I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a long time.
Last year, it was too raw. Too new. It was still difficult for me to find the words, even after a full year had passed.
Today marks two years to the day since the worst day of my life.
Two years ago today, I almost lost my son.
It started a week prior with enough to make any new parent concerned: a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea. But on February 19, 2015, it became dire. My three-month-old was emaciated, dehydrated and in obvious distress. A decision was made, and an invasive emergency procedure was done to save his life.
He was then immediately transported to the ICU, where the nightmare continued.
The next few days and hours are a blur, but there are few moments that stand out, and always will.
We alternated nights in the hospital – only one parent could stay overnight at a time. On this particular night, my partner was there and I was home. I wrote about what it was like being at home here.
That night, he took a video of our son minutes before everything changed. I didn’t receive it until the next morning, something I have yet to decide was a blessing or a curse. It showed my baby writhing in pain, eyes sunken and darting around wildly, tubes protruding.
I’ve only ever been able to watch it once.
The PICC Line
Due to a completely destroyed gut due to a severe milk protein allergy, my son couldn’t receive anything orally. A regular IV wasn’t enough, so he had to be given something called a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line – an extremely invasive intravenous line that enters the body midway up the arm and extends to the superior vena cava (a fun little vein above the diaphragm that has the important job of returning deoxygenated blood to the right atrium of the heart).
This was the only way he could receive the nutrients he needed to keep him alive while his body healed.
The Brain Ultrasound
I’ve never spoken about this one because I’m still not quite sure it was real. A photo exists, so it must have been.
Later that day, a team of neurologists were brought in to perform an ultrasound on my little boy’s brain. The purpose of this, we were told casually, was to assess whether or not there was adequate blood flow to his brain after the crash that sent him to the ICU hours earlier.
In other words, they were checking to see if he’d had a stroke.
Not much more was said. Instead, watched as they huddled over a portable ultrasound machine, whispering quietly amongst themselves. I don’t think I blinked as I observed them move their tiny wand over his tiny head, for what truly seemed like hours. Maybe days. I don’t know.
They didn’t speak to us, or even acknowledge our presence. They were stoic and mechanical; pointing and writing, whispering and analyzing. They left as quickly as they appeared, and it wasn’t until several days later we were told everything was fine.
You’re in Hell
While everyone around us was sending their love and well-meaning but essentially empty platitudes, there was one person who was brave enough to tell me what this really was, and where we actually were.
“You’re in hell,” she said.
It was strange hearing that at the time, because I was so used to being placated by gentle words. I had grown so accustomed to hearing things like “we’re praying for you”, or “things will get better”, that when I was told that I was I hell, it shook me a little.
But through all the noise, her words spoke the loudest. She was a mom who had been through similar trauma, and she wasn’t afraid to cut through the bullshit. She allowed me to acknowledge that this was a place that no parent ever wanted to be, and it was okay to be angry. It was okay to be scared, and it was okay to admit that for the time being, the darkness wasn’t going anywhere.
But in that moment, I understood that one day, it eventually would. I will always be grateful to her for that.
Two years later
Two years later, you would never know that my truculent little fart machine overcame an almost inconceivable trauma. I often look at him and wonder what life would be like if he weren’t here anymore.
I don’t allow myself to push those thoughts away.
I force myself to think them, because I know what it’s like to teeter on the brink. I don’t speak about my gratitude, because I can’t find the words. I remember hell, because we made it through.
And you will too, if you’re there.