Yesterday, at about 8pm, we had a major misstep that brought our whole dance floor to a crashing halt.
Yesterday, at about 8pm, Dolly’s little heart stopped beating. The nurses were doing a change of Dolly’s epinephrine syringes, the ones they use to slowly push epinephrine into her to help her heart beat. They had prepared me that her blood pressure might drop as they did this. It did drop, to nothing. As they began to change the syringe, her already low BP began to fall lower, then lower, then they shouted for the doctor to come into the room. He asked that someone run for the emergency medications they use during times like this. He used the word “Code.”
As a nurse, my knowledge is limited in all things heart related, but after working on a pediatric heme/onc unit, I know my codes. I have been the one pushing fluids into a child as their blood pressure falls to nothing. I recognized what was happening around me, but I was unable to do anything except tell them over and over, beg them, to “MOVE FASTER!!!” Looking back, they were moving fast, but to me, the whole world felt like it was going into slow motion. I saw that the IV the RN was attempting to use was stop-cocked shut, I started shouting at her, I remember doing it, but they were all focused on our girl, as they should be. No one seemed to hear, and, I don’t honestly know that I was making much sense. Finally, in my panic, I attempted to climb over the equipment that now stood between us to open the stop cock. Once opened, I was escorted to the back of the room, a nurse sitting by me and gently rubbing my back. I wasn’t alone, but I needed to be out of the way. I was interrupting their new dance.
I hated this new dance. I wanted my methodical, waltz back. I didn’t want this new dance that I didn’t know, or understand, the steps to.
As I sat on the couch in the back of the ICU room, I watched Dolly’s many monitors begin to alarm and I heard them tell each other she was in “full arrest.” In the doorway, there were now, at minimum, ten faces standing by. The giant glass door to her ICU room was flipped open. Several people ran in. Then, I watched in horror, as they rolled her roughly to slip a board under her, the board they use when they need to start doing chest compressions. ‘You have used that board!’ I shouted to myself in my head. ‘That board is often the last thing a child feels!’ and then ‘They’re doing CPR! They’re doing CPR on your baby!’ I couldn’t see her, but I could see the doctor’s arms, locked into position as he pumped on her chest, the bed moving up and down in a way that seemed so painful to her already wired and freshly operated on chest. I began to count in my head, “1, 2, 3, 4…” knowing that if we got to 120 there was a risk that her tiny brain would be damaged by the lack of blood flow. I got to about 11 before I reminded myself I didn’t care, I just wanted her back. Please, God, just give me more time. I remember shouting encouragements at her “You fight! Do you hear me?!? I’m here, and I NEED YOU TO FIGHT!!!” By 46, she had a pulse again.
The world sped up into a high speed, fast motion, perfectly choreographed and timed dance. They have done this dance before. I have not. I sat out of the way, watching them move. More people funneled in, including her surgeon. I remember thinking ‘Was he running when he got here? Did you see him run? Oh God. Please don’t let him have run here.’ I knew the world would have flipped if he had. He never runs. The man is the calmest force in the land, he shouldn’t run, it would feel wrong, and he never raises his voice. At least, not in front of me. He is a completely logical thinker who surveys the scene and you can almost see his amazing mind working. He walked around her bed, looked at her tiny, puffy, but no longer lifeless self, checking all her lines as if he had a mental checklist he used in situations like this. Then, he said to a now painfully silent room, ‘Let’s review what happened here. Take me through it step by step.’ The dance slowed to almost still as they all stood over her bed watching her, and figuring out their next dance moves. They moved together again, slowly, but with total certainty.
The dance changed again a few moments later when her heart went into a rhythm that isn’t compatible with life. While she never lost her pulse, she had to be shocked. I heard “Clear!” and watched her tiny 22 lb. self fly upward off that infernal board. There was more pleading with God on my part, but their dance remained well timed. ‘She did NOT lose her pulse!’ they reminded me. ‘She did NOT lose her pulse!’ I sat at the back of the room, watching and praying. It’s all I could do.
The most odd things go through your mind at a time like this. At home, yesterday was the Diva’s 7th birthday. If Dolly dies, I thought, it will have been on the Diva’s birthday. The day will never be joyful for her again. Then I thought of Poppy. Will she remember Dolly? Will she know how much her big sister loved her? Then, I thought of myself. What will I do? How will I go on? I thought of Dolly, and wondered if she was in pain, but I never wondered if her leaving us would be bad for her. This has to have been so painful. Our girl, she was suffering. I dance a dance of faith, a faith that holds her for eternity in the palm of her creator’s hand. That doesn’t mean I don’t beg that creator for one more day.
We are back to waltzing today. Slow, methodical, carefully planned, waltzing. Our dance card is full of the best and the brightest in the land. And, it is signed by one merciful healer.
–FullPlateMom, who is so grateful for more time.