It has been a week, and as of right now, everything seems to be back to normal. I’m still a little on edge though, keeping a little closer watch for anything out of the ordinary, waking up suddenly in the middle of the night to hold my breath and listen, thinking back to all the things we could have done differently or the things we should have seen.
You know, all the usual guilt and paranoia of parenting multiplied by fact that a week ago our 5-year-old daughter was rushed to the Emergency Room.
From the beginning, Cadence has been a healthy child. Other than one ear infection, some seasonal allergies, and a bout with the flu this February, she has never had any major issues or ailments. Even when she has been sick, she has always bounced back rather quickly. In fact, our biggest problem is usually finding ways to get her to slow down and take it easy so she has adequate time to recover.
We were all looking forward to a long Memorial Day weekend. It has been a busy few months around here with end of the school year programs and activities, birthday parties for Cadence’s friends, Stevie’s trip to New York for one last Islander game, my trip to Georgia for work, and a bunch of other projects and obligations at work and at home. An extra long weekend hanging out around the house with family should be just what we needed to recharge and start to feel normal again.
Cadence was excited to hang out with her cousins and have her very first sleepover. The kids had a blast playing on Saturday, and I was a little surprised when Cadence asked if she could go to bed in the middle of dinner. We told her it was okay, and her cousin Jordan followed her upstairs. We didn’t expect the girls to settle down right away, but I was surprised to still hear them giggling and carrying on after 10:00 pm. (Cadence’s usual bedtime is between 7:00 and 8:00. She’s only rarely made it past 9:00 when we’re either away from home or out late for some reason). I peeked in the room around 10:30 and was happy to see both girls had finally given up and conked out.
The next morning, they were up by 8:00. We ate breakfast and the girls played for awhile before getting dressed. I turned on a movie for them while I showered, and then we headed over to my parents’ apartment to meet up with everyone for lunch. I could tell Cadence was tired. She was a little cranky, and didn’t seem to have quite as much energy as usual. By the time everyone ate lunch and the crew was getting ready to split up for the afternoon–Stevie, Tim, Duane, and Zayne heading to the golf course and Jayne, Leslie, Jordan, Odin, and Cadence heading off to the zoo while Grandma Sand and I stayed behind to nap–I was starting to wonder if perhaps I should insist that Cadence stay home with me to get a little rest. I knew it would break her heart not to be able to go with her cousins, so I kissed her and told her to bed good and I’d see her later. I reminded Mom that Cadence wasn’t allowed to have any junk food at the zoo because I’d been fighting her all morning just trying to get her to eat a decent breakfast and lunch. That alone should have clued me in that something was off, since she is usually a champion eater, but I chalked it up to her being too excited and busy with her cousins around to want to stop and sit down and eat a full meal.
I managed to settle down and sleep for an hour or two, which is a rare luxury these days. At nearly 8 months, I’ve officially entered the really uncomfortable stage of my pregnancy where a few hours of uninterrupted sleep come at a premium. Stevie came back home after golfing and played a few video games before Mom called around 5:00 to let us know they were home from the zoo. She said everyone was just planning to take it easy that evening and have leftovers for dinner. Knowing it would be another epic battle trying to get Cadence to eat leftover roast beef, I told Mom we would just come pick her up and eat something quick at home and try to get her to bed early since she and Jordan had been up so late the night before.
“That’s a good idea,” Mom said. “She is definitely tired.”
When Stevie and I arrived at the apartment, Mom and Leslie were outside with the kids kicking a ball around. Even from a distance, I could see how weary Cadence was. On a normal day, she tends to go into a frenzy when she starts getting tired–talking, walking, and moving nonstop, as if she knows she will fall asleep almost immediately if she pauses to catch her breath. Some evenings are downright exhausting at our house–I get tired just watching her. But that night was different. Cadence was still trying to play, and she would take off chasing after her cousins for six or seven steps, and then slow to a walk and stop and stare for a moment, almost glassy-eyed before starting to walk again.
I turned to Stevie. “Let’s get her home.”
“Yeah,” he said. “She’s definitely done.”
We said our goodbyes and loaded our exhausted child in the car. We asked her about the things she’d seen at the zoo, and she answered in between yawns. We formulated a plan on the way home. I would start dinner while Stevie took Cadence upstairs for a quick shower. Eat dinner. Then get to bed as early as possible.
