I sneak into her room in the middle of the night to pick her up and rock her. Sleep seems to elude me these days. I am so thankful that she's still here, that God is still letting me take care of her and be her mother. One thing I have learned, the hard way of course, is that my children are first and foremost, God's children. I am just blessed that He has given them to me to love and protect the best I can. I still remember the peace I found rocking Addy as an infant, realizing that I could completely place both Addy and Caden in God's hands and trust that everything would be okay. I still struggle with that, I still want to be in control. But when I am reminded to hand them back over, the peace washes over everything. I'm clinging to that now as I ride the wave of emotions after what we've experienced. I've been completely, irrevocably broken. But slowly, God is healing my heart with each smile, each giggle, each time she plops down in my lap to read a book.
It was Thursday early afternoon, after school. I ran out the door with Addy to do a little shopping. Caden stayed home with daddy. We were going to the Just Between Friends consignment sale at a local church. We browsed through and nothing really caught my eye. We saw a friend on the way out and chatted for a bit. She hadn't seen Addy since she was an infant. We made our way out the car. Addy wanted to play. She loves being outside. I told her no, we were getting in the car and we were going to go to another store to go shopping.
She didn't want to get into her car seat. She started to make the face like she was about to cry. You know how sometimes little kids make the crying face and you have to wait a few seconds for the wail to emit? That's what I thought she was doing. Except she never started to cry. She began to turn blue, her limbs were contorting. I thought she was having a seizure. In hindsight, knowing everything we know now, I was watching her suffocate. Her little body went limp.
I called 911, after hanging up on my husband. I was hysterical. I could barely get the words out to the other voice on the line. "My daughter.... seizure. She's not breathing." As I held her in my arms, limp and blue, a million thoughts race through my mind. "She can't die in my arms." "This can't be how it ends." "How do I live without her?" I was paralyzed. All the while still on the phone with 911. I'm not sure how long it lasted.
I ran back into the foyer of the church, and somehow, someway, she gasped for air. "She's breathing, thank God, she's breathing," I told the 911 operator. It wasn't pretty. She was still limp. She wasn't getting enough air, but she was coming back to me.
The paramedics finally arrived. Of course at that point I thought she'd just had a seizure. I wasn't aware of the severity of what really happened. I remember telling the paramedics, "You have to wait for my husband, he may not want us to transport." They must have thought I was an idiot. I mean, here's a 21 month old little girl, barely breathing. It's just that John and I have had the conversation about when to take the ambulance so many times. May sound morbid, but with his job he's seen a lot of people call 911 for stupid stuff. I think it's safe to say, this wasn't stupid and warranted the ambulance ride.
I can imagine what it must have looked like, back at the car. I left her car door wide open. The stroller still sitting out beside the door. I have no clue where my purse or her diaper bag was. I had my phone and the car keys with me, sobbing in the foyer of the church. A sweet lady stopped with her son and waited for the paramedics with me. I don't know her name, or anything about her. Just her kindness.
We got loaded into the ambulance and John finally arrived. Caden must have been in the car. All of that is a blur. Everything was situated, and we were going lights and sirens to the hospital. The paramedic got oxygen on Addy and I just sat there by her, silently sobbing.
We arrived in the ER, John got there shortly after me. It wasn't long before they moved us out of the curtained wing of the ER to an actual room where we basically had a dedicated nurse and doctor. I am not sure the sequence of events. She had a head CT because I remembered she had fallen that morning and hit her head. Then there was a chest x-ray that revealed that it appeared she had pneumonia. The nurse kept saying she's a very sick little girl. I remember being asked to step out of the room for the x-ray and a nurse just embracing me while I fell apart. How did she have pneumonia? She'd been so healthy, so full of life and energy just minutes before the episode.
I don't know how long we were in the ER, or when we were moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The series of questions was the same with every doctor we saw. The PICU staff was amazing. They got rid of the little baby crib and brought us a big bed so I could snuggle with Addy around 3am. She woke up probably every 15-30 minutes, so there was little rest.
I think it was the next morning when a doctor, not sure which one, came in and said that she didn't have pneumonia, but post-obstructive pulmonary edema. I can't really explain it. Just that it looked like pneumonia and acted like pneumonia. Somehow during all of that, there was negative pressure and fluid entered her lungs or lining around the lungs. I asked about the likelihood of her laryngomalacia being a part of what happened and was basically dismissed. I will be following up on that and getting a second opinion. I am convinced that her weak larynx collapsed and cut off her airway. I just can't find any other explanation. And maybe it's not my job to understand, but I have to at least try to make sense of it all.
We ended up with a total of 1 head CT, 3 chest x-rays, an echo of her heart, and an EEG. All normal, except the chest x-rays of course. We were transferred to the regular floor on Saturday afternoon. We got to go home Sunday afternoon. She was so excited to leave and go home. I made John put her in the car seat for me, that was just too much to handle. She's doing absolutely great now and reminds me daily how life is so precious.
She's so beautiful, so perfect, and I am so thankful. As a parent, to wrap your head around the idea that something so precious to you can be taken away in an instant is earth-shatteringly humbling. Again, I find it to be a miracle she's still with me. She could have quit breathing in her sleep when I wasn't there to get help. God is good, especially in the midst of these struggles.
Broken. Thankful. Humbled.