The Girl Who Lived ~ by Sam

17 years ago today, on March 28th 2000, I was 29 years old.  Gosh, it seems like a lifetime ago.  Shane and I lived in the upstairs apartment at the back of our building of six units, which faced another, identical 6-unit building.  Our daughter, Justice, had recently become a big sister for the first time, to Hallie, who was born at 11:58 pm on March 17th ~ St. Patrick’s Day! ~ on the front seat of our Honda Civic in front of Kaiser Permanente Hospital’s Emergency Entrance in Woodland Hills.  We almost made it to the hospital in time, but, what can I say?  Hallie was in a hurry to be born on St. Paddy’s Day.

When I think about that little baby, my first impressions are of a strong, alert child, right from the word, “go!”  I had a hard time, hemorrhaging and requiring a couple of courses of pitocin to get the bleeding under control upon being transferred up to a recovery room, but not our little baby.  Hallie was eager to nurse, wide-eyed, alert and responsive.  I remember lying on the sofa the day we brought her home, with Hallie resting on my belly.  She just wriggled her way up my body all by herself, like a tiny little mountain climber.  I know, I know ~ babies do this ~ but we were so impressed right from the start by her strength, her grip, and how awake and aware of the world around her she was.  She just seemed interested in everything.

On the evening of March 28th, baby Hallie was just 11 days old.  Justice was asleep her room.  She would have been 2 years and about 4 months old.  Shane was working at his desk in the living room, and I was napping on the sofa.  Hallie was asleep in the cradle my dad had built, which was in the room with us.  We always had our babies sleep wherever we were.  So, we kept the cradle in the front room.  I learned later that Shane had somehow become aware that something was wrong with Hallie.  Maybe it was the absence of breath sounds.  Maybe it was a choking sound.   Maybe he saw something out of the corner of his eye.  I don’t know, but I thank God that something alerted him.  I awoke to the sound of him yelling her name.  He was holding her, her face was bright red, mouth wide open, like she should be screaming, but there was no sound.  I could see the terror in both of their eyes.  I don’t even think I was fully awake before I was across the room whisking her away and saying, “Call 9-1-1!”

Having worked in a preschool classroom, I had, at least, been trained in infant CPR.  I went in to auto-pilot.  It’s hard for me to put in to words what happened next.  I can remember it all so clearly, like I am watching a movie, but it’s difficult to articulate.  I remember checking her airway.  I remember running through all of the steps in my head ~ which I remembered then, but don’t now ~ I remember performing the infant Heimlich maneuver, and feeling a tremendous sense of relief when she coughed up a huge chunk of mucous…and then a renewed sense of panic when, instead of starting to breathe, my tiny little baby went limp and blue.

I remember that Shane was on the line with the 9-1-1 operator by this time, and that she remained on the line with him until we left for the hospital.  I remember that, at some point, little Justice was awakened by the commotion, and wandered out.  I remember that the paramedics from the nearby fire station arrived within two minutes that felt like an eternity.  I remember.  I remember loosening her clothes, jiggling her limp little limbs, begging her to breathe.  I remember Shane’s voice pleading with her to breathe.  I remember repeatedly thumping the soles of my baby’s tiny feet, so she would gasp for air, and hoping against hope that, eventually, those tiny little gasps would “catch,” and she would start breathing regularly again.  And I remember that, eventually, miraculously, she did.  Right before the paramedics arrived.  She was breathing, albeit shallowly, by the time they got there, but, since she had not been, of course, a trip to the ER was still in order.

I remember when the paramedics explained to me that I couldn’t hold her on the way to the hospital.  That I had to hand her over to them.  That she had to be transported by them the way any patient would, but I could ride inside the ambulance with her.  Shane and Justice could follow in the car.  I remember the look on Shane’s face when he realized he had to let them drive away with his baby.  I remember how tiny she looked inside the ambulance on that huge gurney.

I remember sitting at the hospital while they checked her over and over and questioned us about what had happened, and found no explanation.  No explanation.  And just…sent us home.  I remember the diagnosis.

ALTE

A.L.T.E.

I remember searching for information to try to understand what had happened to my child and finding that it stood for “Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

As if we couldn’t have guessed.

I remember months later when I had to fight for the insurance company to cover that ambulance ride and hospital visit, because, they told me, the incident “wasn’t life-threatening.”

*ahem*

“Please refer to doctor’s diagnosis.  A.L.T.E. – Apparent Life-Threatening Event.”

I remember how, at about two months, she suffered another episode of the same type.  Still with no further explanation.

I remember how, years later, she developed asthma, and often suffered respiratory complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia.  I remember the time she had croup, and developed stridor, and her little chest would cave in, instead of expanding, when she took a breath, and my heart would ache for her.  I remember other parents thinking I was being “overprotective” when I said it was important for her not to be exposed to respiratory ailments because she was at high risk for respiratory complications.