We decided to keep it simple–peanut butter sandwiches, a side of steamed veggies, and a fruit smoothie for dinner–all of Cadence’s favorite things, so I figured she wouldn’t put up any fuss gobbling it all down since she hadn’t really eaten much that day. She was out of the shower and dressed in her pajamas before I had a chance to get it all ready. And the the next thing I knew, she was fast asleep on the beanbag.
As much as I hated to wake her, I wanted to know that she’d at least eaten one decent meal that day, so I roused her from her slumber and asked her to please come sit down and eat a little bit before bed. She picked at her vegetables, drank half her smoothie, and ate a little more than half of her sandwich. She was in bed and asleep before 8:00.
Normally, Cadence is a bit of an earlybird. On weekdays, we all rise between 6:00 and 6:30 to get ready for work and school. On weekends, we tell Cadence it’s a sleep-in day, and that she can get up and play quietly or watch the iPad if she happens to wake up before us. That next morning, Memorial Day 2015, Stevie was up and out of bed around 7:30. I was a little surprised that Cadence wasn’t up already, but figured between the late night Saturday and all the running around Sunday she just needed some extra sleep. Around 8:00, she came into the room.
“Mommy,” she said, touching me lightly on the shoulder.
“Hey baby, good morning. Did you sleep good?” I asked.
I brushed a piece of hair out of her face and kissed her forehead.
“You hungry?” I asked.
“Okay, Daddy’s downstairs. Go on down and he’ll get you some breakfast. I’ll be down in a minute.”
I watched her leave, and then I yawned and rubbed my eyes and closed them again, thinking I’d lie there just a few more minutes.
I could hear Stevie and Cadence’s voices, but couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other. And then suddenly, a loud THUD! as something hit the hardwood floor. My eyes snapped open, but I wasn’t alarmed. Stevie and Cadence are notoriously loud. I imagined the two of them were just messing around and didn’t give the sound a second thought.
I figured it was as good of time as any to get up. Just as I was hoisting myself up, I heard Stevie yell.
“Lori! LORI! OH MY GOD, LORI! CALL 9-1-1!”
“What?” I yelled back, launching myself out of bed and grabbing my cellphone. I flew down the stairs, clutching the bannister to keep from falling. As I turned the corner on the landing, I could see Stevie entering the living room.
“Cadence! Wake up! CADENCE! CADENCE! WAKE UP!” he yelled, and I watched as he gingerly laid our daughter on the carpet. Her eyes were closed and she was pale. Lifeless.
I fumbled with my phone as I knelt on the carpet beside them.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I-I don’t know. She just went down,” Stevie said. “I was sitting in the living room, reading, and she sat down on the couch. I asked if she wanted breakfast, and she said yes. She said she would go pick it out, and she got up and went to open the pantry. I told her no Pop-Tarts and she said okay, and then she just hit the floor. Cadence? Cadence! Wake up!”
Stevie patted her cheek and placed a hand on her chest.
“She’s breathing,” he said. “Her heard is pounding.”
“9-1-1 what is your address?” the dispatcher asked.
I tried to steady my voice as I fed him the information. A few seconds later, I could hear sirens in the distance.
Time slowed to a crawl as I stared at my baby’s face, and I think I may have even come very close to having what some people might call an out-of-body experience. One part of me was calm and collected and giving details to the man on the other end of the phone, while another part of my brain was screaming at Cadence to wake up.
JESUS, PLEASE WAKE UP!!!
My heart leapt into my throat when I saw her eyelids flutter.
“Cadence? Come on, wake up sweetie,” Stevie said softly.
“Cadence, wake up. You’re okay baby. Open your eyes.” I touched her hair and found that it was damp. Her forehead was clammy, and beaded with cold sweat. As she began to stir, I noticed that she’d wet herself.
Her eyes were open and blinking and drifting aimlessly around the room. She wasn’t speaking, but seemed to hear us. At one point, she tried to sit up.
“No baby, just lie down. There are some guys coming in an ambulance and they are going to check you out and make sure you’re okay. Do you remember what happened?”
She shook her head.
We heard the sirens stop and car doors opening. Stevie got up and opened the front door.
I lost track of time again as the men filled the room, asking questions, bending over Cadence to take her vitals. Stevie and I did our best to answer all of the questions, to account for every second of that morning–from the time Cadence first woke until the moment she hit the floor in the kitchen–and to fill the EMT’s in on her unremarkable medical history. When they’d finished gathering information, it was time to go.
