Two days before Addie went into the hospital, a friend of mine posted some very sad news on Facebook. Her friends had lost both their sons in a car accident. The dad was driving, the car was broadsided, the parents suddenly left childless.
I didn't know the family or anything about them, but the mother was a photographer and had posted pictures of her boys on her blog. Smiling, happy, middle school aged boys.
I looked at their faces, and I wept. Losing a child is every parent's nightmare. Losing all the children you have--whether you have one, two, or half a dozen--is unthinkable. One moment you're packing lunches and coordinating soccer schedules and homework projects, the next moment...you're not doing any of that.
Jason and I talked about the awfulness of waking up one day and not having children. Even now, I can hardly bear to imagine it.
Two days after that Facebook post, I was driving Addie to the emergency room. The advice nurse had listened to Addie's breathing over the phone, and told me evenly, "You need to take her right now."
It did not occur to me as I drove down the freeway that Addie wouldn't be fine. Kids get sick. Sometimes kids go to the hospital. She would get better.
And to skip to the end of the story: she did get better.
But back to last Monday...even when I checked in at the hospital, I wasn't overly concerned. Even when they rather quickly ushered us to triage--no waiting around on uncomfortable plastic benches--I felt sure that everything was going to be fine.
But when they started hooking Addie up to computers, started looking concerned when I said she'd been sick for 10 days, when they made sure to mention "RSV" to every doctor and nurse that came by the room, my confidence faltered a little.
Then came the moment they attempted to put the IV in her head. They held her down as she screamed.
Her eyes were wide with terror--her heart rate dangerously high, her oxygen levels dangerously low--and it was the absolute worst moment of my life. I tried to get her to look at me, tried to calm her down by talking to her, holding her hand, stroking her forehead. But she was still terrified. Three times they tried to get an IV in her head; three times they failed.
In the moment I watched Addie screaming, the thought occurred to me, What if I leave the hospital without Addie? What if the last memory I have of her is screaming in terror?
The trouble with being a blog reader is that there is no shortage of heartbreaking stories, and this can both ground you in the reality of lives beyond your own as well as amplify the worries you might have. Real life brings its own set of heartache, but once you get connected to worlds beyond your own you are presented with stories that haunt you. Just this week I've cried over Logan's story, over Kate McRae's story.
The level of sadness is sometimes too much to handle.
When the doctors asked about Addie's pertussis/whooping cough vaccine (thankfully she's received two of the three (?) pertussis vaccines) I thought of the parents who have written about losing their babies to pertussis.
What if the unthinkable happened to us?
As quickly as the thought came into my head, I pushed it out. I wasn't going to fall apart because Addie needed me right then. She needed me to be calm, to reassure her, to hold her and not fall to pieces.
As we rode in the ambulance to the children's hospital, my job was to hold the oxygen in front of Addie' face to make sure her oxygen levels stayed up. "If your arm gets tired," said the EMT, "let me know, and I'll take over."
My arm got tired, but I wasn't letting the EMT take over. This was my job. This was the one thing I could do to help my baby get better. I couldn't listen to her chest or administer medication, but I could hold oxygen in front of her face.
It was midnight by the time we checked in to Doernbecher. It was quiet, and in the quiet I was more aware of the worry that gripped me. Eventually, the doctors making the nightly rounds came by our room and asked me a lot of questions to get a better picture of what Addie had been going through. The respiratory therapist told me that RSV and the ensuing pneumonia was very serious--"a lot of kids are spending 4-5 days in the hospital because of it"--but that they had a good treatment plan for it. "She is a very sick little girl, but she'll get better."
"Because she has to," I told her.
"That's right. Because she has to."
We did stay four nights in the hospital, but after the first 36 hours, I knew Addie was going to be okay. It was just a matter of her lungs healing and her oxygen levels improving. Though I rarely left her side, Wednesday afternoon Jason stayed with Addie while I went home and got some clothes and schoolwork. Then on Thursday, Jason and my parents took turns watching Addie while I went to school to teach my classes.
There is still the possibility that Addie might develop asthma as a result of having RSV, but we can deal with that if it comes up. The important thing is that she's okay. She had her post-hospital doctor's appointment yesterday, and he said her lungs sounded great and her oxygen levels were good. The advice nurse who had listened to Addie's breathing over the phone and told me to go to the emergency room stopped by our room after the check-up. She saw in the computer that we were there, and she wanted to see Addie.
"I watched her chart all week long to see how she was doing. When you called and told me she was taking 80 breaths a minute, I thought you were miscounting. Then I heard her on the phone, and I knew it was serious."
I almost burst into tears when she said that.
"I'm glad she's okay."
There aren't enough words to express my gratitude for Addie's recovery. From all our family, friends, and strangers who were praying for Addie, to the nurses and doctors at Southwest, to the amazing staff at Doernbecher--Dr. Emily, Mr. Food Service Guy who got me hooked up with food while I was at the hospital, Nurse Jessica, the amazing respiratory therapists, and dozens of other people who were part of Addie's care--I just feel really lucky-blessed-amazed that everything turned out the way it did.
Even though Doernbecher didn't require me to wear the wrist identification bracelet I got at the emergency room, I kept it on. Even after Addie was discharged I kept it on. I kept it on until just three days ago.
I kept it on because I thought, If something happens to me, someone needs to know that I belong to this little baby.
The world is full of a lot of sad stories, heartbreaking stories, stories that no parent, husband, wife, or child want to experience.
If there is anything I've learned from those stories, it's to be even more grateful for our story. The story that ends with Addie healthy. The happy one.
I didn't do anything to deserve the happy story, but it's the one God has given us at this moment. Not a day goes by that I don't thank Him for that.
And if our story changes? What then?
I don't know.
I just pray it doesn't. It's the only thing I can do.