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FORGIVENESS BY MATTHEW WEST
1st of all my son Steve listens to you from Victorville Federal Prison but this is about his brother. My name is Mark Erwin and I am writing my testimonial in regards to my son Bryan Erwin. My son Bryan was involved in a horrific accident back on April 15th 1999 on his way to Phoenix to see his first concert. Traveling with 5 other friends on I-10 at mile marker 211 a roll bar had fell off the back of a jeep causing the young lady driving to swerve into the medium at 75 mph. Just prior to this my son who was seated in the front passenger seat had just unlocked his seat belt to reach around and get a cd out of his bag. When the driver went down into the medium she tried to come back onto the interstate at the same speed that she had gone into the medium. When she came back onto the road she over corrected which caused the vehicle to flip, my son Bryan who was seated up front in the passenger seat was ejected from the vehicle at 75mph and bounced all over the road. I don’t know why my son was not struck by another car, call it divine intervention. I had just got home from work at 5:30 pm and got that call that every parent dreads....... On the other end of the phone was a DPS Officer who asked if I was Mr. Erwin, I said yes and he said this Officer Johnson with DPS sir. Your son has been in an accident and he has massive head injuries, they are attempting to resuscitate at this time. I dropped to my knees and because to cry........ The Officer said that he was not sure if they were going to med-evac my son to Tucson or Phoenix but that he would have their dispatch notify me as soon as a decision had been made. I notified all of my family and we began to meet at my mother’s house so that we could get to the hospital ASAP whether it was Phoenix or Tucson. DPS dispatch called me and advised me that they were going to med-evac my son to UMC but that they did not know what his condition was. Upon arrival to UMC were advised that they were working on my son in ER, he had died three times at the scene, 3 times in flight and that they had lost him already once in ER. They would not give us the extent of the injuries at that time, the next thing we knew we were escorted to a family waiting room and a Pastor walked in. Everyone thought that we were going to be told that my son had died, the Pastor prayed with us. Finally at about 1130 that night a Doctor came to the room and told us that they were still trying to stabilize Bryan. When we found out the extent of my sons injuries I think it was then that reality set in and I realized that this was real. We were taken by and elevator to the 5th floor and told that Bryan was in 5 West which is ICU. As the doors to the elevator opened everything went into slow motion, I couldn’t hear a thing and as I looked down the hall of the 5th floor it was lined with people, friends of Bryans and the family on both sides of the hallway. There must have been 150 people, people crying and hugging one another as well as the family. It seemed like it took us hours to walk that hallway to get to my sons room...... We were not prepared at all for what we seen when we entered Bryan’s room.... We all tried to stay strong but we all broke down, my son was lying in a hospital bed with over 65% of his body road rash, shattered right knee, broken right shoulder, shattered pelvis and worst of all a bolt had to be placed in his head to try and reduce the swelling. My sons head was twice the normal size and his eyes were protruding from the sockets... The doctor told us that it was too early to tell if there was any brain damage because of the swelling and that it was going to take time before they knew anything. I don’t really remember anything that was going on around me and to be honest I can’t even tell you who was with me except my wife Lori. Bryan had a rough night needless to say and we all were sleep deprived by the time that morning came. We stayed with Bryan all night hoping for some positive signs, during the night we all made numerous trips to the Chapel located on the 1st floor where I never prayed to God more than I did that night. It’s funny but I kind of realized at that time that I was a hypocrite because I rarely prayed for Gods help up to that point but now that my son lay there dying I opened up. I can’t even begin to tell you what transpired on certain days or nights because they all started running together and to be honest if it wasn’t for shift change between the nurses and the doctors coming around in the morning for report I would have never know what time it is. I know I made a lot of promises to God that night and can’t even begin to tell you what I told God I would do if he let my son live. Bryan never really regained consciousness over the next couple of days but things seemed to get worse. We were told that Bryan had sustained damage to his lungs as well and that he had contracted ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) which is where the lungs fill with liquid foam because the body goes into shock. On day 2 we were called into a conference room by doctors, the Doctor that was in the room with us was a Pulmonologist and my wife and I asked him how Bryan’s condition was. What the Doctor then told us floored us because we didn’t expect it; he had no compassion or bedside manner at all. He said hasn’t anyone told you, my wife and I asked told us what? He said that there is nothing more that we can do for your son; your son is going to die……. Just like that!!!!! My wife and I broke down and looked at each and cried, we said what do you mean and he said your son is going to die. My wife and I both said our son is not going to die and I went after