Three blankets

Author: Christina Jacobs

Two gray, and one light blue.

These three blankets provided so much comfort when my world was turned upside down, and I was in shock and on edge not knowing what the ramifications would be for my baby boy (16 years old at the time) after a terrible, life-threatening accident he had.

These blankets came into my life at John’s Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, MD. I had arrived there via ambulance on August 7, 2019 with my son after he had a beach diving accident where he broke his neck. After a long day of waiting post-accident — waiting for an ambulance on the beach for what seemed an eternity, waiting at the nearby trauma center in Salisbury, MD for stabilization and cat scan results, waiting for the ambulance to transfer us to Hopkins because weather was bad and we could not Helivac, and now waiting in the MRI holding room for final readings needed before surgery — my husband and I were laying down on some small sofas trying to catch our breath and get ready for the next bit of news in terms of what we were facing for our son and his future. While we were in this private, locked room reserved for family with low lights attempting to impart a sense of calm for those waiting for what might be life altering information, we finally shut our eyes at two a.m. in an attempt to regain our strength and brace for a long road ahead. Shortly after we did, we heard the door open and a nurse walk in leading a bearded man with several bags.

This big, bearded man was our friend, Tom Ditonto. It took me awhile to realize this as I hadn’t seen him in a year or so, and didn’t recognize him at first with his beard. We have no idea how he had heard about our son’s accident, how he got past security, or how he found us in that private MRI waiting room, but there he was. At two in the morning. With bags and bags and bags of toiletries, phone chargers, snacks, magazines, you name it, he had thought of it. And……blankets. Three of them. Two gray, and one light blue.

These blankets ended up going with me from the ICU, to our hospital room, to our rehabilitation facility. Each of the convertible vinyl sofas/chairs that were intended to pass as beds for parents of pediatric patients were made tolerable, and I might go as far as saying comfortable, because of these three blankets. I used the two gray ones as padding under the fitted sheets provided by the hospital. The blue one was softer, and used with the flat sheet for warmth. I actually slept fairly well over the three and a half weeks I stayed at my son’s side while he was in the hospital and rehab facility. We received encouraging news about his prognosis fairly early on, so no doubt that information contributed to decent sleep, but I also attribute the ability to sleep well to those comforting blankets. They brought physical and emotional comfort during a time of tremendous stress from a guy with an absolutely enormous heart.

Tom Ditonto continued to show up while we were in Baltimore at the hospital/rehab. He would constantly text me and let me know he was 5 minutes away and ready to take me to wherever I needed to go. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and so he took me back and forth to Whole Foods, to a hotel where I went to shower, to CVS, etc. He was always there. And he brought me wine (with an opener!). After about a week of being in the hospital and finally knowing that things were going to be okay, that wine was the best I have ever had. I can’t even describe how much I enjoyed that wine and the relaxation it offered after the most stressful week of my life.

When my son was finally released, he eventually started half days at his high school in the afternoons followed by outpatient physical therapy. I drove him downtown to school where he would go from 11:30am to 2:50pm. I waited for him outside of school to drive him to physical therapy where we would be until 5pm, then drove home in rush hour traffic. I had just started a new job and the driving to/from school for half days and then to/from physical therapy, while working in between, was exhausting. Sometimes, I would fall asleep while waiting in the car for school to let out before we headed to the physical therapy appointments. The three blankets were in my car and I would reach for them over and over to provide comfort during those short naps, which they always did.

While these blankets and gestures from Tom offered comfort to me directly, Tom was also unwaveringly there for my husband, Nick, his very good friend. He would come to the hospital, pick up Nick and take him out to dinner, and just be there for him. Nick needed this, his friend knew it, and he was there to make it happen. Because that’s what he did — he showed up. Over and over.

Just a couple of months ago, I suggested to my husband that we have a “Tom Appreciation Dinner”. We agreed this was a great idea and that we should start planning it. As life often happens, things got in the way and we didn’t move forward with it immediately. I thought about it again the second week of August and thought we should plan to make it happen in the fall. On August 19th, we received the news about Tom’s accidental, tragic passing….

Needless to say, I really wish we had that Tom Appreciation Dinner.

I still find comfort in Tom’s blankets, one of which I still keep in my car and used this evening when it was unseasonably cool as I was being driven home from dinner by my now fully recovered son.

I view the three blankets as a metaphor for Tom’s big heart. He gave of it so freely, he lived to be there for others when they were in need, and his heart was like a big, warm, blanket (times 3!). He was simply his best self when he could wrap his big heart around you, and be there for his friends when in need. Anyone who knew Tom, knew this to be true.

While we will have to have our Tom Appreciation Dinner without him physically present, we will toast to him and let him know how much we appreciate him. And, I will find a way to make sure his blankets go to the next person who needs Tom’s big heart wrapped around them during a difficult time.

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