Has anyone ever asked you what the worst moment of your life was?
Yesterday, if you asked me, I would have had to really think about it. Weigh my options. I'd wonder- was that one moment bad enough? Did I even have a stand-out terrible moment?
Ask me that question now. I will answer you easily.
Today, November 16, my mother and I thought about getting pedicures. I could go visit Danielle, Gerald, and Baby Beau at the hospital afterward, I thought. Beau had his second heart surgery yesterday- at 8 months, he had the Glenn procedure. He was extubated and sleeping and medicated and recovering. We had high hopes this would be an easier and shorter recovery than his last stay this past summer. I looked up the number for our favorite nail salon but when my mother called no one answered. She called five times and no one answered. This had never happened before in all the years we had gone there, but I quickly realized there would be no pedicure today so I took my mom's car to the hospital early. I brought some of my mom's soup and some pretzels for Danielle to have in the room.
When I saw Beau he looked like such a big boy in that hospital crib. He had cannulas in his nose to give him oxygen and the mucus in his chest was making him breathe like a little boy with a very bad cold. His mouth was slightly open and his arms were propped up by beanie babies from the hospital. I took a picture of him and posted on Instagram how well he was doing.
I chit-chatted with Danielle and Gerald and laughed at the Friends episode on TV. After about half an hour, Beau's previously high heart rate lowered and suddenly his breathing stopped sounding so congested. For some reason he was breathing better which we took as a sign that he would wake up soon. This was Gerald's cue to run home and take care of some things so he could be back for the night before Beau woke up. Beau had been asleep since 8:30am because of the sedation.
Danielle and I were talking and the respiratory therapist came in to change Beau's oxygen to high flow to be more comfortable. The two amazing nurses were hovering over Beau, checking his lines. And then we heard the tiniest sound- we thought Beau was finally waking up. Danielle got up immediately and went to his crib. And then his monitor started making noise, meaning his vitals were going down. Danielle looked at him and the monitor, and looked at me, and we didn't understand.
What happened next- I would swear to you it was fifteen minutes, maybe twenty- but the nurses and doctors know it was only about two.
One of the nurses said Beau had no air flow.
The next nurse said there was no pulse.
And then they called a code.
The bells and tones on the monitors were going crazy because there was no heartbeat. At least ten highly trained medical professionals rushed the room, working in tandem that in retrospect I can appreciate as beautifully efficient and entirely impressive. Some were saying stats, some were writing, others handing supplies and checking lines and monitors. And then the nurse was placing her hands over this beautiful boy's heart and performing chest compressions.
It's been hours and I can't stop seeing his little baby body move with the compressions.
My sister, my beautiful big sister was sobbing, hysterical. The chaplain rushed in and put her arms around us. I dropped my phone four times and pressed so many wrong buttons before I could get to Gerald- only able to tell him "There's no pulse" before he said he'd be here. I called my parents- who were home watching Shrek and painting with my five year old nephew Lane, and all I could say was that they lost the pulse and my mother said they were on the way.
The chaplain's mouth was moving and she was praying. I said the Our Father so many times in rapid succession. I asked God not to do this. My sister said she couldn't feel her hands so I rubbed her arms.
For so long I heard Danielle's sobs and my prayers and I have no idea what the doctors were saying but I saw Beau move under those compressions. They bagged him and breathed for him.
And then, he had a blood pressure. And his heart was back.
A doctor asked us if we could wait in the quiet room and assured us Beau was alive. His heart was beating.
We moved to the quiet room with the chaplain and a nurse came and reassured us that the best doctors and nurses were with Beau but even she was wiping away tears. My sister kept repeating that this couldn't be happening, not her little boy, and how he had just been fine. Gerald came in and I moved so he could embrace her and I don't know how but he was so strong for her and reassured her that he was breathing and his heart was beating and he was alive.
Every five minutes the nurse would return and let us know what was happening. His heart was beating. He had blood pressure. They put a CPAP on him briefly to breathe for him. Then they moved to a ventilation mask to give him more air to expand his chest. Then they realized he could breathe on his own but not well enough given his congestion. They decided to intubate and sedate him. But he was OK- Beau was alive. The surgeon came in and explained that his heart was doing well but the build up of secretions had caused him not to breathe and his heart rate to go so low that they lost his pulse. This CHD baby with two surgeries under his belt, with a useless right ventricle and a recently sewn up VSD had a strong heart, stronger than the mucus, secretions and buildup that had taken his breath.
After this my parents came and then my two other sisters, my other brother-in-law and two other little nephews. We waited in the quiet room, entertaining the kids and talking and retelling what had happened. My sister didn't cry anymore. I don't know how long passed, but eventually Danielle and Gerald could go see him. And then my parents saw him, my sister and brother, and lastly me and my oldest sister.
Later that night, Gerald quickly grabbed dinner for him and my sister and I waited with her in the room, staring at Beau and watching his chest move up and down with every breath from the ventilator.
How ever long the danger lasted, I hated every second of it. I wish it never happened. I wished it were happening to me instead of him. And yet, I was aware that I was so glad I was there. That my sister wasn't alone. That there was one more person there praying. That I could clumsily make the calls to our family.
I might get a pedicure tomorrow. And if I ask, maybe I'll be told that the phone battery had died at the salon or they couldn't find it or they were so busy they didn't bother to answer. It doesn't matter to me how it came about that I was not there, in Gilbert in a massage chair at 4:00 when Beau's heart stopped but thank you God that I was not there. I was in the PICU hospital room and it was the most terrible thing I've ever seen and heard and felt. But I know I was where I was supposed to be.
I love you, Beau.