With a title like that, it sounds like this should be a fairy tale, but unfortunately, it is all too true. This will be a long one folks, but I am blogging it mostly because I am too exhausted to re-tell this story over and over and I need support and prayers right now so this will get the word out there and hopefully get people praying for our family without me having to tell the story again and again.
Early in the week, we had a Rainbow Party here as a homeschool year end wrap up. It was super fun and I will write up a post with pictures soon. Miss Optimism had had a very bad night the night before and had been generally going downhill with her lungs the week before, but I wasn’t any more concerned than I am on a regular day. As the party was winding down, I saw that she was working very hard to breathe and looking pale with sunken eyes, so I sat her down with her Nebulizer and reached over to turn it on and… nothing. I moved the machine to a different plug in, flipped the switch and…nothing! At this point, there were still two families here from the party and one was leaving and the mom that was left and I were planning to sit down and have tea and a nice relaxing chat while our kids played. I guess that was not meant to be!
Fred hadn’t been feeling well at school so The Husband had just picked him up and was pulling into the driveway as the Nebulizer was refusing to turn on. I ran out and got him to try and he couldn’t get it to work either. I got on the phone with Miss O’s nurse who called the pharmacy in her building who carry the machines and they said they had one in stock. While on the phone, she asked how Miss O. was doing and I gave her a brief run-down. She said that since I was going to be driving downtown anyway to pick up the machine, I should bring her with me. That way, they could have a look at her and they could give her a treatment in the office so that she wouldn’t have to wait so long in between. I grabbed my bank card and my phone and a bag that we carry the meds. in and said good-bye to the poor other mom who was still in my kitchen and went to leave. Miss O. asked me if we could please go back and get her blanket in case we went to the hospital. I reassured her that we were just going to her doctor’s, not the hospital. I was sure that was true. Her doctor HATES the hospital. He has trained me to take care of her at home and he never wants us to go to the hospital even for a night unless she needs to be on oxygen and even then, he only wants her there for the shortest amount of time possible. Knowing that, I took nothing with me that would have been handy to have in case.
I probably should have known that she was feeling worse than she was letting on because she insisted that we not leave the driveway without her special blanket. When we got to her pulmonary doctor’s, she asked if we could take the elevator (she always wants to take the stairs no matter what). Her nurse ushered us into a room immediately. When her doctor came in, he looked at her, made a note (may have been about her blue lips), listened to her lungs, asked about what doses of certain medications I had her at, and told me to drive straight to the Emergency Room while he phoned ahead to have her admitted.
I could make this even longer than it will be, but the second part to this story will be long enough so let’s just cut to the fact that she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital. She was put on oxygen as well as her usual meds. and was put on a cardiac monitor etc. and she started to feel better fairly quickly.
My biggest concern when talk of the hospital began a week earlier was Dancing Queen. Dancing Queen just started therapy for some trauma issues and we are actively aware of her attachment needs, so me being away from her for an extended period of time would trigger all kinds of negative feelings and responses for her.
Yesterday, The Husband took Einstein to work with him and Mandi was at our house with the other kids while I was of course at the hospital with Miss O. Mandi texted me to let me know that Dancing Queen was having a really hard time (raging, being defiant, etc.). I phoned and talked to her and she had a meltdown on the phone with me so Mandi and I decided that she should bring the kids to me and I would keep Dancing Queen with me for the rest of the day and then my mom would drive her home in the evening because hospital policy prohibits siblings from sleeping over. It was a good plan.
Here’s where things go very awry and I am still a bit in shock by the series of unfortunate events that had to occur for the timing to work out the way it did. There was construction on the road to come in, so they arrived later than they would have. A volunteer from Child Life at the hospital stopped by the room and dropped off some board games and crafts, but also let us know that The Beach, which is a wonderful play area, was open for just another half and hour. The kids of course wanted to go down to The Beach. The girl in the bed next to Miss O. had just come back from surgery and I was wanting to keep the room quiet for her and therefore get my brood out of the room. So it was that Mandi, Miss O., Granola Girl, Snuggle Puppy, and Dancing Queen set out for The Beach. The nurse had given her okay, but as we passed by the nursing station, the charge nurse took exception to us going down there because Miss O. was still on a cardiac monitor (fully portable and I know how to work it). They had a little debate at the nursing station and it was decided that we could not go to The Beach so they sent us to the ward’s meeting area instead. The meeting area is a square made by half walls that has just one entrance (a fact that will be important to note later) and has a few toys and books and ride-on cars. It was a disappointment and I briefly consider defying the charge nurse and going to The Beach anyway as in previous hospital stays, she had been down there on a cardiac monitor and no one had ever cared, but I decided against it.
We had only been in the little play area for a few minutes when I heard someone say, “there are kids over there”. The tone in which they said it told me that they were very distraught and as I turned to look over to see who had said it, I was thinking, “it’s a children’s play area in the middle of the afternoon…of course there are kids here”. I didn’t have time to register what was happening.
Mandi was sitting with Miss Optimism while the other three kids were playing in the push cars. I heard a commotion coming from right outside the play area. I looked over to see four rather large police officers trying to handcuff an extremely distraught lady. She was beating them and trying to escape and making noises that sounded like they were coming from a rabid animal. I realized immediately how this would impact my Ethiopian born kids, my kids who have been in therapy for past trauma, my kids who are triggered by anything even suggesting violence, my kids who struggle on a daily basis with fear, my kids who should not have even been there because we should have been down at The Beach or in the hospital room colouring or at home or anywhere but there.
