Where I Leave Off

One last mom post tonight before Lily returns and tells you all about her “re-birthday” party, her trip to neurology this week and our big plans for the rest of the summer. But until then….

Most of you know that Jess and I are very different – sometimes as different as two people can be. While undoubtedly frustrating in certain situations, it comes back to reward us in the most unexpected ways and I realize that it’s a gift. Today, was one of those days. Today, I opened my email and read this:

July 14

I remember everything.

Every single detail of that morning.

You woke me at 4:00am. I tried to put Lily back to bed. Twice. I held her for about 20 minutes and then lay her down each time. She would last about 15 minutes before she would wake up screaming. Finally, around 5:30, I went to the washroom and you came in. You spilled Omeprazole all down my leg, and we laughed about it. I had no clean clothes, so medication-soaked clothes were what I was stuck with. I took Lily downstairs and swaddled her to put her in the stroller. Immediately, she was asleep. I walked for about an hour and a half before she awoke. She woke up screaming. I walked down Plains Rd. in front of my old elementary school holding her while she screamed. I jokingly told her, “Lily, if you don’t stop crying, I’m going to strangle you”. I would come to regret using that phrase shortly. I finally put her down in the stroller and started walking quickly home. I decided then that I would let you sleep for another couple of hours before we took Lily to Sick Kids. Something was very wrong. As we walked down our street, she fell asleep again, and I noticed a neighbour’s unusual flower in front of their house. That crazy purple one that is round and has antennae all over it. I stopped the stroller and took a photo with my phone. Stopping woke her up. I picked her up with my left arm and brought the stroller in with my right. I left the stroller downstairs and brought her upstairs. She was absolutely alive at that point.

When we got upstairs I took her from my shoulder and went to put her down on the change table. Her face was white. She wasn’t moving. Her eyes were closed. I tried to shake her awake, and then tried yelling. Obviously, neither worked. I screamed for you. I said the baby wasn’t breathing and that you had to call 911. I yelled twice, and you were there, handing me your phone. I was holding Lily face-down in my hand and had slapped her back. I still didn’t know that she was dead. I told the 911 operator, “My baby is not breathing”, but I actually kind of thought that she still was. You had her on the change table when the operator asked me if we were doing CPR. I said, “We can’t do CPR, her sternum is still open”, when you corrected me and said, “Her sternum is not open, don’t tell him that.” And I told him, believing with everything that I am that I was right, “We can’t do CPR – her sternum was just closed because she just had an AVSD repair, and we are still not allowed to even pick her up by her arms.” Then I thought about what it may be and said, “The AVSD was complicated by chylothorax, and she has several plural effusions around her lungs and heart, so she’s going to need a chest tube. Can paramedics do chest tubes? There must just be too much fluid. They’re going to need to insert a chest tube”. As I was speaking, all I could imagine was you doing a chest compression and Lily’s sternum snapping and you pulling out her heart on your two fingers. I truly (although, wrongly) believed that doing CPR would do more harm than good. The dispatcher asked me to open all the doors and put the dog away, all the while repeating, “There is so much help coming. Just hang on. I have so many people coming to help you. They will be there so soon.” And they were. The firefighters arrived first, parking two trucks across O’Connor, and blocking traffic in both directions. I was outside when our nosy neighbour from across the street popped her head out of her house to ask if everything was okay. I just said, “No” and walked back inside. I couldn’t even deal with what was going on upstairs, so I did the next best thing which basically involved me hyper-ventilating at the bottom of the stairs. I quickly composed myself, and went outside, only to have you go running past me to the paramedics that had just arrived, and telling them that the firefighters needed them upstairs – now. One went up, and right after that one of the firefighters came flying outside holding Lily stretched out in front of him to the ambulance. You looked at me and said, “Go! I’ll meet you at Sick Kids”, so I did. I still didn’t think that she was dead. There was a cop blocking off the top of Northbrook at Cosburn, and we sped around the corner over to Coxwell, and down to the hospital. There were people outside to meet us – just like on ER. I got out first and when they pulled the stretcher out of the ambulance, I saw what I hadn’t been able to grasp earlier – she was dead. They pulled the stretcher out, and the paramedic was straddling her, doing those chest compressions that we had been so terrified to do. In that moment all I thought to myself was, “Oh my God. She’s dead. They don’t do chest compressions if you’re not dead. She can’t die first.” I was escorted into the hospital by a cop and as soon as we were in the room, a child life specialist was by my side. Apparently, when your baby dies, they don’t like to leave you alone, so I had this lady following me and interrupting my pacing while I was trying to phone and tell you that we weren’t at Sick Kids and to not go there. You weren’t answering your phone, which was stressing me out more, until finally the lady said to me, “Look, I am very concerned about you right now. You need to sit down – please”. So I did, and tried calling you again – and felt your phone vibrating against my leg. I had used your phone to call 911, and just put it in my pocket. The Dr. that brought Lily back to us is a marvelous woman that we had previously met, and once she had a pulse I see Dr. P. looking at her face and saying, “I know this girl. I know that I have seen her here”, before scanning the room and making eye-contact with me and saying, “I remember you – you’re the adoptive mom”, and leans back down to adjust something on Lily. One of the nurses hands me the pajamas I had put on her to take her for a walk earlier – my favourite ones with reindeer. You arrive and I tell you what the child life specialist (and now a social worker), have told me (which, is unfortunately not much). After Dr. P. has called Sick Kids and made sure that Lily is stable, she walks over and hugs me. After she leaves, I notice all the police in the room. And there are LOTS. I lean over to you and say, “Crystal, do you think that all these cops are here because they think that we did something to her”? The social worker hears me and says, “Oh, no, no, no. This is just what has to happen.” That calms me, because I can’t imagine the rage I would have if someone actually accused me of intentionally hurting Lily.

