Thursday, September 6, 2012


Fall is the season in our house that holds deep significance.  Each leaf that falls from the tree is a meaning of life evolving, and how time passes.  With each Season comes brilliance, energy and hope for what it holds.  For me, September is a heartfelt time.  Interestingly enough, it resonates with other friends whom are close to us, and many school friends.  This past week on the playground, 12 different friends have asked how Makenzie's health is doing.  Trying to sound strong while being real, I share, "She is doing great and shows no symptoms of even having Type 1 Diabetes yet.  We take it as it comes and for now, she is a walking miracle. She rocks her 1/3 pancreas like it's nobody's business".

But honestly, I look at the Fall date of September 23rd as a marker. September 23rd, 2010, is when I rushed Makenzie to the hospital. It is a date that forever changed my entire families life. It's a date when my oldest daughter didn't recognize me at all.  It is when I looked at her big eyes, trying to stare into her soul, and thought her soul was being lifted away from me.

Flag catching, 9.20.2010
I had been in Portland for the Power MOB business conference from September 21-23rd. Honestly, it was an excuse to visit my heart city and be with some of my best girlfriends.  Rarely do I get away without the kids. While in Portland, Makenzie had fallen ill with stomach flu on September 22nd.  Keeping in constant touch with Jack and my Mom, they said to stay in Portland and enjoy myself.  As the day progressed, Jack shared she wasn't feeling better and after going to the pediatrician, they agreed she'd stay home the next day.  I asked my Mom if I should take an earlier flight. She said enjoy my morning and she'd be with Makenzie. The next morning, I attempted to "enjoy the time" while running the Leif Erickson trails with my dear friend, Sheri.  However, my gut wasn't feeling right.  It was heavy and I had an inkling something was off.  Upon calling Mom at the airport, she said Makenzie seemed dehydrated and that when I got home we should have her checked up again.  The less than two hour flight felt like ten hours.  Even with my Mom saying Makenzie just seemed dehydrated, my Mother instinct was on overload.  It was like I was being guided by airplane controllers waving their lights signaling, "All factors point towards your daughter being really sick. Be ready to run off the plane to take care of her".

My Dad picked me up from the airport, and as he pulled in front of my house I booked it inside to see Makenzie. My Mom looked at me and said, "Erin she isn't doing well and still can't keep things down. She just started the mouth bubbles after the last time we talked. I think she is sicker than stomach flu." Her eyes were as big as saucers, little face was foaming at the mouth, skin pale, body warm but extremities cold and she had no recognition of me.  Her mother. The woman who carried her for 9 months and nurtured her every day since birth. I held her and said nervously to my own Mom, "She isn't good Mom. She seems like it could be more than dehydration. I think we should go to Children's Hospital to give her fluids".  As my Dad drove the car, I said out loud with a focused tone I didn't know I possessed, "It has to be dehydration. I left 2 days ago with a dynamic 6 year old who was swimming alongside me, and now she seems so weak.  She must need to just keep her fluids down."  I had no idea how hard her strong little body had been working to fight off all the demons of broken down organs. Calling the pediatrician en route, I was rubbing Makenzie's hand hoping she'd recognize me. She didn't.

Hospital Life - 9.23.2010-12.16.2010
When we arrived at Children's Hospital Oakland, the nurses took Makenzie's vitals. While doing so, she shook like mad and had a seizure.  That seizure rushed us to the ER into a myriad of medical mayhem.  Makenzie was taken from my arms, laid on the table, and tubes started going in and out of her.  I maintained my calm, praying in my heart and mind to my God...Please let her be strong.  What is going on God, please let my Miracle be strong. Let her know we love her and let her please hear our voices.  I continued to talk to Makenzie as her eyes wandered through the faces above her, not knowing what was going on, but so out of her own body that she couldn't wince in pain.  My Dad had joined in the room than and stood behind me.  He rubbed my back with his big hands attempting to provide comfort, doing this while I rubbed Bug's legs simultaneously, hoping my touch could heal her body too.

Medical terms, questions, big words, talking above Makenzie's head, whispered conversations amongst the doctors, and a feeling of the unknown.  You could feel the room's nerves, since the medical team had no idea what was going on with Makenzie.  Every few minutes another pediatric specialist came in to do a test they could use to rule out the unknown.  When Jack arrived rushing in from work 30 minutes later, there was still no idea. The next hours felt like years.  Makenzie's body couldn't hold anything in.  It was breaking down. Each organ had decided to fail and not work together.  We are a TEAM, our little family unit, and her little team of a body decided to disagree with....each...organ.

Courage = Embracing Life's Challenges
Guilt began to rise within me.  What if she didn't recognize me again? What if she had gotten an infection to  her brain? What if I hadn't gone away and stayed home with the girls?  What if her body was breaking down and wouldn't come back? What if many what ifs rose up and enveloped my mind. While doing so, my inner voice screamed, "Don't go there Erin. DO NOT allow those thoughts to enter your body".

Beautiful Miracle- 8.16.2012
The pain of watching your helpless child, and not being able to connect with them, is an experience I don't wish upon anyone.  To stand there, praying they can hear your voice to calm them, praying that if it is their last moments in the world they could feel your love cradling their body is a living nightmare.  It is a feeling that now, almost 2 years after it happened, I sometimes still experience.  It is a feeling that doesn't wash away with countless showers, or with therapy sessions. Only with time.  It is one that likes to present itself when you think of the date that forever changed your life.

But it is also a time when you learn miracles do exist! It is a date that I associate with strength and courage, because on that date, we found out on a deeper level what our daughter was made of. It is a date that allowed me to trust my inner Mom voice.  It is a date that cemented Jack's and my partnership as parents, knowing we would not let our daughters down when they needed us most.  It is a date that even with haunting me, reminds me how far Makenzie has come.  

While watching her playing tag on the playground yesterday, pink leggings tight on her round buns, I felt grateful.  Another Mom asked me how she was doing, I said with a smile, "Look at her. She is doing incredible and taking it each day as it comes.  She knows what happened in a more mature level now, but she also is aware of how strong she is and what she is capable of overcoming."   I believe, September 23rd reminds us all of that.

Visit the Believe in ME Foundation to help provide quality childcare for siblings of hospitalized kids.

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey