Blankets and Teddies for Christmas in the Hospital
Hi sweet friends!
Tonight I want to talk about something personal and that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ll have more dessert for you in the morning. But for tonight, I want to tell you about a special holiday project that I have in the works and invite you to be a part of it.
About 10 years ago, I was in a devastating car accident on Christmas Eve.
I was home from college for Christmas break. My grandparents weren’t planning on coming down for Christmas day, and I wanted to see them while I was home. So I packed up two of my brothers in my Dad’s car, and we drove to northeastern NC to visit my Grandma and Grandpa for a quick overnight stay.
After lunch on Christmas Eve day, we started the two and half hour drive back home. With about twenty minutes left in the drive, I made the mistake.
Little Drummer Boy was playing on the radio. I hate that song. I’ve always hated that song. So I changed it. My brother was teasing me and changed it back. I turned around for just a moment, barely a second, to argue with him over the radio. And in that quick moment, I ran off the road onto the grassy median just a bit. My drivers ed training abandoned me and I overcorrected hard.
Everything slowed down. We were spinning on an empty highway, and my only thought was “This is not happening. Things like this don’t happen to me.” Unknowingly, I was pressing the gas pedal in my panic, hurtling us faster and harder into the trees on the side of the road.
And then everything stopped.
I’ll never forget the smell of the airbags for as long as I live. For months, I continued to smell their acrid scent in my clothes, in my bed, on my skin and my hair. That smell haunted me.
I turned in my seat. Both my brothers were unconscious. I was sure they were dead. And for just a moment, I hoped the car would explode so I would die too. A groaning in the back seat ignited relief, panic, terror, and chaos. I think I screamed? I can’t remember anymore.
With bloody hands I fumbled for a cell phone. I found it under the passenger seat. I remember not being able to move my legs and the stretch to reach it felt impossible. One brother was screaming. The other still silent and unconscious, head hanging. I called my home and calmly told my mom I needed to speak with my dad. The only thing I remember him asking was, “are you all okay?” And all I remember saying was, “no, I don’t think so.”
A kind man with long dark dreadlocks reached in the car and took the phone from me. I don’t know what he told my dad. I assume it had to do with calling 9-1-1 and our location. He reached his hand in to pull me out. As I lifted my hand to grasp his, I saw that it was covered in blood and that my thumb was hanging off at an unnatural angle. It hurt so badly to push out of the car. The pain in one of my legs was blinding.
He managed to get one of my brothers out of the car and onto the side of the road beside me, still unconscious. I cried and shook him and begged him to not be dead.
I was in an ambulance before I could see them remove my other brother.
The hospital was a never-ending continuation of the nightmare. I wanted to sleep, but the doctor wouldn’t let me. My mind wanted to shut everything off. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Where were my brothers? Were they okay? Were they alive? Where were my parents? My body was slowly emerging from the shock and beginning to hurt badly. The airbag had split my hand open at the thumb joint and my entire arm throbbed.
While we were in triage, I could hear one of my brothers screaming. But I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was happening on the other side of that curtain. My uncle held my uninjured hand while my parents split up between my two brothers. I was sewn up and a kind nurse allowed me to go to the pediatric floor so that I could be near my brothers when they were brought to their rooms.
I could go on and on about the following hours and days.
How my dad sat through the night in the middle of the hospital hallway so that he could see into all three of our rooms.
How one of my brothers was taken into emergency surgery in the wee hours of Christmas morning with torn intestines.
How my other brother had broken almost everything from top to bottom. How a tree that we hit literally took out a piece of his head, because he encountered it directly through the open window in the car.
How my mother forced herself to go home that night and attempted to piece together some Christmas magic for my three youngest siblings. Because that’s what moms do.
The trauma was almost unbearable for me. Guilt and fear and sadness overwhelmed me. Sometime in the dark hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, reality hit me. I woke up to a throbbing arm and leg, the shock and adrenaline completely gone, and I began sobbing. Sobbing uncontrollablly, rocking, pulling my hair, screaming, tearing at the tubes in my arm, demanding to be taken to my brothers. A nurse sedated me.
