Jacob in the Hospital – It Takes a Village

By Marcy White November 25, 2014

it takes a village

The most terrifying words I’ve ever heard were spoken 21 days ago, shortly after I pressed the red Nurse Call button beside my son’s bed in his hospital room. It was around 9 a.m. on the second morning of Jacob’s recent hospital admission for breathing-related issues.

I was sitting on his bed when he started struggling to breathe. His vitals reflected on the monitors looked strong, but something wasn’t right. I pressed the Nurse Call button because I wanted to be reassured that Jacob was okay.

The nurse assigned to my son was just coming on for her shift and had not met him prior to this moment. She took one look at Jacob and knew he was not breathing well. She administered some medicine via a pressurized mask and called for assistance. When I noticed her hands shaking while she was assembling the mask, I was surprised – I thought maybe she was new to her profession and this was one of her first patients. It didn’t dawn on me that Jacob was really in trouble.

Before I realized what was happening, there were at least six but possibly more, yellow-gowned medical personnel surrounding Jacob’s bed and standing in the doorway. The staff was dressed like minions because precautions were being taken in case he had a contagious virus (a common practice until anything contagious can be ruled out) and everyone looked the same. I didn’t realize that there were practitioners from the Critical Care Unit (CCU), Respirology, Respiratory Therapists and Complex Care huddled in the room assessing my son’s condition. I still don’t know who some of the people were. It was surreal.

I then heard the words that will remain etched in my brain like a key scrape on the side of a brand new car: “There is no air entry, I’m about to call a Code.”

A woman stood near my son’s head holding a mask over his mouth and nose. Someone else was squeezing a balloon-shaped device at the end of the tube attached to the mask. I leaned over the edge of the bed and rubbed Jacob’s arm as tears ran down my cheeks. I whispered to him that one day soon he would laugh so hard when he hears the story about how he scared so many people.

I moved away from the bed as the group of yellow-gowned people readied Jacob and his bed for the transfer to the CCU.

At some point, my friend showed up and helped me gather Jake’s belongings and wheelchair. She saw to it that all his “stuff” was moved to this new room. My singular focus was walking next to my son, trying to ensure he knew I was by his side.

I can’t remember what transpired next but I do recall thinking I was glad my husband was already on the airplane on his way home from his meeting in Europe. The last text I sent him before he boarded was Jake is sleeping well, he is comfortable and quiet.

Eventually, Jacob was settled into the CCU with a machine breathing for him and monitors beeping whenever his numbers dropped too low or rose too high. To say it was scary doesn’t adequately describe the feeling of helplessness I experienced when trying to find my 12 year old boy’s face almost completely hidden behind a huge mask. His eyes registered abject terror as the sound of the breathing machine hissed on each inhale and every exhale.

The experience was horrifying. We were forced into discussions that parents shouldn’t have to consider. Our daughters learned things about PMD that nine year olds shouldn’t know.

Three weeks after that terrifying morning, Jacob has recovered from what turned out to be a virus that would affect most people like a bad cold but because of his PMD-related challenges, almost clobbered him. He is still in the hospital but is getting stronger.

Throughout this chapter in our family’s history, we saw some wonderful instances of love and support. At times my phone was beeping almost non-stop with messages of encouragement, well wishes and offers to help. Our daughters’ days were busy and fun-filled by friends who wanted to ensure that Sierra and Jamie had pleasant things to focus on. Our fridge was stocked with fruits, vegetables, soups, meals, muffins, cookies and so much more. A good friend made school lunches for my daughters, and another friend coordinated their weekend plans so Andrew and I could spend the entire time at the hospital by Jacob’s side.

Since Jacob’s early struggles, I have been a fan of the adage: It takes a village to raise a child. Over these past few weeks, I realized that I am very lucky to be part of such a loving and caring little world of family and friends.

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