It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This is probably the best description of the last week of my life. This may sound a little odd considering my second child was born on Monday. Exactly one week ago today my very pregnant self was patiently waiting for Steve at the finish line of his Pacific Grove triathlon. This itself had brought up a lot of emotion for me because of everything that happened this time last year, and the reason why we had missed the race a year ago came flooding back.
“Lifeguards, lifeguards, lifeguards!!” a cry from the beach and my entire being switched focus. I turned to see a truly terrible site, one as an ER nurse I dread, and as a person fills me with such sorrow. In the water was a swimmer who had clearly stopped swimming and was laying face down in the water. My stomach sank as I thought about the family that would soon be hearing that something was very wrong with a dear loved. I was impressed by the quick response by what I assumed to be a bystander on the beach who had thrown off his shirt and swam in, and the reached the swimmer quickly. As any ER nurse I watched the response by all of the emergency personal and was truly impressed by how quickly and efficiently they had started CPR and even appeared to open the patients airway and appeared to have initiated intubation right on the sand. As the ambulance pulled away a few minutes later I paused and sent up a quick prayer for everyone involved and my heart ached for a family that I knew would be receiving some terrible news shortly.
My attention returned to the finish line to await Steve and this awesome moment that I was anticipating. My phone started ringing and I saw that it was my dad calling and words that I have never anticipated were spoken from the other end of the phone. “The race just called and said that Michelle was taken to the hospital” I stopped breathing. What? My sister? The fitness instructor? The one that runs 7-8 miles a few times a week? No, someone has made a mistake I was sure, someone had her mixed up with someone else. The directors of the race find me and tell me yes that was Michelle that they were working on down on the sand.
It’s cliché to say that you go numb and your mind goes blank, but there is no other way to describe such a moment. I couldn’t think or breath properly. I have to thank everyone involved in Tri-California because over the next few minutes they got me, Steve (informed of what happened a few seconds after he crossed the finish line) our friend Brian, and Evangeline all to the hospital. From the finish line we went straight to the hospital.
We walked into the doors of the Emergency Department and were immedialty taken to the “quiet room”. As anyone who has ever worked in a hospital can tell you, this is the last room that you want to be taken to as a family member. Good news is rarely given in this room. This is the bad news room. When the ER doctor walked in to talk to me my first question was is she alive?
“YES.” O.K. Small breath.
Is she responding at all? “Yes, she was trying to pull out her ET tube before we sedated her.” O.K. Second small breath.
The ER physician proceeded to tell me that they had decided to place her in a medically induced coma and perform therapeutic hypothermia to try and prevent brain damage after cardiac arrest. She estimated that she had a down time (meaning no pulse) for anywhere from 20-25mins. There was nothing to do at this point but wait and pray. Something that will forever be seared into my memory is the nurse who came with the physician to talk with us, shared my sister’s name.
The next 36hrs were probably the longest of my life. As anyone can tell you that has gone through something like this the worst part is not knowing. Your mind starts to drift down endless paths of speculation. What exactly happened that caused this? Did they get to her in time? Will she remember us? Will she meet her new niece? My mind shifted back and forth between racing and blanking back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of the new life still growing inside of me and wondering if she would ever know her auntie Shelly the way that her sister does.
Needless to say neither Steve or I slept very much the next two nights. On Monday morning, I then received probably the best phone call of my entire life.
“Kate, it’s Mom, SHE WOKE UP” I actually physically sank to me knee’s. I took a deep breath for the first time in two days. I felt a physical release from my body that I have never experienced. My mom then tells me that she was trying to talk to the nurse and was writing on paper (due to still being intubated) questions about what happened. I immediately called Steve who was on a bike ride because he was worried and couldn’t sleep. We both stared crying and decided to take Evangeline right to school and head immediately down to the hospital.
It takes a little over on hour to get the hospital from Steve’s work and we spent the majority of that ride talking about how amazed we were by God’s provision. This race happened in the cold temperatures of the bay which helped to protect her brain. The man on the microphone was an Olympic swimmer who noticed that she had a weird kick/swim pattern and appeared she was in distress and called over help before she even stopped moving. The man who had pulled my sister from the water, was an off duty fire fighter/rescue swimmer in San Francisco who regularly serves as a life guard during Tri-California’s Alcatraz swim challenge, on the beach was a neurosurgeon who was spectating and helped get her airway open and suction out a significant amount of sea water. God had put all of those people in place to be there to help her at the first sign of trouble.
When you prepare for a baby you spend nine long months anticipating a lot of different things. What will they look like, is it a boy or girl, when will they arrive, what will their name be? This last question had us stumped for a while during this pregnancy. Everytime we thought we had it down, one of us would come home and say, “hmmmmm I am not sure.” Especially the middle name, at this point Steve and I were literally still fighting about the middle name, and I had pictured a very awkward moment in front of the birth recorder. For some reason being unsure of the middle name had made us still have a shaky feeling about the first name. I was a little worried that we were going to have a situation like my mom and dad naming me and just not have a name for 3 days.
On the ride to the hospital it became clear that the middle name was just wrong and that is why the first name didn’t feel right. We were in complete agreement, Felicity Michelle was the right name.
Felicity meaning, “happiness, joy, fortunate” and Michelle meaning, “who is like our God?”
It had a wonderful symmetry to us because Evangeline’s middle name was for Steve’s sister and now Felicity would be for mine. A couple hours later I was standing in the room with my sister who was still sedated and would be slowly weaned off the ventilator/sedation over the next 24hrs. I stroked her head and whispered in her ear that she had to get better soon because her niece was coming in the next two weeks and she needed to meet this new person. I sat down at her bedside and felt my water break. I looked over at my dad and said, “Either I just peed my pants or…”
Like any good father he grabbed my arm and almost yelled, “you did not pee your pants you need to go now!”
We found Steve and my mom in the ICU waiting area and made the decision that although I was not having any contractions, we should probably head back over the mountain to make use that we were close to the hospital when I needed to go in. We got into the car and Steve started driving and within about 15 mins I told him, “No, just go straight to the hosptial, this is definitely full labor just go straight there.”
Another 15-20 mins rolls by and I look at him and tell him, “you need to drive faster!” (I am not sure if I was that polite in my request you will have to ask Steve) We got to the hospital and with little fuss or difficulty she was born a few hours later.
I couldn’t stop thinking that these two will forever be linked. The niece that was born the day that her aunt, against the odds woke up. It has been 5 days since this happened and I don’t think I have fully processed how much God’s touch was on our entire family over the last week. Every day since, Michelle has made incredible progress, walking, talking, eating, and has the ability to do all her own care like brushing her teeth, combing her hair. She is still struggling with memory and being over stimulated so for now if friends and family could continue to give her space and keep well wishes to just her Facebook account that would really help. Trying to respond to texts and e-mails is simply too overstimulating at this point in time. I am sure Steve will post here on his perspective on the last week at some point, but for now he let me take over the blog for a day to share the amazing story of God’s provision and faithfulness in our lives. It has become our family motto in a lot of ways through good times and bad, but “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”