January 13, 2014

Ellie Update

It was an exciting 24hrs for Ellie. First CT scan, first ambulance ride, first staple to the the head. Truly, she thought this whole skull fracture thing was one big vacation. It's not an exaggeration that Joe and I were way more traumatized by this whole event than she was. Just look at her smiling face.
Ellie was disappointed there were no lights and sirens to accompany her ride.
She mostly dozed on the way there - waking to ask the occasional question.
It looks like a spiritual moment, but really it's Joe applying numbing cream to her wound while they both watch cartoons in the Emergency Room.
Happily tucked into bed, with her best buds and a cup of apple juice (at 11pm - why not?)
Check-out time found her lazily playing on Dad's iphone - a luxury if ever there was one.

After writing my cathartic essay and wandering the hospital halls for a little longer, I was finally able to sleep on the convenient (though highly uncomfortable) pull out couch in her room. Early in the morning I heard her voice as she woke up, "This whole TV is for me!" She was totally digging the big screen and would have liked to stay in her cozy hospital bed all day, but wouldn't you know it, less than 24hrs after checking in, we were on our way home!

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers on Ellie's behalf. We've appreciated so much the phone calls and emails and dinners brought to our house. We're so grateful that everything turned out as well as it did. Her recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. She doesn't suffer from any lingering concussion symptoms and hopefully a follow up x-ray will show that her little bones are going back together just the way they should. Truly, we are very blessed and have been enjoying quiet time as a family even more now that we've had a glimpse of what might have been.

I'll be back blogging soon - I've got lots of posts planned that don't involve any sort of trauma at all. Won't that be a nice change around here?

January 5, 2014

Writing through Trauma

I was laying next to Joe on the pull-out sleeper, feeling his body jump in the way it does as he drifts away. I had been curled next to Ellie in her hospital bed, but found that I couldn't sleep as I was tempted to constantly open my eyes and watch her gentle, steady breathing. So I came to sleep with Joe in hopes that the familiarity of him next to me would help calm my nerves, firing like live wires throughout my body. No luck. I was just laying there, squeezing my eyes shut as the memory of her accident played again and again.

She's alright now. She's alright.

But still.

I haven't cried yet. That's why I'm here, rocking back and forth in the lactation room's glider, hiding out for some peace and quiet, typing this all out in hopes that the tears can come and that after the tears I will have rest. Joe said he sobbed on the way to Upstate hospital - a 1.5 hr drive from our home in Ithaca to Syracuse, NY. I couldn't sob then. I was in the back of the ambulance, stroking Ellie's hair and making small talk with the paramedic about the life of a first responder, asking the occasional question about what a depressed skull fracture actually meant for my daughter. Of course, she didn't have many answers. I'd have to wait until we got there - until the neurosurgeons took a look at her. In the mean time I clung to the hopeful information that her CT scan was clean: No signs of swelling or bleeding, the midline of her brain not showing any indication of severe trauma.

But still.

The doctor at Cayuga Medical Center back in Ithaca had rushed in to say that she had a fractured skull and that transport to a hospital with pediatric trauma care would be necessary. He mentioned neurosurgery and that they might need to lift that part of her skull back into place. That's when the tears first threatened to spill over. But I kept them back. Made all the necessary phone calls, made the plans that would get us through the next few days in case we were in Syracuse for long. Joe went home to gather our things and make arrangements for Wren's care. The ambulance came and I rode along with Ellie - who charmed the driver with her sweetness and told the paramedic how thrilled she was for the opportunity to "see the world." When we got here to Syracuse I started to feel more at ease. The doctors here are very comfortable dealing with her kind of injury and Ellie seemed even more alert and responsive than she had in the hours just following her accident. Still, I carried the weight of worry over my four year old having surgery until I finally couldn't wait for neuro any longer. I looked at the pediatrician handling her care and said, "So do you think this is a surgical case?" He seemed almost shocked by the question. Of course not! This was such a small fracture, her vitals were great - it would be very surprising if she went into surgery. And so I felt at ease for the first time since I saw it.

But still - I saw it.
I saw the accident and I keep seeing it every time I close my eyes to sleep.

Now that take-care-of-everything-so-her-child-survives-Mom is retired, the scared and traumatized part of me begins to awaken. I wish I could un-see it. But I saw her careening down the hill in the cemetery. I saw her face so full of glee as I chased after her runaway disc sled, desperate to stop it. She was laughing, blissfully unaware of how dangerously fast she was going - completely incapable of shifting her weight in such a way that would steer her safely through the curve. She went faster and faster down that hill as I screamed for her to hold on because my brain couldn't think of a way to yell for her to bail out - not a way that would have made any difference to her. And when she spun around, she faced me as the back of her head slammed into the stone outcropping of a platform - part of a grave marker, I think. One minute she was moving so fast, so fast down that hill. And suddenly all the force stopped for a split second as her body was folded forward by the impact and she flew a yard to the right. I saw her tiny, limp body fly through the air at a sickening angle before landing face first in the snow.

In that moment my entire being was filled with dread - horror landed in my stomach and stopped my world from turning, though my feet were still hurtling me toward her. She's gone. In a flash. She can't have survived that. I saw it with my own eyes and now my daughter is gone.

She wasn't moving. Joe and I got to her at the same time - he from the bottom of the hill and I from the top. It was only seconds after impact, but still, she hadn't moved. We rolled her over and saw her eyes, already open, staring blankly at the sky. We called her name, asked if she could hear us. She started to blink and cry. In that moment, when I saw that she was conscious, that she had movement and vocabulary, the most terrified parts of me went deep inside and the logical parts took over. Get her inside. Remove her hood and hat, register surprise to see so little blood. Insist that we go to a medical facility immediately. She needs a CT, she needs a CT. I told the doctor at the urgent care that the accident I witnessed was severe. Even though she wasn't vomiting and had even pupils, I insisted that the speed she was traveling and the fact that she took the force of impact solely on her head warranted a CT scan. He agreed and informed me that unfortunately, they couldn't do the scan at that facility. Thus began our travels to Cayuga Medical Center for the necessary image and then on to Upstate Hospital in Syracuse for further treatment.

And now, we....what?
Relax isn't quite the right word.
Celebrate doesn't match my mood.


I cry with relief that my baby is OK. I feel gratitude that all she needed was one staple and 24 hours of observation before being released. I cry because my hands still shake and I continue to play that video of her in the moment of impact. I cry because she's going to be well, and I cry because she hurt. She's small and innocent and vulnerable and I cry that I didn't protect her from this.

Then maybe I'll sleep. Some more rocking, some more crying - and maybe sleep will come.