Before I could say “of course, I’m on my way” she interjected to say that a neighbor and friend of mine, who was there at the nursery, offered to take Isabelle home for me if I wanted. I kindly declined, because due to a derailed attempt to get Sebastian’s birth certificate, Sebastian, Yoly and I were at City Center. I didn’t want to risk the chance that she would beat me home and have to wait around in the heat with all of the kids.
About 20 minutes later I arrived at the nursery. I bounce in like normal, expecting to see a cranky, but always-happy-to-see-me-at-nursery Isabelle. But no, that’s not at all what I saw.
The proceeding few minutes are like a movie in slow motion… Front and center inside the doors I see a crowd gathered around the main reception desk. I see teachers and parents looking on from the winding staircases that lead to the second floor. I catch they eye of one of the teachers on the stairs, who looked eerily worried, and pointed to the reception desk where the crowd was gathered. I walk toward it to find a mother’s worst nightmare…and that mother this day, was me.
On top of papers, files and a big, flat desk calendar, Isabelle’s little body was laying comatose, unresponsive and with hollow eyes. The headmistress of the school had been giving her oxygen via mouth to mouth and kept saying “Isabelle, look at me, look at me Isabelle,” the school nurse was taking her pulse and a variety of other people were applying cool towels on her.
I can’t really say what exactly happened from there. I know I screamed and ran to them. I know I was begging to know what was wrong and what happened. I know I was shaking so much that I couldn’t hold a phone nor could I speak through my tears to tell Richard what was going on. But above all the things I know about that moment, I know it was the single worst, most horrifying moment of my life.
My baby girl, my god my baby girl was fighting to breathe. My precious baby girl could barely move her eyes to look at me. Why didn’t anyone know what was wrong with her and was she going to be okay? What on earth caused our hearty, healthy baby girl to suffer this?
The next hour - or was it 30 minutes, or was it 2 hours? - are a complete blur. I heard voices telling me that she is looking much better, which I didn’t know what to make of considering the state she was in. I heard back-story that she was really fussy and her teacher was carrying her when she suddenly had trouble breathing and her eyes and lips turned blue. I heard that her heart did not, however, stop beating and she did not lose total consciousness. And I heard that an ambulance had been called.
As I was kissing my baby’s limp legs, back, neck and arms, which were covered in goose bumps – it was clear she was burning with fever. I inhaled her, her smell, our baby’s smell. Through my tears and my trembling I wanted to inhale whatever monster took over her body and breathe life back into her. I knew she could tell I was there, even though she couldn’t move. Her sweet eyelids looked so heavy…like all they wanted to do were to shut and go into a deep sleep.
After what seemed like ages the EMT finally arrived. I carried my limp daughter, who was doing everything in her power to just keep her eyes on me, to the ambulance. Acknowledging that I’m the mother of the child needing medical assistance, I won’t dwell on the incompetency of the two EMT staff nor on the EMT service in general. Simply telling you they didn’t have a thermometer in the ambulance should give you an idea.
Richard, who was equally as scared, not because he saw what I saw, but because he didn’t; he didn’t know what was going on except that it was bad. Very bad. I will forever be grateful that his car had broken down the day before and that he had to grab a colleague to drive him to the nursery, which was all the way across town. No parent should get behind the wheel when they know something awful has happened to their child. Because no doubt Richard would have willed his car wings and flown over to the nursery if he could have. He arrived just as the ambulance was leaving so he went on to the Children’s Emergency Hospital where we met him. And yes, he beat the ambulance to the hospital.
In the ambulance, I continued to hold Isabelle the whole way in my arms. The headmistress and I were doing everything we could to keep Isabelle awake. I kept saying, “We’re going to see daddy soon. Do you want to see daddy?” And she responded, “daddy.” This was the beginning of her coming back…this was her first word through this whole ordeal. And there daddy was, ready to lift her from my arms when the ambulance doors opened as we rushed in.
Tests were done. Doctors were consulted. Heads nodded. Observation took place. And we were told she had a convulsion…a seizure due to a high fever. And THEN in the next breath doctor says, in a rather casual manner, “they are harmless and she will be absolutely fine.” What? Okay, we’ll take it. But…seriously? To go from thinking your baby’s life was on the line to then hearing, “it was harmless” just seems like oil and water to me.
Febrile convulsion is what she had. And through tears and laughter that night we read article after article that all started with some version of “horrifically scary to watch or have” but “virtually harmless.” We just couldn’t believe it! We were so very happy, and so very grateful. Grateful she was going to be okay. Grateful the convulsion didn’t happen in my friend, Claire’s, car. Grateful I wasn’t earlier and this didn’t happen in my car. Grateful for the well-trained nursery staff who did everything perfect in this emergency. Grateful for Yoly and my friend Lisette who watched over Sebastian, and who gave us peace of mind doing so. Grateful for so so so many things.
We are all still recovering. Isabelle is being treated for her ear infection that is the root cause of the fever responsible for this heinousness. Richard and I are reeling from the emotion of it all. I still can’t keep my eyes dry when my mind goes back to that moment at the nursery, which happens far more often than I wish it would. And Sebastian is, well, he’s cruised through this week like a rock star – certainly the least scathed of all of us. Yet again, another thing to be grateful for!
To think even for a minute that you were losing your child…well, it changes you. On a fundamental level, it changes you. To get to the place where you grip the deepest depths of your love for your child and hang onto it with dear life… To be reminded that you would give everything you have just to keep your family healthy and together… To think that you’d never wish for anything again if only you could keep your family protected…
Priorities came into light. Perspective shifted into focus. And I’ve been forever changed.