Mistress of the Mix: The Pedestrian Never Wins

I feel bad about it, but I honestly wasn’t paying attention. When Hurricane Harvey was blowing down houses, killing families and turning entire towns into lakes, I didn’t even know. When the Helena fire ripped through Trinity county and people were literally jumping from cliffs to escape the flames that devoured almost 80 houses in a matter of hours, I had no idea. People kept asking me if I’d heard about what happened in North Korea, and my response was “Huh?”

A crap ton of other catastrophes happened the last week of August and on into the first week of September as well, and none of it was on my radar. Our trainwreck of a President made two racist announcements: that he’d pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and next on his agenda was shutting down the Dream Act (and all this right after he signed a directive to ban transgender military troops). And then Hurricane Irma came knocking.

Trying to catch up on the news for just one week has left me feeling completely ignorant, but I think I have a pretty good excuse. The entire world pretty much stopped turning for me and my entire family the day my mom entered battle with a Honda Accord.

It was a matchup like Mayweather vs. MacGregor. In this case the Honda was Mayweather, my mom, Gigi, was MacGregor. Car vs. Pedestrian. And she never saw it coming. TKO. But mom says she’ll always remember the horrific feeling of being slammed into unexpectedly, that jolt she experienced just before she lost consciousness. She was crossing Pearl Street a few Wednesdays ago, in Eugene to volunteer planning a fundraising gala for Ophelia’s Place, a non-profit that supports and empowers young teenage women. Then she woke up on the pavement with broken bones. Everything was bruised, she was bleeding from the head with holes in her clothes, her bra was cut off (and it was a really nice bra), and  her ruby red toenail polish was scraped off. But when a pedestrian enters the ring with a car, the pedestrian never wins.

It was a teenager that hit her. A sixteen-year old driving his mom’s Honda in the left lane of a one-way street with a speed limit of 25 mph. We’re guessing he might have been going about that fast when he hit my mom, who had almost reached the other side of the street when the lights went out. We don’t know yet what the real circumstances were. Did he not see her because she, just like the street, was covered in black material? Did he see her and just think she’d get out of the way because – duh – he’s bigger? Was he distracted by Snapchat, a Facebook post, or a text from a friend? We have no idea. What we do know is that my eighty two year old mom is lucky to be alive, and lucky that doctors were able to repair her fractured tibia just below the knee where his bumper connected with her leg, and her broken humerus just beneath the left shoulder. She has a total of seventeen deck screws holding those parts of her body together. To quote my husband, “We always knew your mom was tough as nails. Now we have the X-rays to prove it.”

Our family has been relying on humor to get us through this devastating course of events. Turns out that making someone laugh is a really good way to get things going when one has a bedpan underneath them. Another fun fact: turns out my mom has a really dirty sense of humor. I put a request out there on Facebook asking my friends for a few good jokes to share with mom as I sat by her hospital bedside for 3 days, and her favorite was: Why does the Easter Bunny hide his eggs? Cause he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s been doin’ the chickens.

Since the accident, my sister and I have been taking turns staying by our mother’s side. She took the first 3 days, when mom was flying on morphine and undergoing surgeries, talking with doctors and getting the facts about how long they thought it would be before mom could walk again (a year). I took the next 3, driving 5 hours north and spending hours on the phone with eight insurance companies, trying to figure out how to advocate for my mom and figure out how to start planning for the long year ahead of her.

I won’t go into all of the dirty details involved with advocating for someone’s care right now, but what I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that it’s exhausting to love someone as much as they need to be loved during a catastrophic illness or injury, but it’s the most important thing you can do for someone you love. And it is not a thankless job. Every day my mother tells us how much she appreciates her daughters and everyone who has visited or sent a card or care package.

The family has been rallying around her, and the nurses say my mom has the liveliest room in the place since she transferred from the hospital in Eugene to a skilled nursing facility in Ashland. We all showed up for a big pizza party and football game last weekend because if Gigi can’t go to the party, the party goes to Gigi. We ended up shutting the door and setting up a big fan in the corner to help circulate all the hot air that had gathered in one room and cheered the Ducks to victory. It’s probably a good thing my mom doesn’t have a roommate right now.

Mom will stay at the rehab place until she’s well enough to continue the healing in her own home, hopefully within a few months and after a few modifications to the house. My mom will survive. Gigi’s got things to do, places to go, and charitable fundraisers to organize. She wants to be independently mobile again in the worst way possible, and is operating at 120% of her brain capacity. That’s why we call her Tenacious G.

Mom’s favorite CNA, John, teaching her how to transfer from bed to wheelchair.

So that’s why I wasn’t really paying attention when the rest of the world burned up, flooded out and fell apart, but I had some important stuff going on. But I’ve fund that trying to catch up on all the news that happened during that time is a little overwhelming. Good thing I’ve got a playlist full of wind, rain, firestorms, broken limbs and speeding cars. And there’s even a few filled with North Korean political intrigue, I hope you’ll check out the Spotify playlist below. Maybe you’ve got your own songs about all the crazy events going on in the world these days, and I’ll be happy to entertain them in the comments section below. And if you’ve got a good joke to share, Gigi would still like to hear it, although she has graduated to a bedside commode now with the help of something called a transfer pole. But I like to tell people that my mother is learning how pole dance.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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24 Responses

  1. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Oh sheesh, Valerie, I’m so sorry that happened to your mom! Here’s wishing that she beats that one year projection.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      My thoughts as well. Rehab is a tough road, and it doesn’t get easier as you get older.

