Not a day goes by that I don't count my blessings. I think that has probably been the thing impacted most by our experience this summer with Nate. After Nate's accident, he was taken to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I worked there many years ago before our second daughter was born. I had wanted to work there again for about a year now but it just didn't seem like the right position was available. I applied for an ER position about a month ago and am excited to say that I got it. I am orienting right now and as a part of that, the nurse educator in the ER took me on a tour of the ER. She stopped in a trauma room to show me the various equipment available and it just "happened" to be the room that Nate was brought to. Many emotions washed over me at that moment. Just earlier that same day, I had been studying for a required course, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, during a break that I had in orientation. As I was reading it, I read the harsh information that only 4% to 13% of those children that experience a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital, will live to leave the hospital. I know what I saw on July 31st was a miracle, but this made it even more real to me.
My husband and I were at church two weeks ago and the theme was being thankful as it was the week after Thanksgiving. The pastor gave the church the opportunity to come up and share something that we were thankful for. I have felt the need to share Nate's story ever since it happened but hadn't been given the chance at church. The week of his accident, I called and asked that a praise be added to the bulletin so some of the congregation knew that he had nearly drowned but none of the details surrounding the event. As Carey shared some of the details of that day, I could tell that it had an impact on those that heard. Several people came up to us afterward and were so excited to meet Nate and just so thankful to God for sparing his life.
My husband related a story to me this past week that gives me chills. My mother-in-law was in town recently because our three oldest girls were running a half marathon and she came to cheer them on. The girls and I had already left for the race early that morning so didn't get to hear this story first-hand. She came into the kitchen to eat breakfast and Nate was sitting there munching on his cereal. He told her very matter-of-factly, that that night before, God had woken him from his sleep and told him "I love you very much and everyone loves you!" Nate then continued to tell his grandma that he had told God "I love you too" and then said that he went back to sleep. I was blown away when I heard the account of this little four year old boy. After hearing it, I wanted to ask Nate about it myself. It had been a couple of weeks since he had first told his grandma and not that I doubted what I'd heard but I wanted to hear it from his personally. As I asked Nate about it, he told me word for word what he had told his grandma originally (keep in mind that this was several weeks later). God loves all of us so personally and to know that He would assure a little 4 year old boy of that, gives me a glimpse of the depths of His love.
It has been several days now and I'm still processing the events of Sunday. I think that my mind deals with it in little pieces. I can't bear to be away from Nate for any period of time. He is still sleeping at night snuggled up next to me on my bed. The other night, he rolled over and hugged my neck in his sleep. He is a smart little one and has caught on to the fact that I have a hard time putting any limits on him right now. He received a candy bouquet from our children's pastor at church yesterday. It was so cute to see him open it. When he was tearing open the packaging and caught sight of what was in it, his little hands started shaking with excitement. It's hard to tell him "No, you can't eat candy all day long".
Nate's request in the hospital was that we eat his favorite foods when he got home. When shopping yesterday, I asked him what foods he wanted. He said "You know, hospital food!" I don't think that request is frequently heard. So, for dinner, we had a unique assortment of foods. On the menu, Kix, Chocolate milk, cheese pizza, and jello. I can not begin to say enough about Children's Mercy. I know that I'm a little biased since I used to work there but the staff was so caring and kid-oriented. The ER staff was very open with what they were seeing as they did his initial assessment. His nurse, Lisa, allowed me to hold Nate as long as he didn't develop any respiratory problems. I remember picking him up in my arms and thinking how limp he was. He was still so weak that even as he started to regain consciousness, he couldn't hold up his head on his own. When I asked him yesterday about what he remembered when he first woke up, he said he felt "floppy". The nurses on 2Henson/Burn Unit were also so sweet. They always were very honest with him and spoke to him on his level. His least favorite thing was getting his IV flushed with saline because it stung but they would encourage him through it. He loved watching cartoon after cartoon but I finally encouraged him to go to the playroom and then he didn't want to leave! He got to do crafts with child life and later played in there when his cousin came up to visit.