“Is it okay if we change her clothes quick?” I asked. “I noticed she wet herself. I don’t want her to have to ride all the way to the hospital in wet clothes.”
“Of course,” one of the EMT’s replied. “This is unusual for her, right? She’s potty-trained?”
“Oh yes, for two years or so now,” I said. “She never has accidents.”
He made a note on the page.
“Go ahead and change her, but we’ll be sure to tell the doctor that this incontinence is out of the ordinary.”
I hurried upstairs to find Cadence a clean pair of underwear and a nightdress, and to slip into a pair of shoes.
She looked so tiny as they loaded her onto the stretcher and into the ambulance. I rode with her, and Stevie followed close behind. We were led into an examination room, and I watched as the nurses quickly changed her into a Looney Tunes hospital gown and hooked her up to the machines to monitor her vitals.
For the second time that day, Stevie and I gave a detailed account of that morning’s events and answered questions. I wracked my brain for any details, no matter how small–how long she’d slept, how much she’d eaten, the fact that we’d given her a dose of allergy medicine the day before because she’d been coughing a bit. We spent the next few hours with the hospital staff as took blood samples and x-rays, an EKG, and a CAT scan. Our brave little girl faced each test like a champ, only crying out for me once as I stood behind the protective wall as the CAT scan machine started whirring around her head.
After we’d returned and settled back into the room, the nurses arrived with a large breakfast tray and a popsicle and Cadence dug in. We waited an hour or so and the doctor arrived with some news.
“Well,” he said, “everything actually looks really good, very normal. Her heart looks perfect, no signs of arrhythmia or abnormality. Her blood sugar was normal. No signs of any electrolyte imbalance or anemia. Her CAT scan looks good. The only thing we did find was a little crackling in her chest with that cough, and the x-ray shows a bit of pneumonia, but she has no fever and you said she hasn’t exhibited any other symptoms or been sick?”
Stevie and I looked at each other, and I knew he was feeling the same guilt, the same feeling of utter parental failure that I was.
Pneumonia? Seriously? How could we not know?
“No, there hasn’t been anything,” I said. “We all have some seasonal allergies in the spring, and she had a few days of the usual sneezing, itchy eyes, and cough, but that seemed to go away a week or two ago. Since then, she’s had an occasional cough, but nothing really regular, and we’d just give her a dose of allergy medicine and it would go away. We never thought it might be something more serious.”
The doctor nodded.
“It’s nothing too serious, just a little of the infection in her right lung. We will get her on some antibiotics to clear it up. I’ve got a call in to her regular doctor and I’m waiting to hear back. Once I speak with her, we should be able to send Cadence home to rest. I would suggest scheduling a follow up appointment with her pediatrician this week, and also an EEG to help us rule out any seizure activity. You mentioned that you didn’t noticed her convulsing or anything when she fainted, but seizures in real life don’t always look like seizures in the movies. I’m sure her pediatrician will agree that an EEG will be a good test to run, and she can help you get that set up. Any questions?”
I shook my head. “No questions right now. Thank you so much.”
Shortly after noon, we were finally released. By that time, fueled either by the breakfast or by the desire to show us that she was feeling better, Cadence was coming around and beginning to chatter and giggle and insist on getting up out of the hospital bed to put her clothes on all by herself. As I watched her take the lead in the hallway with an insistent, “Come on Mommy, I’ll show you where the door is”, I wondered if maybe she was even trying to convince herself that everything was okay. The staff smiled and waved and bid Cadence a warm farewell as she paraded us past them to the exit.
We stepped into the bright Memorial Day sun, and it felt like we were stepping out of a dream. We spent the rest of the day on the couch and kept Cadence home for the next two days to relax and recuperate as we followed up with her doctor and allowed the antibiotics to begin to work.
And now, we watch and we wait.
We have Cadence’s EEG scheduled in June, and I guess we’ll just get the results and take it from there. Whether it was some kind of seizure, or just some strange fluke, it has already become one of those days, one of those family stories, that I’m sure none of us is ever going to forget.
And even if it wasn’t a traditional Memorial Day in our house with a parade and a BBQ and a flag flying to honor the heroes who have fought so bravely to defend our freedoms, I know that I am a little more grateful this year. And we will hug each other a little tighter and hold on a little longer and thank God that we live in a place where we have the freedom and the opportunity to pick up the phone when we’re in trouble and have so many wonderful people to respond and take care of us and make sure we’re okay.