Monday, November 9, 2009
We're having a terrible sense of deja vu. Very close friends have a newborn in critical condition at Children's Hospital Oakland (CHO) and we're having flashbacks right and left as we gladly support them.
One of our dearest sets of friends welcomed their almost 9 pound daughter, Jonah, early on Saturday morning. The labor all seemed to be going well and the baby seemed fine until the very end of delivery. It then became apparent that the baby had pooped in utero and breathed in the poop, completely filling her lungs. This meant that she couldn't exchange any oxygen for quite a while after she was born. The team got her lungs cleaned out and got her on a ventilator right away but quickly determined that there was brain damage and that her body was having a really, really hard time. They needed to take the baby to Children's Hospital Oakland right away.
Our friend's husband called us at 3:30 a.m. to tell me that his wife was okay but that the baby was not and asked me to be with his wife in the hospital so he could go with the baby to CHO. I immediately jumped out of bed and then stopped, trying to think about all the things I knew one needed when going to the hospital. It was frightening how easily the list came to mind.
Shortly after I got to the labor room, the transport team brought Jonah by so our friends could see her before she got taken to Children's. She was big and beautiful and had lots of dark curly hair. And looked eerily like Simon with her equipment and ventilator and team of people around her. My friends said their good-byes to each other and then I crawled in bed with the Mama, snuggling her, petting her head and just listening. We cycled through the now familiar pattern of conversation that plays right after something really traumatic happens from "everything's going to be okay" to "what the hell is going on" to despair to chit chat and back to sobbing. I just tried to ride it with her, knowing that we would just keep switching gears until we slept.
Once day broke, I started making phone calls, mobilizing the cells we already had in place both from when Simon was in the hospital and from the ones they'd set up before Jonah's birth. Our dear friends are so used to these kinds of calls, between Simon's illness, Laura's gall bladder surgery, two cancer scares with folks in our circles that by now that everyone just suits up and gets to work without much discussion. It's awe-inspiring and heart-breaking.
By mid-morning, we had someone else with Mama and I went home to hang with Simon so Laura so she could go to CHO to be with Dad. She worked her magic there, getting them set up with long term ID badges, long term parking passes, tips and tricks for schmoozing nurses, what to eat in the cafeteria, etc. She ran into a few of our docs who were shocked to see her there and then relieved to hear that Simon was okay. We're making sure everyone in CHO who meets our friends knows "they're with us". I put out an APB to all the nurses I'm friends with on Facebook and asked them to look out for our friends and kick the asses of any nurses who gave them a hard time.
I keep reminding myself and Laura that this is not actually happening to us. It is, in the sense that we are so close to this other family, but for once it's not our kid fighting for their life. Not our kid that everyone is thinking of and focused on and worried about. It's such a goddamn relief. And it's so triggering to be doing this again.
We both slipped into the mindset we had in the hospital and are trying to translate for them so that they can have the tools we had to forge ourselves. We both feel heavy with the intensity of what is happening. At one point I said to Laura, "We're the elders now". I truly feel like an adult now, leading these new parents, blinking and stumbling in the harsh light of trauma, through the minefields we escaped almost a year ago. It is such a curse and such a blessing to have this esoteric set of knowledge we've gathered- essentially how to survive in an ICU, how to thrive in the face of parenting a critically ill child.
Early that first morning my friend kept saying, "how do I do this?" and i just kept saying, "you already are". We talked about how we can't really protect our children, we can't stop the hurts and it's scary. I had to remind her that there's a lot we can do: we can warn them when an owie is coming, we can hold them or touch them when they're upset, we can just show them that we're there and teach them how to be resilient, to keep going when things are really really hard and sometimes even have a good time in the midst of hell. We are magnificent creatures who can thrive against all odds. Simon is living proof and he's going to show his cousin Jonah how it's done.
The latest update is that Jonah is steadily trucking on the right path and may be off the ventilator and off the brain treatment regiment tomorrow. Itty bitty baby steps is how we do it. With a crazy ton of love, too.
P.S. Simon is 19 months old today!