“It was mid October, 2005. Halloween was nearing, my friend’s birthday was coming right up and a group of us ladies decided to plan a unique party. We’d been talking about visiting a psychic to do a reading for some time now. This seemed like the perfect time of year, the inimitable birthday party, a great way to spend a ladies night out.
I made reservations for a Saturday night reading for four of us with a psychic whom none of us had ever met. We didn’t tell the birthday girl, Doreen, where we were headed. Upon arrival, the psychic led us into a small room at the back of the store where she worked with other people of similar abilities. We were all seated around a small table, giggling in anticipation of a fun filled adventure. None of were taking any of this seriously, after all, it was a Halloween/Birthday party for a group of middle aged women just out for a good time.
The psychic, Sarah, started in with a prayer, asking the guides and spirits to speak to us, keep us safe, and know that we would use any knowledge gained for good only. Sarah started right in talking about Doreen. We hadn’t told her which one of us was the birthday girl, but she knew. Sarah asked if anyone had recently lost a brother; none of us had. She pressed on, looking in Doreen’s direction.
“I’m getting a young man, someone in his early 30s who died a short time ago. If not a brother, then maybe that was a nick name?”
Doreen gasped in surprise. “My good friend, Joe; he died in his 30s and was so close to me, I used to call him Brother!”
Sarah said Joe was coming through. He wanted Doreen to know that he was happy, but he was worried about her. Joe was concerned about Doreen’s marital problems, saying he could see Doreen building a brick wall. He also said he knew she liked someone else and described a man Doreen had a crush on in detail. He warned her that there was no future there. Doreen was a bit horrified to have all of this revealed in front of her friends. Not all those present knew about her fantasy man!
Sarah went on to talk to Debbie, saying she saw Debbie feeling suffocated. Debbie agreed, she felt she was in a very controlled relationship. Sarah thought Debbie’s marriage might also be in trouble and advised her to listen to her guides. She said the guides were showing her ways to be more independent and develop outside interests that would help relieve tensions at home.
Next, Sarah concentrated on Danielle. She said she sensed a place with lots of people, food smells, pots and pans, “Do you work in a restaurant?” she asked. Yes, Danielle had just changed jobs from nursing to being a waitress! She guessed correctly that Danielle was newly married and was thinking about having a baby.
I was feeling antsy and curious for my turn. What could she say to me? I had a good marriage, no secrets, and no recent changes. What was there for her to see? I had no idea of the scale of the message to me.
Sarah turned to me. “I sense a happy marriage, but one where you are both extremely busy.” Paul worked a full-time and part-time job; I ran a convenience store open 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. “I sense your husband is a very busy man, like an ADHD type personality?” Yes, I had to agree with that, he rarely sat still; but how did she know I wasn’t married to a couch potato? I was impressed.
Next, she asked if his Dad had passed on. He had. She said he was there and she could see a guitar. “Does that mean anything to you?” Sarah asked. Paul’s dad, Bill, was a folklorist who had played guitar and sang folk music in local schools.
“He’s here”, she continued, “and he is saying something about your husband’s brain. He’s banging on his head with his fingers and saying something about brain injury.” She seemed to be getting excited. “Does that mean anything to you?” she asked.
“Well, he was born with a learning disability. He didn’t speak until he was eight.” I offered.
That didn’t seem to satisfy Sarah. “His dad is telling me something more. Does your husband cut wood? Trees?” she queried.
“Yes, we cut our own firewood to heat our house,” was my reply. “Why?”
“Well, I’m getting his being very concerned; he keeps banging at his head. I get the words, ‘Severe, traumatic brain injury’ from him, but he wants you to know that Paul is going to be okay,” she finished, seemingly worn out.
“Well, I don’t know how severe it was, but, yeah, he is okay. I guess he’s as okay as he’s ever going to be!” I joked.
Having given each of us a fair amount of time, Sarah brought the reading to an end. The four of us spilled out onto the street, laughing and fully amused. We went out for drinks and agreed that the evening had been entertaining, interesting and nothing more. Little did I know just how Sarah’s words would come back to comfort me.
