Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chapter 14 Kiylee's Christmas

“Line up, line up!” We crowded near the top of the stairs in our new pajamas. Mom was first, carrying a fragile wrapped gift in her arms. Nathan was after her, then Kiyna, Kinsey, Neal, and finally me. Dad was already downstairs. He always went down first to turn on the Christmas tree lights. It was still dark outside and the living room was lit only by the lights from the tree. “Careful,” Mom cautioned as we made our way excitedly down the stairs. I bumped into Neal somewhere near the bottom step and I grabbed his shoulders to keep him from falling. “Kira,” he complained. “Oh, you’re fine,” I mumbled. “Hurry up.” Mom sat down on the couch and cradled the precious gift on her lap.

Usually, we all grab our stockings and then start ripping, but not this time. I picked up my gift for Kiy and carried it to Mom. I could see the tears shining in her eyes as she carefully unwrapped the blanket from Kiy’s arms and sat her up. She still looked so pale and small! I handed her the package. Kiy was too weak to tear the paper herself, so Mom helped her. Within a few seconds, the doll’s blue eyes stared up at Kiy from the torn paper. Kiy looked up at me and smiled. “Ra-ra,” she whispered and reached for me. I hugged her gently and carefully while the tears slid down my cheeks. I looked at Mom and she was crying too. “You know, Mom,” I said, “the best gifts aren’t wrapped in Christmas paper.” I glanced across the room at Dad. He was trying to get Nathan to open one of his presents. I laughed, “Guess what, Dad?” “What?” Dad asked. I gently stroked Kiy’s wispy curls. “I believe in miracles.” He smiled. “And in Santa Claus?” he questioned. I looked around at the mound of unopened gifts. “And in Santa Claus!” The End

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chapter 13 Christmas Eve

I could hear the phone ringing, but I guess Grandma couldn’t. She must have taken out her hearing aids because after about eight rings she still hadn’t answered it. I dragged myself out of bed and down the hall to Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Nathan was still asleep on their bed, so it must have been early. I hadn’t grabbed my glasses, so it took a minute to get my eyes to focus on the numbers on the clock, 9:15. “It’s pretty early,” I grumbled as a picked up the still ringing phone. “Hello?” I croaked.

    “Kira?” It was Mom.
    “Yeah?” I sat down on the side of the bed and yawned.
    “Wake everybody up and get them dressed. Dad will be there in half an hour. Kiy is coming home today!”
    “All right!” I yelled. I could hear both Mom and Dad laughing on the other end of the line. Nathan sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Well,” I said into the phone, “that’s one.”
    “What?” Mom asked. She was still laughing. 
    “We managed to wake Nathan up already,” I said, pulling him into my arms for a good morning hug.  Suddenly, my tired brain understood what Mom had just said. “What happened? Is she fine? How does she look? Can she talk now?” The questions tumbled out of my mouth before Mom could answer any of them. 
    “Slow down,” she said, “one question at a time.” Mom laughed again. “Kiylee had a peaceful night. This morning, our regular pediatrician came in to see her. After looking her over, he said, ‘I think after a few more hours of observation, she can go home today!’”
    I squeezed Nathan and he stared at me with his big brown eyes. He probably thought I was crazy! “I’ll get everyone ready. Tell Dad to hurry!”
    “I will,” Mom promised.
    “Oh, and Mom?”
    “Does this mean it’s Christmas Eve?” I held my breath.
    She laughed. “Of course!” she exclaimed. “Tell all the kids that tomorrow we are going to celebrate Kiylee’s Christmas.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chapter 12 The Night Before

    Aunt Laurie and Uncle Glen took us home on their way back to Orem. Dad wanted to stay at the hospital a little longer with Mom. They were both hoping that Kiy would wake up and talk to them, but I knew she was going to be fine.
    I told the other kids what had happened at the hospital, but they still seemed a little scared. Grandma just kept crocheting. Nathan watched TV, and Kinsey and Kiyna huddled together on the couch with their dolls.
