I know this is old news to those of you who are fans of Tinmen Don't Dance, but for The Mom, hospital visits aren't necessarily comic relief...
Visualize a pleasant Friday evening with friends. One that you've looked forward to for about a month now because really, nothing in your life has been, well, it just hasn't been calm around here. We've moved from one emotional thing to another. Joys, sprinkled with HUGE disappointments. I'm just gonna put myself out there and say sometimes my husband's family makes me want to throw things. At them. All of that stupidity aside, I really was looking forward to a long awaited night out and God knows, Charlie and I deserve it. It's been a difficult couple of months.
Slowly, as Friday approaches, my plans begin to unravel. I'm still not completely recovered from a cold which wants desperately to become bronchitiis, but I wouldn't allow it to. The sore throats began earlier in the week with Caris, but didn't quite materialize into a full blown illness for her but instead found a home in me. Averie has to work, so she won't be able to come with us. I haven't seen Charlie all that much because he's having to split his time between running errands for his housebound mother since I couldn't do it being ill, etc. etc. etc. I'm still holding out hope that everything is going to go well by Friday night.
Come the day, Averie is now sick as a dog and won't be going to work. Caris, who I'm not all that sure still lives here because we never really see her anymore, has also come home from school feeling crappy, so she won't be going with us to dinner either. Well fine. That leaves Charlie, me and Bry. I'm determined to get out of this house tonight. I really NEED to get out of this house tonight. So, leaving the girls home; warm and safe, the three of us depart.
We're having a lovely time. The talk is pleasant as always, dinner is wonderful, the company makes me forget about the unpleasant parts of the week and my stupid in-laws. Joe and Danna are mezmerized by the news of my finding my birth family and are thrilled and excited for me. The time passes quickly. Before long, it's 9:30. My cell phone rings. It's Averie. She can barely breathe. I can tell instantly that she's having a REALLY bad asthma attack:
Averie: Mommy (whheeezeee), I'm sorry (whheeezeee) to (wheezeeeeee) bother you....
Me: Ave, what's going on?
Averie: I've (whheeeezeee) tried everything (wheeezeeeee)...even (wheezeeeeee) my nebulizer....
Me: Ave, don't talk, we'll be right home.
Now, the entire Stark family and Charlie are looking at me with concern. I turn to Danna and explain. We MUST leave now. Charlie is already in the car, I'm running out the front door. Joe and Danna tell us to leave Bryson, he can spend the night, and to call them and let them know how things are going. The Starks live in Brea; normally a 20-25 minute drive from our Costa Mesa front door. Charlie says we'll be home in 10 minutes. He means it. Before I know it, we're literally flying down the 57 freeway. For a Friday night, it's unusually quiet on the freeway. But not nearly as quiet as it is in our car. Neither one of us saying anything, but knowing full well what the other is thinking. We're scared.
Seven years ago, friends lost their daughter to of all things, meningitis. Kory was thirteen. Four years ago, another friend lost their daughter to asthma. Nicole was eighteen. That one is the one both of us are thinking of right now. Something as simple and controlable as asthma, but still so deadly. We were all stunned by Nicole's death. She was vibrant, funny, and because she had asthma, she and Averie bonded. They found a commonality. They loved and shared books, Nicole took Averie jetskiing on the river. She was older and Averie could see that asthmas was something completely liveable and manageable. When she went to away that summer to Boston University, no one ever thought for one minute that she wasn't coming home. She'd only been there two weeks, had an asthma attack, and despite all of their efforts in the ER, they couldn't save her. It was the turning point in Averie's condition. She was devastated, not only by Nicole's death, but also by the realization that asthma is nothing to mess around with. She began to be more serious about her treatments. I didn't have to nag her anymore about carrying her inhaler everywhere she went. As soon as she felt a cold coming on, she would use her nebulizer without our asking. She became proactive. She hasn't really had an attack in years. This one was a whopper.
I picked up the phone and called home as Charlie sped along. Caris answered the phone.
Me: Caris? How's your sister?
Caris: She's ok, I guess. She can't breathe.
Me: Yes, I know. Do me a favor. Please get all of the meds that she took tonight and put them into a bag so that when we get to the hospital, we can show them to the doctor.
Me: Caris, if she gets worse, don't wait for Daddy and me. Call an ambulance. Ok?
Me: We'll be there in about five minutes.
