There were never any less than 4 nurses or doctors surrounding my son. They worked fervently and their efforts to get an IV line started were failing. After 3 attempts and collapsed veins on both arms, they moved to his feet. This too, proved to be unsuccessful. The doctor reassured me that as long as Josiah had the IO in place, they’d be able to push the glucagon and he should start coming around. Out of desperation, the lead nurse called the neonatal intensive care nurse to come down to try, hoping her experience working with tiny, stubborn veins would do the trick. She was unable to get a line started as well. Terror swept over me as I listened to the E.R. doctor make an urgent call to the Children’s hospital to speak to Josiah’s endocrinologist.
Out of nowhere, Jim came barreling through the paisley hospital curtains. He startled everyone in the room; he was nothing short of a crazed bull. He was dripping in sweat and his cheeks were flushed but compared nothing to the constricted pupils and horror in his eyes. He was hyperventilating and in between high pitched whistling gasps of air he yelled, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY SON?” More gasping, “What’s…” more struggling for air, “WRONG WITH MY SON? Is he going to be okay?”
A nurse grabbed him by the shoulders and walked him over to a chair repeating, “Your son is going to be okay. Calm down. Take a slow deep breath.” Jim’s breathing started to slow down and my mom, who had been standing at Josiah’s bedside, went over to reassure him.
As soon as his breathing returned to normal, Jim returned to Josiah’s bed. He spoke softly to him, caressing his hair. You could see Josiah’s eyes flutter beneath his eyelids and he began to stir a little. The glucagon seemed to be working and the doctors seemed to be taking a deep breath of relief.
The doctor told us that as soon as Josiah had an IV started and his vital signs stabilized he would be transported to the children’s hospital. The hospital knew we were coming and already had a bed waiting for us.
Finally, after 90 minutes, a nurse named Jeff, was able to get a line started. He did it on his first attempt, gently and perfectly. I had never felt so much relief. With my mom and Jim at Josiah’s bedside, I went out to the lobby where my sister in law, Bebe, and mother-in-law, Vicki were waiting. Bebe had already called my father-in-law, who had just arrived in Sweden the evening before, to let him know what was going on. I updated them on Josiah’s status and sat down to text my best friend, Jeanae. I sent her the details in the briefest way possible, promising that I’d call her as soon as I could. Her response was, “You know that I love you. I’m praying for you guys. Know that I will be waiting for your phone call…” She always knows the perfect thing to say.
Within a few hours, we found ourselves in a very familiar room. It was room 426, the same room that we had spent so many scary days with Amaya. It was nice to have some of the same nurses, it brought a level of comfort.The days that followed were a blur of needle pokes, blood sugar testing, brain scanning, number counting, food measuring and it seemed to never cease. The one issue I kept bringing up to the doctors was Josiah’s extremely distended belly. I had taken him to the pediatrician a couple of times prior to this because if it. Since he was having normal bowel movements, they said he was fine, it just looked distended because of the hernia he had.
On our third day of the hospital stay, Josiah developed diarrhea for 24 hours and then it stopped. Then, every time he tried to eat he’d vomit. He’d only vomit when he swallowed something, never in between. It was weird. He began packing food into his cheeks to avoid swallowing all together. He was losing a lot of weight, his arms were super skinny while his distended belly gave him the appearance of a fat toad. The attending physician wrote it off as the seasonal flu and said it was coincidental and had nothing to do with ‘this hypoglycemic’ problem.
Josiah hadn’t kept a single meal down for three days and I begged and fought to have Josiah’s belly x-rayed. Finally, the attending physician agreed, “To appease you, mom, I will put an order in for an x-ray. When it comes back normal, he will be discharged and sent home to recover.” This man had enough arrogance to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.
A few hours had passed and the day was coming to an end, when our favorite nurse came in to give us the results of the x-ray. Josiah’s colon was dilated four times the normal size and he had an impaction all the way from the base of his stomach to the bottom of his colon. This explained his body’s inability to accept any food and the reason he couldn’t poop. The plan would be to place an NG tube in through his nose and into his stomach and start a bowel clean out. If this didn’t work, they would have to remove it surgically.
