The scariest day of my life

I think a lot of you already know at least part of our scary story from Monday, but here are the details.  First, though, I want to thank ALL of you who e-mailed, texted, called, or commented on Facebook offering your love, support, prayers, and offers of help.  We really, really appreciate you all.  Wow.  What a blessing that was. 

So here’s what happened.  On Monday morning I left to go get Amélie from kindergarten, but I left Jack at home because he was still napping.  By the time we got home, he was awake with Daddy and the dogs on our side deck.  As we walked up the steps there was a lot of excitement and commotion (big sis coming home from school is a big deal–every day), and Jack just stepped backwards…off of the deck and onto the cement below.  He landed on his back, and I immediately screamed and absolutely panicked, because as I looked at him lying flat and motionless on his back staring up at the sky, I thought he was dead.  The image of that moment keeps flashing through my head over and over again.  I can’t shake it.  It was the most terrifying moment of my life.  Matt yelled at me to go pick him up (I had not yet gone up the steps), but that little voice from my CPR/First Aid class told me that wasn’t a good idea.  Plus, I was scared to go to him, and I felt frozen.  I stood there and screamed, but I couldn’t move.  Matt got to him and picked him up (which, I know, wasn’t a good idea–we should have called 911 and left him there until an ambulance arrived–but who is thinking logically when their baby boy is lying motionless on the ground???) and then I knew he wasn’t dead.  However, he wasn’t crying or yelling.  He whimpered a tiny bit, but mostly he just stared vacantly into space.  Amélie ran into her room, flopped onto her bed, hugged her bunny, and started sobbing.  We got her out of her room, and after a couple of frantic moments (was he going to snap out of this?  was he going to die on us?) we got in the car and headed to the hospital.  I was holding Jack in my lap (again, not a good idea, but I was terrified and thinking that he was going to die, and I wasn’t about to watch him die in his carseat), and Matt raced to the hospital, running lights and speeding way too fast.  I was frantically trying to keep Jack awake because I was terrified that he was going to fall asleep and die, and poor Amélie was yelling pitifully at me whenever she saw his eyes close.  It seemed like it took us FOREVER to get there.  I just looked it up, though, and the hospital is exactly 1.8 miles from my house.  That is the LONGEST 1.8 miles I have ever ridden.  There was no real parking in front of the emergency room, so Matt let me off at the door and I ran screaming into the building.  They let me right in (God help the person who would have tried to stop me), and an incredibly calm intake nurse asked me for his name, date of birth, etc.  I was just about to hit him.  Everyone was so flippin’ CALM and they seemed to move so SLOWLY.  I was not calm.  Hysterical would be a better word.  Finally we saw a doctor (I say finally, but I’m sure it was only a moment or two after we flew through the door), and he assessed Jack’s condition and decided to do a CAT scan.  Meanwhile, Jack was incredibly droopy.  He was dazed, not responsive to stimuli (when the doctor pinched him, for example), and he still wasn’t crying.  He had also thrown up by this point, and I seemed to remember that throwing up after a head injury was a big sign.  I still don’t know if that is true or not, but it fueled my panic.  I carried him to radiology, and as I held him he had his arms wrapped around my neck and he stroked my hair, which gave me such hope.  He always strokes my hair when he is sad or sleepy, and I was so relieved to feel this little act of recognition and love.  He was very calm for the CAT scan, which  worried me.  He seemed a little scared, but mostly he was still acting very drowsy and lethargic.  He didn’t know (or care) where he was, and he didn’t even seem to know who we were.  I was able to be there with him during the scan, and as the machine took pictures of his brain I sang to him.  Jack’s middle name is David, after my grandpa, and my grandpa’s favorite hymn is “Day by Day.”  Ever since he was born I have sung that song to him to help him relax to go to sleep or whenever he is scared or hurt.  I got as close to him as possible and sang, and the familiar tune and familiar voice seemed to comfort him.  After the CAT scan, the doctor told us that his brain appeared normal, but that he had a fractured skull.  While I normally would be quite upset at the thought of my baby with a broken head, I was so relieved that he didn’t appear to have brain damage that I took this as good news.  He was still not acting right at all, though, so the doctor decided to admit him to pediatric ICU.  Matt’s mom came to pick Amélie up (which was such a blessing, b/c that poor little girl was so scared.  As if being terrified that her baby brother was hurt wasn’t enough, the ER wasn’t exactly the greatest place for a sensitive 5-year-old to be–the sights, the sounds, the smells, the guy in handcuffs being escorted in by 3 police officers….).  My parents arrived a little bit later, and it was encouraging to have them there.  I needed as much reassurance and support as I could get.  Before Jack went to PICU, the nurses came to put in an IV.  However, they couldn’t get to his little veins until after 3 jabs (the feat was finally performed by a nurse whose hands were shaking so badly that I do not know HOW she ever got that needle into his tiny vein!).  By the time we actually were admitted to PICU, Jack was doing considerably better.  He had started to smile, jabber a little bit, and protest the fact that he was lying flat on his back.  Plus, the poor boy was starving.  He hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and by this time it was 4:30 or so.  They finally let him sit up, drink some juice, and eat a popsicle, and that perked him up considerably.  He steadily improved over the next few hours.  He did not want to be confined to his room, so we let him wander a bit through the PICU.  The only problem was that he had a security ankle bracelet on, and he kept activating the alarms, despite our best efforts to keep him away from the sensors.  We finally concluded that if we didn’t want to be hated by the nurses we needed to keep him in his room, which was easier said than done.  Sometimes he would go over to the room’s sliding glass door, stick his arm out, and wave at the nurses who walked the halls outside his cell.  This little act was endearing to them, and those antics, combined with his smile, big blue eyes, and sweetness won them over quite quickly.  At 4:00 yesterday morning he had another CAT scan, and when they woke me up to tell me they were wheeling him in his bed down to radiology, they encouraged me to stay in the hard little fold-out bed (where I had hardly slept all night) because he was still asleep, and they said if he woke up they would give him some medicine to help him go back to sleep so that movement wouldn’t mess up the scan.  They forgot to deactivate his security bracelet, however, so when he set the alarms off, yet again, he woke up scared and crying.  I was SO GLAD this happened, b/c then I of course went with him to radiology, where he was awake and remained that way despite the maximum amount of whatever drug they gave him.  He looked a little loopy, but he knew he wanted me right there, and he wasn’t about to let me out of his sight.  Thankfully the results of this scan showed no bleeding or swelling in his brain, so after spending hours seeing doctor after doctor after doctor getting an “OK” on his status, we finally saw the head doctor in neurosugery, and he gave us his blessing to leave.  The last hurdle was to talk to a social worker, which scared me to death (who wants to be the one falsely accused of pushing their child off of a deck???), but I’m sure it was pretty obvious that our little guy was well-loved and happy with his mommy and daddy, and she, too, gave us her blessing to leave. 

