I sat there in the lobby of the surgical waiting room, reading the kind words my Pranksters sent me that morning – feeling almost as though they were right there, beside me, as I waited. Would she live? Would she die?
No one knew. And those closest to me knew better than to say, “it’ll be okay.” Because a) it’s a bullshit statement and 2) they didn’t know any more than I did whether or not that would be the case.
A little stoned, perhaps, on Ativan, I began to rummage through the bag I’d packed. I didn’t know what one was supposed to pack in times like these – a word search, my phone charger, my breast pump, my own tissues (my face was already torn up from the hospital-grade tissues).
That’s what I brought.
It was there, as I pecked out a quick tweet on my i(can’tfucking)Phone, “She’s back in surgery now.” As I went to put my phone away, she showed up.
It was the surgical assistant, completely suited up in surgical gear. If I’d had more than half a second to panic, I’d have begun – I’d just given up my precious daughter, signing documents allowing the neurosurgeon to cut open her brain, take out some spare bits, then put her back together with a skull implant. The surgery was supposed to be 6-9 hours long – seeing her like that so soon after we’d kissed our girl goodbye, that should have been scary.
She carried a bag with her – a bio-hazard, which she held in front of her, obviously trying to give it to me.
The confusion set in as the tears (again) poured from my eyes: was this a bit of my daughter?
She spoke, “We gave her a haircut. I wanted you to have this for her baby book.”
I took it, turning it over in my hand, as I wondered if it was the last bit of my daughter I’d hold, as she strode back into the OR where my daughter was unconsciously waiting.
Not knowing what else to do, I shoved it into my hospital bag.
I’ve never taken it out. In fact, I’ve never touched that bag. It sits in my closet, still full of whatever I’d packed, while horrified, panicked that I’d been offering my daughter up for slaughter.
A lifetime later, my daughter wiggles and bounces her way into the room, chock full of giggles and smiles, playing a game with her Lego guys, then “cooking” me a breakfast out of her play food.
Why yes I want green beans with my eggs, Mimi, how kind of you to offer.
I see it.
The wispy locks of baby hair are finally growing out, her big girl hair filling in underneath. The new curls are thick underneath it all, giving her a properly impish look.
But the baby hair, it looks…well…weird. It’s clearly time to cut it off.
So I grab a pair of scissors, beg The Guy On My Couch, Who Happens To Be Sitting ON The Couch, to help me out with her – just keep her occupied, I ask. This isn’t the sort of haircut I give the boys – I’m just lopping off the long bits as she chats with The Guy On My Couch.
He too, I learn as I listen to them talk, would love some fake green beans with his pretend eggs.
Soon, I have a pile of longer blondish hairs. Not willing to part with those memories just yet, I find a baggie and carefully place those long strands inside, where they will, one day, be put into her baby book along with her first haircut.
And as she bops and whirls away, haircut over, she looks over her shoulder and positively beams at me, her old eyes somehow comprehending that this five minute stretch on the couch was, for some reason unbeknownst to her, very big deal.
Her curls shimmering, catching the light just-so, giving her the appearance of having an actual halo, I am reminded; humbled, by how far we have come.
Both of us.
He’d been moping about the house all morning. A fever so high I worried you could fry eggs on his scalp, I tried to remind myself that kids DO run fevers, and we’d been to Mouse Hell the weekend before, so if he hadn’t just come down with what had made me so bloody sick for the past two weeks (and counting!), it was probably an Oregon Trail Disease picked up from random peeing kids in the ball pits.
(aside: why do kids piss in ball pits? It’s never dawned upon me that I should, perhaps, use a pile of balls to squat over and whiz on)
I assumed it would pass.
I’m a nurse and I’m no alarmist when it comes to my kids. Kids get sick. They bounce back. Especially my middle son, Alex.
By 12:00, as he dazedly tried to play some sort of Lego game with his sister, as he shivered in the 75 degree house, I realized he needed to go to the doctor.
“Take him to the Minute Clinic*,” I asked Dave, without really giving the option of a “no.” “I’ll be done with my board meeting by 2PM, and you should be back by then – I can keep an eye on him afterward.”
At 1:45, Dave and the kid both gone, the phone rang. I assumed it was my eldest, telling me that he was on his way home.
“We’re on our way to the ER,” The Daver announced grimly. “Alex has a 104 degree fever.”
Well, fuckity, fuckity, fuck me.
I had to find someone to watch the smallest child, Amelia, who was bouncing about the house, playing with her Legos and occasionally throwing herself on the ground – just to make herself laugh.
