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.