prognosis - unknown.
"It's a matter of time," the specialist told us. "He doesn't need surgery and he should wake up tomorrow."
We walked. We waited. We prayed. We cried. Four long days passed. The heart monitor blipped steadily while Travis lay white and still, sinking deeper into his coma each day. The physicians looked more concerned each day that passed.
Finally, on the fifth day, Travis responded to my voice. It was feeble and weak, but we were elated!
"Recovery can take a long time. He may need to learn to walk again or talk. His emotions might be altered. We know so little about head injuries," we were told. "He might be fine, but one thing is pretty certain. He won't be doing calculus."
We laughed, just relieved to have Travis alive and conscious. Who cared about higher mathematics? Let's get him through grade 5!
Recovery was slow and long. Travis had to work harder in school. He struggled with learning new physical activities. We found we had to break things down into individual steps in order to teach him new skills. But after about two years, the casual observer would notice nothing different about Travis. We were so grateful to God.
Fast forward fourteen years. Travis is 24. On Saturday, he participated in the Iron Ring Ceremony - strictly for engineers. He's finishing up his degree in computer engineering...and calculus is his best subject, one in which he achieves straight A's.
Travis standing outside the engineering building at the University of Victoria.
This little iron ring symbolizes an engineer's obligation to an ethical moral profession. But to me, it symbolizes the greatness of our God, who accomplishes far beyond what I can ever imagine.