I finally went upstairs. I still had presents to wrap and things to do before Kiy came home. If she came home on Saturday, maybe we could have Christmas on Sunday. That was only two days away and I needed to be ready.
    I gathered all the wrapping stuff and lugged my bag of presents to Mom and Dad’s room. I could lock the door in there so the other kids wouldn’t see what I was doing. I usually put off wrapping my things until the last minute. If I put them under the tree early, some of them always got mysteriously opened. Neal always says it’s not him, but I wonder.
    I unrolled some bright red wrapping paper with little angels all over it and I cut off a piece. Then I dug into my goodie bag and pulled out the first gift. It was a little stuffed dog I found on sale for Kiyna. She loved dogs, even though she hardly remembered when we had dogs in the Creekwood house. I stroked the dog’s long shaggy fur and pulled off the price tag. Kiyna was going to love him. I taped and tagged and started my pile.
    It wasn’t long before I had a bunch of packages all ready to go under the tree. I reached into the bag and pulled out the doll that I had chosen for Kiy. She cost more than all the other presents, but when I saw her at the store, she looked just like Kiy with her big blue eyes and short curly blond hair. She had a soft body and fuzzy pink pajamas. Kiy loved babies. I touched each pink button and straightened her little white socks.  She even had a pink pacifier attached to her wrist. I smiled. She was just like Kiy.
    I carefully cut off another piece of paper, making sure it was the right size. After wrapping the doll, I gathered up all the presents and carried them downstairs. Nobody had bothered to plug in the tree. I guess that part of Christmas wasn’t as important anymore. I arranged all my presents with the one for Kiy right on top, then I plugged in the lights. Their bright colors lit up the darkened room. Even the angel on top seemed pleased. Christmas this year was going to be perfect.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chapter 11 The Best Gift

It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital.  I thought that because we were about the only car on the road that there wouldn’t be any cars in the parking lot either, but I was wrong.  I guess we weren’t the only ones spending our holiday at the hospital.
Kiy’s new room was on a different floor.  The elevators took forever and when they finally stopped at the right level, we had trouble finding the room number.  She was all the way down at the end of the hall in a private room.  I was a little nervous about seeing her again.  Kiy hadn’t looked much like herself with her swollen face and wires.  I slowed my steps until Neal shoved me from behind.  “Hurry up!” he mumbled.
“Cut it out,” Dad said quietly.
I picked up the pace as we turned the corner that led to Kiy’s hallway.  I could hear voices coming from her room.  Mom’s was definitely one of them, but I couldn’t make out the others.  I shrugged.  Must be a nurse, I thought to myself.
Kiy’s door was wide open, so I stepped inside her room.  The voices didn’t belong to nurses.  Aunt Laurie and Uncle Glen were standing just inside the door.  We didn’t see them very often, so I was pretty surprised that they would leave their family on Christmas Day just to see if Kiy was OK.  I said a quick “Hello,” and headed for Kiy’s bed.  It looked like the same bed she was in earlier.  It was like a crib except it was higher with huge silver circular bars instead of wooden slats.  The sheets were white and clean and she was covered with a little pink blanket.  Most of the wires were gone, but her tiny face was pretty swollen.  Her hair was still matted and sticky from the adhesive buttons on her forehead, and her eyes were tightly closed.
I carefully touched the blanket at her feet.  Earlier, her feet had still been mostly blue from the cold, but now they looked a healthy pink.  She was getting better!  “Did she wake up after I talked to her?” I asked.
Mom glanced up from her conversation with Aunt Laurie.  “Not yet,” she answered slowly.  I rubbed my finger across the bottom of Kiy’s tiny foot.  Her toes curled and she pulled away from me.  Even in her sleep she was ticklish!  Aunt Laurie’s voice caught my attention and I heard her say, “Why don’t you guys go downstairs and grab something to eat?  Glen and I can sit with her for a little while.”
I glanced quickly at Mom’s face.  She looked so tired!  She definitely needed a break.  “Yeah,” I said, “Neal and I can stay here too.  We’ll take care of Kiy.”
