Our Spark . . . Darienne

This past weekend we experienced one of those horrible I-don’t-ever-want-that-to-happen times.


My niece, and farm member, Darienne was in a terrible car accident. She was broadsided and had to be cut out of her car.


Remarkably, she didn’t seem injured except for a small cut on her nose. But that seemingly insignificant mark suggested what the EMTs soon realized during the ride to the hospital.


Her normal, even humorous responses to their questions - “Darienne, are you allergic to anything?” “Yes, cats.” - stopped, and she was quiet even when the EMT demanded she answer.


Then, when she did, her responses were unintelligible.


The driver turned on the lights and siren and drove faster.


Even though she looked fine, everything wasn’t fine.


A scan at the nearby Sauk Hospital showed blood on her brain and necessitated a transfer to UW Madison. Darienne was also becoming uncooperative with the nurses, removing her IV, heart monitors, neck brace, and even biting her mother Renata! She didn't seem to understand what was happening anymore as she looked through Renata and talked incoherently. The doctor decided to sedate her.


We arrived at the Madison hospital shortly after she did, but because of all the Covid precautions only Renata could be with her. It was tense and frightening waiting in the hallway entrance outside the emergency waiting room.


Liam, Renata’s partner Kent, and I analyzed every scrap of information that Renata texted us about Darienne's actions from our bench across the vend machine that announced "Make Healthy Choices" above their many anything-but-healthy offerings. Then we relayed it to family and friends waiting for news.


We watched others go in and out with injuries or carrying small children as we debated if it was good that they had sedated her, and she was still sleeping? Or that she had indicated to the nurse that she was cold? Or did either portend problems to come? What about the fact that she was throwing up - was that a bad sign? We wondered when the neurologist or trauma team would have an update. So many questions but not many answers.


Medflight had landed on the roof, and Renata was told that the neurologist was suddenly needed in surgery. We’d have to wait for information. It was hard waiting, but . . . maybe the fact that they thought we could wait was a good sign? Or was it? Ugh!


We didn’t want to be there but also didn’t know how to go home and do regular things without knowing Darienne would be okay.


Memories of her birth and childhood several decades ago flooded over me. She was a beautiful, spunky, intelligent, and caring little girl who had grown up into an independent firecracker with a child of her own. I couldn’t believe we were sitting there worried about damage done to her spark . . . Our Spark!


It was too much. Too scary to even think the thoughts in my head.




We’ve been here before - in crisis - times when our world was shaken, and we didn’t know if it could, or would, be put back together.


When our five-year-old was hit by a car, when my Dad died from suicide, when another sister was also broadsided by a car, or when Bill’s sister’s suddenly died this July. Times we’d been brought up suddenly to realize how fragile life is.


And that taking it for granted isn’t wise.


Bill and I could be leaving our weekly farmers market headed for home and looking forward to an afternoon off - just as we were Saturday - when a phone call comes that changes the day from one on the calendar to one marked forever in our memory.


A before and after moment that all other events on our personal timelines are remembered against. Moments that have the power to clarify priorities and change us forever.


“The summer after Dad died . . .” or “That was before Aidan was hit by the car.” and now “Remember before Darienne’s accident when . . . something or other . . . happened?”


As the afternoon turned into evening and evening into night, I also felt overwhelmed by gratitude for our family and friends.


Another sister was watching Darienne’s young daughter. Mom, and our other farther-away sisters, as well as Darienne’s dad Nick, were continuously checking in and ready to come if needed as were many friends that had been alerted. And prayers were being offered all around.


This worn path we’ve navigated before has made our bonds grow tighter and more connected. We're so lucky to have each other to fall back on. I hoped the people coming through the doors had similar support as they also faced their emergency situations.


The hospital continued having a busy weekend, and it was many hours, and two more scans later, before the neurologist could meet with Renata. But, the news was good.


The bleeding that had been spreading had stopped, was minimal, and Darienne seemed to have stabilized. She was also coming out of the sedation and had recognized Renata, knew there had been an accident and was asking after her daughter. And no more biting! All more good signs. They even said she might be able to be discharged the next day, albeit, with lots of pain, continued nausea, and needing weeks of rest.


Phew!!! Such good news!


I drove home in the early hours of Sunday, the roads empty, and Liam dozing in the passenger seat, trying to replace the horrible feelings of worry and dread I couldn't shake with ones of relief and hope.


She was so lucky. Our family was so lucky!


Yet, I remembered all the other people at the ER and knew it isn’t always this way. It wasn’t when Dad or Bill’s sister died. And it most likely wasn’t for some of those I saw tonight. They were driving home from the hospital feeling fearful, shocked, and maybe even extreme sadness, instead being able to shake those concerns like I could.


It felt important to think of them and silently offer my concern for them out into the world.


I also know some of you are ending this season without loved ones you started it with. I’m sorry. I wish it wasn’t so. And I take this moment to acknowledge your loss and pain.


I don’t know why or how some get lucky, and others don’t, but I think wasting any of our family’s good fortune this night would be a disgrace. So, I write this newsletter today, obviously thankful Darienne is okay, but also thankful for the summer we’ve shared with you - through the food we grew - and feeling the need to let you know that too.


We don’t want you to think we took your support for us and our farm for granted.


We’ve appreciated your membership and business this summer along with all the satisfying work, invigorating challenges, and fulfilling joy that opportunity brought us. We wish you the best whether you’re a farmers market customer or Yearly CSA Member that will be continuing through winter with us, or if you're leaving us with the end of the summer and fall.


Take care and thank you, Stacey, Bill, Liam, Aidan, Marlee



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