Time: The Gift I Received After We Nearly Lost Our Son
My husband and I watched the movie About Time a few nights ago. It’s the story about a guy who can travel back in time whenever he wants, and he does so to get the girl of his dreams and the outcome he wants in certain life situations. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, which may or may not have something to do with Bill Nighy being in it; for some reason, that guy just cracks me up. At the end of the movie, the main character comes to the inevitable moral of the story moment, and it was one that hit me square in the BIG feels.
I have spent the past six weeks of my life wondering what moment I would go back to if I could to change the course of our lives right now. When my son didn’t want to play in his soccer game that night? After he threw up in bed at 3 AM? When his fever hit 104° and no amount of medicine was helping bring it down? When I had to carry him to the bathroom because he was too weak to get there himself? When his breathing rate was so, so fast and I knew that it shouldn’t be?
These are the thoughts that cross my mind every single day. Mom guilt on a regular day is pretty bad; mom guilt when your kid gets REALLY sick is like an exponential volcanic explosion of guilt and it is a mountain that never goes dormant.
Here is what happened. These are simply the facts, people. I have rattled them off so many times now that I think people must think I am crazy when I tell them this with a straight face. I just picture myself as one of the interns on Grey’s Anatomy giving the attending doctor a report on a patient. And yes, I know, this is a weird kind of coping mechanism.
Seven-year-old male, brought in to emergency with fever, dehydration, and tachypnea (fast breathing). Chest x-ray showed left lower lung pneumonia. Antibiotics and fluids started. Rapid deterioration of physical and mental status while in emergency and Pediatric ICU consulted. Admitted to PICU, intubated and patient remained critical, yet stabilized. Patient then had a cardiac arrest and was resuscitated after 5 minutes. Cardiovascular surgeons arrived and cannulated patient for immediate ECMO (heart/lung bypass) treatment. Patient remained on ECMO for 6 days while being treated with antibiotics for severe septic shock. Decannulated on Day 6 and extubated on Day 8 of PICU admission. MRI shows that patient suffered a right MCA infarct (fancy word for stroke) and has subsequent left-sided weakness. PICC line inserted for continued antibiotic treatment and plan for rehabilitation and follow up with the Brain Injury team at the rehab hospital.
Beyond the facts, here is what really happened. I heard my son, in the midst of his delirium and right before they intubated him, saying over and over to me, “bye mom, bye mom, bye mom,” like he knew something we didn’t. I saw my baby boy laying on a bed with more tubes going into and coming out of him than should be humanly possible. I saw a grown man doing chest compressions on my tiny little boy’s body as a team of doctors and nurses brought him back from the brink of death. I watched my child’s body fill up with so much fluid to the point that he was almost unrecognizable and then I watched as the medicines started to work and his beautiful features slowly came back to us. I watched as my five-year-old was the bravest of all of us and didn’t see anything other than her beloved big brother as she held his hand and sang to him. I saw and was overwhelmed with the love and support of a community of people, far and wide, who held us all up when we could have fallen. I have watched my husband become more: more of a father, more of a husband, more of a friend, and more of a doctor through all of this.
And me? I think I have become somewhat less. Less focused on perfection, less concerned with what people think, less afraid of asking for help, and less worried about all the trivial things in this life that really don’t matter. The moment in all of this that completely brought me to my knees was after the heart/lung machine was removed and my child woke up from a week of heavy sedation. He was still intubated and couldn’t talk, but he locked eyes with me and for the first time in over a week, I saw my child. I really saw him. He looked at me and reached for my cheek, and I knew he was saying, “Hi Mom. I’m here. It’s OK.” Again, like he knew something that I didn’t.
Time is a funny thing. It flies by. It drags on. We lose time. We waste time. We don’t have enough time. We are never on time. It is never the right time. All things happen in their own time. Time heals all wounds. Time stands still, and on and on it goes. When my son looked at me for that first time in a week, time stood very still. Everything faded around us and it was just him and I and I know, without a doubt, that in that moment of time, I was forever changed.
I can’t go back in time to change what has happened to all of us, and now, I seriously wonder if it was at all possible, if I really would. I know that sounds weird. Who would actually want any of this to happen to them or their child? Who wouldn’t want to change this? Please understand that I would never wish illness or injury on anyone’s child and that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that the last six weeks have given me something I didn’t know I needed. Just like the main character in About Time, I’ve learned a valuable life lesson. That every day, every moment of this life, of our time together on this rock floating in space, can be a gift. We just have to take the time to be deliberate about it. To find the extraordinary within the ordinary and to look in each others eyes, really see one another and take the time to say,
My amazing child. One week ago. Cookie crumbs and all.