Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oh, let's NEVER do that again.

When the girls were sent home from the ER on April 5, I thought it meant everything must be more or less okay. By that evening, my natropath took one look at them and insisted we travel immediately to Primary Children's Hospital. Even though we'd pass easily half a dozen other hospitals on our way, he said that's where they'd need to be. He was right.

Within an hour of our arrival, Avie was sedated and intubated, then wheeled up to a crib in room 2325 of the pediatric intensive care unit. I pumped every 3-5 hours, slept either by her side or in the hospital's PICU parent dorms, survived on snacks in the PICU nutrition room, and rushed between the third floor and the second as I tried to keep up with both girls' needs. (And just because a child is in a state of chemically induced sedation does not mean she doesn't need her Momma!)

She maintained her looooooong nap for a week, during which time her nurses dolled her up with cute accessories (blankets and bows.) Only in retrospect can I talk about an event as traumatic as intubation with any cheery words like accessories and long naps. I have never been so busy, so sleep deprived, so full of we-will-do-this-thing-drive. I watched Avie's PIP and PEEP numbers incessantly, monitored each breath with her machines, sobbed when the PEEP went up and tried not to get too elated when it went down. You just couldn't trust that it would stay down. One would think there's nothing like losing your power, your role, your duties as a parent, and handing them over to a nurse.

And they would be right. But during that intubation, it was I who spoke to her. And miraculously, she heard me. Then she spoke to me, and I heard her. And that dialogue is a mother's job more than anything else. We kept each other going. She learned things in that PICU, things about truth and light and discernment. And me! I did too! Truth is truth, so there's no point in getting yourself in a dither if you know everything will be all right in the end. You just might have to remind yourself of that fact from moment to anguishing moment.

When they extubated her, the joy I felt was almost like giving birth again. Seeing those eyes -- open, aware, and anxiously looking for me -- I was Momma again! It would be my hands changing her diapers, my arms holding her, my breasts feeding her, and once again my shirt sleeves stained with baby food. Hallelujah!

Betsy was taken to the children's ward, where she would spend the next 6 days watching every Disney movie known to man, rejecting disgusting hospital food (except ice cream) every few hours, and coloring, coloring, coloring. And screaming every time the nurses came for her albuteral treatment. She's a Daddy's girl, and Avie can't live without her Momma, so I'm afraid I didn't get to spend much time with Betsy to begin with. Only when Avie was in a pretty stable place, and Daddy was back at work, did I really venture down to Betsy's room with short trips to the PICU instead of the other way around.

Betsy's trip ended up being a week, and Avie's was 11 days, 8 of which were in the PICU. I'm still decompressing and trying to learn all the lessons I believe I can from this experience. Primary Children's was the perfect place. Our nurses were the kind that were truly called to their profession. What a blessing it was to be in such nurturing, capable, skilled hands.