Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Outside the Hospital Window

My daughter slept in her hospital bed peacefully after enduring several hours that were anything but peaceful. Her bi-pap gave her breath as her chest rose and fell with the air flowing in and out. IV pumps clicked and hummed as they provided fluids and medications. After a very long night and morning, I found myself keeping busy by pacing the floor and doing nonsensical tasks of organizing and reorganizing the few belongings I brought along.

I finally quieted my body down and placed myself on the green couch at the back of my daughter's ICU room. With nothing to do but wait and worry, I looked out the window situated directly behind where I sat.

Looking outside, I observed cars driving along the busy road. I imagined for a second where all those people in the cars were speeding off to. Were they going to work? Were they headed to the gym for exercise? Were they off to buy groceries or finish some other mundane errand?

I wanted to be one of those people for a second. I wanted to be driving to work. I would have loved to have been buying groceries or even running to the pharmacy.

I looked a little farther outside and viewed the park just beyond the main street in front of the hospital. The winter weather had limited the activity in this recreational area, but there were a few people braving the temperatures. They ran along the concrete path or walked their animals in the grass. 

I wanted to be one of those people for a minute. I wanted to be doing something ordinary. I didn't want to be in the hospital with my child again. 

Outside the hospital window, life moved on. It was just another regular day for so many people, but it wasn't for me.

I turned away from the window to view my reality. My daughter was in the ICU again. Another respiratory virus found my daughter causing pneumonia, and her lungs needed an extreme amount of oxygen. Her breathing had improved from hours earlier, but she was still seriously ill, again. Absent from the room was my little boy. He was at school trying to maintain a somewhat normal routine during an abnormal time. Separated by illness again, my son and I would have to communicate on the phone later in the evening and hope that would be enough to get us both through this health crisis.

People outside the window didn't seem to have a care in the world. In contrast, my world seemed upside down. No matter how many times I had been in this place with my daughter, it has never gotten any easier. My heart hurt for my daughter, who has fought many health battles. My heart hurt for my son, who has had his own struggles through all of it. I struggled to process my own feelings and anxiety while maintaining a strong front for my daughter, son, and husband.

There was a great juxtaposition with what I viewed in those few minutes. Outside the hospital window, life was as it was expected to be. Inside that room containing the window, nothing was right.

I took a breath and reminded myself of something. Soon, my daughter will be well again. I'll load her into my vehicle to go home. My van will join the parade of cars that never seems to stop. The hospital will soon be in my rear view mirror as I joyfully depart this town. Yet, I'll leave behind dozens of tired parents sitting on a green couch looking outside their child's hospital window.

They'll wish they were me. They will be hoping they will soon be the ones outside the hospital window. And the cycle will continue.
submit to reddit

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I Wasn't Built for This

My daughter's oxygen saturation monitor alarms an hour into my sleep. I'm jarred awake and roll over to look at the video baby monitor screen to view what is happening in my daughter's room. I see numbers on the monitor that suggest a problem and stumble in the dark across the hall to my daughter's room.

Over the next couple of hours, I administer emergency medications. I turn on her oxygen. Then I raise her oxygen. I suddenly decide this can't be managed at home. I race around the house grabbing supplies, clothes, and essential items. I call a family member to come watch my son, so I can rush my daughter to the emergency room.

I wasn't built for a life like this.

My daughter struggles to breathe. She is scared as I try to dress her at 2 in the morning to go to the hospital. She whimpers when I tell her we need to leave to go see a doctor. She slowly makes her way outside towards the van. I can tell it is hard for her to breathe and walk in the state she is in. She sits still in the van on the drive wearing a nasal cannula on her face and the monitor on her finger. At the hospital, she cries when she is asked to lay on a hospital bed. She knows where she is, and she isn't happy. As an IV is attempted a few times unsuccessfully and other measures are started, my daughter cries, hits, and reacts to things she can't control. She waits for the ambulance to transport her to a second hospital where an ICU bed is waiting for her.

She wasn't built for a life like this.

My son peacefully sleeps through the chaos of the night. He awakes for school to find his grandfather at the house and not his mom or sister. (Dad is away at work.) He fights back tears as he hears the news of his sister. Somehow, he pulls it together to get dressed for a school day. He tries to go on even though the weight of the unknown with his sister and his mother's absence is heavy on his mind.

He wasn't built for a life like this.

When the job responsibilities of a mom are listed out, very few would mention administering emergency medications, monitoring at home for oxygen use, and caretaking in the hospital dozens of times as possible duties. When a mom pictures her child's life, few would predict so many incidents with hospitals, ambulances, and the medical world. When a mom has more than one child, she doesn't envision one visiting the other in the hospital, Facetime calls from a hospital room, and the pain of being torn in two directions.

None of us were built for this life. Yet, we are all in it. At times, it is extremely hard. This life of watching a loved one repeatedly have illnesses that become so serious is well...serious. Sometimes, it feels like it will crush my heart as a mother. A few times, I have even uttered, "I can't do this anymore," when the pain of her declining health feels heavy on my chest, and I wonder how much more she can endure. Yet, I do and I can.

I wasn't built for a life like this, but then again I am.

I continue on with life. I try to find the silver lining in our situations. Sometimes, I have to search very hard to find it, but I do end up finding it. The hardships of my daughter have forced me to analyze my own feelings, fears, and reactions. Some of them aren't pretty, but I grow and learn from each of them. I appreciate the healthy times in our lives and make the most of moments both small and large.

Many times in my life, I have been asked how I do what I do as a parent of a medically complex child. The answer is simple. I do what I do because it must be done. But if I had to really answer the question, I would have to credit my ability to cope as a testimony to God.

Belief in God helps keep me focused. God gives me strength that I didn't know I had. Prayer gives me an outlet to express my inner thoughts and fears. God gives me hope for a future that may otherwise seem hopeless in a sense that the medical problems aren't going away. God has built me for any problem life throws at us.

Like me, my children are indeed built for the challenges we find in this life. We acknowledge the pain and difficulties but look forward to the joys we have as well. The kids celebrate small victories. They hug when they are reunited back together after an illness separates them. They both find a way to move forward even though there are some arduous moments behind them.

After two recent hospital admissions involving two trips to the emergency room, my head is still spinning trying to process the events of the past couple of weeks. We have all survived the battle again. My daughter's breathing has recovered, and her health is back to her baseline. My son and I have settled back into normal sleeping patterns and anxiety of the situation decreases as each day passes.

There are some messy, hard days in our family, but we carry on. We were made for each other after all. When we dig down deep, we find that are built for exactly these moments with hope, faith, and love carrying us all through.
submit to reddit