It’s been one year since the unthinkable happened. A year since we listened to his strangled cry. A year since Luffy held him in his lap while we watched him convulse. A year since I called 911 for my baby and we waited those agonizing, syrupy minutes for help to arrive. A year since we loaded our child into the back of an ambulance and made our way through the darkness to the children’s ER.
I feel compelled to revisit the day, through my own writings, through the midnight email I sent to my coworkers, through the pictures I took in the hospital. To read and remember the fear and the worry. To see again how tiny he looked on the trauma room’s bed. To realize that no parent is ever prepared to see their child with monitors and IV’s. To remember the way the doctors and nurses buzzed around as I stood by helplessly, catching phrases like “no gag reflex” and “poor response” and “respiratory distress.” To remember when the radiologist performing the CAT scan asked my permission to give my son a little blanket, lovingly handmade by someone who worries about the tiny patients in the children’s ER. To recall the sobering moment when the overnight on-call pediatrician asked us about poisoning, both intentional and accidental.
I remember my struggle to get the dumpling back to sleep after we were admitted to the hospital and transferred to a private room. He was hooked up to an IV and monitors, so I was chained to one spot. I struggled to think of what to do: should I try to lay in the hospital bed with him? Should I lay him on my chest or beside me? Were the wires long enough to stretch to the bedside? We ended up curled together in a recliner while Luffy angled his 6’5″ frame on the couch. By the time we got settled, it was almost dawn. I remember dozing off, watching the sky lighten through the window. I could hear the nurse shift change and I wondered what the day would bring. There’s a picture of us, the dumpling and I, in the chair. He’s still alseep, his long lashes on display over his smooshed cheeks, and I look tired. Tired but relieved too. I remember deciding when it was finally late enough in the morning to call my mom. I remember breaking down when she assumed we were in the hospital for his fever and I said the words out loud for the first time: he had a seizure. My mom would be there just hours later, to greet us at our room when we came back from the EEG.
I remember our push to get him discharged Tuesday, after his abnormal EEG. I remember driving home with him in my lap as he dozed off again. I remember the fear of putting him back in his crib for the night and the need to keep an eye on him the entire night. I’m fairly positive that between Luffy and I, we physically checked on him almost every hour throughout that first night.
I remember our shared terror when we woke up early Wednesday morning to find that the dumpling was running a fever of 103.5. We debated going back to the hospital before remembering this was exactly the sort of thing that our pediatrician’s night-call number was for. She directed us to rotate Motrin and Tylenol throughout the day to control his fever and keep him comfortable. That was probably one of the truly scariest moments: thinking we’d have to go back to the hospital after just getting home.
Sprinkled in with the fear and the uncertainty though is a sense of wonder at how much we humans care for each other. My coworker’s responses to my midnight email, for instance, are full of concern. I was supposed to have my annual review with the partners of our firm on Wednesday, but they urged me to stay home with my son. When I did have my review (via Skype), they expressed sincere concern and condolences. Our neighbor texted us the next morning, having seen the lights of the ambulance and fire truck, and offered to feed Jas or bring us anything we needed from our home. The night we returned home, our neighbor across the street stopped by out of concern. She too had seen the lights. Our daycare teachers were horrified when they found out (upon our return to daycare) and held the dumpling close; one teacher offering a quick prayer for him.
And to the kindness of strangers: I imagine that blanket I mentioned earlier was sewn by some sweet mother or grandmother in the hopes that it would comfort a scared child. I was given a care kit in our hospital room that was put together by volunteers with the sole purpose of supporting parents who found themselves caring for a very sick child. A couple of days after we returned home, the EMS team who had cared for the dumpling stopped by our house, to check on him. [One day, I plan to take the dumpling by the firehouse to see the fire trucks he’s obsessed with and I swear that if I happen to see the people who cared for him I will absolutely lose it.]
A year to the day since the unthinkable happened and the dumpling’s doing well. We have his follow-up MRI scheduled tomorrow (which isn’t helping my compulsion to revisit the past) and we’ll meet with his neurologist in January for the results. I’m not anxious for the results; I’m sure everything will be fine.
In the meantime, I’m going to spend this holiday season eternally grateful that the dumpling is healthy and thriving.