Fast forward to January 2nd, 2006. It had been approximately 10 weeks since our Halloween outing and it was the last thing on my mind that cold Monday morning. I awoke from a dead sleep with a splitting headache. I sat up rubbing the left side of my head and stared in disbelief at my bedside clock. It was nearly 7:30 a.m. I had overslept by about an hour, my alarm hadn’t gone off, my head was pounding and I was late for work. My store opened at 7 a.m. and, although Doreen opened in the morning, I was usually there before now. I stumbled into the bathroom, threw on some clothes, swallowed a handful of ibuprofen, ran a brush through my hair and bolted out the door. I hadn’t notice Paul wasn’t home, but he usually went out for an early morning run so nothing seemed out of place. I jumped in my van, shivering, and put it into reverse. Suddenly, I noticed Paul lumbering into the driveway a couple hundred feet behind me. He looked as if he’d had quite a run as he was dragging his feet along the ground. He appeared to be slumped over and looked haggard. I waved out the window as I began to back up, but he didn’t wave back. I realized there was no bounce to his step, maybe he wasn’t feeling well.
I jumped back out of the van, deciding I should check on him before I took off. I walked towards him and after just a few steps I had to stifle a scream. His face was streaked with blood, his maroon sweatshirt hood was up but I could see it was blood soaked as were his hands.
“Oh my God! What happened?” I asked, trying not to become hysterical. I knew I was going to have to act fast and stay in control if I was going to keep him alive.
“It’s okay honey. I was cutting wood and a tree fell on me, but I’m okay. Just need to lie down.” He spoke in a soft trailing voice. His usual energetic bounce and loud voice had been replaced with a dragging step and monotone sound. His eyes were bulging like those of a frog. I could tell from the large crater above his left eye, his cold sweaty skin and the bulging eyes that he was suffering from a brain injury and severe blood loss. I guessed he was going into shock and I prayed I would be able to drag him into the house and call for help before it was too late.
I wrapped his arm over my shoulder and around my neck with my left hand and wrapped my right arm around his waist. I talked softly, encouraging him to stay on his feet, to take a few more steps, assuring him that we were almost home and he could lie down in a minute. We made it to the house. I placed him on the couch and ran into the bedroom, grabbing the phone and pounding out 911 as I’d seen people do in movies so many times. Everything seemed in slow motion. I didn’t like leaving him on the couch, what if he tried to get up? What if he died before I could get back to him?
“Lincoln County 911 Center, is this an emergency?” the woman’s voice asked me calmly. “Yes!” I practically screamed into the phone. I gave the dispatcher a brief description of what had happened and our address. Paul had worked in that center and luckily most of the people there knew where we lived, on the south end of Westport Island. She asked me if he was breathing. “I don’t know!” I cried hysterically. “I can’t see him from here. I’m going to hang up and try to help him. Just send help!” I hung up the phone, a big mistake I knew, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.
I ran to the bottom of the stairs. My sons were two floors above me. The youngest, Caleb, was seventeen years old and had recently completed 1st responder emergency aid training.
“CALEB” I screamed, trying to make my voice carry to the 3rd floor bedroom where I knew his door was shut and he always slept with a fan running.
“CALEB” I screamed again.
“What?” came the sound of his sleepy reply.
“CALEB, it’s bad, it’s really bad!!!” was all I could choke out.
“What, Mom? Jesus, I’m coming! Hang on!” he yelled down.
Knowing he was on his way down, I returned to my poor, pallid, husband who was now pretty much blinded by the swelling eyes protruding from his head. He was sitting where I had left him, head back, mumbling something about needing to take a nap. I grabbed a hand towel from the back of the couch, rolled it up, and placed it on top of his head, not daring to remove the hood because I knew that could make the bleeding worse. I tried to speak softly, calmly, belying the loud volume of panic trying to escape from within. I could hear Caleb pounding down the stairs. He felt panic before he ever reached the living room as he had never heard me scream like that in seventeen years.
