by Sara Thomas.
Something Didn’t Feel Right.
On June 26th, 2013 my boyfriend, the man I had planned on marrying a week earlier, the father to my child, was attacked. Outside of a not so crowded bar, on a Wednesday night, he was struck on the back of his head — towards the right side — by a complete stranger. Someone who he had never met, never spoke to, or seen in his life. Vince, my boyfriend, walked out of the bar and was sucker punched a split second later. He fell to the ground, got back up, stumbled a step or two, and fell like Jell-O.
I wasn’t there. I was at home with our 9 month old daughter. Two months later is when I was able to watch the surveillance tape of what really happened that night. When I found out he was being taken to the University of Virginia hospital, my thoughts were that he had wrecked his truck or possibly got into a fight and that I was going to make sure he was okay before cussing him to pieces.
I know now my thoughts were wrong.
When I arrived at UVA, myself and my daughter were put in a family consolation room. I didn’t want to think the worst, but something didn’t feel right. After an hour of sitting there wondering what was wrong, a doctor finally came in to tell me what I had least expected. Vince was unconscious and it didn’t seem like he was going to wake up anytime soon. I remand silent. Trying to stay calm and collected in front of my child, who had no clue where she was or why she was there at 1am.
Another hour had passed, I immediately had this gut wrenching feeling when the doctor came in and sat in the chair in front of me. He must have known what I was thinking and he shook his head. He said Vince had suffered an artery rupture…a brain aneurysm. He explained that they had performed CT scans and each result showed that he was completely brain dead. I felt my heart skip a beat.
He Was Not Coming Back.
I know these doctors are trained to give this kind of news, but when I finally broke down and said he has a daughter, she’s not even a year old yet…the fact that he had to turn away from me, I could tell he almost let his emotions get the best of him. He said he was sorry and that if I wanted to, I could go see him. I went back into the emergency room, where there his body laid, his mouth with a huge tube down his throat, and his chest black and blue from CPR.
Before I could make my way by his bedside, he had lost control…and waste poured from his body to the floor, right in front of my eyes, he had slipped away…I quickly went to his side and held his hand and rubbed his head, but I couldn’t speak. I could barley think. The nurse said that they would move him to the ICU and see what could be done there…I just knew they had to be able to drain the fluid and blood from his brain so he would wake up…there just had to be something they could do. They are professionals. The best in the state.I rode in the elevator with him to the 5th floor…but couldn’t go in his ICU room. By then, my mom had came in got our daughter. It was after 4am. I watched the sunrise from the hospital window and decided I needed to go be with my baby girl. It was 7am on Thursday, June 27th, 2013…I hugged my daughter and tried to doze off, but the only thing I could see was his body going to waste right before my very eyes.
I procrastinated before going back to the hospital. I thought maybe, I’ll get the call that he’s awake. But at 2:30pm I got a call that forever changed our lives. I was told to come to the hospital ASAP. The plug was being pulled. I grabbed our daughter and got there as fast as I could. Before going to the ICU room, we were surrounded by doctors, nurses, social workers, therapist, you name it…They told us that there was nothing they could do. That his brain was not responding to any test and the amount of fluid was too much.
He was brain dead, basically already dead, and was not coming back.
Tell Daddy “Night-Night”
I waited until after he was taken off life support, till after the long tube was taken out of his mouth, till after all the machines were turned off, before taking our now 10 month old daughter to see her daddy one last time. I was shaking life a leaf on a limb standing there. Trying not to be hysterical, as the room was filled with grieving family and friends. I gave him a kiss and told her to do the same…she held his face…and even though she was small, I know she was confused when he didn’t do it back.
I waited untill the life support was cut off so she would think her daddy is sleeping. So I told her to tell daddy night-night and that she loved him and she would see him later. She blew him kisses and said night-night. I had someone take her out of the room, when the room cleared so I could have a moment alone with him. I was still speechless, so I kissed his forehead, kissed his cheek, then kissed his lips, rubbed his head, and whispered in his ear, “you already know.”
As much as it killed me, I walked out of that room leaving his lifeless body behind.
I prayed so hard in that short amount of time that if he would just wake up, I would take care of him for the rest of my life. I just wanted to see his big blue eyes again. The day he died, June 27th, 2013 was the day our daughter turned 10 months old. Two months later I was forced to put a smile on my face to celebrate her first birthday.
I Don’t Know How I Made it this Far.
On October 10th, 2013 the man who had used blunt force to cause the artery in his brain to rupture had his preliminary hearing for the Felony charge of involuntary manslaughter of Vincent Lee Shifflett. On October 10th, 2013 the man who took away a 22 year old, a son, a friend, a boyfriend, a father…plead guilty to a plea bargain of a misdemeanor charge of assault.
Joseph Martin Terry III was sentenced to 1 year in the regional jail.
It’s been five months. Almost half a year later. My daughter is 15 months old. I don’t know how I made it this far. I believe our daughter is my saving grace and she is my reason for being, because without her who knows where I’d be today or if I’d be today. Suffering such a great loss.
A lot of people will tell you I am strong, maybe even the strongest person they know. For carrying on, taking on the responsibility of a mother and a father, keeping my head held high when others tried to break me…
I am strong because I have to be, not because I want to be.
Ryan’s family and friends, you are the definition of true strength. I have loved and lost my other half. I prayed that The Lord would bring him back, even if he had to depend on me forever and ever…but as I read these articles, I realize I am not that strong. I am only a crutch, a crutch that will soon break. I grieve for a body that’s spirit still lingers, though I can’t see it. But you grieve for a spirit who’s body is still here, that you have to face everyday. And I know now, that I would not be able to handle that. And that is why God called him home. You all are a true inspiration. And I pray that one day, Ryan’s spirit will return to his body and give you all peace and happiness again.
“God is testing me and the Devil’s trying to break me, but I was given this life because I am strong enough to live it.”
Don’t miss yesterday’s heart-touching article, She’ll Always be My Little Girl