Saturday, December 6


Last year at around Christmas, Branko started to get sick. It wasn't your run-of-the-mill virus involving boogers, humidifiers, and late night snuggles. This was a bit different. He was lethargic in the truest sense of the word, becoming more and more difficult to wake up from a deep sleep. His skin was pale, he wasn't eating, the doctors kept saying he was okay. "His lungs are clear." I remember hearing our pediatrician espouse those four words, saying them over and over, and I adopted them as a mantra to give me strength. Cold hands? That's okay - his lungs are clear. Constantly asking for a nap? No problemo - his lungs are clear. Generally fussy all the time? It's fine - his lungs are clear. Our doctor said these words exactly 8 days before Branko had a cardiac arrest, conveniently in the foyer of our local children's hospital.

Branko in the hospital on Christmas Day, 2013. Note how Santa isn't actually allowed IN the ICU room. This photo had the caption "First pic with Santa!!!" and received approximately zero likes on Facebook. 

I still haven't really been able to process those first few days in the ICU. I remember being very matter-of-fact about all the medical stuff, nodding politely when they explained that he could have brain damage, asking very specific questions about his catheters, tubes, and oxygen requirements. In my mind I was functional and proactive and helpful, but in reality I was more quiet. My brain was just quiet. I craved simple things that had nothing to do with Branko, like compliments on my hair or discovering a closer, cleaner public bathroom. I wanted attention, but not too much. I didn't want to bother anyone. I started weeping when a nurse told me she didn't mind if I ate in the room. (I was 5 months pregnant). I wasn't overwhelmed; I was just disappointed in myself that I had broken a hospital rule. Stupid, stupid, stupid me.

All I really wanted was for a complete stranger to be nice to me. Maybe buy me a coffee. A complete stranger to say, hey you sitting there all alone, I've been where you are and I conveniently have a crystal ball that told me your son is gonna be fine, and here's five million Grande Americanos. Sitting there, listening to the beeping and the hums of the breathing tube, hoping that I finally might be able to trust the opinion of a doctor once again, I feared I was never going to get over this one. I feared I was going to spend the rest of my life hating every stranger who didn't buy me a coffee.

It has now been one year since Branko's cardiac arrest, one year since he started using supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and one year since the worst moment of my life. This is perhaps, the gift I am most thankful for. This was his rock bottom, the moment when doctors finally started to take his condition more seriously. This was the official start of celebrating every single tiny thing that was simply not terrible. Branko was intubated in August during an RSV pneumonia. We celebrated his successful extubation ten days later. Branko was put on oxygen and BiPAP this year; we celebrate every time his numbers improve or his oxygen requirements go down. Branko had major rodding surgery for his left femur in October. We went home after four days with no complications. We celebrated nurses who don't bat an eye after one of Branko's poo explosions. We celebrated fast IV insertions. Oh my, we celebrated those indeed.

I forgive all the strangers who never bought me a coffee. I forgive you, Dr. His Lungs are Clear, for your false reassurance, for saying that everything was okay, when things were definitely not okay. I forgive you, Dr. Christmas Day, who extubated Branko and then made some serious mistakes with regards to his morphine weaning, causing my son to tweak from withdrawal for 3 days. I am able to forgive now because there are just too many things to be thankful for. I'm sick of being mad at the world. This feels a bit better. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how frank and honest you are. I get tired of the games people play and the way so few seem to be honest. That being said I also admire your ability to forgive. I have struggled with forgiving others for the things they did to me for a long time. I am realizing that carrying around all this anger and begrudgingly holding on to "hurts" is tiring and truly wearing me out.