Ann Christensen killed in a head on crash on October 12, 2006. Part I

by Debbie Moore Childress
(Stevenson, WA)

My mother, Ann Christensen, age 68 was the matriarch of the family. I remember calling my Dad to check on him while my Mom was in Berlin visiting my brother. I was surprised to hear my Mother's voice answering the phone. She had returned home from her trip early because she was worried about her 85 year old husband and 18 year old son with Asperger's syndrome who was living with her until he graduated from high school. I remember the last thing I told my Mom on the phone was, "I love you!"

The next day, I remember calling my Mom from work where I worked as an operating room nurse at a level one trauma hospital. I started calling at 2:45 in the afternoon to check to see if she was going to pick up my son from high school. I kept leaving messages with no answer from her. The last message I left was, "I just want to check if Michael was picked up."

When I was driving home from work on I-5 north bound past Emanuel Hospital I received a frantic phone call from the secretary where I worked that a social worker from Emanuel hospital was trying to reach me. I thought one of my children had been hurt. My secretary put me through to the social worker at the Hospital. The social worker told me, "Your Mother has been in a car accident and has been life flighted to Emanuel hospital." I replied, "you understand I'm a trauma nurse from Oregon Health and Science University. Is my Mother dying?" She answered, "Yes. You need to get there as soon as possible."

I had just past the exit so I turned the car around to quickly get to the hospital. I suddenly realize I forgot to ask about my son. When I get to the front desk to ask about my Mother. The receptionist called to the back and did not have a very good poker face. I work in a hospital and know the routine but I am in denial when I go through the same motions I have seen patients families go through when they have lost a loved one.

The social worker comes out to greet me. The first thing she tells me is that the dog in the car is OK. I really don't give a shit about the dog. I want to see my Mother in her last minutes. I ask about if my Son was in the car. She tells me she doesn't know if anyone else was in the car. If there was, the other patient would have been taken to OHSU. She leads me to a small family room where I find to my surprise our family priest, and two family friends involved in the Catholic Church and long time family friends. There faces are grim and they are pretending not to know how serious her condition is. The young resident walks into the room. I'm still in denial but in retrospect i knew what was coming. The resident tells me that My Mom's lower legs were badly crush in the car accident. The brake pedal was impaled into her leg. Her heart had stopped about twenty minutes into the flight. When she had arrive at the trauma center they ran a full code on her but were unable to revive her. If I wanted to view the body, the nurse would let me.

The nurse takes me down the hall to view the body. She is in a white body bag on a stretcher around the corner in the hallway. I put on a pair of purple exam gloves with the expertise of an experienced nurse. I walk over to the white bag and start to unzip the bag not knowing what to expect. She still has the breathing tube in place and her face is completely intact without a scratch. Her anterior left hand has a small triangular skin tear about an inch. Her foley catheter is still in place but the bag has been cut off. The right leg has no obvious fractures. The left leg is wrapped in an ace bandage and placed in a cardboard splint. As a nurse, I know what the function of the ace wrap is for in this situation. The ace is to hold the partially severed lower leg together. I kissed her on the forehead and said good bye before I zipped up the white body bag. I'm surprised at how cold she has become so quickly.

On Friday October 13th I had to go through the motions of helping to plan my Mothers funeral. The next week seemed like a blur. I think I finally cried at the funeral after I stopped being a nurse and started being a daughter.

My Mom never did make it to Stevenson High School to pick up my son from school because she was hit head on by an impaired driver at 2:45 pm. Meth and alcohol kills innocent people and destroys the lives of all the families involved.

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