Susan Slattery, a well-known professor at a Baltimore area university, was one of 3,686 people killed in crashes with large trucks on American roadways in 2010. Her sons, Peter and Matthew, were two of the 80,000 people the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says were injured in crashes that same year.
To bring these statistics to the forefront, award-winning investigative journalist Brian Kuebler, has written the compelling narrative nonfiction book, The Long Blink, The True Story of Trauma, Forgiveness and One Man’s Fight for Safer Roads, which details the journey of Ed Slattery, an ordinary man propelled into an extraordinary life with a force almost equal to the tractor-trailer that slammed into his family’s car.
The Long Blink is not just about experiencing trauma, but Ed Slattery’s evolution in using it to find purpose and even forgiveness in his tragedy and becoming an advocate for other victims and the disabled.
Here’s an excerpt of Chapter 4 from The Long Blink…
Ed Slattery stood in front of Akron Children’s Hospital in the still of the late Ohio night. He stared at the entrance not knowing what to expect. Life had just violently shuffled the deck on him once again. On the other side of those doors was his life rearranged, not at all as he had left it. Not for his boys, and certainly not for his wife.
Ed walked toward the entrance of the hospital. The double doors shot open with urgency as a burst of cold air hit him in the face. It was dark in the lobby, but there was a receptionist off to the right. Ed barely made eye contact with the woman before he started reading her eyes, and she his.
“My name is Ed Slattery,” he said breathless from the anxiety of what awaited him upstairs.
Without even looking at a chart or a computer the woman interrupted him as if she was expecting him and pointed him to the elevator and simply said, “Fourth Floor.”
Ed moved toward the bank of elevators and pushed the button. One of the cars was there waiting. He pushed ‘4’ and watched out the glass enclosure as he rose through the lobby of the building in a soft floating motion. The gentle, gliding ride was quickly interrupted with a ding.
The doors parted, sliding open onto a dark hallway. Looking left, he could see some light coming from the end of the hall, but absolutely no signs of anyone or any thing.
“Is anybody here?” Ed yelled. “I need help, is anybody here?”
A figure appeared at the end of the hallway near the light. Ed yelled again, “I am Ed Slattery, you have my boys!”
Ed hurried toward to the pediatric nurse who led him down yet another dark hallway. Behind another set of doors, Ed stepped into an area that looked like it specialized in taming chaos. It was well lit, spacious, and swimming in medical machines and charts that, in these off hours, were quietly set to the side, but ready for action at a moment’s notice. The only distinct sound was the humming and beeping of medical equipment serving as the soundtrack to the concerned and prayerful.
Ed was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The nurse directed him to the waiting room at first. There, he saw all of his in-laws, all of them sitting in chairs, their faces wearing the emotional trauma of the past twelve hours.
Ed looked at the room. Before anyone could notice him, he turned to the nurse and said, “No. Take me to the boys. Where are my boys?”
The nurse took Ed around the corner and to a room closed off by a pair of sliding glass doors. Just outside were two nurses tethered to computers monitoring all those machines and the litany of sounds they were making.
Ed pulled the door open and walked in to see his twelve-year-old boy in a very grown up contraption. The image halted him. Ed had been racing across the country all day to get to this moment, not knowing what he would see, and now, not quite understanding what he saw. There were hoses or tubes going in and coming out of almost every hole or accessible vein. Matthew’s right eye was puffy and a deep purple, a machine was doing the breathing for him, and his head was covered in white bandages.
“He looks so little,” Ed whispered to himself, as if the trauma was two sizes too big on his little boy. But as he studied Matthew between the tubes and bandages, focusing on just the small parts of his child he could plainly see, Ed didn’t recognize him. Matthew’s innocence was wrapped up in those bandages, too. His infectious laugh, which he shared with his mother, was silenced. Matthew was a boisterous, active kid…but that, too, seemed covered up by the medical equipment keeping him alive. All the more complicated was the fact that Ed could do nothing to fix his baby boy. He grew angry at what happened and, irrationally, angry with himself. But as the ventilator cycled to the next mechanical, robotic breath, practically jumping his pre-teen’s chest, Ed could not help but repeat one thought to himself over, and over, and over, and over again.
He is alive.