Last night, we invited our small group over to give us all a time to talk and so that they could see just how active Nate is. My biggest concern related to all of this has been the impact on our children. To be honest, when it was all happening, I only remember seeing Bella briefly as she was walking toward me while we were still working on Nate. One of our friends quickly scooped her up. As we talked more about what other people saw and experienced last night, it was heart-warming to hear that as the children and other adults were gathered, some of the children were spontaneously calling on the name of Lord and praying for our little Nate. There seems to be no fear from what they saw. When our own children saw Nate for the first time after it happened late on Sunday night, they were just filled with joy. I think they are doing well. I let the three older girls read my blog yesterday and was unsure of what their reaction would be. They really took it all in stride and only had a few questions. I think that the full impact may not surface for a little while. Our five year old has been acting out a little more but he presents a unique challenge anyway. As we were shopping today, Nate asked me if we could have another party. I was confused and mentioned that we were going to get some supplies for his 12-year old sister's birthday. He said he wanted another party to celebrate his coming home from the hospital. He thought that everyone had come over to our house to celebrate his release from the hospital which is, of course, partially true. We were there for something much more meaningful though, we were celebrating his very life.
I feel like such a changed person. To be honest, I have been struggling with feeling depressed and kind of down for almost a year now. When it first started, I was coming up on my 40th birthday and I thought I was just not looking forward to it. As my birthday passed though, the feelings didn't go away. At the time, I was exercising more than I ever have and in good shape. I was sleeping as well as you can when you have seven children, homeschool 4 children and work part-time. I didn't know what else I could do to feel better. I felt kind of bad because I didn't feel like I had much of a personal relationship with the Lord. I would pray but not really seek to learn more about Him and what His will was for me. My husband summed it up when he said that it seemed like I had lost my joy. I couldn't deny it, I felt like I was just going through the motions and living day to day. My perspective on life was changed in just a few short minutes that at the time seemed to last forever. How can I not be joyful and thankful for every minute that I get to spend with each of my precious children, my husband, my friends, my co-workers.
Even while grocery shopping, I feel like I want to stop people and explain to them what a miracle my Nate is. I feel like the physical signs of what transpired on Sunday are fading. After having compressions performed on him and the violent vomiting as the fluids were expelled from his body, there were little hemorrhages on his face called petechaia. Those are now gone. He says his throat still hurts, maybe from the force of the fluids or the bile as it burned its way out. His back just bears a small abrasion that will also soon be gone. My prayer though is that the events of that night and the miracle that was witnessed will never be far from my mind. I still get tearful at unpredictable times but I can tell you that my outlook on life can never be the same. I have a joy and a confidence in what I believe. I feel like I have been given an unimaginable gift and can't wait to share it and give others hope.
This is the song that I referred to in my initial post. This is the song that we sang at church just hours before my world was turned upside down.
I just realized how long it's been since I posted last. But if anything warrants a post, this certainly does. Just a little warning that this post will contain some very raw emotions and I am stating it as graphically as I remember it. "Why?", you might ask. It is because I never want to forget the miraculous events of that day and along with the miraculous, comes the horrific reality of what happened.
It was just this past Sunday, July 29, 2012, a day that will forever be burned in my mind. We went to church where we had a guest pastor from New Orleans. To be honest, it was a family service which is where you bring your entire family to the service, and with 7 children, it is a challenge, to say the least, to be able to concentrate on the service. I do remember us singing a song that echoed in my heart about crying out to Jesus. I have always loved this song and it would come back to me much later that day as I laid in the bed next to my 4 year old son with my hand on his chest, just reassuring myself that he was inhaling and exhaling. The pastor also talked about trials during his sermon and how some of the things that we go through do not feel pleasant at the time but they are for a purpose. That didn't particularly resonate with me at that moment but as you will learn, certainly took on a whole different meaning.
We enjoyed a lazy afternoon just watching the Olympics and I snoozed off and on. We had a pool party planned later that afternoon and I was enjoying just relaxing for a while. We headed to the pool party at about 4:00 that afternoon. It was a gathering of our small group from church. These are friends that we have had for years. Some of us have been meeting off and on for over 12 years. We were all having a great time just relaxing and enjoying the relief from the 100 plus degree heat. We were actually getting ready to pack up and head out. I remember sitting down on a lawn chair to start stuffing all our belongings back in our beach bag. I had just sat down when I glanced up and saw my husband and one of the men from our small group heading over to the pool. I saw them looking down into the pool and I remember thinking that maybe someone had dumped some of their snack or food in the pool. Then I saw my husband jump in and hand up the lifeless body of my 4 year old to Jerad (who thank God is a family practice doctor). Nate was a terrible shade of purple, his color went beyond the "normal" cyanosis that I'm accustomed to seeing in my patients in the ER where they may have some discoloring of their lips or nailbeds.