As Caleb rounded the bottom step into the room where his dad sat on the couch the look of horror on his face sent a torrent of tears tumbling down my cheeks.
“I’ve called 911, they’re on their way hon. A tree hit Dad in the head. “ I managed to squeak out, knowing if I talked too much I’d fall apart.
He quickly surveyed his dad and instinctively knew calm, quick actions were the only way there would be a chance for survival. He placed his hand on his Dad’s wrist, checking for a pulse and spoke to him.
“Dad, Dad, can you hear me?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Paul mumbled through bloody teeth.
“Dad, you’ve been hurt, I’m going to get my jump kit. You hang on.”
By now, our 21 year old son had heard the commotion and had run down to see what was going on. Nathan rubbed his hands across his nearly shaven head, turning paler by the second. He began to stutter, trying to ask what had happened; his usually deep voice becoming a squeak.
“Nathan,” Caleb barked at his older brother, “Don’t get hysterical. I need you to help me save Dad. Grab the phone and call 911. Stay on the phone with them and give them the information I’m going to give you.”
Caleb ran out to his car, grabbed his kit, and scurried back in. Nate had the emergency operator back on the line. Paul was still sitting on the couch with pale skin, eyes swollen shut, cold sweat beading on his face, and moaning.
Caleb instructed me to use the scissors from his kit to cut Paul’s sweatshirt arm off so he could take a blood pressure reading. “Dad”, Caleb spoke softly but clearly to his father. “Dad, do you know what happened?” he asked. Paul murmured something. “Dad, do you know who the President is?” Caleb pressed on.
“It’s McCain isn’t it?” Paul stammered. We all knew Paul was fading fast. He was very up on politics and certainly didn’t think McCain was President. I managed to cut through Paul’s layers of clothing. There were several as it was January and we had been at well below freezing temps for days.
I began to panic. “Where are they? What’s taking so long?” I began to shudder as I tried to hold myself together. It was a losing battle. Nate was pacing back and forth passing information about his dad’s condition from Caleb to the 911 operator. Though it was only a matter of about 8 minutes that had passed, I had the impression that the entire world had begun to operate in slow motion.
Finally, a first responder from the Westport Volunteer Fire Department burst into the living room. Though I knew all of these men, I somehow couldn’t seem to recall anyone’s name. I just started crying hysterically. Becky, a fairly new member of the department wrapped her arms around me and pulled me away from Paul’s side. At first I fought to be with him, but she calmly spoke to me of the importance of letting the professionals help Paul. I was asked to get his oxygen tank, which I knew was in his car in the garage. From there it was all a blur of activity. The ambulance showed up and I heard talk about life-flight having been called. Within moments, we could hear the whir of the blades of a helicopter as it approached the field just yards from our house.
I struggled to go back downstairs to be with my husband, but Becky kept talking calmly, yet firmly to me. She convinced me to talk to Nathan, who had emerged from the downstairs. He had done his job of communicating with the dispatchers and was no longer needed on the phone. He was pale and shaken to the core. I suddenly noticed a little figure huddled in the corner of the dining room. It was Hitomi, our Japanese exchange student. She had heard all of the commotion, yet managed to stay out of the way. She had knelt in prayer, knowing her host father’s life was hanging in peril. Nathan, Hitomi and I huddled together. I did the best I could to explain what had happened and what was going on, choking back tears, trying to remember I was the mother. It was my job to comfort the children, to relieve their fears. Yet, that role seemed foreign to me somehow. I didn’t have the strength to offer anyone any comfort. Becky stepped in; hugging all of us, speaking softly, and telling us Paul would be in the best of care with the crew of the life-flight helicopter.
I broke away and ran back downstairs just as Paul was being taken out of the house. He was wrapped like a mummy, an IV hanging from his arm and an oxygen mask covering his face. I gave him a quick kiss on his hand, the only part of his body visible, and told him to hang in there and that I loved him. The ambulance crew was wasting no time. They whisked him out the door, shoved him into the back of the ambulance, and drove him around to the field behind the house. I later learned he had a major seizure at that time and was intubated in the field.