The kids had all stopped their playing and were frozen, staring at the scene playing out in front of them. I called out to them and only got response from Granola Girl. I had to go over and gently guide Snuggle Puppy and Dancing Queen with me. I took them and faced the three of them into the corner and held them closely to me, whispering that everything would be okay, that they were okay as terrible sounds came from behind us. It became apparent that the woman was being arrested for some type of child abuse and that her daughter was on the unit just beside there as she screamed out for her daughter and fought the officers with everything she had. A metal rack in the hallway was knocked around or knocked down, loud crashing noises, and then, the horrible noise of her being thrown violently to the ground. We all knew what that noise was. For a moment she was silent, stunned perhaps or winded, and then she started wailing louder than before and begging and screaming, and we could hear the handcuffs being slapped on her wrists finally, making her thrash even more. A nurse came into the area we were in at about that time and said that we needed to get the kids out of there. She sounded very distressed, which came out as her sounding angry. I was a bit stunned at that, as I would gladly have taken the kids out of the area if I could have but with the one entrance being right next to the altercation, I didn’t want to risk putting my kids in harm’s way before the lady was subdued. As it was, I still had to walk my kids past her as she made sounds unlike any I have heard and as all four officers had her pinned on the floor.
We got back to the hospital room and the nurses said they were sending the hospital social worker up to talk to us. She was no help at all. All she said to the kids was, “I heard you saw something earlier that might have scared you. If you want to talk to your mom about that, you can and if you don’t, that’s okay too.”
By this point, Snuggle Puppy had completely checked out (dissociated). Dancing Queen was whimpering and clinging to me. I texted Dancing Queen’s therapist, giving her a short run-down (kids witnessed a violent arrest and it triggered trauma response for both of them…help). And I had to add an addendum (p.s. I am in hospital with…and cannot go home for who knows how many more nights to be with the other kids). Thankfully, she responded right away, giving me a suggestion of how to incorporate EMDR and some reassurances in but she also cautioned me about having them be away from me after such a traumatic event and said that I should find a way to be home with them. The EMDR and reassurances she suggested worked immediately for all of the kids. Snuggle Puppy’s eyes lit back up and he was present again and Dancing Queen became her usual self again right away. But I knew that this wouldn’t be the last of the feelings this event triggered for them. (it wasn’t)
Fast forward to evening…Miss Optimism’s roommate had an uncle who had been there off and on all day and to put it as kindly as I can, he was creepy. Later, he came back very drunk and announced to the girl’s mom that he had decided to spend the night there in the hospital room because it was free and he could use the bathroom (the one on my side of the room with no door lock). The thought of that man, drunk, in the same room as my daughter…I knew that I would stay awake all night guarding her! So where that left me was knowing that my kids at home needed me even more than usual (Dancing Queen was still with me but was going to be leaving soon) because of the day’s events and knowing that I was faced with a sleepless night at the hospital.
I took the two girls to The Beach (Miss O. had been taken off the cardiac monitor) to see a special movie presentation they were doing for the kids and as we watched, our pulmonary doc. came and sat next to me. He and I talked and decided that since I did not want to stay for even one more minute given the various situations and because she no longer needed to be on oxygen, he would discharge her and we could do hospital care at home. So late last night, we came home. I slept in my own bed with Miss O. on a makeshift bed beside me. I still had to get up every hour and a half, but I could at least sleep in between.
Today has been hard. Snuggle Puppy and Dancing Queen are reacting to what happened yesterday. There has been a mix of reactions from clinginess and tears to raging and violence. It has been a very long day already and it is not nearly over.
But there are positives as always. Mandi and my mom helped a ton while we were in the hospital. We have a wonderful Children’s Hospital and a phenomenal doctor and nurse and since we live here, it is FREE! (okay, well the new Nebulizer was $400ish (ouch!) and the air filtration system we bought for Miss O. was $900 (double ouch!), but the hospital stay, movies, specialized doctor care, etc. was free) The Husband coming home early the other day because Fred was sick at school was perfect timing so that he could watch the kids while I was gone. Prayers and e-mails and thoughts from friends and family.
Yep, I am super upset that it was my already traumatized kids who witnessed that event yesterday and I still can hardly believe it and I know the fallout will be long and hard, but somehow, we will get through it. But I am going to be honest here. I am feeling like my reserves have run out. All the kids are needing so much from me right now emotionally and physically and I am feeling like I just don’t have it to give. I am functioning on over a month of very little sleep due to Miss O’s care and the emotional toll of Dancing Queen’s therapy and day-to-day processing her trauma had already put me in a position of being at the end of my stores. My tank was already pretty close to empty. This past few days have pushed me beyond the limit of what I feel capable of. Even the emotionally “normal” kids who witnessed the events yesterday have needed a lot of debriefing and processing and holding and I am just spent.
So please, pray for us. I know that God is bigger than all of this. I know that He will give me what I need to get through today and tomorrow and the next day, but right now, it feels pretty insurmountable. Pray for my sweet kids who witnessed that traumatic situation yesterday. Pray for Miss Optimism’s lungs and for some sleep. Mostly, pray that we would have an uneventful rest of the week. I don’t feel like I can handle one more thing. As my friend Denise sometimes says, pray for boring. Folks, please pray for boring for me.