Mom looked at Dad and then she said, “That sounds like a good idea.”  Dad pulled her to her feet and she glanced around the room.  “We won’t be very long.”  Mom lingered by the bed and slowly stroked Kiy’s tiny arm before she left.  I don’t think she wanted to go, but she really needed to get away for a few minutes.
Aunt Laurie took off her coat and made herself comfortable on the couch.  Well, it was kind of a couch.  It looked like it could actually be a bed if it wanted.  Uncle Glen took the other half of the couch and picked up the remote for the TV.  Neal threw his coat in the corner and slid to the floor in front of the football game that Uncle Glen had chosen.
I slowly pulled off my coat and laid it across the only other chair in the room.  Why were they watching TV?  I thought we were supposed to be watching Kiy.  I moved back over to Kiy’s crib and reached for her pale little fingers.  I could see all of the blue veins right through her skin.  I leaned my head close to her ear and kissed her swollen cheek.  Then I softly hummed the “I Love You” song from Barney.  It was her favorite and after talking to her on the phone, I was sure that she could hear me even if it looked like she was asleep.  I finished my song and carefully watched her little chest rise and fall with every breath.  Yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I would ever see her tiny chest rise and fall again.  My mind wandered to those terrifying moments on the stairs when I held her freezing blue body and desperately tried to clear her throat so that she could breathe. 
A tear slipped down my nose and landed in her hair.  She tossed her head restlessly, but her eyes didn’t open.  Oh, Kiy, why don’t you just wake up so that I can hold you and tell you that everything will be OK?  I rubbed her palm until it turned pink.  Her wrists were about as big around as my thumb!
Suddenly, her eyelashes fluttered and I saw a glimpse of her pale blue eyes.  “Kiy?” I whispered softly.  I didn’t want to share this moment with anyone.  “Are you awake, Sweetie?”  I rubbed her hand a little harder.  “It’s me, Kira,” I whispered.
Slowly, her eyes opened and she turned to look at me.  Her pupils were huge and she looked like she was on drugs.  For a minute, I could tell that she was afraid and she didn’t recognize me.  She closed her eyes slowly and then they opened again.  She looked at me and her lips moved without a sound.  Then her eyes closed again and I heard a tiny “Ra-ra.”

She didn’t have brain damage.  How could she when she knew me?  The tears wouldn’t stop as I stood there just holding her hand.  No one else seemed to notice.  They were busy watching the game.  Mom and Dad were still downstairs in the cafeteria and I could hear the nurse down the hall.  I had just received a wonderful Christmas gift.  Maybe one of the best Christmas gifts ever.  Kiy was going to be fine.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chapter 10 Christmas Day

I noticed that the sunshine was quickly melting the crusty snow as we drove into our neighborhood.  We’d had a white Christmas, but all signs of the beautiful white flakes of last night were gone and all that was left was the gray crunchy stuff that didn’t even make good snow angels.  There were kids out playing with what looked like new Christmas toys.  A couple of little boys had a new sled and they were trying to get it to slide, but the crunchy stuff wouldn’t let them get very far.  Some other kids were riding new bikes in their garage.  We could see them going around and around in little circles.
    I looked around at my brothers and sisters.  They didn’t look very happy and neither did Dad.  So far, Christmas Day had been much different for us than it had been for these other families.  Of course, it wasn’t really Christmas Day for us.  Santa had avoided our house and he wouldn’t come until Kiy was home, and nobody knew when that would be. 
    Dad pulled into our driveway and everybody piled out.  I helped Nathan out of his car seat and set him down on the cold concrete.  He immediately started whining, so I picked him up and carried him into the house.  Christmas decorations were everywhere and presents were still lying under the tree, but I didn’t see them.  As I held my little brother and he snuggled in my arms, I knew I couldn’t blame him for what had happened to Kiy.  He really didn’t understand. 
    Tears blinded my eyes as I climbed the stairs to my room with Nathan still in my arms.  I shut the door quietly and pulled down the blankets on my bed.  After tugging at Nathan’s shoes and then my own, we climbed in my bed.  He was already starting to snooze and his little face looked so innocent and sweet.  Gently I removed his coat and then my own.  I rested my chin on his soft hair and closed my eyes.
