April 13, 2016

We Almost Lost Him

I carried my son's unresponsive, lifeless body through the doors of the emergency room and put him in the arms of a trauma team.  I know I was running, but my body felt like it was in slow motion.  It was such an odd feeling... life rushing and flashing before my eyes and also slowing down to a crawl as we tried to rush to the hospital.  It was the worst moment of my entire life.

It's been almost two months since we nearly lost our little Miles and yet, it still feels so fresh.

On Monday, February 15th, all the kids were home from school. President's Day.  The stock market was closed so Kamron was taking a leisurely morning with no rush to get to work.  Scarlett and Noah were up, watching TV, making noise, pouring bowls of cereal. Normal day.  Miles was sleeping in.  He is always our first kid up.  In fact, we often wonder if he ever sleeps at all so it was unusual for him to still be in bed. I went up to check on him.  He said his throat was hurting a little and he was tired.  I felt his head, told him he could go back to bed and kissed his little cheeks.

About 30 minutes later, he came downstairs- scrawny arms sticking out of his size 5t pajamas and huge tears falling silently out of his sleepy, little eyes.  I scooped him up and hugged on him for a bit and he said that he just wanted to relax in a warm bathtub.  I drew him a bath and put him in.  He's nearly 8 years old, so he bathes by himself.  I'm not sure if it was mother's intuition or not, but for some reason, I kept going in the bathroom to check on him.  He was just not himself that morning.  I was in and out of the bathroom gathering laundry.  We were chatting.  He complained of a headache and a sore throat.  I mentally made plans on how to get him to the doctor on a day when all the other kids were home from school.  He asked me if I could make him some breakfast- no matter what ails the kid, he's always hungry.  I took that as a good sign.  We went through the list: cereal, poptarts, waffles... he said "probably waffles." I walked out of the bathroom and went to check on some other things.  In and out. In and out.

And then in.  And my boy was floating, unresponsive in the bathtub. I frantically pulled him out of the bathtub and wrapped him up in a towel.  I thought he was dead.  I thought I was pulling my dead child out of the bathtub.  I shook him and yelled at him to breathe.  Nothing.  I kept shaking him and yelling at him.  Finally a small breath.  His head was rolling around, eyes rolled to the back of his head, he couldn't speak or move his body or follow commands.  His breaths were shallow and sporadic.  I kept screaming at him to breath.  It may have only been a minute.  It felt like an eternity. His whole life flashed in front of me. Meeting him in the Congo for the first time.  Watching him look out the window of the plane as he said goodbye to his life in Africa and left behind orphanages and poverty and everyone he'd ever loved. Thinking back to those early days as he discovered the love of his brother and sister and that smile.  Always that smile.  My baby boy.  Wrapped up in a towel in my arms as I sat on the bathroom floor begging him to live.  Begging him to breathe.

I started yelling for the other kids in the next room to get Daddy.  He ran into the bathroom.  I shouted to call 911.  We live out in the country and there was ice on the roads.  He took one look at Miles and said, "The ambulance will never make it in time.  Get in the car!"  I unwrapped the soaking wet towel he was in, wrapped Miles up in a dry towel and a blanket, and ran out the door, telling whatever kid was closest to grab my shoes and toss them in the back seat.  They had no idea what was happening.  All they saw was me carrying their limp, lifeless brother out of the house in a towel.

Kamron zipped out of the driveway and drove toward the hospital 20 minutes away.  I sat in the back seat and held onto Miles, tears falling down my cheeks, looking at my baby that I just knew was going to die.  I knew I should pray and could not come up with any words.  I couldn't even figure out how to plead with God.  No words would come.

I finally realized that I had left the kids at home with no supervision or any clue what was happening. I called my neighbor.  One sentence in, and she swooped in to mother my kids.  I called my mom. We called the hospital to tell them we were coming.  The words felt robotic and strange. "I walked in the bathroom and my son was floating.  He's not responding.  Yes, he's breathing but not very well.  No, I don't know if he was without oxygen.  He's 7. We are 10 minutes away"

Kamron was driving as fast as he could with ice on the road.  I remember people honking at us.  I remember thinking we were never going to make it to the hospital.  I remember thinking that Miles wasn't breathing enough.  I remember thinking that this child, this joyous child did not deserve this.