My little boy's entire face and trunk were a terrible shade of purplish blue. I also fleetingly noticed that Nate's hair was covered in vomit when he was pulled out. I knew that he had probably aspirated or choked on it as he was struggling in the water. I remember crying out to God saying "Oh, God, NO!" and running toward him. I have had the heartbreaking job of taking care of little ones that looked like him and the outcome is very rarely positive. I remember saying that someone needed to call for help. I saw Jerad checking Nate and start compressions. I ran and grabbed my cell phone out of my pool bag and shakingly dialed 911. I heard the man ask what my emergency was and I remember telling him that my four year old had drowned. I was calling from my cell phone and so he didn't immediately have the address show up so he asked me the address. Of course, I didn't know but my friend, Rachel, who owns the house where we were was right there and she was able to give me the address. She had immdediately grabbed her phone also and was, unbeknownst to me, already talking with dispatch. I handed my phone to my husband and turned back to Nate. As Jerad was doing compressions, I remember being surprised and horrified by the amount of vomit and pool water that came pouring out of his mouth and nose with each compression that Jerad did. "How could he have swallowed/inhaled so much water?" I remembered thinking to myself. I think that Jerad had been doing compressions for about a minute before the fluids stopped coming from Nate. His color was still terrible and his skin was cool to my touch. I remembered wiping the vomit from his beautiful little face and placing my mouth over his mouth and nose and giving him a couple of breaths. I asked Jerad if they were going in and he reassured me that the second breath went in. I alternated between crying out loud to God and then the Lord enabled me to compose myself enough to give him several more breaths. I remember Jared praying over my son, begging the Lord to save my little one's life. At about that time (I am estimating that we had probably been doing CPR for about 2 minutes), I noticed that as Jared was doing compressions, that the breaths I had just given him were bubbling back out of him and his color had slightly improved. I don't clearly remember him starting to take his own breaths because I then became so focused on how he was responding. I remember his eyes being wide open and this terrible high-pitched crying coming from him. I wanted to comfort him so badly but he was not conscious. I remember being so thankful to God for saving his life but so terrified on the other hand, that he had suffered terrible brain damage. It is very hard to describe the state that he was in, he was breathing on his own but unaware of anything going on around him. I have taken care of children that have suffered a traumatic injury to their brain, and I knew that this crying was not normal. I do not want to sound at all like I wasn't so very thankful that he was alive. I knew that I had seen a miracle right before my eyes. I knew that the odds of him ever regaining his pulse and spontaneously breathing on his own were not in his favor. I think that was part of my absolute despair when he was initially pulled from the water.
The fire/ambulance crews arrived very quickly. By their arrival, I had picked Nate up off the ground and wrapped him in a towel and I kept trying to whisper over and over to him, hoping that my voice would somehow make it past his screams and into his little brain and comfort him. I carried him to the ambulance where they laid him on the stretcher. He had stopped screaming but was not responsive to my questions and didn't respond to pain. It was so good to see familiar faces as I placed my son in their care. I didn't know the paramedics by name but have seen them frequently at work. As they hooked Nate up to their monitors, his heart rate was rapid but good. He was breathing very quickly and requiring high-flow oxygen, neither of which was too surprising to me after what he had been through. The only signs of responsiveness that he showed on the way to the hospital was when he cried when the IV was started. We were initially going to Children's Mercy South but were diverted to the downtown hospital. As they initially triaged him, the physician there explained that Nate's level of consciousness was low enough that they were debating about whether or not to intubate him or put a tube in his airway to make sure that his airway was protected. I asked them if I could come up by his head and try to talk to him. Nate's eyes were closed and I begged him to open his eyes. He wasn't able to but when I asked him to squeeze my hand, he very lightly attempted to grasp my finger! Throughout the time that Nate was in the ER, probably about 3 hrs, Nate gradually began to become more responsive. When Carey arrived, he spoke to Nate and Nate opened his eyes. He still wasn't verbalizing but even began to do that before going up to the floor. He not only started verbalizing but was able to answer any question that he asked appropriately! He knew his age and talked about his baby sister and her name and age. Praise God! The amount of relief that washed over me was unimaginable. Nate would sleep off and on while in the ER but every time he would go to sleep, he would start moaning and crying in his sleep and his heart rate would skyrocket. It broke my heart as I imagined the terrible dreams he was having as he would sleep. I think that became my new prayer for him, that he would be able to sleep peacefully and not have nightmares of what must have been terrifying for him.
