Yesterday was November 6th. It’s the anniversary of the day my boyo got sick. As I sat here among piles of boxes from our move, I took a few moments to be grateful.
Every story starts with a beginning. My friends have all heard this story a few times but most of the time I tell it from my sons perspective. Today I’m going to tell it from my point of view. It’s the day I became more than a mom, I became a mom/caretaker. It’s the day I learned the biggest lesson on how to be a mom/caretaker. It’s the worst day of my life and it’s the best day of my life. That second part, the best day part, I’ll explain later.
I used to say that it started out like any other day, but it really didn’t. It started months before, when my little man kept getting sick, over and over again. He had non stop upper respiratory infections. Over and over I had him at the Dr.s office. Deep down in my gut I knew something terrible was wrong but, I didn’t want to listen, it was too scary. Every time the Dr. would tell me he just has allergies, but didn’t send him for tests, or he has asthma but didn’t send him for tests, or he just needs some antibiotics and sent us home. I was so relieved, my deep down gut instinct had been wrong or so I had hoped.
The night before that morning, he didn’t look good. My husband was out of the state at the time, so he called his dad to say goodnight. My husband didn’t answer the phone, so he left a message. I’ll never forget what he said, “goodnight daddy, Daddy? I don’t feel good”. I was restless that night, watching him sleep, that alarm going off in my gut again.
In the morning we got up and began getting ready for school, when he started to wheeze, I said, “Let’s go to your nebulizer.” He said, “Mom I can’t breathe call 91..” Then he laid down on the floor, started rocking himself and passed out. I fell to my knees calling 911, starting cpr. Ambulances and police were called. Paramedics broke thru my door and started working on him. They couldn’t find a pulse, then I saw him breathing again, foolish me, he wasn’t breathing, he was intubated, they were breathing for him. Neighbors, friends and family came. We were transported to one hospital, they stabilized him there, then we were transported to another hospital. There he coded, they yelled code blue, pushed my mom and I out of the room and called a priest. A few moments later when he appeared, I screamed at him, “Stay away from me! He’s not dead yet, He’s not dead yet” The Dr. paralyzed my little man, by putting him in a drug induced coma, which allowed the respirator to continue to breathe for him. Then they told me, he has a tumor in his chest that’s crushed a lung, is strangling his heart and crushed his trachea. The worst part was that it wasn’t only a tumor, it was caused by a particular form of Leukemia called T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Words no parent ever wants to hear. Then we were transported to UNM Childrens hospital. It was all a blur of Dr.s and nurses working on him, trying to prepare me for his death. They didn’t think he would make it. They thought it was too late, but second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day he survived.
What was the lesson I learned that day? Gratitude. It’s easy to be grateful for all the good days, but when we are grateful for what gets you thru the worst days, that’s when gratitude can really help you. I’m going to back up now, to tell you all the things I’m grateful for that day.
I’m grateful for 911, I’m grateful for the operator who, when the cpr wasn’t working and I started to freak out snapped me out of it so I could continue to work on my boy. I’m grateful for all the people behind him on that call, who helped him. I heard them in the background calling ambulances, and I heard them call the police because it was a probable d.o.a. I’m grateful for that first paramedic, who came thru the door and took my boy from my arms, I’m grateful for intubation, I’m grateful for all the other paramedics who worked on him, I’m grateful for the paramedic, who sat beside me while I rocked and watched them work on my boy. She didn’t say much but she lent me her strength. I’m grateful for her quiet support. I can’t even remember her face but, I remember her presence. I’m grateful for the police who came and stood back but, kept anyone from interfering with the path the paramedics needed. I’m grateful for my friends and family who flocked to us. I’m grateful for my neighbor who gathered our pets, closed up doors and gates after we left. I’m grateful for the vehicles who moved out of our way enroute. That day you helped save my little boys life and I don’t even know who you are and you don’t even know you saved someones life. I’m grateful to the e.r at Kaseman Presbyterian hospital where Dr.s and nurses stabilized him, but had compassion to allow me to stand there and sing to him because he was scared. I don’t know who you are but I thank you. I’m grateful for the next paramedics who transported us to the Downtown Presbyterian hospital, you helped me endure. I’m grateful to the Dr.s and nurses there who saved him from a code blue. I’m grateful to the nurse who stood beside me while I stood next to his bed when he was in the coma, I was shattered and trying to choke out words. You patiently let me speak them and when I told you I was afraid that his last thoughts were of fear and I couldn’t help him. You said, “His last thoughts might have been fear but what he saw last was his mom trying to help him.” Those words mean more to me than you will ever know. I don’t know who you are, but you helped me thru the worst moments in my life, thankyou. I’m grateful for my elders and their prayers they said with me. I’m grateful for prayer. I’m grateful to the paramedics who requested to take us to the UNM childrens hospital, because they were the same team who had taken us earlier. I had trouble being able to stand and walk, you lent me your strength, you hugged me, you helped me into the ambulance and took superb care of my boy. Again I’m grateful for all the vehicles who moved out of our way enroute, you helped save my little boys life that day. I’m grateful for UNM who, even tho they thought it might be too late, they still took extreme measures to save my little boys life. I’m grateful to all the people who helped my husband get to us that day. He had a planes, trains and automobile type trip in order to get to us. I’m grateful for my loving, strong husband. All of this, is why it’s also the best day of my life, because of all of these people, my little boy survived something almost impossible to survive. His case is so rare that he is in medical books now. You see if you took just one second out of that day, he would not have survived. We are symbiotic, we all need each other. I’m grateful to everyone who stepped up and helped us that day.
That was the day when everything changed and I became more than a mom, I became a mom/caretaker. I will be brutally honest, I was not strong, I fainted often, I had panic attacks, I had anxiety and sometimes I didn’t want to live. I remember holding my little mans foot(it was the only part of him not connected by wires or tubes) while he lay in a coma. There were Dr.s and nurses buzzing around, while I was praying to die with him. However, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day I got stronger and he continued to survive. I learned that day to hold on to what you can be grateful for. It’s what gets you thru the worst of days that matters.
This part of our story is the hardest to tell and the hardest to read about, but over the years when things were hard again, for there were endless days of hard, if I would remember to focus on what to be grateful for, our day would get better and I could maintain my focus on what needed to be done.
Fifteen years have passed since that day. Now, as I look over at my adult son, I remember all of the things I’m grateful for.