But, more than anything, on this day, I remember my child’s beautiful eyes, smile, voice.  I think of all of the amazing things this almost grown person has achieved.  I think of the art my child has created, the roles this young actor has played, all the music and dances and stories…and everything yet to come.

Hallie was due on March 27th, born on March 17th, under rather unusual circumstances.  Then March 28th came along and did its best to wrestle her away from us.  Every year at this time, I can’t help but pause and count this particularly incredible blessing.

 

Advertisements

To Start Anew ~ by Sam

2017 finds us all poised at the breaking dawn of a fresh, new year.  A year full of hope, and promise and possibilities.  The problems, the struggles, the tears, the regrets, the trials, the toils of 2016 and before lay behind us, and what lies ahead is infinite and unknown.  People encourage us to move only forward, to cast off the negative, never looking back; but, like Lot’s wife, we find ourselves compelled to cast that glance aft, and then…

Then what?

Isn’t it our history that informs us?  Isn’t it our past that makes us what we are today?

And so, I offer this advice for the New Year: Don’t attempt to make a brand new start, as people suggest.  That is far too tall an order for anyone, and destined for failure.  Sure, go ahead, move forward.  But don’t just put one foot in front of the other and trudge blindly on.  Move forward informed by the past, strengthened by your experience, hardened in your resolve ~ battle-scarred and imperfectly-perfect, as are we all ~ ready to conquer whatever life happens to throw your way.

In that spirit, I give you my Resolutions for the New Year, in no particular order:

In 2017, I resolve to:

Be Kind.
Listen.
Visit Places.
Make Things.
Plant Things.
Play Music.
Take Care of Myself.
Cook.
Write.
Read.
Dance.
Laugh.
Sing.

I might clean some stuff, too.
Maybe.

I think I can handle that.

Wishing you and yours Peace, Love, Health & Happiness in the New Year and beyond.  With all of those things, how can we possibly go wrong?

New Year’s Eve Eve -by Sam

As I find myself looking back on the past year, I can’t help but think, “It’s been a rough one;” and the thing is, I’ve been here before. It’s starting to feel like I say this to myself at the end of a lot of years. You might be thinking, Oh, that must be a chronic illness thing. Some of you might be thinking (and some might be irritated about it), Is this about all of the famous people who have died this year? Is it about politics?

You know what, it’s not.

Well, or, maybe…maybe those things are all a little bit harder to take because everything is a little harder to take because there’s just always this underlying…well. Things have been difficult for our little family, dear friends and readers. The thing is, see, I don’t…well, this goes back to that complicated part of my last post, in which I talked about how I don’t talk about all of my business, because it’s not solely my business. So, I can’t just put it all out here for the world to see. In fact, I can’t put it all out anywhere, so, I am just kind of alone with it, and that’s very, very difficult for me. But I guess it’s normal, too.

What I mean is, you know, life’s not always a bowl of cherries. Or, well, maybe it is. But, maybe, sometimes, it’s not just a bowl. Maybe, sometimes, it’s a huge, steamy, rotten, mess of moldy cherries somebody bought a really long time ago, and no one ate, and they’ve been fucking sitting in your favourite chair for so long that they’ve started to decompose. Then, one day, you come home, sick and exhausted, and overwhelmed, unable to work, and in debt, and thinking, good god, if one more thing happens, it will put me over the edge!…and you flop down in that chair just as the phone rings to tell you that someone, somewhere needs you to come, immediately, to do something, or else the world will collapse, because, really, you’re supposed to be a superhero. And your coffee spills all over your lap, causing a chemical reaction with the rotten, moldy cherries, making their effect seemingly permanent.

So, now, everywhere you go, for the next two or three years (at least ~ jury’s out. This could be permanent) the rotten cherry funk is in your clothes, your skin, the very fiber of your being, maybe even your soul. It’s still in the chair, too, so other people in the household are going to be exposed, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s terrible stuff. It makes everyone miserable, and no one knows why, and no one knows how to talk about it, because no one even really knows what it is.  It is just so incredibly awful, so unexpected, so utterly preposterous.

And people can tell something is wrong, so they ask.

They keep asking.
“How are you?”
“Are you okay?”
“How’s the family?”

And, you know, society has these conventions, so you have to say,
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.”
“We’re fine. “
“We’re great.”
“Everything’s good.”

But you know you’re not fooling anyone. You’re a lousy liar. You always have been, and you always will be.

To further complicate things, in the meantime, all of the normal, everyday things that happen in life keep happening around you and your moldy-ass cherries; and, you know, they’re totally normal things. Things that involve other people, but actually aren’t a huge problem. They’re little things, normal things, easy things that might be sort of challenging or, you know, require an adjustment in the way you think or do things; but they aren’t a big deal. They aren’t bad. They aren’t cause for strife or anguish or concern. It’s just that, sometimes, these people, who don’t know about your moldy cherry situation, they just don’t get that, and they think it’s all about them. Maybe we all think it’s all about us, all of the time. I guess that’s just the way humans are made.