Now we’re home, and I feel a bit like my emotions have been through the shredder.  Last night as I was driving home from picking up Amélie I finally fell apart and just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.  (Thankfully Amélie and Jack were with Matt in the car, so the only witnesses to my emotional spectacle were the dogs.)  We all slept really well last night, and this morning I was absolutely joyful at the chaos of a normal school morning in our house.  I am so thankful.  so blessed.  I have never prayed so hard or so frantically in my whole life, and I am thankful that he is OK.  I hope I never, ever have to go through something so horrible again…..

(I have some pictures to post, but I don’t have time to do it right now.  I’ll try to post them later.)

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by clbeyer on October 1, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Jill, this is absolutely gut-wrenching. I am so, so thankful that everything is okay. Sending much love…

    Reply

  2. Posted by clbeyer on October 1, 2008 at 9:59 am

    …or relatively okay, anyway. I guess you know what I mean.

    Reply

  3. Oh Jill! How very scary! I am so glad he is okay now! I rejoiced with you as you described him coming out of the stupor and starting to show signs of feeling normal again.

    The way the scene flashes in your mind over and over and the way Amelie reacted is exactly how it was for me and for Jacob when Ethan put his hand in the paper shredder when he was about a year and half old. Not to say that turned out to be this serious, but we were so scared just like you two.

    Reply

  4. Thanks for sharing with us. I can just imagine that scene playing over and over in your mind. I’m so glad you found a chance to let your emotions play out, and I hope you continue to make space for that. I praise God for your sweet, healthy little boy and all the rest of you.