    It was starting to get dark when I heard Dad calling my name.  “Kira!  Kira, wake up!”  Nathan was gone and I was wrapped tightly in my blankets.  Dad was calling from the entryway, which meant that I had to get up and open the door to talk to him.  My head still felt groggy as I dragged myself out of bed.  I stumbled to the door and opened it.
    Dad had a big old grin on his face.  “They’re moving Kiy out of the PICU and into a regular room!  She’s doing great!  I told you there is a good reason to believe in miracles!”
    I think I flew down the stairs.  I gave Dad a hug and we danced a little jig.  “Is Mom still on the phone?” I asked.  “I want to talk to her.” 
    Dad let go of my hand and glanced at the clock in the kitchen.  “I think you’d better wait a little longer to make sure they are settled in the new room before you call.”  He picked up a piece of paper from the table.  “Here’s the new number, but wait until 6:30.”  It was only 6:10.  How could I wait?  I wanted to talk to Kiy!
I sat down in the living room and stared into the lights of the Christmas tree, but I couldn’t just sit for long.  I was too excited.  I jumped up and headed for the fridge.  My stomach was growling.  I was finally hungry and the thought of food didn’t make me feel like I wanted to throw up. 
    I fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk and sat at the kitchen table to eat it.  Grandma was crocheting and the kids were watching Miracle on 34th Street..
    I glanced again at the clock, 6:20.  Time seemed to be crawling.  I forced myself to concentrate on my sandwich, but by 6:22, it was gone.  Since Mom wasn’t home to give me a bad time, I brushed my crumbs on the floor and carried my empty glass to the sink.  Only eight more minutes!  I could wait for eight more minutes.
    I wandered restlessly to the living room and sat down at the piano.  Kiy loved to play the piano, I remembered.  I plunked out the melody to Jingle Bells.  I should have practiced more when Mom and Dad were paying for lessons.  I started over and that time I was able to put in a couple of the left-hand notes. 
After a couple more tries, I suddenly remembered Kiy.  I jumped from the piano bench and headed for the kitchen phone.  The family room clock said 6:29, so I grabbed the phone number and quickly began to dial.  My fingers shook with excitement as I punched the last number.
    Mom answered the phone.  Her voice sounded so good!  “Hello?”
    “Hi, Mom, it’s Kira.  Can I talk to Kiy?”
    Mom laughed, I mean, she actually laughed!  “Wait a minute,” she said.  “Don’t I get to say anything first?” 
    “OK,” I apologized.  “What did you want to tell me?”
    Mom paused for a moment.  “Well,” she said.  “First of all, you can’t talk to Kiy.”
    My heart dropped in my chest and a lump rose in my throat.  “Why not?” I finally croaked.
    “Honey, she’s still on medication and she’s still groggy,” Mom explained.  “She hasn’t even responded to me yet.”  Mom quickly added, “But she is sleeping peacefully and they have removed all of the monitors except the heart one.”
    I didn’t say anything; I couldn’t.  I swallowed the tears, but they kept coming back.  I just wanted to talk to Kiy!  Mom must have sensed that I was upset, because she finally said, “I’ll tell you what.  I’ll put the phone up by her ear and you can talk to her.  She will probably hear you even if she can’t talk back.”
    “OK,” I said.  At least it was better than nothing.
    “Here she is,” Mom said.
    “Hi, Kiy,” I began.  Suddenly the tears came.  I found myself apologizing all over again as I imagined my tiny sister curled up in a ball in the middle of that big hospital bed.  “I’ll make it up to you, Kiy,” I promised.  “I’ll take you for a bike ride and we’ll go to the park.  I’ll paint your fingernails and you can sleep in my bed.”  I made promise after promise to my sleeping sister. 
    Then, just as I became exhausted from thinking about all of the fun things that we could do, I took a deep breath so I could say goodbye.  Then I heard a tiny, sleepy voice, “Ra-ra.”  That was it.  I lost it.  My name was the first thing she said when she woke up.
