Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Day In Hell Part 1

India was born 1998 in New Mexico. She was born a healthy little girl, all her fingers and toes. India had lots of hair and beautiful eyes. She took almost 24 hours to come into this world and when she did, she was greeted with lots of love.

I never expected to have children so this was a very remarkable day for me. I was married and had a child; I was a new person. 

The day we took her home was beautiful, warm, with no clouds in the sky. We were nervous and overly cautious as we put our precious baby girl into the car, double-checked everything, and then checked again. I noticed some nurses watching us with big smiles on their faces. I’m sure that this scene was played out daily as new parents prepared for the first journey home with their new addition.

Home was different with India there; it was brighter. We had a steady stream of visitors who wanted to meet this new little person. This was a nice time that brought people together, not to mention the truckloads of good food that were delivered to us.

After a few days, I went back to work.  I was ready and very eager.  I worked for a commercial real estate firm; I was newly in the business and doing my best to absorb everything.  

During the 3rd week India was home, my wife came to me with concerns about our daughter’s temperature.  She told me it was just a little high but she wanted to check with the doctor to be safe.  I wasn’t worried at all, India’s temperature was only a couple degrees above normal, and she was happy, alert, and active.  I also wasn’t very concerned because my wife was a hypochondriac as well as   an obsessive diagnoser of medical conditions.  I’d gotten used to her doing this all the time so I’d learned to ignore and even laugh at it.

When Veruca got off the phone with the doctor, she said that he’d instructed to take India to the hospital emergency room.  Not because it was an emergency but because it was a weekend—no doctors’ offices were open and the emergency room was the only place we could go.  I knew that the doctor also was telling us to bring India to the hospital instead of telling us to bring her to see him Monday morning because of liability issues.  If he told us to wait until Monday and something did go wrong, he was afraid he’d be sued.  

I questioned the logic of taking India to a hospital emergency room for such a minor reason but my wife insisted.  We loaded up the car and headed to the hospital, the same hospital where India had just been born.  Little did we know that we were about to endure the most gut- wrenchingly painful time of our life.  Nothing would ever be the same after this day.

When we got to the hospital a doctor started examining my baby girl.  She did what seemed to be normal and routine checks.  The mood was light and I was sure we’d be sent home shortly–until the doctor said she was going to perform a spinal tap on India to test the fluids for any sort of infection.  I remember asking why we needed to do such an invasive procedure; my little girl only had a very mild fever.  The doctor told me it wasn’t invasive and would only take a minute or two, it was standard procedure, and we’d be on our way before we knew it.

The doctor and a nurse prepped my baby for the spinal tap.  It was a very intense sight, my tiny girl, only three weeks old, sitting on a table, slightly hunched over with blue surgical cloth on her back for the exception of the area the needle was to be inserted into her spine.  Happily making beautiful baby sounds, she had no idea what was about to happen.  I was already having a rough time, just knowing that my little girl was about to be in very serious pain.  I was also terribly torn between the instinct to respect a doctor who was supposedly a professional and my instinct that this procedure was completely unnecessary. 

The procedure was heartbreaking.  India immediately winced in pain and began to whimper.  Her whimper rolled into sobbing, then screaming.  She’d never made that noise before and every atom in my body was hurting with her.  But it didn’t stop.  This procedure that was supposed to take just a minute kept dragging on and on.  I could see and hear the nurse starting to look concerned.  The doctor said, “No, I’ve never done this on an infant before.”  I was stunned and I could see and feel the nurse tense up.  India was trembling, screaming, bleeding gruesomely as the doctor started on her fourth attempt to puncture my daughters’ spine.  I told the doctor and nurse to stop but the nurse spun around and told me to leave the room. 

My mother-in-law took me outside into the hallway with my wife.  I was frantic and had no idea what to do.  It was a horrifically helpless feeling that I’d not wish on anybody.  A few minutes later, the nurse and doctor came out and said they were done.  The doctor didn’t look me in the eye and she couldn’t get away from us fast enough.  The nurse had India in an infant cradle. her small, pale face was swollen. 

