Sunday, December 2, 2018

My House of Horrors

It was the middle of August, and an ordinary day.  Our normal routine, my mom came over to assist me with respite and help with Noah and I fetched him his normal Thursday Chick-Fil-A meal.  My mom stayed for lunch with me and the boys and headed home and I carried on with a load of laundry. 

That's the really strange thing about when tragic things happen.  They come out of nowhere.  They catch you on an ordinary day, at an unexpected time when you are least prepared for it. When you are comfortable, much too comfortable.  The phone rang - my mother and I figured she was just calling me to tell me that she took a detour home and found some shopping fun and wanted to tell me about it.  But it wasn't that at all.  It was the worst kind of phone call imaginable.

She's screaming hysterically and my body froze up in defenseless mode, frightened, and helpless.  I can hear EMT workers in the background and her sobbing that the person who has lovingly filled the father role in my life for over last twenty years has had a massive heart attack and was non-responsive.  He wasn't breathing, didn't have any heartbeat and it was ten minutes and counting.  I could hear EMT in the background saying they didn't think he would survive transport, and I screamed at them not to stop - not to stop trying.  And not to give up on speaker phone.  Because the fight drive in me says you never give up - you just don't.  The little voices in my head kept saying ten minutes... ten minutes is so long... ten minutes.  Noah was thirteen minutes... look what can happen in thirteen minutes without oxygen or a heartbeat.  But I still said ten minutes I have hope.  I can do nothing for either of them as the fight for life again is seven miles from me and I can do nothing as I lay crumbled on the carpet of my bedroom floor crying into the phone with Luke watching on, terrified of what has his mother so distraught.

I just kept telling God over and over you can't do this to me right now, I have no one else.  They are all I have the two of them.  There is no other extended family.  I can't do this alone yet.  I just can't.  And God has to know that.  The nightmare was far from over, but hope came as they were able to recover a heartbeat during the ambulance ride.  Ten minutes.  That's all I could think is ten minutes.  What will ten minutes look like if we get to keep him.  Minutes rang out in my head like a ticking bomb - time never in my favor.

My mother was transported by a familiar face to the hospital.  An EMT that ironically has come to Noah's rescue when he had a crisis at home.  He was familiar to me and my family, he remembered us, like an angel God sent to yet another crisis in our lives.  I got word that he was transported to the nearest hospital for emergency surgery.  That hospital was the same hospital that Noah was born at.

My house of horrors.  And I had no choice but to go back there.  It had been almost a decade since I stepped foot in that hospital.  I swore I would never go back, never.  Never back to the place that stole my child's future from me, nearly killed us both, and in the process not only robbed him from justice in a court of law, but then came after us for more than $340,000 in legal fees and destroyed us financially for us seeking justice for our child.  They are the worst representation of evil to me.  A place full of lies.  A place of deception, a place that fabricated and relished in painting an inaccurate image for a jury to save themselves at the expense of a child that they hurt. A place that stole every physical ability from my newborn child, a place of heavy neglect and zero remorse or accountability.
I was overwhelmed with fear of not knowing what I was walking into.  Would the news be favorable?  Would he make it through surgery?  Or was I waiting for death.  The automated doors opened and I paused, the smells, the sounds, the familiar decor grabbing me by the throat in an invisible choke hold stealing the breath of my very existence from my body.  But I had to move, I had to go through those doors.  I wanted it to be another nightmare in a long serious I can't shake, but this was reality. 

I was alone, my boys home with my husband and I had to face this big monster of a place.  I made my way to the second floor to find a hospital chaplain tending to my distraught mother.  I resented them too.  I resented all of them.  Even though they were not players in Noah's tragedy everyone felt like the enemy to me.  I wanted to battle anyone and everyone I seen, overwhelmed with such hurt and pain.  I wanted no one on my side not even a hospital chaplain - not even the very person designed to offer God's word in a time of crisis.  I wanted no part of it.  But here I was regardless. 

I was instructed to go down and retrieve his belongings and possessions that they had to take from him during the ambulance ride with the front desk.  I left my mother with the chaplain and found my way back down stairs, aimlessly I wandered as if I were lost and had no map even though I knew quite well where to go.  I walked up to the desk, but before I could tell the receptionist what I was there for, she said "oh honey are you here for the mom and baby class?"  It's on the first floor to the right.  And I lost it... I just died a thousand times inside.  Out of all the things she could have said to me and you had to say "mom and baby." 

I collected myself long enough to simply say I needed clothes from an ambulance ride.  She detected my distress and left her station to explore my need.  Quickly retrieving a bag of shoes.  I grasped them with sweaty palms and resumed my mission of tending to my mother on the second floor. 

I went into automatic responsibility mode.  Calling all the family and gathering phone numbers.  I had to be the the strong one.  There was no other choice.  I had to be the roots of the tree in all this.  The roots that the wind could not touch.  Unshakable.  I just had to remain unshakable.  But instead the pit of my stomach had dropped, and hope felt like a lingering word I was trying to chase, and here I was in the place that destroyed my life and my child's life. 