    Suddenly I heard Mom’s teary voice.  “Did you hear her?” she asked quietly. 
    “I did.  She said Kira!”  I couldn’t keep the excitement or the tears out of my voice.  “Mom?”
    “When will she be able to come home?” 
    “I don’t know, Honey.  Hopefully soon.  They just want to keep an eye on her to make sure she’s OK.”  Mom sighed.  “We probably won’t know about brain damage for quite a while.”
    I swallowed hard.  “Ask the nurse, OK?” I begged.
    Mom put the phone to her chest.  I know, because I could actually hear her heart beating.  A moment later, she was back.  “The nurse said maybe by the weekend, but not to get our hopes up!” Mom said breathlessly.
    “All right!  I’ll tell the kids and we’ll start planning Christmas.”  Now I was excited.  It was Thursday night, so that was only a few days away.  We still had a lot of work to do.  I still had presents to wrap.
    “Kira?”  Mom’s voice brought me back to the phone.
    “I love you,” she said quietly.  “Give the kids a hug for me.”
    “I will,” I promised.  “And Mom?  Don’t worry so much.  We’re fine here.”
    “I’m glad to know that,” she said.  “I’m so tired and so worried about Kiy.  The last 24 hours seem like a lifetime.”
    “I know.  We’ll take care of everything, you just get some sleep.”  I thought a minute.  “And Mom?  Give Kiy a hug for me.”
    “Aren’t you and Neal still coming back over with Dad?”
    “Oh, yeah!”  I had forgotten.
    “Good,” Mom responded, “You can hug her for yourself.”
    “Bye, Mom.”
    I barely heard her say goodbye as I hung up the phone.  I had to get ready.  I was pulling on my shoes when Neal wandered back into the room.  
    “What’s up?” he asked.
    I looked up from tying my tennis shoes and grinned.  “Kiy said Kira,” I bragged. 
    “So?” he answered.  I could tell he was jealous.
    “Dad!”  I yelled.  “Are we ready to go?”
    “In a minute,” he called.  I could hear him telling Kinsey and Kiyna and Nathan to watch a movie and be good for Grandma. 
    Neal ran to the mudroom for his shoes.  I brushed past him and pulled open the door to the garage.  The rush of cool air felt good on my hot cheeks.  I climbed into the front seat and shut the door.  After several moments, I flipped on the dome light and reclined the seat.  “What is taking them so long?” I muttered.  I wanted to see Kiy.

    Just then, the door opened and Neal and Dad both came into the garage.  I yanked the seat to its upright position.  “Let’s go!” I said.  Dad grinned.  He looked much better after his nap.  Neal was excited too.  Dad hit the button to the garage door and started the car. 
    It was dark outside and snow was falling lightly as we pulled out of the neighborhood and onto 22nd West.  There weren’t many cars on the road.  I guess everybody was at home, playing with their new Christmas toys, watching Christmas movies, and eating Christmas dinner.  Only the Christensens were driving to the hospital.  I shook myself.  I didn’t care what anybody else was doing.  Kiy was all that mattered.  And what mattered now was that she was getting better.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chapter 9 The Morning After

    I didn’t sleep much.  I kept seeing her tiny blue body floating in the big green tub.  I snatched her and held her.  Then the helicopter would land and pick her up and I would climb in the back, clutching her little body to my shirt that was stained with poop and throw up.  At the hospital, I would run up and down all of the halls, clutching Kiy and crying, looking for Mom and Dad and not being able to find them.
I woke up with tears streaming down my cheeks when Grandma turned on the light.  “Kira, are you OK, Honey?” she asked. 
     “I just want Kiy,” I sobbed. 
    Grandma sat on the edge of my bed and put her arms around me.  She hugged me close and whispered, “Everything’s going to be OK.  Just try to go back to sleep.” 
    I dozed off again and when I opened my eyes, the bright sun shone through my window.  It was Christmas!  But then I remembered Kiy.  Was it a dream?  I dragged myself out of bed and hurried to the master bedroom to tell Mom and Dad about the horrible dream I had. 