      I also thought, how awful for the young guy who hit her. I can’t imagine how terrible he must have felt to get out of his car and see an older woman lying broken in the street. Sometimes it’s a stretch (or even a fantasy), assuming a teen has the appropriate levels of empathy and guilt—but if he does maybe he’ll turn it into a positive influence on his life, small or large.

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    Not really relevant to your post, but the movie title, “A Majority of One” popped into my mind when reading your horrific story. Our world shrinks to that “One” when we need to rally around her, and the outside world disappears. With the whole of A News Cafe sending good wishes her way, Gigi is bound the beat that one-year prediction. Blessings on all your family.

  3. Richard Christoph says:

    So sorry to hear about your Mom’s ordeal, Valerie, but there is little doubt that Tenacious G the pole dancer will prevail. After 35 years as a PT, it is safe to say that the single most important factor in rehabilitation is motivation.

    Best wishes to her and her fine family for a complication-free recovery.

  4. Oh, Val, I’m so glad your mother survived the crash, and I’m so happy you all have each other. (Feel better soon, Gigi Ing!)

  5. Healing wishes to your Mom – how lucky she is to have so many rallying to her side.

  6. Cathy says:

    Your entire family is so inspiring. It’s wonderful how you two daughters stepped in and did exactly what was needed to get the care your mom required. Best wishes for a quicker than predicted recovery!

  7. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    This story brought back memories of my three days at Mercy in the throes of a life-threatening blood pressure crisis. Rather than repeat the tale—which centers on care—you can read about it at the link below if you’re interested.

    Long story short: Not meant as a criticism, but the doctors never figured out what was wrong with me. The nurses and my wife made me well again.

    https://www.yelp.com/biz/mercy-medical-center-redding-redding?hrid=zvSCaz_p2U1u8SZlrGdmMw&utm_campaign=www_review_share_popup&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=(direct)

    • Mistress of the Mix says:

      ….and now I know who’s behind some of my favorite Yelp reviews of all time! Dude, you’re genius. Seriously.

  8. Tammy says:

    Thanks for sharing your family’s situation. Life changes is a split second. She is so fortunate to have daughters that can care for her and work through the morass of treat and care for a broken and healing senior citizen. Healing thoughts going her way. Consider putting Herb Alpert on the play list. Heard him on Jimmy Fallon the other night and now playing two of his albums from the 60s on the record player.

  9. Lynn says:

    So glad to hear she is progressing after this awful trial of strength and will! I see thru your eyes and words that she is a truly amazing woman! Blessings wished thru this unexpected journey, Val and family! Hugs?????

  10. Vicki Robertson says:

    Hey all ya’ll! Greetings from Texas – Gina (best step-mother on the planet!) has the tenacity & spunk to press on in this challenge! My sisters, Val & Dana are devoted to their mom AND dad to cover the bases & love through the good & poopy times. Family – it’s what makes THIS family bind through it all. Love ya’ll…Vicki

  11. Vicki Robertson says:

    Oh yeah – L’CHAIM!

  12. Claudia Hastings says:

    Well written and good song choices. Wishing your mom well, she sounds like a tough old broad!
    So happy your family was able to be there with her.

  13. Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Oh Val, I’m so glad your mom survived the accident and is recovering. I was worried because I didn’t hear your voice on the radio for a time! Now I know why. Laughter and love help healing. My love to your mom. Here’s a joke for your mom that my mother told me when she was in her 80s. Take that back. It’s too racy for anewscafe!

  14. Beverly Stafford says:

    At the risk of sounding trite, how about adding “GiGi” to your song list from the movie of the same name?

  15. AJ says:

    What a treasure it must be for your Mom to have family, and especially you girls, by her side. The very best healing medicine!!!
    What . . . No “Stormy Weather???” Or,” We Didn’t Start the Fire?” . . . . Or did I just not scroll down far enough. I don’t trust this iPad thingy that I’m using instead of a computer these days.

  16. Kelly says:

    Sending healing thoughts to your Mom and props to you and your family for being the wonderful support system she needs to recover from this!! Hugs to all!

  17. Barbara N. says:

    Wow…your mom is tough!! Not a joke but was in a what not to do diy homeowner slideshow. A guy was horribly afraid of electricity. He was replacing something electrical, made sure the breaker was off, no power. In the middle of his project his cell phone, on vibrate went off. Scared him so bad he threw his screwdriver and broke the window. Lol…just cracks me up writing it. I am obviously easily amused! Anyway, hope it gives your mom a chuckle…laughter sometimes is the best medicine. Best of wishes to her, you and your family.

  18. Beverly Stafford says:

    For Gigi, thanks to Jeanne Robertson: on a flight, one woman was being a real pill. Nothing suited her, and she complained constantly. When dinner was served, there was a baked potato on the tray. Pill Woman looked it over, didn’t like it, and called the attendant, saying, “This potato is bad. What are you going to do about it?” The attendant took the potato, spanked it, and said, “Bad potato, bad potato.”

    Probably funnier when Jeanne Robertson delivered the lines.

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