Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering Bridget

I don't remember the exact dates and, frankly I don't care to remember the exact dates. I just remember that it all happened during October 1999. That's when I learned first-hand the human destruction of drunk driving.

I had a friend named Bridget. She was your classic Irish lass from the Philly area with a soprano voice that would soar to the heavens.

I first met Bridget in 1996 when I joined the Basilica Cathedral Choir. Bridget and I were new to the choir and we teamed up with two other new sopranos, Leslie and Mary Lee. The four of us bonded quickly and became our own support group for whatever issue was plaguing us.

In the summer of 1999, Bridget had fallen in love and we were all very happy for her. I didn't know the guy or ever meet him, I just heard about him when our gang gathered together.

On a Friday evening in October 1999, Bridget and her boyfriend went out on a date. The boyfriend had too much to drink, but chose to drive anyway.  Worst of all, Bridget trusted him enough to get into the car with him. 

Somehow on a dry and clear night, he managed to slam Bridget's side of his car into a cement abutment. When help arrived and they were getting Bridget out of the car, the boyfriend failed her again. Bridget's purse (and ID) were locked in the trunk of the car, so when the authorities arrived, he refused to talk and Bridget was sent to Fairview Southdale as a Jane Doe. 

It would be almost a day before they were able to confirm her identity and contact family members.  I wouldn't learn about her accident until Sunday morning. I went over to the hospital immediately and couldn't recognize her. Her face was puffy and bruised and there were wires and tubes everywhere.

She had suffered a traumatic brain injury as the force of the impact had bounced her brain around in skull and severed the brain stem. She was gone except for the machines keeping her body alive. 

I was so angry that someone that Bridget had loved had done this to her. He walked away with minor injuries. (Although charged with vehicular manslaughter, he only served time in a work house.)  I was also a bit angry at Bridget for trusting him, for getting in the car. She was smarter than that.

Bridget's family had to make the decision to remove her from life support. We were told that she would be removed from life support on Tuesday. I had said my goodbye to her and waited for the call. Only it didn't come. 

The next day I learned that, even though she had been removed from life support, her body was still still fighting to stay alive. I went back to the hospital that night and sat with another friend at Bridget's bedside. 

I'm glad that I did. This time, I recognized her. I touched her face and arranged her bangs - her forehead was very warm as she had a fever - pneumonia had been attacking her lungs. But Bridget was a trained singer and her lungs were strong and weren't about to give up so easily.

We sat with her and told her that it was okay to let go. I said my goodbye again. 

The next morning, she was gone. 

I remember I sent an email to my nieces and nephews that day (at least the oldest five). I told them about my friend Bridget and how she was gone because she got in a car with someone who was drunk - someone she had trusted.  I told them to never ever ride with someone who had been drinking, and regardless of the time or the place, they were to find another way home.

The saying: Friends don't let friends drive drunk, should be amended to say - Friends don't let friends drive drunk and most definitely don't ride along with them.

Bridget, we still miss you.


Jeff said...

Very nice post, Elizabeth. And it can't be repeated enough.

britta said...

Thank you for posting. Rest in peace Bridget. My thoughts are with you Elizabeth.

Lynne Hartke said...

Thank you for repeating a message we all need to hear and to tell others.

Laura Fiskin said...

I am a first time visitor and I have to tell you that I was swept up into your blog immediately even though I don't know you. It was ironic to see you work for Mayo Clinic. We will be traveling there from ND next week with my son. He will be having neurosurgery there.

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