Sometimes I feel like we almost live surreal American lives. We fanny about wringing our hands over things that are so small. We get bogged down and depressed and unable to really appreciate we really have.
Then something real happens. Like sitting down to read a magazine at naptime, you run across an article about respiratory distress in children, normally you would ignore it, but something tells you to check on your eight month old daughter. She is lying slack and awake, not crying, she lifts her head and her breathing, flaring nostrils, pumping ribs, mimics the description in the article. Real.
You go to the doctors office and wait. She lies on you limp. Breathing is such an effort. More than one doctor comes in to look at your child. People start talking to you in very gentle tones. You end up climbing into an ambulance following the paramedic that is holding your child. Real.
In the emergency room the listless child has her temperature taken one more time, her lungs listened to one more time. Her oxygen checked. Her chest xrayed. Her blood drawn.
Pneumonia. Real Preumonia.
But now you are in a hospital and they are wheeling you upstairs. You feel safe because there are monitors, antibiotics, and IV fluids, and she already looks better.
She smiles for the nurse. A real smile. Her first smile that day.
A night in the hospital. A real night. A real long night.
The next morning her ribs are flaring with the effort of breath. She’s listless. Her smiles are gone again. Still not ready to go home. They want to keep us one more night. Give her more oxygen and fluids. I acquiesce because I know she’s not well and I would take her home and I would just worry. Real worry. Real ‘keep you awake all night long’ worry. Real ‘make your mind race’ worry.
Those silly little worries that plague your normal days become less real. Your only pair of jeans, the ones you came in last night are sopping wet on one leg because your older child vomited on you and you rinsed them out in the sink and put them back on. You flaccidly accept this, because does it really matter right now? Your eight month old vomits into your shirt, and your bra cup. More acceptance, because there’s nothing else to do.
Your husband stays in the afternoon. You go home to shower and pack a bag for the coming night of worry.
You’ve walked on that precipice the whole time, knowing that one trip could send you into a chasm so deep you could go crazy. You’re okay, you say. You’re handling this so well you tell yourself.
One more long night. One real long night. You lie with your worry. She doesn’t need the oxygen. She sleeps well. You don’t. You feel like you’re betraying her when you do pass out.
In the morning she sits up. She smiles. She tries to pull the tubes off of her. She nurses well. You cut her off early and make her go slowly because she’s vomited up everything to this point. She does it, and there’s no vomit that day.
You take her home at lunch time. Home. Real home.
For the next several days your hugs are little bit longer. Your kisses a little stronger. Your gaze a little more powerful. You only then realize how close your toes came to the edge of that precipice. You finally cry when they’re all in bed. The letdown, the adrenaline gone. The relief, we’re all okay. You can’t remember praying, but you’re sure you did, little whispers up to heaven, ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘help.’ Daily whispers that become more urgent when things are on the line. Your'e thankful you live a five minute drive from your doctors office. A ten minute drive from a working hospital. So close to doctors and nurses with resources at their finger tips.
You turn back to your routine. Your routine that has been so upset the past few days. Your ‘real’ life interrupted by something real. The tragedy hang over lasts a few days, when people ask, ‘how are you?’ you don’t really how to respond. Blurt out everything or smile and pretend that everything is business as usual. Even though your life was just interrupted by something real. Something that puts it all in perspective.