After a lot of back and forth, my mother, bless her heart, came to pick up the smallest of the littles and The Guy On My Couch, Ben, who was just as frantic about the ER trip as I, and I hauled balls to the hospital.
On the way, I bemoaned my decided lack of Punch Card for ER Frequent Flyers. I’d just BEEN there, I whined. We’d just been there. I now knew all of the short cuts to the cafeteria where they stocked all of that luscious sweet nectar of the Gods, Diet Coke.
By the time we got there, Alex was already in the room. Ben and I stormed the room in time to see the doctor pinning my son down to do a strep culture on his throat. Poor guy, I thought – those things are like giving a blow job to a q-tip.
As she left, she said, “if this is negative, we’ll do a chest x-ray.” She left, my jaw flopping on the germ-laden floor.
Chest x-ray? Why on EARTH would they need to be ruling out pneumonia (or TB)(okay, I knew it wasn’t TB)(probably)?
I schlepped myself onto the hospital bed, where I cuddled up my kid as I handed Alex my coveted i(can’t fucking)Phone, so he could play Angry Birds, handily beating each of my scores. He was burning up, despite the Motrin that triage gave him. Ugh.
Ten minutes later, a pert and perky lady came in and asked if he could walk. “Well yes, I said, but not without socks in the middle of the ER – I’ll carry him, thankyouverymuch.”
I lugged my now-fifty pound boy after her, not quite sure where we were going. Along the way, I told him about how he’d nearly been born at this very same hospital – the hospital where I’d given birth to his brother. He asked me a couple questions about how babies come from your tummy, and I skimmed over the bit about how they got out (although I did inform him it was through “the vagina” and not “my belly button,” as he’d suspected).
Soon we were in a darkened room – radiology.
I stood next to him, dressed in a heavy lead cloak, as he got pictures of his chest taken.
And then we were done. Back to the room we went, as he peppered me with questions about where HE’D been born, occasionally laughing when he mentioned that he knew he’d, “pooped on me as a baby.”
Back into the bed we went, where we waited. And waited. And waited.
The Guy on My Couch, Ben, and The Daver both sat on their respective iPhones, the room darkened, as Alex and I lay in bed together. Sometimes, we played on my phone, other times, we just lay there.
After an hour or so, he began to whine, begging to go home, and I realized it was time to get creative. I went through the drawers of the room, stealing an Ace Bandage (never know when you’ll need one) and an ice pack (you always know you’ll need one), as I handed Alex a stack of tongue depressors to play with. Eagerly, he yanked them open and began to beat them on the gigantic barf basin I’d given him.
We soon grew tired of that, too, having now been at the ER for three and a half hours.
The guys in the room very deeply involved in their games, I suggested we People Watch. I pulled back the blinds in the glass enclosed room and we began to watch, talking about what we saw.
Placed close enough to all three of the trauma rooms, we were afforded a perfect view of someone’s very worst day. The room swarmed with nurses, doctors, EMT’s, surgeons, all angrily buzzing in and out, clearly doing Important Things.
While I don’t practice, I’m a nurse. And I knew someone was fighting for their life in that room. I said a prayer. Then another. Then another.
What was a blip on an otherwise okay day for me (who wants to spend their day at the hospital?) was the end of someone else’s life. I wonder, as I often do in emergency situations, if there was any indication that the person behind the curtain knew that this day would be The Day. The universe should tell the person whose world is about to be turned upside down – or worse – off entirely, that hey, this is the last time you’ll breathe the outside air. This is the last sunset you’ll see. Hey, take note, this is the last time you’ll eat a donut or hug your kid or say, “I love you.”
But we don’t get that kind of warning.
And so we die.
Sometimes while we sleep. Sometimes while we drive. Sometimes out of the clear blue sky in Trauma Two on a beautiful almost-spring day.
And sometimes, while someone, a stranger, holding her heart – the one who walks around outside her chest – praying for someone she didn’t know, as she tells her middle son about the time when he “got born,” we die.
Dona nobis pacem.
Give us peace.
*what my mother likes to call a “doc in the box,” the small clinics we have at some local pharmacies
P.S. Diagnosis: “atypical” pneumonia. Leave it to my kid to be all A-typical.
We’re having a hearts! and love carnival on Band Back Together tomorrow, showcasing broken hearts, heart issues, and, my personal favorite, love. I’ll have a post going up tomorrow over there – I’ll link you.
If you’d like to read, write, contribute, or do a Snoopy dance, go ahead on over. We’re totally getting the Band Back Together.
