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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — She is running and skipping in a sunless place where happy little girls shouldn’t wander.
She is singing but cannot remember the lyrics.
She cannot find her way out from wherever she has gone. It is too dark to see where she is going, too deep for her to leave just yet.
The people she loves are here with her, though she cannot see them. But she can hear, smell, feel them all around her: Her mommy, whose singing sometimes sounds like crying. Her daddy, more somber and silent than his usual funny daddy self. Her great-grandmother with the nicotine kisses and her grandmother with the soothing touch. Her aunt playing cat rap on her cellphone.
So many other relatives and friends come and go, but there are also strangers. Nurses and doctors. People with needles and tubes that lasso her in this dark place.
She feels the fluids from the tubes flowing in and out of her arms, her chest, her skull, or what remains of it.
No one sees her, she thinks, or they would have come for her. But they will. She is not afraid.
It is a game, she thinks. Hide and seek, she thinks. Someone will find her.
This is what I imagine when I look at my 4-year-old granddaughter, critically injured in a crash Nov. 8.
Aubree Glenn is on life-support and in an induced coma at the pediatric intensive care unit at the University of New Mexico Hospital. Part of her skull was removed to ease the swelling of her brain. She wears a cervical collar to immobilize her spine. So many tubes and wires travel in and out of her tiny body that it looks like she is covered in mechanical spaghetti.
It is easier to think of her skipping and singing in that ether world, playing hide and seek, than this.
Automobile crashes occur every day, almost every hour across Albuquerque. I hear them crackle over the police scanner in the newsroom. In the hospital, I see families keeping vigil over their loved ones, wounded on the roadways. I’ve written many columns about the ordeal these families face, the road back they must travel from what happened to them behind, or in front of, the wheel.
At one point or another, it seems every family will be forced into this surreal and sudden grief. It just happens to be our turn.
On that night, the Albuquerque Police Department emailed a short, simple and slightly incorrect news release at 5:26 p.m., about 45 minutes after the crash at Montaño and Renaissance NE. It reported that one person was transported to the hospital and was listed in critical condition.
That person was Aubree.
But also transported to the UNMH emergency room was my son, Chris Glenn, Aubree’s dad, and Aubree’s mom, Stephanie Brown.
Chris was a passenger in the 2015 Nissan Versa while Stephanie drove. Aubree was strapped and sleeping in her car seat on the back passenger side.
Chris, 26, suffered internal injuries, two fractures of his pelvis, broken ribs, shattered foot, broken tailbone, gashes in his hand from shards of car window.
Stephanie walked away with painful injuries from the air bags and seat belt – and a broken heart.
Little Aubree got the worst of it. She was unresponsive at the scene. There were those who did not expect her to live.
Their black hatchback had collided on the passenger side with a white Honda driven by a 29-year-old man. The crash sent the hatchback flipping and rolling at least twice.
A search warrant affidavit states that the other driver performed poorly in field sobriety tests, could not recall the color of the light when he entered the intersection, was on prescription medication and called for a lawyer when asked how fast he was traveling.
The legal aspects of the crash will take its course, but for now the focus is on Aubree and her family.
But we are a grateful family, because of all the love and support we have received from so many. A friend has set up a GoFundMe account. The YMCA is holding a garage sale starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday at 2834 Bel Air Drive NE in Albuquerque to raise funds. We have heard from so many people who are praying and sending good thoughts. It is the grace that keeps us going.
It has been a week now since the crash, and Aubree is showing signs that she may be tiring of being away so long from the ones she loves. This morning as her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother hovered nearby, her eyes fluttered open for a fleeting second or two. The doctors call that “purposeful movement.” For the first time, both her eyes are reacting to the light.
No one can say what she will be like when she returns from the sunless place, and we know the road back will still be long, both for her and her daddy.
But that road is lined with well-wishers and hope, and her parents’ arms are open wide, waiting for Aubree when she is ready for hide and seek to be over.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.