The young couple carried their baby girl away from the Emergency Room of the local hospital. They were both very familiar with it as she had been working there as a nurse since graduation. It was home to her and she had total confidence in the care given there…until tonight. She looked at her husband and said “I don’t feel better. We’ve done all the right things, but I don’t feel better.” He agreed as he always depended on her for medical decisions, especially in this new father role he was still getting used to.
They arrived home and decided to put their precious little girl in their bed, her breathing was still abnormal, but better than earlier. She still wasn’t talking much and looked so vulnerable with her blond curls hanging loosely around her face. She was disheveled from the fever and from the last few hours of ER. Her eyes were tired, not the spark she always had. Being their first child, she had been very active and an overachiever from the beginning. This was not her, but the ER doctor had sent them home and he knew much more than they did…or did he?
The young mother lay beside her, eyes open, watching her breathe. It was still labored, but color was good and eventually she fell asleep. A few hours later she placed her hand on her forehead, best thermometer in the world, and the fever had returned. She crushed the baby aspirin in a tiny glass dish until it became powder and placed it in her cheek, rubbing it until it was completely dissolved. Minutes later, the three year old jumped out of bed and ran to the nightstand on the other side, picked up some ginger ale, drank it and immediately threw up. It was the first time she would stop breathing that night.
The frightened father grabbed her up and by this time her mother had the Pediatrician on the phone. Phones then were attached to long cords so it was very limiting. By this time they had been instructed to take her outside on a chilly December morning. On the front porch stood a fearful father, wondering what was happening. She immediately rallied and her breathing became less labored, as she lay there, her head on her daddy’s shoulders.
It was then the Pediatrician asked if they could get to the office right away. It was 4 am.
Jumping in the car, only taking time to put her in a car seat, they headed to the office, about 20-25 minutes away at this time of morning. They were both frightened and relieved. Arriving at the office, the doctor was waiting at the door. They placed her delicately on the exam table, trying not to scare her. The doctor looked at her for a matter of seconds and said she needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. He felt it was faster to go by car than to await a squad. He would be in the car behind and off they went.
On arrival, the nurses took her from the car and disappeared behind the double doors. The young parents could hear screaming and wailing and tears fell like a torrential rain. The little blond haired girl, so full of life was now in the hands of strangers and the people she trusted most sat in the plastic chairs in the dusky old waiting room, helpless.
In the next few hours the little girl would be admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of Epiglotitis, an infection of the epiglottis, a small flap that covers the trachea when swallowing so as not to allow food to enter the trachea. It was the #1 emergency in small children and they were told 20% of these children did not survive even with treatment. A tracheotomy would be the next treatment and the tray lay open by the bed.
Now the curls were falling over her daddy’s shoulder, once again, as she lay in his arms,head on his chest. This would be the second time she would stop breathing. IV meds, a call to the Pediatrician and gentle guidance for the parents and the little blond girl with the curls was flying down the road at 95mph to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in a downtown hospital. Her mother at her side, her dad in the car behind, trying to keep up, they arrived once again relinquishing their prize possession to the strangers in the scrubs with the understanding eyes. It was December 6, 1980.
I sit here this morning feeling grateful. Not sure where it came from, but I have this overwhelming attitude of gratitude. The last few weeks have been difficult and I know, without a doubt, that more are around the bend, but with that in mind I still have this peace. It is a peace I haven’t felt in a long, long time.
Maybe it is my intimate relationship with traumatic and indescribable loss, maybe it’s since I’ve been here before, maybe it’s what I’ve learned, maybe it’s me. I don’t really know, but what I do know is this. What a great life I’ve had. How blessed am I to have had the people and experiences I have had. The little girl with the blond curls is now 41. One different event could have changed the course in the story above, but as it played out, it was a happy ending. Not all events have a happy ending, life is not always rainbows and unicorns, but most of the time it is what you make it. I choose to make the rest of my life the best it can be. I know there will be mountains and valleys, but the mountains aren’t near as tall and the valleys aren’t near as deep. We don’t always get to choose our path, sometimes life goes in a different direction than we had wanted. It’s a choice to stay on the path and follow it to see what’s at the end or sit down, give up, and stay right where you are forever. Forever is a very long time.
I was almost finished with this blog when I heard the horrible news of the helicopter crash claiming multiple lives, some children. Today feels like the end of the world to these families. I’m sure the air around the crash site is thick with grief. In this case it is someone famous, but I can assure you there are others right now feeling that same seering pain of loss, those without fame or fortune, no notoriety, but they are feeling the same feelings and shedding the same salty tears. As they enter the maze today, please think of them, their families, their friends and all of those hurt by life’s twists and turns. If you pray, say an extra prayer, if you don’t send them good thoughts for healing.
The maze was very sunny today, bright and hopeful. Tonight it feels dark again as I empathize with all of those hurting. I am slowly but surely finding my way through the darkness and seeing that light of hope. Hug your kids tonight extra tight, tell your family you love them one more time, call your parents, visit your grandparents, forgive those that hurt you, kiss your dog on the nose. End your day on a positive note because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. Love, laugh, have fun, be kind, notice those around you, say hello to strangers and that is what will change your tomorrow.
This week I have been able to refill my glass, not all the way, but it is definitely half full again. I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful week.