P.S. Last day to vote for Bloggies. Somehow, I’m up for a couple. So is Band Back Together.
Dear Aunt Becky,
our son is nearly 6-1/2. he was dx’d with autism back when he turned 2. he has a large, flat head, is close to non-verbal, is sensory and cognitively affected, has apraxia, and lots of gut issues… we finally did the mri, looking for craniosynotosis and/or chiari. we got back a 3/8″ encephalocele on the base of his skull. we sent mri disc to ch-boston, they said it was insignificant. we want a second opinion.
who do we go to?
I know we’ve spoken privately, but I’m throwing it out here on my blog so that any of my Pranksters can chime in.
So, Pranksters, do you know anyone in his area that can help his son with his encephalocele?
Dear Aunt Becky,
I feel like a jerk, but there’s this girl that does everything I do online. She signs up for the same sites I sign up for. She becomes active in my communities. She’s nice, but it’s irritating. I feel like a jerk for being irritated. However, she even sometimes takes credit for my work, and even recently landed a pretty big opportunity, mainly just copying everything I do. Again, she’s always sweet. I know I should be flattered and all, but is there anything I can do besides vent? Am I a total jerk?
–Copied from North Dakota
Prankster, I wish I had any good advice for you. I’d like to offer you some bullshit platitude, but it’s never helped me to hear, “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” In fact, I’d like to counter it by saying that anyone who as offered that as a consolation has never truly been copied when it matters.
Because sometimes it DOES matter.
I don’t give a shit if people take terms I use as their own. I don’t care if people riff off my blog posts. It’s only when it’s something I’ve poured my heart and soul into that I get upset.
And that’s about all I do. Sure, I could run around, doing some sort of weird smear campaign, but in the end, it would only make me look like an asshole. And while I can be a huge asshole, I’d prefer it to be for something else, like kicking kittens or mooning a full moon.
So I’m going to offer you my apologies. And my empathy. Because it really, really does suck.
Any advice for her, Pranksters?
Hi Aunt Becky!
I’ve been a follower for a while now and I have to preface this with the “omgwtfbbq,yer so awesomez!” I know that you are the ringleader here and at Band Back Together, so I have no doubt you’ll be able to answer my question. I have a cousin-in-law who recently tried to commit suicide.
This evening I stumbled upon my uncle-in-law’s wife talking to the cousin and being very awkward because he was talking about actually finishing himself off. I jumped in and tried to help and while I have extracted a promise from him to try the therapist in the morning and call me and let me know what happens,
I am not too sure that is enough.
I, of course, directed him to the suicide prevention hotline and its crazy website, but what else can I do? I told him if he felt that bad he could call 911 and they would bring him into the hospital and said that he should be able to commit himself.
I wonder if you know what the general laws are regarding being committed versus committing yourself.
I don’t have his address so I’m not too sure I can call the police and have them do anything. I’ve let other members of his family know what happened so they can help too and texted back and forth with him so he knows that I really am willing to talk. So, to recap, what’s the deal with commitment? Is there anything else I can do and if he does do something and tells me, is it possible to call the cops and have them intervene?
Thanks Aunt Becky!
Oh Prankster, you have a heart of gold – you know that, right? Because you do.
Anyway – you’ve done all the right things.
I’m sending you these links, not to pimp my (almost) non-profit, but because there’s more information that may be more valuable than the piddly words I can offer you here.
(see, I don’t watch cat videos all day long!)
First things first:
If you are feeling desperate, alone or helpless, or know someone who is, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Listen, really listen to them rather than offer solutions and help. People who are suicidal do not want help, they want a safe place to talk about their feelings. Really shutting your mouth and listening is very hard, but it is important.
Let them know they can trust you.
Let them know that you do care about them very much.
When someone is feeling suicidal, they must talk about their feelings immediately. Sometimes, just letting those feelings out can help.
If someone is actively talking about suicide, offering plans up about suicide, call 911. STAY with the suicidal person while you wait for help to arrive. This is an emergency. Period.
THIS is what I know about involuntary commitment:
Involuntary Commitment is the act of admitting someone who is a danger to him or herself (or others) to a psychiatric hospital for 3-5 days. Laws for involuntary commitment vary from country to country to state to state.
If, after 3-5 days, the person is still determined to be a threat to him or herself, a court order may be obtained to detain the person.
Let me know if this helps, Prankster. I love you and your big gorgeous heart.
Pranksters, please fill in where I left off in the comments. And, as always (now that I’m off my ridiculously large ass and back to posting), send me your most important questions. I will answer them as uselessly as possible.