We pulled into the hospital emergency room where a trauma team was waiting for us.  I put him in a wheelchair and they whisked him to a room.  It was too bright.  There were too many machines.  There were so many people.  There were still not enough breaths and there were still no words from my child who always has something to say.  There was just nothing.  He was a shell of his tiny body.

One of the doctors started asking me questions.  I could not formulate words, only tears.  I could not make sense of what was happening.  Thankfully, my mom works at the hospital next door and she had come over as soon as we had called her.  She stepped in with all the answers.  I watched Kamron stroking Miles' leg while the doctors worked on him while my mom answered all the questions.  The narrative of his adoption, the malaria, the TB, the extreme malnutrition, the string of surgeries to get him healthy,  the delays, the years long gut problems, the seizure he had a couple of years ago, heart murmurs, the medications... hearing them outloud... oh my God...my resilient kid.

The team had him all hooked up.  I watched the little blips on the monitor.  Heart beating, breaths going in and out, flurry of activity.  More questions.  More tests.  More tears...

By some miracle, when Miles went unconscious in the bathtub,  he remained face up.  When I found him in the bathroom, the first thing I saw was his little feet up in the air.  His behind had sunk to the bottom of the tub and his face was half submerged and his feet were floating a couple of inches in the air. When I picture in my mind how it must have happened, I see angels all around that bathtub cradling his body and holding his head enough above the water to keep his lungs from filling with water.  I see that so vividly I know it must be true.  There is no other way that our son would be alive.

My mind went all the places you never want your mind to go.  I imagined if he lived through this at all that he would be severely impaired.  I imagined how I would tell the other kids.  I imagined what would happen if he didn't make it.  I wondered how I could go on.  I blamed myself for putting him in the bathtub.  I blamed God for bringing my boy all this way to go like this.

Somewhere in the middle of all my doubt and fear, he started responding.  That tiny little body started understanding some of our words and his little eyes opened a bit and had some life in them.  For several hours we watched a miracle unfold.  X-ray of lungs came back clear.  Vitals started picking up. Miles started following commands between falling in and out of sleep.  He took some sips of water.  He started being able to answer some basic questions.

Before we knew it, he was asking for orange juice and television.  Like nothing had ever happened. A strep test came back positive and we began to piece together that Miles must have spiked a fever and likely had a seizure.  He had a febrile seizure a few years ago and the recovery felt similar to how he responded to the last seizure.

Because there were so many unknowns in what had happened, Miles earned himself an ambulance ride to the downtown children's hospital for admittance and further testing.

He spent 3 days in the hospital having his brain looked at and his heart monitored due to a murmur that was discovered last summer during a sports physical.  He thought he was at a luxury hotel where people would bring him cheeseburgers and scrambled eggs and orange juice right to his bed any time he asked and he had full control over the remote.  He watched Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs three times back to back and marveled about how no one stopped him or told him he'd had enough TV.  His attitude floors me- he finds the positive in all things.  I have so much to learn from him. He was finally deemed okay to come home and follow up with a neurologist was ordered.

Bringing him home... what a privilege. When I carried him out the door three days earlier, I truly did not think we'd be bringing him home.  His life is an answered prayer.

After reviewing all the testing and discussing his medical history with the neurologist, Miles was diagnosed with epilepsy.  We'll just add that to the list of things that make Miles... Miles.  Like all things in life, Miles has rolled with it.  He's taking pills every day to prevent seizure activity.  I forgot he couldn't swallow pills because by the time you have four kids you can't remember which kid has which skills.  So, after the first week of choking on pills and drinking a liter of water to get one pill down, he can now swallow pills like a champion.  He has a helmet that he loves.  Because when you have epilepsy, and your mom makes you wear a helmet to climb trees and such, you should look cool while doing it.

This kid.  He is such a gift to us.  He changes our world in so many wonderful ways.  I hug him closer still, months later, at the thought of what if and thank God for sparing our sweet Miles. I find myself reading an extra chapter of Flat Stanley when he asks for "just one more" with that million watt smile.  When I reflect over all that this child has been through, I can't help but get overwhelmed and excited over the plan that must be in store for his life.  How lucky we are to get to be a part of it.

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