Thursday, January 28, 2010

our first visit to the emergency room

and hopefully our last.

before i go any further, gracie is fine now. really. looking at her today, you'd never know the scare she gave us last night. and to spare myself the emotional trauma of having to relive this story over and over, with all of my wonderful friends and family asking me "what happened?! how can i help?", i have decided to just write it all down here. if i never speak of it again it will give me some comfort... never in my life do i EVER want to experience what happened last night at dinner.

gracie woke up with rosy cheeks -- rosier than usual, that is. but she seemed fine all day. had a great day at school, her teacher even told me that gracie was especially polite and helpful all day. after school we went to the library together to check out some new books and play on the computers. then home to make dinner.

she had rosy cheeks when i picked her up from school, and when we came home she was pretty lethargic. that part was pretty typical, though, since she's SO BUSY at school all day long, and when she gets home she usually just wants to veg out before dinner, then go to bed early. but those rosy cheeks... i wondered if she was coming down with something?

she was irritable before dinner, and very lethargic. we washed her up, sat her down to eat at about 6:10, and we sat down to join her. adam and i had both just taken our first bites when adam looks over to ask gracie something. she just sat there, with this vacant look on her face, like she was just frozen. we started to shake her, ask her what was wrong, "GRACIE TALK TO ME!" but she was just out of it.

then she turned blue.

then her eyes started to sink into her head.

then the whites of her eyes turned blue too. her lips were purple. she was ashen and unresponsive, though her eyes were still open. she was barely breathing -- just quiet gasps here and there, like her windpipe was closing up.

we ripped her out of her seat, and i started doing everything i could to clear her airway. i scraped my finger down her throat to remove the stuck food. nothing there. i held her upside down and slapped her on the back while shaking her. nothing came out. i did baby heimlich, as much as i knew how. still nothing. meanwhile, adam was on 911 demanding that paramedics get here NOW NOW NOW! "TELL US WHAT TO DO!!!!"

and this is where i was at emotionally: when my daughter wasn't breathing, and was turning blue and ashen and her eyes were fading out, and i saw her life force leaving her body, i stopped thrashing her around. this is where i was at: if my daughter was dying, and i couldn't save her life, i didn't want her last feeling on this earth to be one of her mother hitting her or pounding on her chest. i laid her down, i cried, and i told her that i loved her. i held her tightly and begged her to be okay. i refused to let her last sensation be one of violence. if gracie was dying, then i wanted her last feeling to be of love and comfort.

then she started to breathe.

omg, the most wonderful sound. small gurgles at first, then tiny gasps, then her color started to come back.

the police arrived first. he told us that the ambulance was right behind him.

gracie stared up at me, locking eyes with me, but somehow not engaging me either. just looking, still seeming distant though. she played with my hair, so gently, and gasped and gurgled and was very quiet and still and looked confused and passive.

the paramedics rushed in, attached something to gracie to see what her oxygen level was (it was 97% at that point -- so, almost perfect), checked her pulse, shined a light in her eyes. we all wondered if she maybe had a seizure...

i rode in the back of the ambulance with gracie while adam followed in the car. she was "stable" in the ambulance, but still not verbal. not really pointing to things and telling me what was going on (which is a common activity for gracie, especially if it's something new).

adam was already at the hospital when they wheeled gracie and i out of the back of the ambulance. brought us into a room where three different people asked us at three different times her name, address, age, and what happened. we were both so shaken we could barely speak. i thought to myself "why don't you all be here at the SAME TIME so i only have to relive this story once?"

within about half an hour, she was finally, and miraculously, starting to speak again. her first words were to her daddy, of course, and they were about the red light attached to her finger to measure her vitals. about 20 minutes after that she decided she wanted to walk around. about a half hour after that, the doctor finally saw her. and by then, you'd swear nothing was the matter at all. she was walking around the hospital, pushing the stool around, walking on the different colored tiles, and drinking some apple juice that the nurses brought for her. she wanted to know if we could go to mcdonald's, and if the doctor wanted to come with. "fries!" she demanded.

dr. harris, our ER doctor, said it sounded like a "febrile seizure." a seizure that is triggered by a fever. he explained to us that it will likely happen again, and told us what to do if and when it does. gave us some children's motrin to lower her fever (she had a temp of 98.2 in the ambulance, but a few minutes later at the hospital she was at 101.4).

when i was a child, i used to have seizures too. like gracie, i would hold my breath. unlike gracie, mine were triggered by a bad bump on the head, or falling off my bike, or something like that. and my poor mother could only hold me and pray that i come out of it. and that's what is so infuriatingly terrifying about watching your child have a seizure: there is literally nothing you can do about it. if she's choking, you do the heimlich. if she's not breathing, you do CPR. if she's bleeding, you put a bandaid on it. but if she's seizing... you just wait. and pray. and pray some more.