News arrived fairly quickly within the hour, that a stint had been successfully placed, with a very guarded prognosis due to the missing minutes of time without a heartbeat and breathing - the only saving grace in our favor was CPR was administered immediately - and again I chased hope.  We sat for hours without word, the hospital staff kept politely putting us off when we asked for updates.  Never a good sign.  Finally admitting three hours later they were trying to get an uncontrollable bleeding under control from his nose and mouth that had no explanation.  Like a domino effect, one problem turns into several in a matter of time.   I sat there in a waiting room full of stunned expressions, motionless bodies, and a presence of uncertainty for all of us.

You can never really prepare yourself the visual of someone fighting for their lives.  Ventilators and all the machines administering countless drugs to stabilize.  Nurses in and out.    No one can tell you what the future will look like.  Will he recover?  Will he know who I am ever again?  Will he ever be like he was prior? Thousands of little questions run through your mind as you are trying to get your footing around what is happening.  And you can't even breathe because hospital staff immediately sends caseworkers to work on last wishes and final directives, questioning you as if death is imminent.  They invade your space like parasites waiting to just feed on tragedy.  Hounding you multiple times if you refuse to answer their questions.  Their timing always less than favorable.  Like they haven't been taught proper etiquette on how to let someone digest what is before them before being in their face about last wishes and demanding who has the rights to make end of life decisions.

I could feel the hostility within me festering.  I kept reciting to myself, God give me strength for they know not what they do.  But wait - they do know what they do.  Yet they continue edging you.  My main goal was to provide for my mother, to feed her, to take care of her, to make sure she could get through this.  I brought breakfast, made sure I was there before shift changes, texted family updates, and would go home and then take care of my own family in between. Each time I had to walk in that hospital my legs felt weak.  The sound of the elevator chime as if someone was smacking me across the face.  Nurses started to detect that I wasn't keen on a lot of things, and now here I was ten years later with my own medical degree just to care for Noah - knowing more than I ever wish I did.  Enough to even know that they were purposefully sedating him unnecessarily because they didn't have the staff to accommodate trying to ween him from a ventilator on a weekend.  I verbally cornered a nurse on her actions, to her credit she she didn't dispute it, but there was nothing that could be done.  The following day she offered me yellow socks as a peace offering.  I accepted the gesture.  As God would have wished me to.  They were cooling his entire body, just like they did for Noah's brain cooling to try to minimize brain damage.  The cooling process alone eerily familiar.  The same kind of spine tingle you get when hearing a door that creeks when you open and close it or nails running down a chalkboard.

After five days, the ventilator was removed.  The moment of only where time will tell.  His first words, "this sucks."  Followed by lots of swear words... encouraging.  Except he couldn't remember what year it was, or days and couldn't tell time.  Cognitively they hand you this paper - explaining brain injuries.  Like I was unfamiliar to it.  I know what happens to the brain, I see it in Noah every single day.  I didn't know what to think - how bad will this be?  Things weren't right, that was obvious.  But was it drugs?  Or was this the "new" altered person.  Seven days and we were set free - guarded of course, on oxygen and a lot of lifetime medications. Only time would tell.  A relief to have put the actual house of horrors behind me.  But again in a place where I had to watch the dynamic of a very frightened mother, and play the wait and see game.  Of course with anything there are things that are never the same - but I would say for the most part God blessed us with nearly complete restoration. The best I could have hoped for given where we started.

Three months later I of course found myself back in the house of horrors - this time visiting an older brother fighting a complications from surgery and a ruptured appendix.  The same feelings just flooded back.  That hospital that I cannot escape.  I don't think people likely can understand how paralyzing that place is for me.  And what it really does to my entire soul.  I could only bring myself to visit once, relying solely on updates from my mother.  Not because I didn't care, but because I just couldn't force myself to do it continually, as terrible as that might sound.  It was more about any attempt I could muster at self-preservation because it was taking it's toll and I could feel it taking over my heart, mind and spirit.

I waited a long time to blog - months.  In fact I wasn't even sure if I could share any of this, not because I fear standing in judgment, but because I wasn't really sure I could ever talk about it.  But I think it needs to be talked about on some level because I am not alone with having a haunted house.  There are millions of mothers just like me that have to walk into a place or go back to a place that changed the course of their entire lives even more devastating when you have to face that they harmed the dearest most closet thing to your heart in the process.  I am not unique.  We pack away these feelings thinking we won't ever have to go there again.  But when you least expect it - you are often forced to go back.  And none of us are alone in having to periodically face our horror.  And that horror will always exist.  It will never ever go away.

I think the hardest part is now trying to adjust to the unleashed "fear" so to speak - the reminder of how temporary and how fragile we all are.  Every breathing sound for Noah puts me on edge - likewise I see the same on guard feelings in my mother's eyes now too.  We are both on fragile ground.  Walking uncertainty.    Instinctively this hospital felt like I was walking towards something that my soul said I should run from.  That place that puts you on caution and high alert. And you wait for the monster who inevitably is chasing you.  The place where you're afraid to relax because you know the other shoe could drop.

“There are many ways to be haunted, not all of them supernatural. From photo album to love letters, the memory of bad choices, broken promises, lost loves, and scattered dreams can often longer far longer than the glow if satisfaction from our greatest accomplishments. Indeed, the most frightening ways to be haunted may be in the many ways we haunt ourselves.”Tonya Hurley,


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.