After the doctor and nurses cleaned up the blood and the tools used for the procedure, they sat us down to tell us that they felt it was in our daughter’s best interest to stay in the hospital for the night so that they could monitor her.  By now I was furious with myself.  I hadn’t had the guts to tell Veruca “no” when she wanted to go to the hospital for such a minor thing.   I hadn’t had the balls to tell Veruca to put her mania for diagnosis in check and I’d hadn’t had the sense to tell the doctor “no” to the procedure.  I’d never been in this position before and I didn’t know better.  I’ll forever blame myself for my failures and the consequences thereof to my baby girl. It was this terribly blotched and unnecessary procedure that crippled my child.
They put us in a standard hospital room.  They said that they’d come in every couple of hours to check on India.  I was emotionally and physically exhausted,, and I fell asleep immediately on a small cot .  It like only minutes later that Veruca woke me up.  She thought India was having a seizure.  I was sick of Veruca and the position she’d put us in.  I told her not to worry and that I’m sure India was fine.  Just a minute later, Veruca said in a higher pitched voice, “It’s happening again!”  I jumped up and saw  that my baby’s arm was erratically and she wouldn’t wake up.

We buzzed for the nurses over and over.  They kept saying they’d be right in but no one came.  I finally ran down the hall and yelled at the nurses—who were sitting at their station talking—to get their fucking asses into my room. They sprinted down the hall to find Veruca crying and India having a major seizure with her vitals crashing.  

All hell broke loose. A code was called and a team rushed in with a crash cart.  India was spiraling down.  The nurses grabbed a gurney, put India on it, told us to follow them, and ran full stride towards the elevator. A doctor joined our group and started checking India’s vitals. In the elevator it was chaos.  The ride up to the pediatric intensive care unit was terrifying.  Everyone was so frantic doing this and that but no one noticed when India stopped breathing.  I said, “She’s not breathing.” Nobody listened to me.  I said a second time, louder, “My baby’s not breathing!”  The doctor looked, saw that India wasn’t breathing, and started shouting orders to everybody.  The nurse was trying to administer the anti seizure medicine so the doctor turned to me and told me to start pumping air into her lungs with a hand held CPR device. I was in shock. 

I was looking down at my little girl, who just a few hours before was smiling at me and making the most beautiful noises.  Now, she wasn’t breathing and I could hear the nurse say that she could barely get a pulse.  I was in an elevator helping to keep her alive and it couldn’t have felt more like a terrible dream.

When the elevator doors opened to the pediatric intensive care unit, we were met by a pack of nurses.  I found myself following them as they pushed my baby into a room and begin frantically working on her.  I don’t remember how long they worked to revive India but it was quite a while.  When India was stabilized and the doctors and nurses left, I sat down next to my daughter.  I held her little hand; I gently touched her cheeks and then tried to make sense of everything that had happened.  I cried a deeply, until I couldn't cry anymore.

As the sun was rising, India’s vitals were good and none of the rhythmic seizing movement in her arms was happening. I can clearly remember taking a deep breath and feeling like the nightmare was over; it was a new day.  I felt so fortunate to have my baby with me; she was alive.  The nurse came in to explain what had happened and what they were going to do.   I barely understood most of what she was saying—I was traumatized, exhausted, and had never heard most of the medical terminology she was using. 

The nurse left and I sat down and absorbed what I’d just heard.  I did understand the nurse to have said that India’s seizures were under control and everything should be fine now.  My head was in my hands and I felt like my body was going to fail me from exhaustion.  I looked up to see how Veruca was doing but what I saw paralyzed me.  India had one arm perfectly straight and off to the side, the other was curled up, her head was turned to the side, and her eyes were open and staring off into space.  The rhythmic movement was back and much worse than before. Once again she was seizing terribly.