Monday, August 24, 2015

124

I value my blog for a lot of reasons. Whether I show it attention or ignore it entirely, it's here waiting for me. Sometimes it's a place to vent or promote. Sometimes I come here to reflect and find therapy.
Today it is a place for a sad story. Some of you know it. Some don't.
Either way, you've been warned.
The villain in me wants you to feel it.

~

Wednesday, July 15th
I've just gotten back to work from lunch when Bray calls. She's crying and tells me to drop everything. Evie, our four-month old daughter, has stopped breathing at the daycare. Bray is out of town, having taken Si to his 4-year check up. My job is 15 minutes from the daycare so I'm closer than she is.

I stand up to leave the office. I don't shove anyone out of the way. Why would I? Everything's fine. Bray gets emotional too easily. I'll just get to the daycare and call Bray back and let her know everything's okay. As I leave I tell Mary Ann I'll be right back. No emergency.

I'm in the car driving. I'm having trouble catching my breath. I realize I'm going 85 mph. I think about what I'll say if I get pulled over. Maybe I'll just keep driving. Finally I'm at the sitters'. There's a firetruck and an ambulance in the yard. Lights are flashing. People are standing around. Maybe things aren't exactly fine. But they'll be fine soon enough. I pull into the grass, ending up sideways by the time I stop. There's Evie's sitter. She runs to me sobbing. I'm hugging her for some reason. A paramedic approaches. He looks scared.

"Are you dad?"

"Yes." I kind of choke on the word.

"Wait right here." And he walks to the ambulance.

The sitter is inconsolable. She's apologizing to me. I don't know why.

The paramedic comes back from the ambulance and gestures me to follow. I climb aboard. Evie is lying on her back on a full-sized stretcher wearing only a diaper. She's pale and her eyes are opened. There's a paramedic performing baby-sized CPR compressions in the middle of her chest. I take hold of her foot. It's cold. One of the paramedics is talking to me. The ambulance begins moving. The siren comes on. I lock my feet so I don't slide around. I'm still holding her foot, rubbing it in my hand, but I can't get it to warm up. The paramedics are talking quickly, about syringes and cc's and Evie's color and other things. One of them tells me the best thing I can do right now is pray.

I don't consider what I did in that ambulance to be prayer. I don't even know who I was directing it at. I said, "please make her cry. please make her cry. please make her cry. please make her fucking cry."

The ambulance is taking quick turns now and the paramedics are telling me how they'll help me out when we stop. I tell them to worry about Evie, not me. We stop and the doors open and I leap out to help pull the stretcher into the hospital. On the way to the ER there are people--nurses, doctors, staff-- all staring, all standing out of the way. Inside the ER I release the stretcher and take a step back. There are maybe a dozen people in the room. They crowd around Evie. It's far quieter in here than in the ambulance. Someone pushes a chair up behind me. I sit, staring at the floor, holding my phone. Someone has to tell Bray where we are. I have to. But I don't want to cause an accident. I don't know what to tell her. I send a text. "Lavonia ER."

The room has grown even quieter. Someone with black shoes is standing in front of me. I don't look up. He introduces himself as a doctor. Then he tells me it's not looking good. He asks me if I understand. I guess I say yes because then he leaves, and the people that were there follow him out. In that moment I hate them all.

They've placed a thin sheet over Evie up to her chin. There's a breathing device in her mouth. Her eyes are still slightly opened, like when she's in a deep sleep. I want to close them before Bray gets there. I try but they won't stay closed. Maybe if I hold them closed for a few seconds they'll stay. A speck of dirt from my finger sticks to her eyelid. I lift her head to my chest. It's heavier than usual. Someone tells me they have to take pictures. I move away from the stretcher. Bray rushes in as they're pulling the breathing device out of her mouth. That's when I collapse.

~

They say it was SIDS. I thought that term was just a catch-all for when they have no idea. Apparently it means vital systems simply turn off, like a light switch. Something in the heart maybe. I guess if they knew what specifically, then it wouldn't still happen.

This post is titled 124 because that's how many days Evie spent with us. It's those days that I have to remember when thinking of her, not the days after.

Si and his baby Ebee

This post doesn't end on a positive a note. I'll never be a person whose perfectly healthy baby girl didn't suddenly die. This won't pass over or be done or fade away. Not as long as I have conscious thought.

But I don't want to end on a desperate note either. Bray and I are back at work, for each other and for Simon and for Donavon. We don't have a choice. We've been carried by support and love coming to us from all directions. I've attempted to write thank-you cards to all the individuals and groups of people who continue to check on us, those who brought food or gifts, or those who have just been here. As you've all told me a billion times, There are no words. I agree. But thank you, anyway. I'm not sure where we'd be without you all.

Here are my thoughts. And they are subject to evolve as I live and learn.
I don't know if what I said in the ambulance counts as prayer. But it was the very best I could do. In fact it was the only thing I had. If God is Love, then God wouldn't demand a specific string of words to be chanted at just the right moment to save Evie's life. If God is Love, then God wouldn't hold back on saving her unless I prove my devotion first. That's not love. That's extortion. If you think otherwise, you can't truly believe God is Love.
On the other hand, God was not in that event. God did not kill Evie or let her die. This wasn't punishment for her or me or Bray or the babysitter or America or anyone. This was simply the world, a place where we all live and one day we all die.
But God was in the response. The love from family and friends and long-lost acquaintances has kept us alive. It's kept us together and sane. It's why we're still going.

Lest it goes unsaid- 
We love our babysitter and are still in close contact with her. If there was ever any suspicion of wrong-doing or negligence on her part, or any rumor of ill-will from us to her, let it end here. Her husband was a first-responder. While awaiting paramedics, Evie got better emergency attention at their house than she would have at ours or most any other.