And in that horrible, horrible moment, someone placed an obnoxiously large Winne-the-Pooh in my arms. Or maybe it was there all along. I’ll never remember. But I do remember smothering my face in Pooh’s plush stomach and screaming my guts out. Crying the ugly cry into its soft belly. Then later hugging that silly stuffed animal for hours and hours as I lay in the hospital bed. Falling asleep with my tearstained cheek matted to Pooh’s red shirt.
Some memories from that Christmas are hazy and in a fog. Others, even small details, are in sharp clarity. And they come back to me at random times. I can be triggered by a bump in the road, the smell of something burning, a hospital parking deck, seeing the scar on my hand… the trauma is all still there. Still processing. Still a part of me even more than a decade later.
Keaton (the tall one there on the left) was the brother who remained unconscious at the scene of the accident. He thrived in high school as a football hero, served a full-time mission for our church, earned a Master’s degree, and has a beautiful family of his own now.
Caleb (red plaid in the middle) had a difficult recovery. He missed a lot of his Sophomore year in high school recovering from the back injury. He was told the only sport he could never play again would be football. His senior year of high school, he went out for kicker. Kicked a game winning point (or something? you know me and football!) against the rival high school and went down as a local football legend. He also served a full-time mission for our church, earned a Master’s degree from Columbia, and is now in medical school with his own sweet wife and child.
Over the past 12 years, that is what has healed me the most. Watching them heal and grow and fall in love and become amazing, wonderful, good men. See their lives become full and meaningful has helped put mine back together again.
But before time had a chance to heal my wounds… that silly stuffed Winnie the Pooh put a band-aid on them. Even as an 18-year old, a stuffed animal brought me more comfort that I would have ever thought possible.
Studies have shown that touching a [something soft] can lessen the adverse psychological effects of [trauma].
Which brings me to the point of today’s post…
Every year I take a donation of teddy bears and blankets to the hospital for the children who will be there over Christmas. This year it finally occurred to me to ask YOU, my dear readers, for help. While I don’t mind in the least buying all of the teddies and blankets on my own, I’ve realized that I could make a much better donation if we all pitch in and do it together.
So this year I am launching my very first ANNUAL blankets and teddies drive!!
I am teaming up with FIVE Etsy shop owners who have kindly agreed to supply beautiful handmade blankets and stuffed animals that YOU can purchase for this very special holiday project. And it’s just that simple. Below, you’ll find links to these wonderful shops. All you have to do is click over, select a blanket or stuffed animal to purchase, and then make a note at check out that you would like your purchase to be shipped to Ashton (or Something Swanky). The shop owners will send me the donations, and I will take them to the hospital the week prior to Christmas.
Without further ado, let me introduce you to these 5 talented Etsy shop owners!
Little Ella Rae
A SLC-based that shop makes beautiful Jersey Swaddle and Flannel Handmade Blankets.
CLICK HERE to visit the shop.
Needs orders placed by DECEMBER 7.
Crafty Corner Design
An Indiana-based shop that sells beautiful handmade items at great prices!
CLICK HERE to visit this shop.
Use discount code SWANK10 to receive 10% off your order (on personal orders too!).
Needs orders placed by December 14.
A Minnesota-based shop that sells Handmade Items Sewn with Love.
CLICK HERE to visit this shop.
Use discount code SWANKY10 to receive 10% off your order!
Needs orders placed by December 10.
Crafty Gram Gram
Personalized blankets from this shop warm hearts and feet!
CLICK HERE to visit this shop.
Receive FREE SHIPPING on your order!
Needs orders placed by December 1.
Beautiful handmade Blankets, Toys, Hats, Home, Baby, and Accessories.
CLICK HERE to visit this shop.
Use discount code SWANKY15 to receive 15% off your order! Plus Family Fairs will make a donation for every 25 orders placed.
Needs orders placed by December 2.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading this post. This is my story– a turning point in my life that has spurred me on to greater faith, a stronger devotion to my family, and feeling more compassion and love for those around me. Visiting the hospital with teddy bears and blankets heals my heart more and more with every passing year, and I would love for you– my Something Swanky family– to be a part of this.
Please consider making a donation by purchasing a blanket or stuffed animal from one of these shops. But if you would like to make a donation or contribute in another way, feel free to contact me via email: somethingswanky [at] gmail.com.
THANK YOU! XOXO ❤️