I took this picture an hour before Ellie stopped breathing.
We had a terrible Friday night.
My sweet girl had a fever from 4am on all day Friday, but it kept coming and going and I couldn't figure out why. She didn't seem sick otherwise. I called my friend Julie around 5pm when I realized that Ellie was not handling her fever very well after waking up from her afternoon nap burning up. She was beginning to tremble, and every now and then her legs would start to stiffen. Popsicles and cool cups of liquid weren't helping. I had a feeling we might be heading towards a febrile seizure, and Julie talked me through what her daughter went through when they experienced hers. Within 30 minutes of hanging up the phone, Ellie was seizing.
I was home alone with both kids, waiting for Rob to come home from work within the hour. Robbie sat watching Toy Story on tv as I dialed 911 and held Ellie who had begun to seize while she was in my arms. Somehow I carried her up to the living room, away from Robbie, while I was talking to the operator on the phone (more like yelling at them to hurry up the ambulance because my daughter was not breathing and had started to turn blue). When there was nothing more to say on the phone, I sat waiting with her in my arms for paramedics, praying that God would not take her from me but instead help her start to breathe again. It is the single worst moment of my life that stretched on for minutes that felt like hours. Not a good situation - to be completely helpless to do anything for your child, and to be alone.
When Ellie finally stopped seizing and took that first ragged breath, I laid her on the living room floor and opened the front door for the paramedics. Then I sat over her, talking to her and praying. Thinking please, God, protect her. I have no idea what to do. She was staring up into the air, not moving. I think the fire department got to us first, and there were 3 men there with me asking me about Ellie and what had happened, her medical history, etc. She started to moan and try to look around, and then seemed to fall asleep and wouldn't wake up even as she was nudged and talked to by the firemen. They put oxygen near her face. Shortly after that the paramedics came, and our foyer and living room were filled with so many people I have never seen before. One of our sweet neighbors appeared at our door and asked if I needed help, and I told her Robbie was still in the family room and could she sit with him? ( He was totally unaware and content with the video.) I called Rob as they strapped Ellie into a little baby stretcher and put the oxygen mask near her, and he was on his way home. Unnecessarily, I begged him to come home. But they were now telling me that Ellie would be taken to CDH (our hospital) and could I come to the ambulance?
I had texted my friend Julie somewhere in the middle of all this, and she was on her way over to help me with Robbie. But another neighbor (the one with kids that Robbie loves) came by just as the paramedics were getting Ellie ready for transport and offered to take Robbie to her house. He had begun to cling to me and cry once I tried to explain that I needed to go with Ellie to the doctor for a while, but perked up at the offer to go play next door. Away he went, in literally a diaper. I put pj's and a blankie in my neighbor's hand, and she took my son without question. So thankful for her in that moment of desperation.
Ellie was more alert in the ambulance as we made our way through rush hour traffic across town, and it seemed to take forever. The driver honked his horn (this scared Ellie but frankly I was happy that she was showing emotion) nearly the entire time as the roads were thick with cars at every intersection - I could see out the front and back of the ambulance and at one point we passed Julie on the road as I was talking to her on my cell explaining that I had to pass Robbie off to a neighbor so we could leave for CDH. And I kept thinking, how am I in an ambulance with my 16 month old? I always say a prayer when we come upon accidents or when we pull over for ambulances, and I hope others are doing that for us right now because I sure need it. You never know how someone's entire world is grinding to a halt inside of an ambulance, but it usually is in some way.
Ellie was beginning to be more responsive to me in the ride to the hospital, but still dazed and lethargic. The ER staff at CDH took wonderful care of her, and we discovered that her temperature was 104.5 when we arrived. They dosed her with Tylenol and Motrin right away, took a urine sample, and did chest Xrays. In between temperature checks and tests, she snuggled on my lap and watched Beauty and the Beast, burning a hole through my jeans with her hot little body. Rob got to us in the ER just minutes after we had been taken to a room, and I have never been so relieved. He stayed with us until it was clear Ellie would be ok and then left to retrieve Robbie from the neighbor's house, feed him dinner and put him to bed. I got to know the nurse who was attending to us, a single mom of a 4 year old boy who was born with so many problems that he's had surgeries all his life and is in a wheelchair. She tenderly cared for us even though my situation must have looked so simple from her perspective, and I asked her if I could pray with her before we left, for her and her son. (We did.)
They sent us home around 8/8:30pm after her fever broke and her temp was below 100, with instructions to keep her on rotating doses of Tylenol and Motrin for the next 24-48 hours, until she was fever free. No idea what her little body was trying to fight, but everything looked ok for the time being. We slept her in a pack and play next to my side of the bed and woke her every 3 hours through the night for medicine. She stayed cool overnight, but by Saturday afternoon it was clear we were not out of the woods. She woke up from a midday nap burning up again, and although I was planning to take her to the pediatrician for a follow up visit (per ER instructions) at 2pm, we headed over to the office early. She was beginning to get listless and her face was flushed, and I silently begged God to keep her from seizing again as I drove her to the doctor and then asked them to take us in early, which they immediately did. 103.5 temp, and more doses of Tylenol and Motrin from the nurses. Then we sat and waited for strep and flu test results. Negative. We left once her fever was down to 101 and she had perked up, calming my fears that she would seize again (I wanted to be near a dr/nurse if it happened again and asked to just wait it out there in the office, which they thought was a good idea). I was both frustrated and thankful to leave the office without any known reason for her temperature, the doctor assuring me that I was doing everything I could, and correctly, for her.
I laid her down for a nap once we got home, and a little over an hour later she woke up soaked with sweat and much cooler. The fever had broken. She ate some fruit and drank milk, and perked up again and played for a little while with red glassy eyes. I put her to bed in lightweight pjs and have been waking up every 3 hours to the minute to give her medicine to keep this fever from coming back.
Then Robbie choked on a pear while he was eating his dinner, and I nearly had a heart attack. Can I just get through ONE DAY before someone else stops breathing? Not my finest moment when I panicked and yelled at Rob to do something, dragging him into my overall feelings of helplessness and fear. I think we know I was more or less yelling at God - do you see what is going on here!? Make it stop. Let me get back to feeling like I can actually manage raising these children you've given to me, because right now they feel more like fragile ticking time bombs and I'm severely unequipped to do something as simple as keep. them. breathing.
And now it's 2:45am and all of this is keeping me from sleeping, so I'm popping Tums and blogging about the worst moment of my life to date instead. It was so much easier to trust God with my kids when nothing was wrong or threatening them, but after this weekend I'm wrestling with the fact that God has not promised physical protection or health to any of us, my kids included. I love Rob, Robbie and Ellie more than anything, and I love and trust God (I really do). But what's missing in between is a promise that this won't happen again, or worse. And for the first time I have experienced (to a certain degree) how much my heart would break to lose any one of them, and I'm not sure I can stand it.