    But they weren’t there.  They were at the hospital with Kiy.  The tears came again as my mind wandered through the events of Christmas Eve.  I flopped down on their bed and pulled a pillow over my head.  I was vaguely aware of the phone ringing from far away.
    I was so glad to hear Dad’s voice.  He told us that he would be coming home for a few hours to check on us.  Mom was going to stay with Kiy.  The doctor hadn’t been in yet, but they almost had Kiy’s fever down and they were hoping that she could come off the respirator sometime on Christmas Day.  He also said that they still had Kiy under sedation so that she would not pull out her respirator by herself.  She also had a catheter, two IVs in her forehead, and lots of other wires and tubes. 
    Dad explained that because the water was so cold when we found her, Kiy’s body temperature was about 72 degrees when she got to the emergency room.  The doctors were very concerned about bringing her temperature up before hypothermia set in. They decided to warm her from the inside out. They took out some blood, warmed it up and put it back in. They repeated this over and over again all night long until she was warm.  Then about 4:00 a.m., when she finally warmed up, she started running a fever.  He said they weren't even able to touch her for a while, but she was finally sleeping, so he was going to come home. 
I think they were worried that we would be disappointed because Santa Claus had not visited us.  They should have known that we were just worried about Kiy.  The only Christmas present any of us wanted was to know that Kiy would be fine and coming home soon.
    We quickly straightened up the house for Dad.  He didn’t need any more stress from us, but he didn’t show up for about three hours.  Just as he was about to leave the hospital, the nurses decided to take Kiy off the respirator.  They said she was breathing on her own and progressing wonderfully.  Dad said that the nurses thought that Kiy would probably be able to come home around New Year’s Day.  We were so happy!  We could wait until New Year’s Day.  We could wait until Valentine’s Day, as long as we knew she would be coming home!   Then Dad gave us the best news.  We needed to find our coats and shoes and we could all go and see her.
    I think we were all in the van in less than five minutes.  Dad wanted a quick shower and a change of clothes.  He also had to gather a few things for Mom and we were all waiting patiently in our seat belts when he finally locked the front door. 

    It took us about 30 minutes to drive to the hospital.  The van was incredibly quiet.  We had no idea what to expect.  We were nervous and scared and excited all at the same time.  Dad looked very tired.  I sat in Mom’s seat in the front, but he didn’t want to have a conversation, so I stared out the window and watched the lines of the freeway pass by. 
    Dad parked the van in the visitor’s parking lot and we all climbed out.  Nathan didn’t want to go inside the large unfamiliar building.  He hung on my hand until Dad finally picked Nate up and put him on his shoulders.
    The lobby was huge with a high ceiling and several elevators.  Kiy was officially in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but most people called it the PICU.  Nathan had always hated elevators and he had a short tantrum before we were able to get everyone inside and the right buttons pushed. 
    As we stepped off the elevator, Dad led us into a smaller waiting room with a couple of TVs and a large aquarium.  It also had lots of chairs and a couple of couches.  A half dozen people were lounged there.  Some were even sleeping on the couches with their belongings scattered around like they were actually living at the hospital. 
    Dad opened a door and we entered a room about the size of Mom and Dad’s walk-in closet at home.  It contained a bed a little bigger than mine and an alarm clock.  Other than that, there was a small walking space and nothing else.  “What’s this?” I asked Dad curiously. 
    “This is our room,” Dad replied. 
    “You slept here?”  I couldn’t believe it. 
    “Yes,” Dad said. 
    “And so did Mom.”  He sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Well, when we did sleep.”  Dad continued, “One of us stayed with Kiy all the time until about 4:00 a.m. when we couldn’t even touch her because of her fever.”  Dad rubbed a tired hand across his beard.  “Then we came in here and slept until about 6:00.”  I put my arm around Dad’s shoulders and gave him a squeeze.  He seemed to need a hug, because he squeezed back.  Then Neal tugged open the heavy door and we found ourselves in the waiting room again. 