And then, if you’re super lucky, you get not-a-diagnosis (which has nothing to do with the cherry situation, by the way, but conveniently occurs right on top of it), and they say to you, “Just keep on this band-aid*, and don’t take it off! I mean…we really don’t think you’ll bleed* profusely if you do, but DON’T TAKE IT OFF….just in case.” So you tell them, “Hey, you know, that’s…um…great and all, but…uh…I’d really like to know why I am having these symptoms.” And they tell you that what you can do, if you really want a diagnosis, is take off the band-aid, hook yourself up to a monitor for a few days that will cost roughly 8-gazillion bucks* and hope you bleed a lot during that time, so they can record it and figure out what’s happening. “Uh…” you say, “That sounds sort of…um…expensive…and dangerous…” They confirm that this is true, and so, you decide to keep your band-aid and lack of diagnosis, so, when people ask you what particular health problem you are having, you can now, officially, say, “Fuck if I know, man.”

So.

When I say it has been a hard year, I mean it has been a hard year. I mean it on a very personal level. I can’t say I don’t want to talk about it. I want so very much to talk about it. I mean, come on, guys, I’m a talker. It’s just, well, I can’t, because you’re not my therapist. I say I am alone with my problems, but the truth is I can go talk to a therapist, and so, at least there is a place where I can unload all of this bullshit, so I don’t have to unload it all on my family and friends, and that is good, I guess.   I mean, it’s expensive, and I will always have trouble spending money, because, no matter how much money we make, and no matter how many times I am told not to feel guilty about my current inability to work outside the home, I will always be made the way I am. It’s hard for me to spend money ~ especially money I did not earn. Also, I would rather talk to friends. Or even strangers that, you know, I’m not paying to listen to me. It just feels more natural, somehow. Therapy has never felt natural to me. I guess that’s just me. Also, it’s expensive. Did I mention that it is expensive? I’m kind of a cheapskate, in case you have forgotten.

Anyway…

I sat down and wrote this up today for two reasons:

One) I plan this year to get back to writing, and this seemed like a logical place to start. I can start journaling. Honestly, as I sit here writing, I don’t even know if I plan to share this with the world. I am writing this in a Word doc on my MacBook Air, and it may never see the light of day. If you are reading it, we will know what decision I made. Hopefully, writing this way will lead to other writing. Who knows? Maybe I will take a class. God knows I could use a little more class. (Ha. See? I’m funny)

Two) I need to get back to being me this year. I am not able to carry the weight of knowing I have this secret funk lurking in my life; and, even ‘though I cannot share details about it, I think just sharing the fact that there was a Thing, and it was Bad, might help. Just so people know that I actually have been dealing with something. You know, because I know people must have been wondering. I feel like I haven’t been true to myself. Like I have been presenting a façade to the world, and I don’t do that well. So, I guess this is me, very vaguely, coming clean. ish. sorta.

I know that, if I share this, people will, most likely, start all kinds of wild speculations about what The Thing was. Can I ask you a huge favour? Don’t. Please. Just…stop it. If it was your business, it would have happened to you. I know that’s a tall order. But, you know, it’s also a respect for privacy thing. I’m asking. I would do the same for you.

So, I guess, in a way, this is me, getting a jump on my New Year’s Resolutions.

I’m off to a decent start, really, if you count yesterday. I talked to my mom and dad, and my cousin, Alice, very briefly, on the phone. Left a message for one of my very best friends (will call another today). Texted back and forth with my big brother (because we are just so cool and modern like that), and set up a time to call and talk (we penciled each other in ~ I’m having my people call his people ~ we are ever so Important). Talked on the phone with my big sister, while going for a walk around the neighbourhood, thereby killing two birds with one stone (my least favourite idiom ~ so gruesome!). I also cleaned the bathrooms, dust-mopped all the hard floors, did some laundry, tidied up the house, worked in the yard a little, emptied the rain barrel (just in time for today’s rain), made a nice dinner, did my physical therapy, practiced banjo, and baked the last of the froggers. Then, I took a hot bath with Epsom salts, because some of that was a lot of work, and sat down to watch an episode of Major Crimes with Shane. I even worked a little bit on a ruffle scarf while watching.

This morning, I awoke to find the rain has come to wash away the dregs of 2016, and not a second too soon. So, today, I’ll balance the checkbook, and make sure all of the bills are paid. I might even make a pot of soup. Seems appropriate for a rainy Southern California day.

Wishing you all peace at the end of this year, whether or not it has been a rough one for you; and wishing us all a bright and beautiful New Year. I think we all deserve it.

 

*For clarification purposes: the terms “bleeding,” “band-aid,” and “8-gazillion dollars” are as analogous in this piece as cherries. I am not bleeding. Well, not at the moment. Give me time. I am very accident-prone. I do have a chronic health problem that requires constant medication. I would rather not be specific.  It’s a thing I do.