The Richmond Register

May 5, 2013

Mitchell’s homecoming

Coming home

Marie Mitchell

RICHMOND — After nearly seven weeks, two hospitals and countless hours of therapies following our 21-year-old son, Mitchell’s, car crash, he finally came home Thursday.

He’s walking, talking and eating on his own. And thinking about what college classes he’ll take in the fall.

If that’s not a modern miracle, I don’t know what could top it.

We’d had his homecoming date, May 2, on the calendar for a couple weeks, so I’d already started to downsize the amount of things we kept in his room at Cardinal Hill in Lexington.

The chess set came home earlier. Heavier clothes were hauled off since the weather had reached into the 80s again.

I also emptied out the snack shelves, getting rid of partially eaten bags of chips, cookies and crackers that hadn’t been touched in a while.

It’s truly amazing how much you can accumulate in a matter of weeks.

You settle into a place even if you hope it’s a short term stay. But with so many hours to fill in between the therapies and meals, you bring games, musical instruments, a laptop, iPad, Nook and cell phone to pass the time.

Packing it all up was like moving Mitchell in and out of various college dorms. It didn’t require professional movers, but it did take many trips to our Toyota van to clear the room of clothes, blankets, guitar, books, electronics, fan, posters, cards and things that created a homey feel to the hospital-type room.

We have no complaints about the accommodations, mind you. Double room to ourselves. Two beds. Two tables, one to eat on and one designated as a temporary office to grade student papers. A large window provided plenty of light.

We visited the rec room for ping pong, foosball and air hockey, plus relaxed in the atrium and garden area. My only regret is never swimming in the enticing pools used for therapies.

Recently, Mitchell had gotten day passes to go to Keeneland, his brother Marlowe’s soccer game, a movie and out to eat with us a few times — all in Lexington. That helped break some of the monotony. But it’s not the same as being able to come and go anywhere and at anytime you’d like.

There are many things we won’t miss now that he’s home. Like getting awakened at 6 a.m. to have blood taken. Isn’t there a better time to do that? Or having vital signs checked at 6:30. Plus occasionally being rousted out of bed at 7 for occupational therapy. Before breakfast! Then going hours with nothing else scheduled. Go figure.

So one thing that is high on the home agenda is getting some sleep. Continuous.

Without those interruptions. But the very next day after Mitchell’s release, we were scheduled for a 9 a.m. doctor's appointment at UK. So much for sleeping in.

And, as wonderful as the nurses, therapists and staff have been, Dorothy says it best in “The Wizard of Oz:” “There's no place like home.” We were ready to move on.

Of course, checking out of Cardinal Hill took longer than getting in.

Our trip from UK Hospital to there took only about 40 minutes, including the ambulance ride and going through admissions. But we waited all morning to leave.

We had to get instructions for follow up care and sign required paperwork before we could head down the road. Frustrating. But I picked the better job of coordinating the transition to home. Instead of preparing the house for Mitchell's return.

Mason texted me that in the past two days he and the other three kids had mowed the grass. Cleaned the house. Stockpiled some of Mitchell's favorite foods. Put up handmade “Welcome Home” posters.

No amount of my nagging could have gotten them moving that fast on so many chores. Guess we know who has clout in our family. Mitchell! Not complaining. Just saying.

When we finally got to Richmond, at 1 p.m., we declared it a family holiday and checked the kids out of school to have lunch with us. Could that have waited? Possibly. Was it worth it to celebrate Mitchell's homecoming? Absolutely.

Our lives haven't returned to normal just yet. There are still doctors’ visits and therapies ahead. But it's close to what passes for normal to us. We've waited weeks for this moment. It’s enough. For now.