We stepped through another doorway and then we were standing outside the blue double doors that led into the PICU.  Even Nathan was very quiet.  There weren’t any signs or anything, but we could hear the monitors and buzzing sounds before we even opened the doors. 
    Kiy was in the very first bed on the east side of the room.  The sun was streaming through the window, lighting up her bed.  Mom was sitting in a chair right next to the bed.  She wasn’t asleep, but she looked like she should have been.
    I was a little nervous.  Mom had said on the phone that she wasn’t mad at me, but I wasn’t sure how she was going to react until she looked up and saw us all standing there by the door.  She stretched her arms into a wide hug big enough for all of us and we ran to her.  Mom squeezed us all like she hadn’t seen us for months.  When she finally let go, I peeked over at the bed to see Kiy.  I was afraid to look at her.  Dad had said that she was all bloated from the IVs and she had wires everywhere, but I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
That baby lying in the crib didn’t even look like Kiy.  Her wispy blond hair that was usually flying everywhere was matted to her swollen face.  Her big blue eyes were tightly closed beneath two huge round circles taping needles into her forehead.  She sucked quietly on a pink preemie pacifier.  At least the pacifier was familiar.  She always had one in her mouth at home.
    Kiy was only wearing a diaper and I could see one big wire hooked into the inside of her leg just above her knee.  She had three round circles with what looked like snaps on them attached to her chest and there were wires connected to the snaps and then into several big machines.  I knew one of them was a heart monitor, because I’d seen stuff like that on TV.  I didn’t know about the other one.  Her feet and hands were still pretty blue and they looked cold.  I wanted to touch one, but I was afraid to. 
    I looked at Mom and her eyes were full of tears.  She was hugging Nathan and he was struggling to get away.  Grandma and Dad were crying too.  I couldn’t help it when my own eyes began to water.  What a Christmas Day!  It was my fault that we were all there in the hospital when we should have been home opening presents and eating Christmas cookies.  And my poor little Kiy!  What had I done to her?  Why didn’t I stay in Mom and Dad’s room after they left?  Why didn’t I wake her up and take her downstairs and get her some cereal and watch a movie with her instead of leaving her in the bedroom all by herself?
    I hung my head and let the tears fall.  Deep in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t my fault.  I knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault either.  It was nobody’s fault, it was just an accident.  A terrible, awful, horrible accident; and it happened to my little Kiy!  
    Suddenly, I felt Mom’s arms around me.  I turned and sobbed into her shirt.  “Why did this have to happen to Kiy?” I choked.  “She is so sweet and so tiny and so....” 
    My words were muffled as Mom stroked my hair.  “There must been some reason that we all needed to go through this experience.  We just need to be grateful that she is still with us.  The doctor says that she will probably not die, but we won’t know about brain damage or physical damage for a while.” 
    I slowly lifted my head and stared into Mom’s cloudy blue eyes.  “Brain damage?” I questioned. 
    Mom still held me in her arms, but she was looking at Kiy.  “Yes,” she said quietly, “The doctors say that it is far too soon to know if there will be any permanent damage.  We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“Wait and see.”  The words echoed in my brain.  What kind of brain damage?  Would she be able to walk?  Talk?  Feed herself?  And what could happen to her physically?  She was off the respirator, so I knew that she would be able to breathe on her own, but would she have lung damage?  Heart damage?  These disturbing thoughts swirled through my brain like the snow that was beginning to fall in spite of the sun.
I walked to the window and stared at the half-full parking lot.  How many other families were spending their Christmas Day like we were?  Were their babies hovering between life and death with such uncertain futures?  Did they blame themselves and wonder what they could have done to make sure their babies were safe and healthy?
    I felt Dad’s hand resting on my shoulder.  It didn’t make me jump, it was just kind of comforting.  I turned to meet his eyes.  They were red and puffy with dark circles like he hadn’t slept in days.  “Should we go?” he suggested. 
    I turned back to Mom.  She was holding up Nathan so he could see Kiy.  He wasn’t impressed.  I don’t think he even thought it was Kiy.  I looked quickly at Dad.  “Can’t I stay?”  I asked.  “Just for a little while?” 
