Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anastasia's Long Trip Home

These have been the fastest 2 weeks of my life, but I am finally getting around to share Anastasia's dramatic coming home story. This is a long narrative, but I want to remember the details to share with Anastasia someday.

I sent Patrick home on Thursday night to be with Bella and his mom, knowing he would be back up with us after Friday morning Mass. When I emerged from the bathroom Friday morning one of the pediatricians was assessing Anastasia, and mentioned casually that he wanted to run a CT scan of her head just to make sure she was fine. It was so casual that I figured I would ask more questions after the fact. Honestly, as a medical professional myself I can appreciate the caution used in the assessing/diagnostic phase of treatment, as you don't want to raise alarm unnecessarily. Like I said, I figured I would get myself ready for the day and ask questions when they came back. Little did I know that all hell was about to break loose.

When Anastasia returned the nurse said they were going to keep her for 24 hours of observation because they suspected a head injury. Before I could even get ahold of Patrick (he was at Mass at the time) they made the decision to airlift her to Children's Hospital in DC because the CT scan showed a subdural hematoma (a blood clot in the brain)! "Scared" does not even begin to describe the feeling that consumes a parent's being at that moment. I frantically called Patrick, who made it to Hagerstown in record time, thankfully in time to hold our little girl before she left. I pray that Anastasia is our only child to be baptized by her father - what a start to her Life in Christ, baptized with a syringe of salt water!

While I was waiting for Patrick and the transport team, I rocked and nursed my little girl, cradling her tightly in my arms. Pressing her against my heart, I whispered how much I loved her, and told her all about how much we had looked forward to meeting her. I prayed over her, recalling Scripture's command to call upon the Holy Spirit's gifts. I handed her over to the care of our Blessed Mother, knowing that Anastasia needed a Mama there even when I couldn't be. Then we did the hardest thing that I could have imagined - we entrusted her to the care of total strangers who carried her to the waiting helicopter.

I was and am so thankful to the staff at Washington County Hospital. My nurse was caring and kind, and worked double-time to get me discharged right away; she made all the paperwork quick and painless, fulfilled her obligations with lightening speed, even made sure I was medicated and had some extra supplies, all the while being so gentle and understanding. The lactation consultant ordered me a breast pump since I would be separated from Anastasia, hand-delivering all the supplies and instructions I would need. The nurse manager made sure I had directions to Children's; the transport team was affectionate toward her and reassuring toward us. More so even then all of that was the incredible outpouring of prayers I had from those people. The nurse midwife, lactation consultant, and RN all prayed with me. In a society where we are so afraid of offending people with religion, they stepped out from behind the professional curtain and prayed with a scared mama. Thanks be to God for such people.

When we were leaving we found out that my brothers Tom and Scott were on their way to pick us up so we didn't have to drive ourselves down there. Besides the obvious relief from not having to drive into DC in the midst of the biggest emotional crisis and adrenaline rush ever, there was the added benefit of having law enforcement behind the wheel. Thanks guys - my brothers have always been, and will always be, my heroes. If you can even imagine such a thing, they managed to keep the mood in the car reasonably light.

We arrived in the NICU at Children's and almost immediately heard music to our ears - "she's fine." As the NICU resident (doctor) assessed her, the nurse went over the details of a stay in the NICU, all the while saying "we don't think you'll be here very long. We think she'll go home in just a few days, maybe even tomorrow." Shortly after we finished the logistics, the NICU attending (highest-up doctor) came around and with a big smile announced that we were to be his shortest stay ever - we were going home! We just had to wait for my father and another brother to arrive with a carseat, and for Anastasia to eat. Unfortunately, this included a "car seat challenge" that's standard procedure for the NICU, in which the baby has to sit buckled in the seat for 45 minutes of observation. Crazy, I tell ya. My uncle and aunt came to meet Anastasia and brought us food (great Italian place in DC), and then we hung out in the waiting room taking turns visiting our precious, healthy baby.

As we walked out carrying our Precious Cargo, I took note of the time - we had been scheduled to be discharged from Hagerstown around 5pm, and we walked out of Children's at 5:15. God is so good, even in little simple details. He astounds me.

There is really no way to describe the emotions involved in such heartache of unknowing surrounding your child. The only way I can think of to summarize it is my heart is ripped in two and my very soul aches for my child. Time swirls around me with it's great offense, since my own world has stopped, and yet I am painfully aware that time must continue for the rest of my family. I would bounce between total enrapture with Anastasia and her condition and how long it had been since I held her, and suddenly be thrown with force into concern for Isabella, and if she was noticing our absence. (Which, by the way, she did not of course. Not only is she just 17 months old, but she had 2 grandmothers with her the whole time. I don't think she thought about us until we walked through the door!) I refuse to think "what if" and yet my mind wanders there in defiance of my will. Then, life changes abruptly again and we bring a healthy child home. In a single instance the world is restored to it's proper order, and the relief that washes over is more like a tidal wave or hurricane rather than a breeze. The adrenaline high starts to ebb as we drive home, and I spend the whole ride home just touching her face.

We were greeted at home with a whole party. The best part was Bella running into my arms; I had missed her so much! Although I had imagined a quieter homecoming, everyone's emotions had been on high alert all day and it was a blessing to have such a jovial outlet for everyone to unwind. It ended up being a perfect ending to the day, to be surrounded by love.

Speaking of which, I am humbled by the outpouring of prayers on our behalf. It still gives me goosebumps (alright, alright, I'll admit it brings me to tears) when I think of all the people who were praying for us. Words cannot even express how touched I am to realize how loved we are, and the faithful, prayerful, wonderful people we have in our lives. Truly the Body of Christ is a far-reaching reality - we had people praying for us from coast to coast (literally), Masses being offered up, rosaries said, phone calls of encouragement. Just this past Sunday I had yet another lady I didn't know come up to me just to congratulate us and let me know her family (5 kids) had been praying for us, thanks to the home-school email list. We've gotten a few emails from CA family and friends expressing their love and thankfulness. I was realizing that news spread through so many prayer networks so quickly that I don't even know who knows! That's fast work, and powerful prayers.

Through it all, the answer remained "With God's Grace" - no matter what the question was, total trust in Him was the only option. God often gives us opportunities to draw closer to Him, and I am eternally thankful, with an overflowing heart, for this outcome, and for our Beautiful, Healthy, Anastasia.


Sheila said...

I now understand why so many times you were on my heart and mind to call, but I knew with the new baby, you would be busy so I prayed instead. Now that I know what was going on, I understand why God was placing you so heavily on my heart. I am so glad to hear that your newest little bundle is home and well. I hope, when ours enters the world in a few short weeks it isn't quite as chaotic, but I know that "With God's Grace" we can handle anything. Know you and your family continue to be in our prayers. Can't wait to catch up with you soon.

Patty Arnold said...

Wow what a story. So, how did they get it wrong?