i grew out of my seizures by about the age of 10. febrile seizures usually only stick around until a child is 4 or 5. however, children who have febrile seizures are twice as likely to have a seizure disorder as an adult. but it's really not very common for that to happen. conversely, apparently 1 out of every 25 children has had at least one febrile seizure. most of them grow out of it, though many will repeat the episode before they do. i had seizures as a child, and i grew up to be just fine. i haven't had a seizure since i was in the 2nd grade, though i took meds for them until i was 10 years old. i pray desperately for gracie to grow out of it too.

i pray i will never see this again. but i have a feeling i will.

last night, after adam and i got home and put gracie to bed, we sat and held each other and cried together. we reflected on how we reacted in a time of crisis: while feeling terrified, we BOTH had a simultaneous feeling like this was just a drill. that it was going to be okay. there was a sort of distance that we had, like we were watching ourselves go through the motions of saving our daughter's life. like, this wasn't real... we don't know if it was a coping mechanism that all humans have in times of crisis, in order to stay calm (though we were hardly calm, as i was screaming and adam was yelling at the 911 operator to hurry up). i think it was God telling us that it was going to be okay. i think She was telling us that gracie was going to be fine, to calm down, that she wasn't dying. in fact, at some point during the seizure, before she came to again, i did suspect, i had a feeling that she was having a seizure. i don't know how i knew it, how i felt it, how i was able to panic while also feeling calm in the feeling that she was going to survive -- but i felt it. adam felt it too.

we hardly slept last night. that is, gracie slept great -- nearly 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. i slept in the "big girl bed" in her room while she slept in the crib. adam took the couch, which i thought wasn't much different than him just sleeping in his own bed -- but he assured me it WAS different. "i'm at the ready," he said. i drifted off to sleep, then would wake up with a start and listen desperately to hear her breath... she was breathing. normally. i would drift off again. then wake up with a start, listen for her breath... and on and on until morning. adam woke up a few times to come in and feel her temperature and adjust the blankets accordingly. we both woke up exhausted and still shaken. gracie, however, is enjoying her rainy day at home, playing board games and watching nickelodeon. she seems perfectly fine.

we had a pediatrician appointment this afternoon. and after "squeezing" us in, the dr. still spent over half an hour with us, reassuring us that everything was going to be fine. needless to say, that was exactly the amount of attention and the news we wanted at that time! he explained to us the likelihood of gracie having another seizure, what that would look like, what we need to do the next time it happens, and explained to us that a seizure of that duration did NOT cause any brain damage. he told us that if gracie ever has a seizure WITHOUT a fever, then it's a whole different ball game. but the fact that she had a seizure and then had a fever afterwards, tells him it was almost certainly a febrile seizure. she will be okay. she wasn't hurt in the process. she might have one again. she'll be fine that time too.

and for now, besides her sinus infection which caused this fever which caused the seizure, she is fine. adam and i are decidedly NOT fine. it's horrifying to sit down to dinner, and then watch your child dying the very next moment, and there's nothing you can do about it. i don't know if i'll ever be able to wipe that image and that fear from my mind. but gracie's okay, she wasn't dying, she's going to be just fine, and that's what's most important. in fact, looking at her now, you'd never even know it happened. you'd just think she was a little girl with a runny nose and a fever. it's amazing how quickly she bounced back. i think it will take adam and me a bit longer to recover...

why write about this? cuz i want you all to know that our daughter needs prayers. that we need support and love. that candles need to be lit, and guardian angels need to be present. but i do NOT want to talk about it. i really don't want to answer all your questions, like how it happened, where and when it happened, how i'm doing emotionally, how gracie is doing physically, what the doctors said, what's next for us... i don't want to talk about it anymore, cuz it's just too traumatic to relive in my mind. i can't erase that image of gracie's ashen face, and i don't want to have to conjure it up to answer your questions. that's why i wrote this -- to answer them all, once and for all, and then to move on. i'm tired, i'm shaken, and i'm traumatized. it's all i can do not to scoop her up in my arms and hold her tight and never let her go -- i'm convinced it's going to happen again any minute, and i want to be with her to comfort her when it does. gracie, however, has other ideas. she wants to dance to "mickies" (music) and play with her trucks, and all my snuggling really cramps her style.

so. that's what's going on here. please pray, please light candles, please keep us in your thoughts. i will send more news as it happens. and please understand if i don't reply to your email messages or phone calls about this. as i said, i am too traumatized to speak of it again. just know that i appreciate your concern and i'm touched by your love, and i want to move on and pretend it never happened. i DON'T want to talk about it again. i hope you can understand. thank you for your prayers.