    Dad was about to say, “No,” I could tell, when Mom answered for him.  “I think it would be a good idea if both Kira and Neal spent a little time with Kiy.”  She squeezed Dad’s hand.  “Why don’t you take Grandma and the kids home, grab a little nap, and then come back?  Then Kira and Neal can ride back with you and spend some time with Kiy.”
    Dad agreed.  He certainly was tired and he did need a nap.  We started gathering the kids together and putting on their coats.  We were just getting ready to leave when the blue double doors opened to a face that looked vaguely familiar to me.  She was a young, blonde woman in green doctor’s clothes.  She gave me a big smile and then she turned to Kiy.  “How is Kiylee doing?  From what the doctor said, it only looks like good news.”  I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she said, “You don’t know who I am, do you?”  She chuckled.  “I’m Amy.  I was the nurse on the life-flight helicopter yesterday.”  She paused, “I worried about our little Kiylee here all night until I had to come in and see for myself that she was OK.” 
    “I knew you looked familiar,” I said.  I turned to everybody, “Do you guys remember Amy?”  They all had blank looks until I said, “The helicopter ride?  Remember?” 
    Amy chuckled again.  “You know,” she said, “I came down here earlier and visited with your folks and they said that it would be OK for you all to come out to the launch pad and look at the helicopter before you go home.  Would you like to go now?”
    When we left Mom and Kiy in the PICU, I wasn’t sure if I could ever be happy until Kiy was safe at home, but Amy’s smile was contagious.   She seemed so positive that Kiy would be fine that I started to believe she was right.  After all, she was a nurse and she’d seen lots of babies like Kiy survive horrible accidents.  Amy knew what she was talking about!  Besides, I’d never been inside a real helicopter before.
The launch pad was on the top of one of the buildings of the hospital.  I was glad that Dad was with us so that he could hold onto Nathan.  I held Kiyna’s hand on one side and Kinsey’s hand on the other.  I didn’t want more accidents with any of my other little sisters.  Neal walked ahead with Amy.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I’m sure that he was driving her crazy with all kinds of dumb questions.
    The helicopter seemed huge when it landed on our street, but when we got up close to it, I could see that it wasn’t really that big at all.  In fact, the inside was smaller than the ambulance we had seen on our field trip to the fire station, but it had the same type of equipment.  There were all kinds of monitors and machines and medicines.  They had a little refrigerator that held blood and other stuff that needed to be kept cold.  Everything was wrapped in plastic and very sanitary. 
    The little bed that they put Kiy in was strapped to one wall.  There were a couple of seats plus the seats up front for the pilot.  Amy climbed up inside the helicopter.  She looked like she belonged there.  She pointed to the machines and began explaining what each one was for.  We listened for a while until Nathan decided he was ready to go home.  He started tugging on Dad’s hand and throwing a fit, so we thanked Amy and she led us back to the elevator.  I hope I never see that helicopter up close again! 
    We crossed the parking lot and headed for our van.  I usually held onto Kiy when we went anywhere, but she wasn’t there, so I held onto Kiyna.  She probably thought I was weird, but she didn’t say anything. 
Dad helped Nathan and Grandma up into the van and the rest of us crowded in.  I usually get the front seat when Mom is not with us, but I didn’t say anything when Grandma clicked her seatbelt and settled there.  Part of me was glad that Grandma was with us, but the other part of me felt like I could have watched the kids without her.  I was hoping that Mom and Dad would still trust me to baby sit when they weren’t home.  Not that I particularly like being home alone at night, but I could still watch everybody during the day.
    The wailing of an ambulance interrupted my thoughts.  My heart started thumping and I linked my hands together.  I craned my neck to see the flashing red lights.  Dad pulled over to the curb and we watched the red and white vehicle go whizzing by us toward the hospital.  Kinsey started to cry softly.  Dad turned to see what was wrong and I watched the sadness fill his eyes when he figured out that nobody was picking on her.  I swallowed the lump in my own throat and rested my head against the cool glass of the window.  Nothing was over yet.