Nate was able to be weaned off of oxygen by the time he was admitted to the floor. My fear for him now was that he had aspirated or choked and that he would develop pneumonia or respiratory distress. After settling in upstairs, he was very tired. I thankfully watched as he was able to sleep peacefully, no longer was he moaning in his sleep but just sleeping deeply. He also started frequently going to the bathroom as his little kidneys worked to get rid of the extra fluid that he had taken in. Another huge praise! I was worried about his organs and what damage they may have sustained during the time that he was in the pool but his kidneys were working overtime. I struggled to get any sleep Sunday night. It's very hard to push back the thoughts of what could have been our reality. I had to consciously force myself to instead focus on the blessing of the gift of life my little boy had been given. I tried sleeping in the recliner next to him but found it impossible so I crawled into bed beside him and placed my hand on his little body and was finally able to relax a small amount as I felt his rhythmic breathing. I have to admit that I still feel like there is a knot in my stomach but the constant nausea and feeling of utter panic is starting to subside.
The next day, Monday, the only thing that was hurting Nate was his throat and an area on his back where he has a little abrasion from the concrete where he received compressions. He is so resilient, I just love that children are that way. As I was giving him a shower the next day to removed the residual of the vomit from his blond hair, he spontaneously started talking about the event of the day before. If you were to ask him, like Jerad did today when we went to visit so that he could see the miracle that is Nate, he will matter-of-factly tell you that he drowned. He told me that he remembered being in water that was too deep and that he tried calling for "Help". Even as I type that, it chokes me up and breaks my heart all over again. He asked me why we hadn't helped him. He said it in such an innocent little way and I hugged him and told him that Daddy had helped him and pulled him from the water. When he talks about it now, he shows no fear or anxiety which is a huge blessing. As I was talking with Jerad's wife today, who was the first one to spot Nathan in the pool, I explained that I had hoped as I was waiting for him to regain consciousness, that the Lord would erase any memory of the event from his little mind. However, if it enables him to be an even more amazing witness of God's power and grace, then so be it.
So, as you see, I witnessed a miracle on July 29th. Not only did I witness but I was privileged to play a small part in bringing my son back to life. As I look at his scrapbook that Nathan has asked me several times to get out today, I see our discharge papers from Children's Mercy. They say "Near Drowning". Such shocking words to see but true nonetheless. This has been and will continue to be, a life-altering event. On one hand, I hope that the terror of that day subsides but I never want to forget the miracle that is my son, Nate. I love you so much, my handsome man. Every giggle I've heard since then and every spontaneous "I love you Mommy" and "You're the Best Mommy" makes my heart overflow with joy.
