An unknown telephone number flashed repeatedly on my cell phone last Friday night as my husband and I were just winding down our dinner date and planning to pick up our teenage daughter at her swing dance class.
Not recognizing the number, my husband hesitated in calling back while I was driving. But thinking it could be important, he phoned back, just in case.
It was a call that could have marked the beginning of a completely different life for our family.
I urgently pulled over as I heard my husband's voice shudder, then stammer for the caller to say whether he was kidding or not.
Something was very, very wrong.
I heard my husband ask for the caller to repeat what they just said. Then, the terrifying words - unconscious, seizure and injury - fell like stones from my husband's mouth.
Our daughter, it turned out, had suffered a serious head trauma that night, having hit her head with high force on the floor while being looped over her partner's arm during the dance lesson at a local church.
Her boyfriend was calling to tell us that she had been knocked unconscious and had some momentary paralysis and loss of speech - an ambulance had been called.
We made it there in five minutes to find her laid out on the hard wood floor, surrounded by attentive Hood River paramedics, firemen and the rest of the distraught teens in the dance class and their teacher. (It was these fast-thinking teens who used their cell phones to call the ambulance just seconds after her accident.)
Our daughter was immobilized on a c-spine board with a neck brace, her head taped into position to prevent any further potential spinal damage.
The ambulance crew rushed us to the hospital for her evaluation - while we prepared ourselves to hear if there might be permanent repercussions. The excellent staff of doctors, nurses and EMS people kept us calm and focused during the longest few hours of our family's life.
We were very lucky. Our daughter returned to virtually normal functioning within a short time.
It was determined that she had a concussion and some bumps and bruises but appeared to be under no threat of long-term impacts.
As with any concussion, we have been maintaining close monitoring of her mental and physical well-being throughout the hours and days following the accident; so far with continued positive signs.
As this incident moves further into our past, and our fresh and intense fears have begun to subside, our family has shared many profound reflections on the fragility of life; those things we take for granted and what is really important and shared between us.
We have also, like all those lucky people spared long-term consequences, begun to return to the more mundane concerns of our everyday lives.
Last night, following a brief cell phone interruption at the dinner table (a rule breaker in our house) it suddenly occurred to me that I had undergone an unexpected change as a result of that terrifying evening.
I realized that a small smile crossed my face when my daughter's cell phone rang - reminding me that I will, from now on, greet those annoying teen cell phone obsessions and disrupting ringtone jingles with a feeling of gratefulness for the very real and critical help they gave to my daughter and our family on a cool January night in 2011.