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.

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