Around 10am this morning, I had the sudden realization of what today is...this was odd for me, because I have been awaiting this day for a while now. Then, the day gets here, and I am completely oblivious to it for hours. Maybe thats not such a bad thing.
Warning...this won't be an easy read...
A year ago today, our world seemed to stop spinning for about 12 hours. We didn't recover to a normal level for months and still have moments of rememberance to jolt us. A year ago today, Kale rode in the ambulance to the hospital and spent over 3 hours in the ER while they tried to get an IV started and slow down his heartbeat. He was "ice bagged" twice--once at the dr's office and once in the ER. Being "ice bagged" is when they fill a ziplock type bag with water and ice...and then it really, really looks like they are trying to smother you with it while they attempt to confuse your body. He was poked and prodded so many times that eventually they had to give him blood as well after he was stable. Before he left the ER, he had been shocked twice in the attempt to slow his heart rate. Shocked...as in the thing they do to dead people to restart the heart...only they were just trying to slow his down. It worked the second time. We discovered what is was like to have the "code team" in your child's room....those are the people that come when they think your child's body might give out and they might need to administer drugs or machines to help him survive. I can't put into the words the feelings that a parent feels when thier child is laying there with so many hands trying to help him...and knowing all you can do is pray. Its a very humbling experience at the least. I prayed more that day than I probably have prayed in all the other days of my life. When all other words failed to come...I still managed to find the words of "Please Lord, watch over my son, please help my son." There was a point when thats all I could say. I remember thinking that Ep might very well physically kick the "social worker" out of the room. She was trying to help...but she didn't know us...and what she was saying/doing wasn't helping. I don't even remember what it was that she was saying and doing...I just know it aggravated the fire out of Ep.
After Kale was transferred to the CV-ICU, we had to wait until they got him settled before we could go inside. I don't remember when various family members arrived...I just know they came. We had barely been in the room with Kale for a few minutes when his heart rate jumped back up...and they had to shock him again. I remember thinking "is it us...are we causing this?". I know that sounds absurd...but nothing--and I mean nothing--is logical at all when your child has been that close to death and is still fighting for his life. Your brain takes you to places you didn't know existed...or just goes numb.
Kale was eventually stable. However, our journey felt really rocky. We would be told promising news only to be told something completely different a few hours later. Need an example? How about when they told us that we might get to go home the next day...only to come by a few hours later and tell us that they were having to change his medicine again because the one he was on was showing signs of giving him a possibly fatal heart beat. Needless to say...we told them we would stay as long as necessary.
Ep and I slept in the waiting room until Kale finally got moved to the "step down unit". Ep went home every day to shower and get anything we needed. For that week, I lived at the hospital. In fact, I didn't step one foot outside that entire week we were there. I didn't cross the threshold of an outside door. I ate, slept, showered, pumped...you name it...all at the hospital.
During that time, we made associations that we didn't even know about...specifically, the smell of the soap and the antibacterial foam that is used all over the hospital. I can smell that soap and my mind shows me a picture of tiny Kale...wires and cords everywhere...him weighing less than 5 lbs and surrounded by machines that beeped and hissed.
There is a nurse that I won't ever forget. Her name is Heather. I was thinking today about why she means more to me than any of the other nurses Kale had during his stay. I think its because she was his first nurse...she provided us with a sense of calm, security, and assurance during at time when we really needed it. She knew her stuff...she was confident...and we needed someone like that caring for our child. Plus...she had auburn hair. :) I took Kale to see her a few months ago...she laughed and asked what I had been feeding him and just loved on him and his fat rolls.
During the stress of what happened to him, Kale forgot how to suck...and we had to remind him. He came within minutes of being "tubed" so they could provide him with nutrients...but God sent us a NICU nurse to the area (I refuse to believe that she just happened to be there) who was preparing for an incoming child. She took a moment to show me what I call the shotgun method. It worked...and he started gulping his milk. He hasn't slowed down since!
There are lots of times now when I think about something Ep said during or after Kale's "event". He said...we don't/didn't even know him. We had only had a week alone with our child. We were still learning about him and his personality. We truly had no idea...we didn't know he was stubborn, or about his temper, or his persistance, or that he has a way of drawing everyone to him. Now we know...at least some of it. We are still learning about him daily and its a joy to do so.
I only remember breaking down one time. I was laying on my chair bed in the waiting room and I just lost it. We had received some news that wasn't good...but I don't remember what. I just remember asking Ep..."when will it stop?" and telling him that I couldn't handle anything more. He held me and I cried for a few minutes. Then I pulled myself together again. I haven't really cried about it since. I blocked the tears, the pain, and the anger. I get tears in my eyes as I remember, but I don't cry about it. I don't know why. I just don't. Maybe my mind knows that the pain of that situations just isn't bearable and so it won't let me go there. Either way, I do my best to not run from this memory...but to hold onto it...and remember how STRONG our little boy is and what he showed us that day. I still have up and down days with God about it all, but that is ok too.
I still look at Kale sometimes and wonder....did that REALLY happen? To look at him, you wouldn't know he has a heart condition. You wouldn't know he nearly died. He looks like most other one year olds...full of energy, fat and happy....he loves his bottle, babbles to us, loves Baby Einstein videos, lets us know--without any doubt--when he isn't happy, refuses to sleep in his bed, and loves to be outside. He is just a typical one year old. Funny what a difference a year truly does make!