Seriously though, glow-stick kids. Right? A little break here and there makes them brighter and ready for use in the world. Well, I think the fourth one just came to life.
Tonight ranks up near the top on my most terrifying nights ever. I had the helpless feeling of watching and trying to help but not actually knowing what was wrong. One of those points in time where the seconds seem like hours and every detail becomes seared into your memory.
I don’t even know what we were talking about but the kids were playing around the living room. Supermom was starting dinner and I was talking with the Grandparents who had just brought the children home from Night at the Museum 3. They say it was a good movie by the way.
At some point we realize that the smallest child Lady Bug is acting strangely. She has been crawling around the floor on all fours and now is beside the couch with the top of her head against the side of the couch. It looks like she was crawling forward and ran into the couch and has just frozen there. Maybe she is looking at something on the ground or maybe she put it in her mouth. I try to get her attention.
“Lady Bug… Look at Daddy. What do you have?”
Nothing. She isn’t moving.
I walk over and pick her up so I can see what she is doing or what she is trying to secretly put in her mouth. The first thing I notice is that her arm is rigid and is drawing itself into her chest. Her eyes are wide and her mouth is half open but she is frozen. That look is haunting even now.
There is no clawing at her mouth or throat, no choking sounds, just a blank and wide-eyed expression on the face of a little eighteen month old girl. Everyone is immediately concerned and gathers around while my mind races with what to do. Her lips are turning blue and her expression isn’t changing. She has to be choking is all I could think.
My fight or flight response is abnormally organized and methodical thought. It is my secret to test taking. I just get an idea in my head and I go with it. I turn her face down and hold her at a downward angle while doing some baby Heimlich, my wife rushes over and is repeating her name, “Lady Bug, Lady Bug!”. Maybe it was me saying her name. Who can tell?
Supermom smacks her on the back trying to dislodge whatever is stuck. It isn’t working and she is starting to turn really blue. Her face has the same stuck expression. For the first time I started the silent countdown in my head, three minutes until organs start to become damaged. Who know where three minutes came from but that is what I thought about. It is the first time I can remember honestly thinking I might be losing one of them. Sitting in my arms and slipping through my fingers.
This was not our first rodeo with choking, I had one stick a tortilla chip in their throat and I had to fish it out by hand. They were blue and gasping but this episode was different.
Grandma had 9-1-1 on the cell phone and was hysterically trying to get the address and info across. All I could think was that they would get here too late. They will take this limp child into a blinking box on wheels and I won’t see her alive again. At the same time I am thinking about not breaking ribs and keeping Lady Bug downward facing and how when I squeeze her lower abdomen that there isn’t the slightest rush of air out of her mouth or nose. I reach a finger into her mouth along the inside edge and to the back to make sure she hasn’t swallowed her tongue or something blocking the whole throat.
That moment she let out a little bit of air and after a few pats she started to cry. Nothing came up and her cry was strong and clear but she was disoriented. Lady Bug was not herself. I started to become aware of the other things going on around me. Supermom clutched Lady Bug and the other girls had run to their room and were hugging each other and crying. The panic of the adults had scared them pretty bad too. Lady Bug was getting more and more energy back but with nothing obviously wrong we were worried.
It was hard not to let that feeling wash me away. I don’t know what I just watched but it looked a lot like loss and death. The tears streaked down my face as I put together what we needed to do next. The older three went back to the Grandparents and the baby and Supermom loaded up with me in the car. Once again, we turned the flashers on and went to the Emergency Room. We should have a parking spot at that place.
So in the middle of flu and stomach virus season we enter a hotbed only three days after Christmas when most of the sick people who put off the doctor during Christmas are now sick enough to need emergency care. We get called to triage and get a confusing look because the chart says that the patient is 101 years old. (The receptionist put in the birth year as 1913 instead of 2013.) Back in line while they fix this.
Lady Bug is fidgety and quickly becoming full of energy. Talking. Laughing. Screaming at people. Playing with a plastic horse and the inside of a shoe she pulled off. Normal stuff.
We get a room and the doctor finds an infection in the left ear. Lady Bug had a runny nose for a few days but never a fever or any other hint that something was wrong. The doctor tells us that most likely it was a febrile seizure caused by the infection although since there was no actual fever we have to get a full workup and then go see a specialist. Workup means needles.
So after holding what I thought was my dying child, I got to hold a child that thought they were dying. Bloodwork via IV in the arm. Rectal temperature, super. CAT scan, I had the pleasure of holding her head in place while she was scanned. Flu test via nose swabs. Strep test via throat swabs (flashback of choking incident was a nice touch to this test) Chest X-Ray. Urine sample via catheter – second attempt was successful in getting the line into the tiny, tiny urethra. The secret turns out to be waiting until they stop screaming to take a quick breath and then shoving quickly into the bladder. Sounds awesome to me but they weren’t taking requests. Finally, an antibiotic shot that I’m pretty sure hurt her the most. I had to help hold her through all of it and Supermom was there too holding her arms and trying to calm her down.
Six hours later we are home with antibiotics and a referral to a neurologist, just to be on the safe side. Oh yeah, we got a package of rectal suppositories for seizures lasting longer than three minutes. I guess it beats sitting there with your thumb up your own ass.
If that shit goes on for three minutes I’m going to need some nitro-pills, some tranquilizers, or the general legalization of marijuana. I am a softie at heart and this one was almost too much. We had the broken arm last week. I’m good on drama for a week or two, let’s call it done.
Back at home and it is 1:30 am and I can’t sleep. In the other room is this kid who feels like a pin cushion but is sleeping soundly. They pull at the heart strings so hard. My oldest used her new iPad (hand-me-down) to text us at the hospital. She wanted to know how her sister was doing and if everything was going to be all right. She told us she loved us. She is seven. We have a strong family bond and it ties me in knots to see that my panic and trauma is our panic as a family. I dropped the ball tonight in assuring the other three that things were alright. I’m not one for lying to my kids even though they do it to me all the time.
Tonight was a hold your kids a little tighter kind of night. Thirty seconds and our life was ready to change. I’m drained of my mental energy and if I was honest I would say that I wanted someone to hold me a little closer tonight too. Guess that will have to be the cat who tries to sleep on my chest at three in the morning.
If you have endured this type of torture, this post is for you. Hopefully, the result was better than the experience. I can’t imagine that level of loss.
Some people hope to live forever but times like this make me hope I’m the first to go.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.