I had to stay behind, watching the helicopter from the dining room window. My 17 year old son came to me. My hero, my strength during that horrifying time, the boy who saved his father’s life fell into my arms sobbing for all he was worth.
“I’m so scared, Mom,” he sobbed. “He’s bad, he’s really in trouble.”
“I know honey, but you were a trooper. You did all you could and now he’s in God’s hands.” I hugged him as he shook, finally able to release some of that fear he had put at bay so he could do the work he’d been trained to do.
We heard the helicopter start up the blades and knew it would soon lift off. We all ran outside and I remember being absolutely amazed at the number of vehicles filling my yard. Emergency vehicles, cars, and trucks took over both driveways and most of the lawn. Paul had a massive number of friends in the departments as he had worked so closely with them all. They had all shown up because he was, “One of our own” as they put it.
As soon as the chopper lifted a panic of a new kind hit me. I suddenly realized Paul was far away from me, headed to Central Maine Medical Center located in Lewiston, Maine. That was a little over an hours drive and I was stuck here, all these vehicles blocking me in. I had to get those vehicles out of my way! I had to get to my van so I could drive there! An officer with the sheriff’s department walked towards me, holding a pad of paper and a pen. He would help me, I knew he would.
“Are you Paul’s wife?” he asked.
“Yes! And I need to get out of here; I have to get to the hospital. Can you get everyone to move their cars?” I blurted out.
“Can you tell me what happened?” he queried.
“What? You want a report…NOW! Get out of my way! I’m going to Lewiston.” I was becoming loud and hysterical. Like an angel from heaven, there was Becky again.
“Don’t worry hon, I’m going to drive you to Lewiston right now” she said softly. Turning to the officer, Becky said firmly, “You’ll have to get your report later. Right now we need to get to the hospital. They’ll be looking for someone to talk with. I’m going to drive her.” God Bless Becky!
The hour drive was the longest in my entire life. People were crazy, not getting out of our way, stop lights making us wait, it was all too much to bear. I cried, and rocked and tried not to think of what if he didn’t make it?
We finally made it to the emergency room and I ran in like a woman crazed. “I’m looking for my husband. He just came in on life flight!”
“What’s his name?” the calm nurse asked me.
“Paul Bonyun” I managed to say clearly.
“This is no time for jokes,” the nurse said sternly. “We have just had two seriously injured patients come in as code k’s. Both men had logging accidents.”
I went weak in the knees. I knew code k in Lincoln County meant the patient hadn’t made it. “It’s not a joke!” I was nearly screaming. “His name is Paul, Paul Bonyun, he had a woodcutting accident on Westport Island.”
The nurse studied me for a minute. “Code K means they came in with no name. We named the first John Doe and when the second came we named him Paul Bunyan, like the folk tale.” She couldn’t be serious.
I grabbed Paul’s insurance card from my purse and shoved it under her nose. “His name really IS Paul Bonyun! Please, tell me where he is! Is he okay?”
Her attitude changed. She apologized for the misunderstanding and immediately led me and my followers to an elevator. “He’s in surgery right now. We couldn’t wait for anyone to sign the papers and he came in with no name, so we had no choice.”
So, he had made it here alive! Well that, in itself, was a miracle. We were led to a waiting room outside of the Critical Care unit. Within minutes the room filled with people who came to offer support and prayers and comfort. I had left in such a hurry, I hadn’t even thought of bringing my sons! Luckily, another person had thought of it. Before they came up, however, they had gone to find where the accident had taken place. The investigating officer needed to know in case he didn’t make it.
My brother had seen Paul that morning, riding his 4-wheeler into the woods about a mile from home. Sure enough, they had found the tree, the saw, the blood soaked leaves where he had obviously fallen and lain for some time. How did he ever get up and walk out of the woods? How did he manage that long, hilly, walk home? It had to be a miracle.
After what seemed like hours the neurosurgeon finally came into the room. I approached him cautiously, wanting to know, not wanting to hear.