When it’s finally decided that we’re going to Sick Kids, I decide I should go home to get some stuff, let the poor dog out, and take my car to meet you and Lily at Sick Kids. When I asked the one policeman (that ended up staying with us all day) if I could leave to go home in a cab and get my car, he actually laughs at me and tells me that he will drive me home. On the way, he kept saying things like, “I can drive you guys to Sick Kids”, and, “If you need, we can give you money for a taxi home”. This is when I realized that he didn’t want me to drive, but probably also didn’t want to argue with me if I was going to disagree.

When we got home, two cop cars are outside. I go upstairs and head right to Lily’s room. On the floor is the electrode pad for the AED, and the rest of her room looks like a disaster area. Her mattress is upturned, furniture is moved, and it is just a big mess of dis-array. All I can think is, “What the hell did Crystal do? Why on earth would she have moved all this crap?” On my way back downstairs I decide that I probably shouldn’t drive, and have my policeman take me back to East General. When we get there the Sick Kids transfer team is getting ready to take Lily, and you and I get into the cop car. After getting in the car, our officer goes over dispatch and says, “Good news – our baby girl is okay. Stats are stable and we are transferring her and her parents to Sick Kids now”. The dispatcher comes back on and first I hear some cheering before she says, “We are so relieved to hear that. Can we offer you any assistance?” I have no idea what this means, but he says back, “If there’s anyone in the area that can help, we would really appreciate it.” She tells him that she’ll, “see what she can do”. We lead the ambulance (both of us had lights and sirens on), south on Coxwell to make a right on Danforth. We are cruising at a good pace, until we start to hit the traffic at Broadview, and I realize the light our way is red. We end up driving on the left side of the street and all I hoped for was that people in the opposite directions would stop; however, I realized then that there was a cop standing in the middle of the intersection keeping it closed. Before we were even through it, that cop is back in his car, speeding off in front of us. This happened at every single intersection along Bloor until we hit Bay, and then all along Bay they were holding intersections. None of them even knew Lily or either of us, but here they all were wanting to make sure that she would stay alive. By the time we got to Sick Kids, there were four other cop cars around us, taking turns driving ahead to intersections that weren’t already being held. We slowed twice for jay-walkers, but not once for a car being in our way. When we arrived at Sick Kids, again we had an entourage waiting for us to whisk us up to PICU. And thus began the longest 44 days of my life (and probably yours).

I remember everything.

I will be your memory.

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3 thoughts on “Where I Leave Off

  1. Oh My Stars Jess. I am working at a pool today and read this. Today, I am having my “down in the dumps day” and I read this. You and crystal—i am in awe of you two and little Lily. Thank you for putting into words your experience.

  2. I have heard Jess tell this story many times; i cried last night when i read it because i realized that not remembering sometimes makes you feel bad but sometimes remembering it all does too. Its just a gift that you have each other to fill in the blanks and guide each other through. xo

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