Monday, December 08, 2008

beyond my understanding.

The tears finally came in the car. After three hours of holding back emotion, three hours of avoiding room #3, three hours of straining to maintain composure, finally, I broke. It was cold--I could see my breath. It only took a couple of minutes for the rain covered windshield to fog. The fingertips of my gray fleece gloves were wet with salty tears. And still they came.

She was pale on the yellow stretcher. And when I first looked at her, the frustration I’d felt toward most of the patients earlier in the day quickly faded. This was an emergency. Her young husband trailed behind the stretcher—he’d ridden in the ambulance with her.

She was gasping for air, struggling to breathe. Her swollen belly sat firmly below her swollen face and cracked lips. The fuzz on the top of her head served as the only evidence of the brown hair she’d once had. Large purple bruises covered her elbows & forearms where needles were stuck to try to find veins. She was moaning, miserable, wiggling on the stretcher from the anxiety provoked by the carbon dioxide that was quickly building up in her body.

Transport was called for a stat transfer of the gallbladder patient in room 3 to the second floor. We needed a room for her yellow stretcher…and we needed it now.

The middle green line on the monitor said her O2 sat was only 76% on 6L of oxygen--mine would be 100% without any supplemental oxygen. Her brain, heart, & kidneys weren’t getting enough oxygen. And at the rate she was going, they’d shut down within the hour if something wasn’t done quickly.

And then we heard her story.

I’m not the same person that I was this morning, nor this afternoon. Because at 5:24pm when her yellow stretcher was wheeled through those double sliding doors, I changed. I stared death in the face. I stared down my own road ten years from now & saw myself in her, possibly. I stared at her husband by her side & thought of my own husband. I stared at her pacing family in the hallway & considered my own family. And for a few seconds, I was her. She changed me, her story changed me.

They were excited to have a baby. And probably ecstatic when they found out it was twins. I’m not for certain, but I’m going to assume fertility treatments were involved because of her age. She was a few years past thirty, likely waiting for love & contentment before bringing new life into the world. I imagine they set up a nursery, decorated it with matching cribs & blankets—one pink, one blue.

Nine months they waited to hold those bundles in their arms. They thought. They dreamed. About what the two people growing inside her would become. About the adventures they’d share—together. They dreamed about finally being a family.

The c-section was pre-scheduled, as it often is with twin deliveries. The OR (operating room) was prepped, the doctors scrubbed in, nurses gloved & dressed in blue. Double warmers were ready to welcome the twins into the world.

Iodine. Scalpel. Incision. Uterus. BIRTH.

And this is where the story of joy & triumph turns tragic. This is where the nine months of hope is covered in gray—where the dreams of being TOGETHER fade into the realm of reality this family abruptly entered:

Tumors. On the uterus. On the ovaries. In the abdomen. Attached to the bladder.

Newborns. Late nights. Soft babies. Joy.

Chemo. Surgery. Nausea. Heartbreak.

That yellow stretcher held a brand new, first time mom. A mom who, I’m sure, looked at her babies with more love than even I can fathom. A mom who cradled those little swaddled bundles in her arms & rocked them to sleep. A mom who looked into her husbands eyes with wonder & awe at the miracles they created, together.

A mom who wouldn’t live to see their first birthday.

…to be continued.

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