“Are you Mrs. Bonyun?” he asked.
“Yes, how is Paul?” I managed to stutter.
“He’s one very lucky man to be alive. You must understand, however, your husband has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. We won’t know for the next 24-48 hours if he’s going to live or die. It will be touch and go. If he makes it past that time, then it will be a matter of how much damage is done. Do you understand Mrs. Bonyun?”
I stared in disbelief at the doctor. Had he just said “severe traumatic brain injury”? I couldn’t help myself. I blurted out, “But he’s going to be okay!”
“Mrs. Bonyun,” the doctor pressed on, “Your husband has a severe traumatic brain injury. He has three skull fractures, a blood clot on the brain and he’s lost a lot of blood. We won’t know for a day or two if he will live. Do you understand?” he questioned me.
Again, I blurted out, “But he’s going to be okay. I know he’s going to be okay.” The doctor shook his head, mumbled something about me being in shock and left the room, promising to let me know when Paul was settled in the CCU. I turned to my girlfriends Doreen and Debbie who had come along to offer support. We all stared at each other in disbelief. Those were the EXACT same words the psychic, Sarah, had used back in October. She had told me Paul would suffer from a severe traumatic brain injury, but that he would be okay. Paul’s father had sent that message through. I had that hope to hang on to. I knew he’d be okay.
That faith never left me. It came in very handy over the next couple of weeks as Paul endured all the pain and suffering of the intrusion of treatments. He developed pneumonia due to aspiration. A visiting priest asked to come in. I welcomed her and asked her to help me heal Paul’s lungs. Together we placed our hands on his chest and prayed prayers of healing. I could feel a warmth emanating from his chest. I used that praying technique several times over the next few hours. The following day, his pneumonia had mysteriously diminished beyond expectation!
The nurses would come and go, asking me how I was doing, urging me to get some rest. They meant well and told me everything they were doing for my husband. I found myself telling every one who would listen, “He’s going to be okay. I know he’s going to be okay.” For the first two days I couldn’t leave his side. I had to stay there in case he awoke. Finally, they gave me a room at the Arbor House next door. I could rest, shower, and eat there. At first I would only leave the room if there was someone else there to hold Paul’s hand. I’d run out, shower, lie down for an hour, and wake in a panic. I’d run back over to the hospital.
Finally, on day twelve, Paul was breathing enough on his own that they could pull the ventilator out. He immediately tried to talk! What a good sign. I couldn’t understand him, but he tried and tried to communicate for about an hour. Finally, I said, “Today is Tuesday and it’s just about noon time.” He struggled to speak more clearly. “What?” I asked softly, caressing his head, “What are you saying?”
I leaned closer, placing my ear near his lips, straining to understand so I could relieve his stress. Finally it became clear to me!
“Channel 6” came the gurgled, deep, throaty sound.
“Channel 6?” I asked. Could it be so? Could he be putting together the fact that it was noon time and he never missed the twelve o’clock news on Channel 6?
“Yeah, Channel 6” he answered.
I popped the television on, found his favorite channel, and tried to ignore the fact that Channel 6 had won out over something more heartwarming like, “I love you!” I really didn’t care. Tears of joy streamed down my face. He was awake, he was talking, he was making sense, and he was going to be okay.
Two days later Paul was more awake. The seriousness of the accident was just beginning to sink in. One afternoon he looked around the room to see if anyone else was there, then pulled me close to him.
“Honey, please don’t think I’m crazy, but….I saw them. I saw my dad and yours too. They were there for me. They told me it wasn’t my time to go, that I had to get home. They carried me home. There was an angel there too. I saw them honey. I’m not crazy.” Tears began streaming down his face and he sobbed so hard his whole body shook.
“I know dear, I know.” That was all I could manage. I was crying too. We had both had experiences that were unexplainable. We couldn’t prove anything, we just knew it. We knew his dad was watching over him. We knew my dad was helping. We knew there were angels and because of all of them, Paul was going to be okay. We’d known it all along.”
– Brenda Bonyun