Yesterday, I had the awesome opportunity to purposefully spend a day making an impact in my world. I would have written about it sooner but to be honest, I was exhasted. I also needed to spend some time processing everything that we had seen, heard and experienced. We started out our day quite early. I was up about 5:00 so that I could finish getting everything ready for our day, including some homemade cinnamon rolls, yummy! Our first stop of the day was Eleos Coffeehouse, the vision of Dan and Wendy Smith. It is located in the urban core of Kansas City. We had the chance to learn more about what they do and how they make an impact of the neighborhood where they are located, which is a "tough" neighborhood. We packed up 40 bags full of food and supplies for the those that don't have even the basic of necessities. My eyes were opened to the needs of this awesome one-of-a-kind ministry and I am excited about continuing to find ways to make a difference there. We also purchased a large dispenser of coffee to take with us and deliver at our next stop. That brings us to our next location-Truman Medical Center in the Emergency Room. My sister, Heather, works there so it was fun to be able to meet some of her friends and drop off fresh coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls. We then headed to the Kansas City Rescue Mission. I'm sorry to say that I didn't even know it existed. I can't wait to go back and get a full tour! We dropped off some donations and cupcakes there. I have the opportunity to make a meal for a family with a sick baby at Children's Mercy Hospital and am looking forward to making their stay a little easier. I don't know this family personally but I do know that their beautiful little girl that is about the same age as Bella, is fighting for her life. Please pray for this family, I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through and have been going through for the past year. We were officially finished in Kansas City and it was time to head back to Olathe. We had an appointment at Aberdeen Village which is a nursing home/assisted living facility. I have to say that this ended up being one of my favorite stops of the day. We divided up into three groups and got the chance to help out in different areas. My dad and husband also had the opportunity to donate blood here. I really wanted to do the same but since I'm running a marathon in 5 days, was told that it would probably be best to wait. So, I signed up to donate when I get back from my race. I and three of my children got to sing with a group of sweet folks and my daughter, Natalie, got to play her flute for them. Others in our group called "Bingo" and then the last group got to participate in a craft. A sweet little lady that we met loved on my kids and brought them back to her room and gave them candy. Everyone there was so welcoming and it really touched me! When we finished at Aberdeen, we headed to our former neighbors whom we love and miss and gave a flower and kisses to her. Not too far away from there, we went to the park that we frequently ran at and cleaned up a portion of the trail. What a beautiful day we were given to be outside! We were all getting pretty hungry so we headed to Chick-Fil-A and bought lunnch for the vehicle behind us. We also picked up lunch for our children's pastor at church, Pastor Scott, and dropped it off along with goodies for the other staff. At that point, the three little ones were pretty tired so my older sister, Stephanie, met us and took them so that we could continue on. Thanks, Steph! We then headed to a fire station that I frequently run by, Olathe Fire Station # 3. We stopped in unexpectedly and they were so kind and welcoming. We did bring brownies though:) They went out of their way to show the kids the huge tanker truck there and even treated us to a very special surprise. This stop ended up being one the kids' favorite stops! Next, we went to QT and a laundromat. At QT, I bought several people's drinks and even had the chance to give a Wal-Mart gift card to a mom there with several young children. She was so sweet and mentioned that she needed diapers. I won't ever forget her face! At the laundromat, the kids tried to hand out quarters to people there for their laundry. It's interesting to see the different reactions that people have when people unexpectedly give them something. We were then going to feed the meters in downtown Olathe and found that we don't have those anymore. I guess its been a while since I've been down there. The Olathe Police Dept was our next stop where we dropped off cookies. The gal there was a bit suspicious I think and couldn't figure out why we were bringing food to them. My sister, Heather and I latered laughed that they might have thrown our cookies out because the person there wasn't sure about us:) Anyway, we went to the Highway Patrol also and gave them brownies. We had so much fun at the next stop, the Olathe Animal Shelter. We dropped off supplies for them, including towels, blankets and laundry detergent. We were fortunate enough to get to hold some beautiful puppies that they had. There was some begging for a pet after that stop, as I'm sure you can imagine. I was excited to head to Olathe Medical Center where we visited the Emergency Dept and the pediatric floor. The girls helped put together a basket full of fun things for kids to do while waiting in the ER and then we brought a balloon up to the Pediatric Floor for a little boy hospitalized there. We also brought cookies for my fellow staff there and got to say "Hi". Onward and upward, we continued on. I have to admit that the day was getting long but we only had a few more stops to make. We stopped next at Mission Southside. It serves many different purposes but specifically, we brought food for them which they use to fill up backpacks for those kids here in Olathe that are below the poverty line and would otherwise go without. The kids bring the backpacks home on the weekends when they don't get school lunches so that they have something to eat. We also dropped off some clothing. They hold Free Garage Sales 1-2 times/month where those in need can come and get the things they need for absolutely free! We then had the neat opportunity to stop in and see another couple that we had the privilege to live next door to. We brought them a flower and just visited for a while. We're always excited to see Ann and Lee. My mother wasn't able to participate in the day with us because she had to work so we headed to Price Chopper and bought drinks for all the pharmacy staff (non-alcoholic, of course). Just a short trip across the street was where we ended our day by donating some more clothing at Savers. Its a store that benefits Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Whew! What a day. If you count it up, not quite forty different tasks but we certainly had the chance to impact over forty people. What a huge blessing! I will never forget this birthday. I want to thank those that helped, from giving ideas to actually helping me as we drove all over accomplishing those tasks.