So much depends on our own attitudes, and as we learn to place our problem in its true perspective, we find it loses its power to dominate our thoughts and our lives. I’ve been ruminating on this slogan for the past few weeks, testing its theory on the challenges that have been lumbering beside me for the past half-year. It’s like watching a hawk glide effortlessly above precipitous terrain, catching these glimpses of “true perspective.”
Six months ago, Elodie spent her third birthday recuperating from three days’ sedation, on a ventilator at Children’s Hospital in Denver. I was as physically and emotionally spent as I had ever been; cradling your child in your arms and seeing in her eyes the terror of not being able to take a breath is the adrenaline equivalent of falling backwards off an abyss. Then it’s like being snapped violently back from the point of impact, repeatedly, as if tethered by the ankles to a too-long lifeline to safety, watching doctors struggle to shove tubes into her airway, then scrambling behind her gurney into a plane for a middle-of-the-night flight, followed by a 110-mile-per-hour drive through Denver to the Pediatric ICU.
It felt like my entire life compressed in those three days beside her bed. Wondering if the time spent with such depleted oxygen levels had affected her brain. Wondering if she would still be the same sweet little girl when she woke up, after going through such a traumatic experience; if we could still be the same carefree people, after living through such a harrowing ordeal.
Occasionally I would look up from her limp little body. There was a window in her room that looked into the next room, where through the white frame of the small rectangular window I had a view of the child in the bed next door.
It was my window of perspective.
Elodie spent her third birthday in the hospital. She had been taken off the ventilator two days prior, and although she still hadn’t said anything or even smiled, doctors assured us that her withdrawn disposition was likely just her way of dealing with the whole nightmare, and we probably didn’t need to worry about any lasting mental or physical effects. The staff at the hospital showered her with gifts; a ladybug Pillow Pet, a Dora the Explorer game, a play doctor kit. They made her a birthday banner and sang her a song. An almost continual flow of stuffed animals, more than we could fit into her little crib-like hospital bed, had been delivered to her room. We piled them up around her in a little red wagon, a mountain of consolation and kindness sent her way from loved ones as well as people we would never meet once we wheeled her out of there the following afternoon.
I went back to Children’s Hospital a few weeks ago. As fate would have it, my father’s rehab facility was just down the road. As I sat in Family Week meetings, I could hear ambulance sirens blaring down the street just beyond the rehab compound’s tall wooden fence. I went back to Children’s Hospital to look through my window of perspective.
Elodie spent her third birthday in the hospital, an IV stuck in her skinny arm and a nasal cannula plugged in her nostrils. It wasn’t exactly a happy birthday, but it was a birthday we were unconditionally grateful for. Though she certainly didn’t get the party a three-year-old would have expected or deserved, so we’re celebrating her half-birthday with a party on Labor Day.
We’ll be collecting presents to send to the kids at Children’s Hospital through Wednesday, September 14. Most-needed items include: portable DVD players, X Box 360 controllers, markers, watercolor paints, play doctor kits, DVDs for all ages (in English and Spanish, but nothing rated R), Polaroid cameras, X Box 360 Games (no “M” rating,) Nintendo DS lite, DSi, or gift cards to Target or Wal-Mart. The hospital cannot accept donations of food, plants, or anything used.
If you want to donate to Elle’s Half-Birthday Present Drive, drop off items at The Watch office in Telluride (on Pacific Street across from the Library,) or email me at email@example.com and I’ll pick them up.
For more information about donating to The Children’s Hospital, visit www.childrenscolorado.org/give/in_kind.aspx.