True to his word and as if carried by angels, because I'm quite sure both of us in our very loud silences were screaming out prayers, we pulled into the driveway in about twelve minutes from the time we left. I jumped out, and Averie came out of the front door. I called inside to Caris and told her we were leaving. I helped Averie into the backseat while she wheezed away. I asked her if she had all of her meds in her bag, she nodded. We again, sped off. I turned to look at her, checking her nailbeds and lips for the telltale blue hue. Both were still pink. She immediately began to apologize between short, labored breaths. I told her to stop, there was nothing to apologize for, just don't talk...stop talking. We pull into the ER parking lot and she and I get out while Charlie parks the car. Now the REAL fun begins.
For a Friday night, its unusually quiet in the ER. Believe me, I know. Charlie and I have spent so much time here with his mom lately, that we know how bad it can be. I fill out a card and even though they can see that Averie is laboring to breathe, we don't get immediate help. If they are not careful, soon, the Momma Bear in me will become enraged and start clawing. The term "Emergency" doesn't seem to have a clear definition. There's obviously no blood spewing out of her head so she apparantly can wait....and gasp for air. I keep watching the lips and nailbeds for the blue hue. Still pink, so I'm not gonna go off on anyone just yet. I rub her back, she leans on me, Charlie paces. They call her to triage, take her vitals, then send her back to sit next to me and wait. I'm close to losing it. Charlie says that her blood gasses show that despite her labor, she IS getting oxygen to where it needs to go, it's just not easy for her. So we wait. They call her to registration and she and Charlie answer the questions for insurance. I pace. They send us back to sit and wait. Ironic.
About two minues later, they call her and we walk back into the treatment area, Averie wheezing away. The girl who calls us says, "this way" and we follow her. An orderly walking by says "HEY! Wait a minute....YOU (pointing at Averie) sit!" and he grabs a wheelchair for her. This makes Charlie very happy. Finally, someone who actually seems like they care. We're wheeled to a bed, Averie is asked to disrobe and the process begins. I think this is actually the first time I begin to feel like things are gonna be ok. We're here, they'll help her. Charlie remains on guard. Watches everything they do with intensity. The nurse asks the questions we expect; what have you taken, what have you done, how long has this been happening, when was your last attack..etc, etc. Of course, the only thing on Averie's mind is needles. For every question they ask, she responds with the appropriate answer, followed closely by; "you're not going to give me a shot are you? there aren't gonna be any needles, are there?" They laugh. Even in her state, she can manage to make people laugh. When the doctor comes through, he orders an albuterol breathing treatment and once that's finished, she has another. Things are calming down. While her breathing becomes less labored, her heartrate rockets and she begins to shiver uncontrollably. Side effects of the Albuterol. We're familiar with them. They keep asking if she's cold. As the three of us watch the events unfolding around us, and hear the sounds of discomfort and pain, I'm grateful knowing that we're probably going to be leaving here tonight. Some won't be. I say to Averie, "there's a comedy routine in this." She pulls the breathing tube out of her shivering lips and says, "you don't think I've thought of that?" I smile. "I know you have, Honey. I know you have." Soon, her heartrate slows to within normal range, despite the appearance of a group of paramedics who I'm sure are on some "The Firemen of Newport Beach" calendar somewhere. The doctor gives Averie a prescription, some instructions, and releases her. Three hours after we walked into ER, we were at a Del Taco drivethru because she was hungry. She thanked us for everything; for taking care of her. I commented that I liked not being able to hear her gasping for breath. At that moment, I couldn't think of anything more comforting than buying her a chicken taco at midnight.
At around 1:30, when Charlie and I have tucked Averie in, woken a sleeping Caris up to tell her we were home and everything was ok, and settled into our own bed, we finally broke the worried parent silence and spoke to each other:
Charlie: Were you scared?
Me: I think you know the answer to that.
He reaches over in the darkness and squeezes my hand.
Me: Were you thinking about Kory and Nicole?
Charlie: I couldn't think of anything else. Losing a child is not something I'm prepared to deal with. No one should ever have to go through that. Ever.
Me: She's ok. We did good.
I squeezed his hand.
Charlie: Thank you for being there.
Me: Thank you for being there.
It's Averie job to make observations and create humor out of difficult situations. It's our job to see her through those difficult situations so that she CAN create humor out of them. Somehow, seeing her through them safely makes our payoff much sweeter.