I remember so much from that tragic day almost four and a half years ago. It is forever engraved in my mind…July 9, 2011, a Saturday morning, sun shining, crisp air, the kids and I still in our pajamas, indulging in some Krispy Kreme donuts, a relaxing morning, excited to get out on our new boat we had just bought a couple weeks earlier. We were all looking forward to a great day ahead.
Everyone piled into our boat. And we headed out onto the lake. With 8 of us, our boat was only half-way full. It was a boat Corey had dreamed of owning for many years. Designed specifically for wake boarding. It had all the bells and whistles. Corey and Chase (our second oldest son) shared this passion for wake boarding. So they were in awe over this boat. And couldn’t wait to see what all it could do.
Our friend Jim, who’s lake cottage we were sharing for the summer, tested out his skills first. After a few great runs, he hopped out of the water and Corey jumped in. He was so excited to show me what he had been working on in the early morning hours.
He straps on his board, the boat takes off, and he’s up. Doing great! He’s done this for years. Then he goes into a turn and the edge of his board catches the water just right and smacks him down hard onto the water. We could hear the smack all the way up in the boat, about 30 feet away. I remember Jim saying, “That was a hard hit. I’ve done those before. That hurt.”
We pulled the boat around to Corey. Our youngest son, Grayson (3 at the time) said, “Are you alright, daddy?” Corey responded, “Ya, I’m alright.” Ty, our second youngest, (5 at the time) said, “That had to hurt.” And at that moment, Corey’s head fell back into the water and he lost consciousness.
By this time, we had floated further away from Corey. So, we had to get the boat back over to him. But, unbeknownst to us the rope was wrapped around the board. Therefore, everytime we gave the motor gas, we pulled Corey under water. Now he wasn’t only unconscious, but he was also taking in water…essentially drowning.
Jim jumped in and swam out to Corey. With his wetsuit dragging him down and no lifejacket, Jim was running on adrenaline to pull Corey back to the deck of the boat. That whole scene is vivid in my mind, but yet a whirlwind of mass confusion at the same time.
During this time, I was on the phone with 911. I think I was in shock, because I had a hard time giving the dispatcher the details of where we were and exact details of what was going on. I was also trying to console my children at this time. Chase was in shock and the two younger ones were very scared.
We finally got Corey situated onto the diving platform of the boat. Jim stayed back there with him to hold his head up, so he wouldn’t take in more water, while his wife, Kris drove us back to shore. This was the longest trip ever. Everytime we tried to speed up, water would rush up onto the platform, so we had to go very slow.
When we eventually made it back to the cottage, we had to wait a little while for the ambulance to arrive. This felt like an eternity–although it probably wasn’t that much time at all. The whole time Corey was unconscious, he was making motorboat noises with his lips and clenching his arms close to his body. I would later find out the devastating reason why his body was reacting in this way.
The ambulance finally arrived and they immediately told me to head straight to Parkview Hospital. He needed to be life-flighted. I grabbed Auston and Chase (the two older boys) and left the younger ones with Jim and Kris. We made the one hour trek from Coldwater, Michigan to Fort Wayne in less than 45 minutes.
Praying and crying with my flashers on the whole way…motioning for people to move over. For much of the drive, I drove on the shoulder. Looking back, God really had a hedge of protection over us. I was going speeds I didn’t know my truck was capable of going. My poor boys were in the back seat praying not only for their dad, but also for our own lives.
When we made it safely to the hospital, Auston was in such shock, a girlfriend of mine took him home with her. But Chase wanted to stay. We were led to a room. “The room” where they tell you bad news.
The doctor came in, sat down and told us the bleak news. I remember pieces of it. By this point, my mind was in such a fog. Severe traumatic brain injury; subdural hematoma; high probability he won’t make it; we’ll do what we can.
Chase lost it. My mom lost it. I hardly reacted. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. This couldn’t be real. Any moment I was going to wake up from this nightmare. I had to stay strong for Chase. Deep deep shock.
We were allowed to see him one last time before they took him for surgery. We were led into a very cold, sterile room. Corey was laying on a table with many people working quickly around him. Chase saw his dad and couldn’t hold back the tears. He was trying so hard to be strong, but the reality of the moment set in and he turned his back and the tears came fast. A very kind nurse came over to him immediately and talked with him and comforted him. She was so good. I’ve never been able to remember her name…but I wish I could…I would love to tell her, “thank you.”
Every so often Corey would move his arms close to his body. I thought this was a good sign–awareness. I soon learned it was not good at all. It meant he had severe damage to the brain.
While my mom and I were talking to him and I was leaned over close to his face, a tear ran down his cheek. I knew he could hear us. My heart was completely broken.
He was my everything. How could I possibly do life without him? He had to pull through this. We needed him. We had just been laughing and having a great time only a couple hours ago. Our lives completely changed in the blink of an eye. Was this really happening? It was all so surreal.
We said our “I love you’s” and headed out to the lobby. I was overwhelmed to see the entire room packed full of family and church family. It was unbelievable. It gave me strength and comfort to know we were not alone and so many people were praying, loving and supporting us.
A couple hours later the neurosurgeon came out with the news…”he made it through surgery. The next 72 hours would be very critical. I think he has a good chance of pulling through. BUT it will be a hard road ahead.”
I remember looking at my sister, with tears in my eyes and saying, “He’s still here, we can do hard.”
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