Coming to terms with “Almost”

I have to admit, the date has kind of crept up on me. May 24 (tomorrow) is the hardest of the anniversaries for me.  It’s the anniversary of Owen’s sickest day.

I guess, in some ways it’s good that I haven’t been focused on the date.  It probably means the wounds have started healing.  At the same time, I still wonder if I’ve really come to terms with that day.  Or, even if I should try to come to terms with it.  At the end of the day, we all know that Owen lived.  Honestly, sometimes even I (the trumpeter of not being “over it“) tell myself I should just move on and not worry about that day anymore.  Just leave it in the past.

I think I struggle with leaving it in the past, because in truth I wasn’t there when it was happening.  I was physically there and I hazily remember everything, but it was an out of body moment starting with the 8:00 AM phone call from the neonatologist.

The call woke me up and I wasn’t really understanding the magnitude of the situation.  Owen had been put on the oscillating vent the afternoon before, so I knew that he was sick, but when your child is already on life support to begin with, it’s not always crystal clear the difference between “sick” and “high concern for his chances of survival”.  Finally the doctor said, “he’s on 100% O2 and we’re having a hard time keeping is saturations in the 80’s”.   Oh!  It started to click. I then said, Kyle’s just in the shower and was on his way to the hospital.  She replied, “I think that would be best.”

That sentence did it… it officially clicked.  With the proverbial click, the rest of the experience became out-of-body.

There are moments that I remember like I’m still in them.

Kyle intercepting me at the NICU door and explaining that Owen would be needing emergency surgery.  They feared NEC.

Walking into the nursery and seeing the cover of the isollette off and the fellow and neonatologist setting up a bit of a home base at his bedside.  Owen’s color, everywhere, was black and he was so puffed up that he looked chubbier than a full term baby.  The vent was puffing so many breaths into him each minute that it looked like he was laying on some sort of shaking table.

The social worker, Rachael, finding Kyle and me in the family room and saying, “Dr. Ramel came to find me because she is very concerned for Owen.  Is there anyone I can call for you?  Is there anything I can do?”  She could see in my face that I was trying to speak, but couldn’t.  Simultaneously, she spoke and I sobbed the same word…”pray.”

Shortly after she left us, Chuck, the chaplain found Kyle and I in the family room.  We were each on our cell phones with family.  I saw him look at us being busy on the phone and backing out of the room.  I sighed a breath of relief because talking to the chaplain would have made it much too real.

Walking through the NICU hallway with tear streaks down my face and seeing the looks of pity on the staffs’ faces.

Getting the debrief from the surgeon and hearing him say, “this has to resolve itself tonight” in reference to Owen’s bleeding.  The neonatologist immediately following up with asking us if we can stay the night.

Getting our room and taking a break from the bedside to lay in the fetal position and plea out loud with God to “not let him die”.

At 3:00 in the morning, the fellow, who was staying bedside, told me she felt Owen was stabilizing and that I should get some sleep.  I was in the room for 15 minutes when there was a knock on the door.  Owen was back up to 100% O2 and they were afraid they may need to open him back up.  I understood that Owen wasn’t going to be able to tolerate another surgery that night and hoped it wasn’t the case.  What I didn’t understand until Kyle and I walked down the hall was that the entire operating team and all of their equipment was lined up in the hallway ready to go.  That hallway had been people free 15 minutes prior.  We rounded the corner into the nursery and the surgeon and the neonatologist turned to us with what Kyle describes as, “what the fuck just happened” looks on their faces.

Fortunately, it was a false alarm.  Owen’s catheter got plugged and so his bladder became full of urine, further distending his already severely distended insides.  His lungs had no room to open.  The catheter was pulled and pee went everywhere.  Owen still needed 100% oxygen for another 24 hours after, but they did not have to do the surgery.  Thank God.

I know it sounds like that is a lot of the day to remember, but I just told you every moment of a 48 hour period that I remember and even though, the memory is out of body…like I’m looking at myself experiencing the day.  I know the rest happened, and I know I was there, but I don’t feel like I was actively a part of it.

I assumes it’s my brain’s way of protecting me – making those days a haze.  There wasn’t ever a moment when he coded or when the doctors asked if we wanted to stop treatment.  We fortunately did  not get to that point, but when his surgeon last saw Owen he said, “that day traumatized me”  He’s not the type of guy to say that unless he meant it.

It traumatized me too.  I mean really, how do you come to terms with the fact that nightmare really happened?

I hear it takes time.

I’m still waiting.

The Sickest Day

Today is the one year anniversary of the day that everything changed. It was the day that Owen’s course became “complicated” (that is the technical term, but it feels all too simple of word, if you ask me). It was the day I learned the difference between a parent fearing for your child and the doctors fearing for your child. It was the day I took a ½ hour break from Owen’s bedside to go to our room and plead with God to not take my son. I have never felt so vulnerable.

I think this picture of Owen and I on May 24, 2011 says enough; for I have yet to find words to explain the myriad of emotions I have about that day and those that followed. I had forgotten that there were pictures taken. I had deleted them from my cell phone because I hated the reminders. But recently, I found that I had put them on Snapfish and I was really proud of the woman I saw in this picture. I started a ritual on that sickest day of Owen’s, and I’m guessing that I’m doing it when this photo was taken. I put one hand on his tiny head and one on his tiny feet and as I swaddled him I’d silently say to him, “Owen, take my strength, I will find more”. And he did. And I did too.

Owen and Tatum shortly before Owen's emergency bowel surgery, May 24, 2011