It was about 11:30 at night and while we waited for the procedure to start, I took a walk around the fourth floor to clear my head. It was an unusually quiet night on the ward, no crying babies, only the hum of ventilators and bleeps of heart monitors. I noticed the room a couple of doors down from Josiah’s was empty with the exception of a solitary chair and a man slumped over in it. He was cradling his chin with his hands and I instantly recognized that face. It was the face of grief. I passed by the room, praying a silent prayer for the man.
I met the nurse in the hallway and she stopped me to see if I would be needing anything else for the night. She seemed consumed with something, not her usual self.
“No, thank you Anna, we have everything we need. Is everything okay with you?”
“Oh yes, darling, I’m fine. It’s just that we have a little boy who is expected to pass tonight and when the time comes, I’ll need to be there.”
My heart sank as quickly as the words fell from her mouth. She quietly left me standing in the hallway. I glanced back towards the room and I was surprised that about 30 people were gathered outside of his room. They were slowly making their way in to say their last good byes.
I returned to my room, curled into my sleeping chair and stared at my exhausted husband who was sleeping with our son cradled in his arms. Tears filled my eyes as I took in the image of Josiah’s tiny body being swallowed up in a huge hospital gown. His arms, legs and face were tangled in a web of tubes and wires. Both of them were breathing heavily, beads of sweat lined their brows and their fingers were interlaced; symbolic of a father’s promise of “I’ll never let you go.”
This time staying in the hospital had proven the hardest. I couldn’t get the image of Josiah’s lifeless body out of my head. Every time I’d drift off to sleep I’d hear another ambulance pull up with their blaring sirens. My heart instantly tripled in pace and my hands shook. The sights, smells and sounds were starting to trigger memories I never wanted to confront. The heart wrenching memories tore through me the same way hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans. Instantly, I was taken back to a few years ago, in another hospital room, devastated.
The nurses had put a tiny pink bonnet on her head. She was swaddled in a tiny version of a newborn baby blanket and placed in a brown woven basket. They had placed tiny lavender flowers in her hand and she looked as if she was sleeping peacefully.
I had been terrified of this moment for months. The days leading up to this I had imagined a room of crying, despair and wailing. How could I ever face this?
The doctors told me she probably wouldn’t survive but every time they gave me a negative statistic I would grow in faith. I believed, prayed and trusted that God had a plan for my baby and if He chose to heal her, He would.
For some reason, He chose not to heal her. After Jim and I had some time alone with her, my hospital room quickly filled with so many beautiful family and friends that had already loved her. They held her, talked to her and got to say goodbye. As time went by, they left. Then it was just me and Jim and our precious angel.
Then the moment came. Signs of death were among us and I had to give her away. I clung to her, holding her tightly against my chest. I wanted to run away with her, as fast as I could out of the hospital doors and escape the reality of before me. None of this was making any sense. Was it denial? Was it grief? Was it a motherly instinct? All I knew was that I wanted to keep her forever. Panic set in when I realized that I’d never see her again once I gave her back. I was warned beforehand that these feelings would invade my every cell of existence, but I had no idea how powerful and quickly grief could take over.
Wit trembling hands, I slowed tucked her blanket tightly under her, a vain attempt to keep her warm. I pulled her bonnet over her tiny ears and kissed her on her forehead for the last time. I told her that I loved her and that I couldn’t wait to see her in heaven. My tears rolled off my cheeks and onto hers. My heart literally hurt. It felt as if a knife was slicing right through me and I couldn’t stop looking at her tiny face. My foggy eyes made it harder and harder to see her. What if my memory of her fades?
Jim gripped my arm. He kissed her again and we both knew it was time. The nurse stood next to my bed and whispered, “I promise I’ll take good care of your baby.” She took her from my arms and swirled around. I watched her walk through my dimly lit room and through the doors with my baby girl. Just like that. A blink of an eye and my world would be changed forever.
A bright light had flashed into Josiah’s room and snapped me back into reality. I glanced at the clock and nearly two hours had passed. His nurse entered and quietly said, “It’s time to check his vitals…”
“How’s the little boy next door?”
“He passed about a half an hour ago. Thank you for being patient with our staff tonight.”
She was thanking me? She had just watched a child die and she was thanking me for my patience. That night, I was fearful that I’d hear the primitive cries of a father who had just lost his son or the weeping from the mother on the most sorrowful day of her life; but I didn’t hear that at all, just like I didn’t hear that on my most sorrowful day. Instead, I saw God’s beautiful and astounding grace.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the order of things has passed away.” R