I am a person you want around when there is an emergency. Beginning in the early aughts as a camp counselor, I have always been the designated 9-1-1 caller in the event of a medical scare. In my lifetime, I think I’ve called 9-1-1 at least half a dozen times.
When you’re anxious like I am–disordered, really–there are thousands of mental mini-emergencies and catastrophies, real or perceived, that happen on any given day. I think that by living this way, it makes sense that an axious person would be relatively calm in an actual emergency because they have practice. In my mind, I encounter at least three hypothetical scares before 10am on a typical weekday. There really isn’t anything to fear when faced with drama because reality never compares to my imagination.
The last time I called 9-1-1 was in 2021. I was breastfeeding my son when I looked down to see that he had turned completely blue. When I say blue, I mean Violet-at-the-Chocolate-Factory-blueberry blue. By the time the paramedics arrived, he was completely flesh-colored and happily babbling away. The doctor at the ER later said that we had experienced a BRUE–a brief, resolved, unexplained event. In short, the baby stopped breathing because he choked on his own reflux…MAYBE. I was convinced that by the time we were through with that episode, I needed medical attention for the heart attack I was sure I’d endured.
Our New Normal
Last Thursday, my son was admitted to the ER for the second time in his brief lifetime. His pediatrician concluded that he had pnuemonia and needed to get on oxygen ASAP. I was grateful for the opportunity to hop off of a stressful work call to meet my mother-in-law and son at the hospital within 15 minutes of getting the call. At no time was my son in acute distress, thankfully. But he was struggling to get the oxygen he needed, and his little body was so tired from working so hard to do just that for the previous three days.
We were transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU. Little did we know that we were signing up for an extended stay at our new hotel room. We remained at the PICU for five nights and six days. Little Silas was defiant when medical staff suctioned his nose, but otherwise very cooperative “for his age.” Once nurses offered him his fifth breathing treatment midway through our stay, I looked at him and bursted out crying. Nothing seemed to be helping him. Everytime he coughed, he let out a pathetic yelp, signaling that he was still very much in pain.
As a parent, my heart shattered every time I looked at him asleep in his hospital bed. There was an element of disassociation to all of this, too. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that the beeping monitors were there to read my son’s vitals. When my favorite nurse with a diamond tattoo on her neck (I forgot her name but remembered that detail) saw me cry, she rushed over to get me a bear hug. John’s face twisted with fear and tears, too, which was quite possibly the most unsettling thing I’d seen to date.
Our friends in recovery and beyond rushed to our aid the moment I posted Silas was in the hospital. His godparents, our closest friends from the program, visited our home to feed and walk the dogs a few times. They also mowed our lawn, cleaned the entire kitchen, and did all the dishes in the sink. Dozens of recovery and other friends offered to bring us meals, and we let them. I am not surprised by their acts of kindness. I’ve come to rely upon my friends for their generosity and commitment. Where I came up short in my expectations were of those people in my campaign network.
My Twitter feed attracted the likes of incumbent politicians, candidates for office, political operatives, committee chairs, volunteers, and journalists. I absentmindedly checked my DMs the second night of our stay at the hospital, only to find that prominent people reached out to help us. One candidate who I’ve never met in person is an ICU nurse. He called the hospital to repeatedly check on my son and our family. A journalist with a son Silas’s age messaged me consistently to offer strength, care, and support–another contact with whom I’d only interacted online. One of my newer political friends brought us an elaborate Greek meal the night we returned home from the hospital.
There were a couple of less-than-desirable behaviors from colleagues. One of my clients waited until the day we brought Silas home to break up with me. Another client bombarded me with criticisms and complaints on a work call I should not have taken a few days into our stay at the hospital. There is nothing like a crisis to show people’s true character. I’m just grateful that in the grand scheme of things, none of that matters. My Higher Power took care of us. Silas has made a full recovery.
But my recovery is a little more complicated.
For the past few days, I’ve been experiencing residual heartbreak from this experience. I went to six meetings in a row leading up to today. I don’t feel anxious or even scared anymore, just…vulnerable. It’s hard to admit that so much is out of my control as a parent and as a human.
Meanwhile, Silas is running, jumping, eating, drinking, coloring, and then some. If we’re lucky, he will have no memory of this episode. He doesn’t seem to have any issues whatsoever, which feels remarkable given how weak he was just a few days ago. Children are evidently very resilient.
I’m hoping that this experience will help my husband and I to emerge more resilient people. For now, I’m content with a healthy child. If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that prayers work and people show up when you need them. My goal is to pay it forward to someone else in distress.
I still feel sadness that Silas had to go through something so scary and stressful. I don’t know if that will go away anytime soon, but I accept that. We will continue to work toward our normal routine without becoming overbearing parents. I mostly just want to say thank you to everyone who offered their support–
Our hearts needed it.