Lucy Jensen

I couldn’t think what to do with myself. My baby girl was lying in a hospital bed with a broken back when she should have been enjoying the vacation of a lifetime in Montana. She was heavily drugged and monitored. She slept a lot those early days.

I spent a few restless night hours on the window ledge literally. There was a shortage of pillows in the hospital, so there wasn’t one for me. It reminded me of what jail must be like. A narrow bench on the ledge of no hope. Her boyfriend stayed at her bedside with her. He and I both sported the largest black rings under our eyes like English badgers.

During the daytime hours, I was the gopher. “What do you want for lunch? Need a coffee? Any supplies you want from Target?” I tried to put the practical into the hell that was those long, angry hours of when my daughter was at Kaiser Hospital in Vacaville and, as her mother, I wanted to just fix her and take her home. I also wanted to fix — in a manner of speaking — the person that did this to her. Who, in the so-called civilized world, drives on the wrong side of the freeway?

I had to use navigation everywhere I went during those days, because I was so sleep-deprived I had no brain to navigate a thing. The nearby Target nearly knew me by name. I went there to pick up toothpaste, drinks, whatever it seemed we needed in our cocoon of Room 307. I would find myself mindlessly buying stuff to try and fill that gaping hole in my soul. Oh, here’s a shirt she will like, a pair of shorts, a dress to wear under her back brace.

I kept going back there in the hope that it would make all of us feel a little better with the senseless gifts that accompanied my return. I lost my car one day in the parking lot at the hospital. I walked round and round that enormous complex in well over 100-degree heat, only to find myself back near the entrance to the main building where I had — fall back in amazement — actually left my car in a sensible spot.

Your senses are so enhanced when life throws you a curve ball that you can no way catch; yet they are also numb and inhibited, sometimes ineffectual. Concerned folks would call me on the phone — I would be numb to the ring and miss their calls entirely. I was immune to the tick of the clock or the passing days. I found I didn’t have the energy barely to answer emails or texts. I had one goal in mind. I had to get my girl well enough to transport her home.

Back to Target I would go, when the going got tough and it wasn’t going to happen that day. Or the next day, apparently. I would be watching the sun in the sky, the dip of light, as it turned from early to later afternoon and I would know that she was gripped with terror and pain and wasn’t going to be able to leave that day. It was a precious balancing act. She didn’t want to get in the car. She was terrified to leave the sanctuary of Room 307. Personally, I wanted to just keep going back and forth to Target. That had become my personal safety zone.

Once I got her home, the depression kicked in a little and the fury rebounded in no uncertain terms. With the completion of the police report, so came the knowledge that the driver who hit her suffered from dementia, had no driver’s license and had been convicted of a similar wrong-way offence in 2019. Who had allowed this person to live freely on the streets; who gave her permission and a car to drive? The vehicle in the accident was fresh off a car lot with paper tags? The mind boggles.

In your efforts to do something positive, anything constructive, while the wheels of justice turn and the insurance procedures do their thing, you have to bring something fabulous to the table. In true animal- rescuer style, I brought kittens. “Which one do you want?” I asked Francoise and Aaron. “Ooh!” they squealed in their excitement that, finally, something nice was happening to them. “How about this one, how about that one?” They couldn’t make up their minds.

“Wait! What’s better than one kitten? Two kittens!” I queried, knowing that would take them over the edge with delight. So, two kittens it was, and Colter and Beaux arrived at Solace last week to great fanfare. The dogs just rolled their eyes as if to say, “Really?” They had been there before on the kitten train and knew it was quite the trip.

And then I started to think about the impacts of a nasty accident that was not your fault. You are not able to work or make money the way you normally do. Any disability payments that might come your way will take a while to process. You will still have all your regular bills in addition to medical. What could I do to make a difference there? Then I remembered the GoFundMe efforts I had put together for other people; or, certainly, contributed to over time myself.

People are often very generous with this type of thing, especially if it affects young people or animals when they are in a difficult situation of no fault of their own. During a sleepless night, it came to me that I would put together a GoFundMe for the young ones and try to cheer their spirits; also make a few beans to help them out. And it did just that. I saw my daughter smile open-heartedly when she saw the generous spirits of near strangers reach out to them during their times of need. I saw hope in her big blue eyes that lifted my heart.

We may never know why a middle-aged woman with dementia was driving without a license on the wrong side of a freeway near Redding, causing this horrible accident that destroyed a young couple’s dream vacation, truck and possessions — also broke my daughter’s back. We can only control our response to the aftermath of this terrible incident and heed the reaction of those close to us and close enough to care.

In the depths of her disability and despair, my daughter was reminded that there are many good and generous souls out there. There is light outside her window. Though she is still practicing her walking and is a long way from driving a car or returning to work; in time we hope she will be OK, and her spirits will be good and restored and ready for better times ahead.

Thanks to all who have cheered Aaron and Francoise along their difficult journey. If you would like to contribute to their GoFundMe account, it can be found by searching “Dream Vacation Turned Into a Nightmare” on This Mama-Bear thanks you so much.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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