First off, apologies. It isn’t nice of me to be so far away from so many of our friends and not keep everyone updated. And although it’s no excuse, this has been a really shitty two weeks. So, what happened, you ask?
My husband drove himself off a cliff. Literally. And I thought he died.
Let me explain: There’s a lot of sand around here, so we try to make the best of it. We have (yikes — had) three four wheelers that we love to ride out in the desert. We’ll pack a picnic, load up the family and head out to ride, climb, slide and play frisbee until it’s time to watch an amazing sunset. And it is fun. And gorgeous. And on December 22nd a rare and magical event occurred. Three families with traveling and hard-working dads all had a day off together. So we decided to make the most of it and loaded up three huge vehicles with three dads, three moms, eight kids, two grandmas, a trailer, three quads, and a whole lot of shwarmas to tour the desert. It’s about an hour drive to where we ride, then we unhooked the trailer, and left it on the side of the road and set out into the middle of nowhere.
We set up in a lovely bowl with a great hill for the littles to climb and the older kids set out riding the kid’s quads and sand sledding. Mark was on his quad and had decided to run back to the trailer to drop a pin on his map to ensure we could locate the trailer on our return trip in case it was difficult to find in the dark. On his ride back to the group he was on top of a ridge and could see us, so he was riding fairly quickly as it was a straight shot. Now, here’s the thing about the desert. It’s tricky. And deceiving. And it was close to sunset. So from atop the dune where we were all hanging out, I watched as Mark drove… right off of a cliff. And then he didn’t move. I stopped the kid closest to me that had a four wheeler, jumped on it and drove toward Mark. And that was the longest 5 minutes of my life. I prayed and prayed and prayed over and over and over. When I got to him he was sitting up, but I could tell he was in bad shape. His eyes were dilated, he was dazed, his shoes were off and his two wrists were distorted. Rich had stolen the other kid’s four wheeler and met me there. We decided Mark needed to get to the hospital. Now, here’s the part about living in Saudi Arabia that’s a real pain in the ass. We had three eight-passenger vehicles. So if we drove Mark to the hospital in one of them, we had 16 seats left for the remaining 13 people and everyone could get home, right? Nope. Because I needed one of the other men to drive Mark to the hospital. Because I CAN’T FRICKING DRIVE IN THIS COUNTRY!!! So two men in one car meant abandoning 13 people in the desert with one legal driver. And that’s exactly what we did.
Then what? Well, then we hit cell service and called back to camp where we enlisted a man, who then enlisted another man, to drive out to the desert to rescue all the stranded friends, quads, and trailers we left behind. And of course that worked because the people in this camp are amazing.
We arrived at the Dhahran Hospital (the hospital on one of the other Aramco camps) about an hour later. Mark was admitted and they started the slew of tests. Turns out that after diving off of an 80 foot cliff, he was lucky. No head or neck trauma, no brain injury. (Thank God.) He did some damage to his poor body though. Two broken wrists, a shattered ankle, lots of broken ribs, some pretty serious road rash, a coronary contusion, a bruised lung and a laceration on his liver. Bad, definitely. But we know how much worse it could’ve been. He was admitted to the ICU for monitoring because of the damage to his internal organs. So the first 24 hours was pretty intense. Three days later he was cleared by his cardiologist and was admitted for surgery on Christmas Day. One wrist now has a plate, and the other has external pins. Both are in casts. The orthopedic surgeon wasn’t able to operate on his ankle because of the extreme swelling and the extent to which it was shattered. They re-set the bone and cast it and we are now waiting to see what will need to be done as it begins to heal.
Mark’s mom was here for Christmas (again, Thank God). So we were able to take turns caring for the children and visiting Mark in the hospital. We figured out how to best make use of the Aramco Bus system, taxis, and all of our friends to make the hour drive back and forth. We even managed to make sure Santa came on time and all of the presents under the tree were wrapped. The kids had a great morning, and Mark was with us via FaceTime. The children voluntarily stopped opening presents about half way through and decided to wait for their daddy to get home to finish with Christmas. I took Rhys and LT to hospital on Christmas afternoon so Mark could get some kiddo time and although it was his only gift, I think those hugs really hit the spot.
Mark was discharged a week later on December 29th.
And, for as much as it sucks not to be able to drive in an emergency, here are the benefits to living here:
- 8 days in the hospital, including 3 in Intensive Care. X-rays, CT Scans, Casts, Surgery. We got sent home with a wheelchair and a walker. All free. Yes, 100% coverage. Thank you, Saudi Arabia, for allowing us to focus on healing instead of panic about how to pay our medical bills.
- Mark’s job. His bosses have been amazing. And concerned. And understanding. And nothing but focused on his healing. And we don’t have to worry about the security of his job or his paycheck. What a blessing.
- This community. There are no words to describe the envelopment of the people around us. People we hardly know – and some that we don’t know at all – have showed up and stepped up. And our close friends have been amazing. The day Mark was admitted, we had a quiche dropped off so that we’d have breakfast for the next day. And then chicken tortilla soup. And then a casserole… and it hasn’t stopped. People will show up with pizza, or a loaf of bread, or brownies. And I swear, it helps. Every time I see that food, I am reminded of how much these people care about us, and worry about us, and want to see our family heal successfully from this. Friends wrapped my Christmas gifts and watched my kids, they have gone grocery shopping for me and helped put together our kid’s Christmas toys. They drop off movies for Mark to watch and Rosetta Stone so he can use his time to learn Arabic. They brought over a recliner so he could rest comfortably. They call and pray with us over the phone. And, (and this is totally true) one of them came installed a bidet. Now that is a good, and very thoughtful, friend. For as awful as it has been, I have been reminded of all the good there is in people.
Mark was able to go to dinner at a friends house for New Year’s Eve, but has been home other than that. We are learning how to navigate with his injuries. Our shower is upstairs, which makes for a long and arduous process for him. He’s sleeping on the couch. But mostly right now he’s healing… slowly. He has an appointment with his surgeon on Jan 7th, so we will know how he is progressing later this week and will update when we know more. For now, please know that we appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers and we are grateful for everyone that is helping us through this time.