the doctor to which the staff rushed him out of the room and tried to calm us down. Even the staff was upset with the way the Doctor had told us…… We were then advised that a new Pulmonologist had been assigned and that he was going to try something on our son that had never been attempted at UMC and that was to fill Bryan’s lungs with Liquid Oxygen to try and attempt to reverse the ARDS. Well that went out the window because Bryans lungs started to pop which was caused by the ARDS, this is called a Pneumothorax. Bryan’s lungs popped a total of 11 times and at this time now our son was in a paralytic coma on life support and he so many other problems as well. After two weeks at the ICU with my son I was barely sleeping, eating and had not been home. Dr. Johnson who was Bryan’s doctor approached me and told me that I needed to go home and get some sleep because I wasn’t helping matters and just harming myself. I couldn’t leave my son and I felt compelled to stay by his side in the event that Bryan didn’t make it. I told the doctor that I wasn’t leaving my son and he said to me that he was going to call Security, I stepped up to his face and looked him in the eye and told him “ you better bring a bunch of them” because I am not leaving. Dr Johnson then instructed his staff to put a recliner in my son’s room so that I could be by his side. My wife and I as well as the family lived at the hospital and took over the ICU waiting room during this time never leaving the hospital once. When it became apparent that this was going to be the hardest fight of my sons life and ours we hunkered down in the hospital and it became a 24/7 vigil for Bryan. I can’t even begin to tell you all the things that started to go wrong with Bryan while he was in ICU, from lung, heart, kidney and everything else that could happen did but we stayed strong as a family never wavering one moment and no matter the set back always believed that God would let our son live. I became so involved with my son in his room living there basically that the doctors and nurses started teaching me how to care for my sons needs whether it was changing bandages, bathing him, extracting fluid from his lungs, exercising my sons arms, legs and feet so that he wouldn’t get drop foot or atrophy in his muscles. There were times when my wife and I were so exhausted that we just held each other and cried over Bryan but we never gave in, never gave up faith and we prayed to God constantly to let our son live. Eventually although I am embarrassed to say my wife and I took turns staying with Bryan along with the rest of the family so that we could go home and shower just to rush back to the hospital so that we wouldn’t miss anything. So many of our prayers were answered while Bryan was in his coma, the companies that my wife and I worked for Elyte ATM Services and Schomac continued to pay us and visit us at the hospital. My boss Mike Addick paid for all the blood that was taken from friends, families and strangers so that our son could have blood on hand. The only prayer that had not been answered though that our son come out of his coma…… Before I get into what transpired next I have to lead you into the story, Lori my wife is the love of my life and my best friend, during this whole time that Bryan was in the hospital she was my rock and my inspiration. We had been married 10 years up to this point and had tried to have a baby of our own but couldn’t because she had endometriosis, Lori is step mother to my 4 kids Steve, Bryan, Alyssa and Kyle and she loved them as they were her own. One day Lori walked into Bryan’s room after returning home to freshen up and I was sitting next to Bryan and the racks of medications that they had going into Bryan’s body. Lori leaned over and kissed Bryan and started to cry, I asked her what was wrong and she said I don’t know whether to cry because our son is lying there in a coma or to smile because I am happy. I asked her what she meant and she looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes welled up with tears and said “we are going to have a baby”….. She said I feel guilty because I don’t want God to make an exchange, she felt that this happened because our soon Bryan was not going to live. We held each other and cried and cried for what seemed like hours, I wanted to believe in my heart that God would not make an exchange like this. There are things that I can’t explain that happened while Bryan was in his coma and to this day I know that they did, on two different occasions while sleeping with my head next Bryan I looked up into the corner of the room and my son was floating in mid air looking down at me. During this time as well the hospital told me that they had written a story in the American Medical Journal that was about whether or not people that are in a coma are able to hear people around them. I know that our son heard us because I would talk to him and tears would come out of the corners of his eyes, you see Bryan’s eyes were wide open and I used to talk to him all of the time because I knew he could hear me. Bryan was given a drug while he was in his coma that would prevent him from remembering anything in the event that he lived, thank God…… I wouldn’t want him to remember some of the things that were done to him while he was in his coma to keep him alive. I still cry to this day because of some of the procedures that were done to Bryan that I witnessed but am thankful because it kept him alive. I thank God for the doctors that kept my son alive but the real heroes were the ICU nurses that were there 24/7 and kept us abreast of any and all changes in Bryans condition. I was unaware of what was happening out in the world, I couldn’t tell you what day or month it was.