Three weeks. Three more weeks and I am done radiation! Just a few days ago this seemed like an impossibly long journey and now it feels like I should start packing. I’ll hold off on packing, there is a lot to fit into these three weeks: Christmas, a visit from my parents, Olivia and Stella coming down for the holidays, 14 burn sessions, and a radiation graduation. And really, have I ever started packing a minute before I needed to?
My excitement about finishing has been tempered. A few weeks ago I met a woman at SCCA House. She lives in Idaho and was here as her son was in an accident at the Boeing plant in Everett the day after I toured it on Veterans’ Day. I watched Boeing completing their work on the plane before they turned it over to Singapore Airlines for finishing (for four hundred million bucks you would think they would throw in the seats and engines on a 777). Ken was installing a seat in the first class cabin when the airbags deployed. The seat had been connected to the electrical system in error. His co-worker was badly injured, Ken’s face was severely damaged and he was without oxygen for two minutes before they could perform a tracheotomy.
I say Shirley most mornings (and her husband when he was in town). We talked about her son (he shares a birthday with my sister, Michelle. He turned 50 last Friday) and she asked for my help in drafting emails to his girlfriend in Singapore updating her on Ken’s status. She went to Harborview every day to sit with him, meet doctors and make excruciating care decisions. I would often see her at the end of the day and talk about her visits, which were uneventful as he never emerged from his coma. Her pain was so raw and her exhaustion so evident, yet she left the house early every morning to spend the day with her son. Ken died on Sunday and I didn’t see Shirley before she left. I don’t have an address, phone number or email address for her. I read an article in Tuesday’s Seattle Times on the accident or I wouldn’t even know her last name. I maybe talked to her a dozen times; I really know little about her or Ken and yet I can’t get them out of my mind. I wonder if I felt some connection because I had seen the plane and been at the plant. I think I was just there at a particularly emotional time and participated in a mother’s grief. Did I help her in any small way? I doubt it. She certainly touched me. I desperately hope that I never have to make decisions such as she did concerning my daughters. I know I would not be as strong as Shirley. I also want to spare my parents, Olivia or my daughters from having to make them about me.
The side effects of radiation have increased dramatically this week. My bowels are a mess, the skin on my back is painfully burned and the nerve pain in my foot is ridiculous. But all I can think about is Ken Otto.