Each year millions of Americans are hospitalized suddenly with critical injuries or life-threatening medical emergencies. The families of these patients begin a roller coaster ride characterized by terrified waiting and lack of control. All the while, they are uncertain whether their loved one will survive until the ride is over. This is their story. Phenomenologic interviews with 6 family members identified 10 theme clusters that describe the experience. Specific implications for the nursing care of these families are discussed.