I wish I had been able to write through what happened with Cailey while it was happening. I started to many times but the words would not come and I decided not to force them. Now, almost three months later and on the other side of her healing, I feel the tug to share the amazing moments that could so easily get lost in our worst-case-scenario.
The first of these moments came when I was forced to sit still on a tiny, dark, very loud aircraft that made conversation with the flight nurses taking care of my very sick baby girl, impossible. That may have been the longest hour of my entire life. Up to that point I had spent every moment on the phone with my husband, my mom, my sisters, my friends … I had not let myself slow down long enough to think about what was happening.
Earlier that day I had taken my 11-year-old daughter to the doctor for the third time because her headache was not getting any better. She had been through two rounds of antibiotics for a sinus infection and, if anything, things were getting worse. Now she not only had an excruciating headache, she could not hold down food and water. The doctor ordered a CT scan. I herded my four children (one with a jacket over her head because she could not stand the light) to the hospital where we waited, I filled out paperwork, showed my insurance card, waited some more, and finally led my child into a room and left her there while they scanned her head. We headed home to see if the anti-nausea pills the doctor had given us would help Cailey finally be able to eat and take something for her pain. We had not been there five minutes when the doctor called and said Cailey had a severe sinus infection they could not treat and she needed to go to a specialist immediately. She had set up an appointment at an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor and we needed to be there in thirty minutes (Thirty minutes? To see a specialist?). I herded my four children back out to the car (one crying, with a jacket over her head, because all she wanted was to lie down and go to sleep)
‘Please Mama, don’t make me go anywhere else.’
‘We have to Cailey. Something isn’t right.’
We made it to the ENT’s office in record time where we waited, I filled out paperwork, showed my insurance card, waited some more, and finally were shown to an examination room. The PA came in to look at Cailey. I calmly went through the past week and a half, the doctors appointments, the antibiotics, how she was not getting better, how something was not right. He left and came back with the doctor. The doctor looked at Cailey and I calmly explained everything again.
‘We are going to admit her. She does have a sinus infection but that does not account for the pain she is in.’ (HALLELUJAH! Praise the Lord, my baby will get some morphine or something! I cannot stand her being in so much pain!)
I will not even go into how long it took to admit her and get her into a room and bed while I tried to keep my four children quiet and still (one crying that she just couldn’t stand it anymore)
A pediatrician saw us coming down the hallway and immediately came in our room and began to examine Cailey. She gave her a full neurological exam. Cailey passed with flying colors (as she moaned and refused to open her eyes all the way because the light hurt) The pediatrician said she thought it was a bad sinus infection that had triggered a migraine. (Sigh)
‘Yes, I do. But we are going to do some tests just to be sure.’
They hooked Cailey up to an IV, gave her morphine (sigh), and some anti-nausea medicine. I ordered her some jello and a popsicle from room service. I told the nurse I needed to get my other children something to eat and give them a break from the room (she knew, they had already pulled the emergency cord in the bathroom twice).
‘My husband is out-of-town, I have no family here, I have no one to come and be with Cailey while I take care of her brothers and sister. Will you please watch her for me?’
‘Mama, please don’t go.’
‘I have to baby. I have to get Cade, Cian and Cara something to eat. I will be right back. You go to sleep and I will be right back.’
I waited until the morphine started to take effect and she fell asleep. I told the doctor I was leaving for a minute but would be right back.
I took my three children down to the parking garage and got the snacks I had packed earlier that day. I called Chris and told him what the doctor said. He said he was on his way home. He would be there in four hours (sigh) We went to a vending machine and got everyone something to drink. We walked back to Cailey’s room. I walked in. She was on her back and her eyes were open (wow, that morphine must really be working, she hasn’t opened her eyes all day)
‘Cailey, we’re back honey. How do you feel?’
‘Cailey?’ I grabbed her face and shook her.
I ran into the hallway and hollered at the doctor and nurse standing right there that she is was not responding. They ran in the room.
I stood looking through the door as more and more people came running down the hallway that was empty only moments before. I started to cry. Cian and Cara started to cry. Cade kept patting my back and saying over and over, ‘It’s going to be okay Mama. It’s going to be okay.’
A nurse came and took us to the playroom. They would tell me as soon as they knew something.
I started calling. Everyone. Please pray, please pray. I don’t know what’s wrong. She wouldn’t respond. Her eyes looked funny. She wouldn’t respond.
I called my closest friend. I am not too proud to ask for help with my children now. She came immediately.
Twenty minutes later a nurse knelt beside me.
‘Cailey has had a seizure (what? why? she has a sinus infection!) They had to give her two large doses of a strong sedative to get it to break (what?) They are having to help her breath. They are having to give her a lot of help. They are taking her to the ICU and are going to life-flight her to Denver Children’s.’
I broke. The nurse stayed with me.
I called. Everyone. Please pray, please pray.
Three hours later I was sitting on a tiny airplane headed for Denver. Cailey was on a stretcher beside me. She couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move anything except her hands. She kept hollering out. I thought she might be trying to say, ‘Mama!’ but I wasn’t sure.
The battle begins.
A voice I know well tells me this is my fault. I knew something was wrong and I didn’t take her to the emergency room right away. My baby has been in terrible pain and I thought she was just being dramatic. I let this happen. I let it go on too long and now she may die, or be a vegetable her whole life and it is ALL MY FAULT!
A quiet voice that is not mine, calmly tells me, ‘You know that is not right. You know what the truth is. You know this. You have got this.’
The panicked voice that is mine hollers, ‘Yes it is! It is my fault! People say I am laid back but that is not true, I am LAZY! I do not take good care of my children! I am a horrible mother! What more proof do I need? My child, that was fine a few days ago, can’t speak, she can’t move. This is my fault and I am going to have to see what I have done to her for the rest of my life! She will never …’ It took me a long time to list all the things my beautiful, smart, strong-willed, compassionate, hard-headed daughter might never do again.
The quiet, calm voice, ‘You know that is not right. You know what the truth is. You know this. You have got this.’
Would I have heard the small, quiet, calm voice of God over the panicked, judgmental, condemning voice that was mine, had I not been forced to sit still? Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. I don’t go around hearing God’s voice all the time. And never has He spoken as clearly as He did during that horrible, hour-long ride on a life-flight jet.
By the end of the flight I decided to listen to the calm, quiet voice. I decided I did know the truth. I knew God was in control of this terrible situation and I had done everything I could to help Cailey. I was a good mother. This was not my fault. This just was. God was letting it happen, not because He wanted to hurt me or Cailey, but because He was going to use this for good too. He was going to show me how He could use the terrible stuff too. He wrapped me up in His mercy and grace. He quieted that evil, panicked voice and held me firmly to His side.
And I felt peace.