Suddenly, the stalled atmosphere of “random refugee mother trying to be near her newborn” morphed into a flurry of urgent activity….
Hospital bracelets were being strapped onto my arms, I was tattooed with heart monitors and bandaids, had several IV entry points and vial after uncountable vial of blood taken, wires, monitors…. and voices saying words like “stroke,” “blood pressure,” “seizure…..”
The baby I had been obsessively seeking faded from my mind, and before me was an over-sized intensive care labor and delivery room and my own incessant “beeps” from a monitor that vehemently disagreed with my blood pressure numbers.
I remember eyes, faces, cheerful voices from people who seemed to be in another dimension, and all I wanted to do was sit on a toilet… but I couldn’t move…. so I needed a bed pan every 30 seconds it seemed, emptying out everything and collapsing, even in the bed, hardly able to lift my head.
She warned me about the “mag treatment” (magnesium directly into the blood) which was to put a “block” around my brain to protect me from strokes and seizures…. I might feel a “little heat” but that it was only for 20 minutes. Then the intense treatment would only be for the next 24 hours… I just needed to get through these 20 minutes….
This nurse stands out most to me in my experience. She had joy around her. She obviously was holding back the reality of what I was going to go through, so as not to induce panic. She didn’t have children of her own, but was young and lovely. I looked into her eyes and she gave me strength, like a woman might look into a doula’s eyes while giving birth….. I focused on her melodic voice and her eyes. And I saw nothing else…..
The treatment began, and I felt my face start to melt. The heat was so intense that no amount of ice packs could relieve the internal body heat generated from the magnesium. I fixed my eyes on the clock, waiting for that 20 minutes to tick by… my daughter, and son, and husband were still there while I went through this first part.
After that 20 minutes passed, I foolishly thought that it was all over and I could now go see my baby… but the treatment was actually for 24 hours, and while less intense outrightly, it felt like my brain was being kept alive, but the rest of me was dying. As I slowly began to “waste,” all fluid from every cell slowly escaped….. I felt “one” with the hospital bed, unable to move, not knowing what was truly happening, struggling to breathe, confused, exhausted but unable to sleep… All of my regular medications were abruptly stopped, there was no relief from pain, and a feeling like I was in another world, lost.
It’s amazing how quickly we can forget everyday stresses when life is on the line. Suddenly, things that were so important two days ago, like figuring out how to pay the mortgage, or updating my status on social media, all faded into nonexistence…. I couldn’t even communicate, nor did I want to, with anyone. I was trying to stay alive, to get through this…..
Late that night, words from a song started to play in my head, a song I had listened to often just before I was due with the baby…. (MayDay by Fat Rat)…. “Help me… is anybody there…. save me…. I’m running out of air….” Every word seemed prophetic, somehow. I was now alone. My husband and children had returned home a couple hours away, the nurses were giggling and chit-chatting at the nurse’s station just outside my closed door, and it was dark. Not dark as in “lack of light,” but DARK, as in within me and all around me…..
“All the lights going dark, and my hopes destroyed…. is anybody there….”
I looked down at my legs, and I had become a skeleton overnight. I looked at the empty baby bassinet across the room, which taunted me. You also don’t have your baby, remember? I heard only my heart beat now, and the rhythm was erratic and made no sense… I couldn’t even begin to sleep, now having been sleep deprived for days…
Somewhere deep within, I tapped into my determination to see my baby, who was on the other side of the hospital…. he was still in the NICU, but he was doing well. It was me who was knocking on death’s door. They didn’t want me to go from the room, or do anything, but I had this feeling that just holding him, even for a minute, would have a healing affect on me AND him if he needed it…. I begged, and begged…. just one little visit… please? I felt that the instant separation from him was making my heart condition worse… and I mustered strength, the last ounce, to MAKE myself see him, even with a fuzzy mind and failing body…
A sweet night-shift nurse went through the extra trouble and got me into a wheel chair and wheeled me to the other side of the hospital to see him. She helped me hold him as I was too frail on my own, and waited patiently while I gazed at him. We sat in the wee hours of the dark morning, talking about her young life, full of potential and moving forward in the world…. and I felt old and worn, and nostalgicly wanted to hear her tell me of her young life and whether she had a boyfriend… anything that wasn’t about my life kept me focused on what was still moving along beautifully, even if I wasn’t.
That five minutes holding baby Simeon, who was covered in wires and tubes himself, lifted my spirits to get through the next several hours alone back at “my room of doom.”
The cheery daytime nurse came back in the morning. I was happy to see her. I only had “eight more hours to go” on the treatment (that feels like you’re being poisoned when you are going through it….), and she encouraged me, and also tried to set up another visit with me and Simeon. Only a few minutes, mind you, but these nurses saw how important it was to me… he was all I had left, it seemed. Those little acts of charity on their part kept me going.
And I needed to mentally be “kept going”… because all along, unbeknownst to me, my heart and other organs were beginning to fail….
I needed a miracle….
(… to be continued….)