    Reply

  5. Wow, Jill. I was reading this out loud to Patrick and couldn’t even finish…I felt like crying right along with you. I am so thankful that little Jack is going to be ok. We love you guys and hope to see you soon.

    Reply

  6. I am so sorry you all and your sweet boy had to go through this scary nightmare! Am glad it is okay now.

    I called 911 on Chloe once when she was 2 b/c she had her first (and only) febrille siezure due to a high fever. It was SO scary as I saw her eyes roll back into her head and then she stopped breathing/moving and turned blue. The firemen got there just as Cody started CPR. You can bet that when she gets a fever now I stick her in the cold tub. (They say once it’s happened it’s easier for it to happen again.)

    And then there was the time Mason got his whole arm stuck under the treadmill at my cousin’s. It was bent like an S before Cody got it pried out with the weight bench bar. To Cody’s amazement, it wasn’t broken, there was no nerve damage…just major skin burns.

    Both of those days still remain the WORST days of my life and I can easily remember the panic and horrible feelings just thinking about it. I just told my bro last week that it’s amazing any of us lived past 3.

    Again, so thankful JJ is well now. …and thankful you had your families right there for support!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Sara McColligan on October 1, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Wow…have i been there! it’s amazing how one little moment could change your life forever. all i can say is we are so blessed to have our little ones and once we have them, nothing ever matters as much as they do. when those kids get sick or hurt, you realize you are only as happy as your un-happiest kid. and you don’t know how you’ll go on if something terrible happens to them. it’s the purest love that there is but it also hurts the most when something bad happens.

    I am so relieved that little Jack is OK. thanks for the lovely post about your ordeal. i bet it helps to get all of that out. i hope you can get some rest and we love you guys!

    Reply

  8. Posted by karmenl on October 1, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I’m really glad you all are OK. I’m sorry this happened. It was scary enough to read, I can’t imagine having to experience it in real life.

    I’m just really thankful FOR you and that everything is going to be OK.

    Reply

  9. Posted by chill24 on October 2, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I’m trying to finish reading this through teary eyes…ahhh. I’m so glad he’s alright. I can’t imagine the absolute fear. breathe.
    I’m facebook illiterate so I heard about this from Kim yesterday. Jack’s little angels were working overtime. 🙂

    Reply

  10. Posted by Rhonda on October 3, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Reading this through tear filled eyes was hard enough! Then imagining all the things that you went through… Taylor was 9 months the first time we visited the hospital…Douglas was 6 years but nothing like what you all went through…God is awesome though and heard the prayers that where offered up for Jack! Wish I lived closer I would come and spoil you a little…ok ok Your kids not you but just the same we miss you all and are praying for rest and peace! Thankful that you all are doing better!

    Reply

  11. I’m so grateful he is doing OK.

    In one of the photos I asked myself: “Why does Amelie have blonde hair?”

    Reply

  12. Posted by Bonnie on October 3, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Okay, I just read your blog about the incident. Talk about scary. I had an experience like that when Ben fell off the playground equipment, which was about 7 feet up. He ended up only breaking an arm, but I thought the same thing as you.. do I leave him there and call 911? But, I didn’t. We picked him up and drove him to the hospital. I’ve been in the ER so many times with my boys with their seizures and sometimes the staff moves fast and sometimes they don’t. I hope he heals fast!

    Reply

  13. Posted by teason on October 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    haha paul, i thought the same thing–who says pigtails are just for girls (and pigs, too, of course). glad jack-jack is okay. glad you and matt and amelie are ok.

    Reply

  14. Posted by Teresa on October 3, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    There is nothing that compares with the helplessness you feel when one of your children are hurt or injured. Brett cracked his head open when he was 3. He hit a bump on his bike and landed head first on the sidewalk. Bruce came walking home carrying him with blood running all over both of them. Time stands still and the moment lasts a lifetime. I am so glad he is going to be ok. I’ll be praying for all of you.

    Reply

  15. So glad that it wasn’t more serious. I have had moments like that, where all I can do is scream and cry out in fear. Even though it is annoying at the time, I am so thankful for the calm people that God provides in those moments… Praise God for his protection for Jack through this! Love you guys…

    Reply

  16. Oh my good Lord…I cannot imagine what that must have been like. I found you through Matt’s blog—I’ll definitely be sending up prayers for you and your family!

    Reply

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