Sunday, September 12, 2010


I watch my daughter breathe in the tornado. Fascinated, terrified, stupefied. What is this grasping for air? Where does it come from? The day before toilet paper and Kleenex littered the hallway, entire rolls hinted an early Charmin frost. She only had a cold.

Now she is choking on her own bile, unable to draw breath and part of me is embarrassed we are over an hour early to her pediatrician's office. The stupid part. It's just a bad cough, right?

They are rushing her back to an empty room. They hook her up to oxygen, her levels so low, our amazing doc rushes in.

"We need an ambulance now. She needs to go to the hospital or she is not going to make it through the night."

I make a few calls, probably not making sense, my voice cracking through the receiver, my core quaking with a tremor I am still carrying piggy back on my shoulders.

The EMT's put her in the ambulance. I am immediately car sick, heart sick, love sick as I jostle in my seat belt beside her. I stare in blue eyes. They stare at a stuffed pig dangling from the ambulance ceiling. Jason, our EMT, hands it to two chubby hands, but I am the only one who grabs it. He talks to her as he administers oxygen. We both strain to hear her answers.

How old are you sweetheart? "Three."
How old is your dolly? (she has brought it with us) "Sixteen."
Sixteen, really? Can she drive? "Yes."

We are going about 90 miles an hour. Blessedly, the sirens remain off. She would have been beside herself. She is already afraid and exhausted. Four docs are waiting. They love her on sight. She does not disappoint them. After a monster breathing treatment where she looks like she belongs in a B1 bomber, she begins to relax. She waves, blows kisses, makes faces, asks for things she has no intention of eating or drinking. I count. They have brought her 6 cups of ice water.

"More ice cubes."

Her dad asks for a Coke. So does she. I jump forward three feet. NO.
She collects 4 granola bars, 2 string cheeses, and an orange and apple juice. She touches nothing.

They give her a steroid and another breathing treatment. She makes piggy noises underneath the mask which has the attending doc in stitches. Is she breathing in the smoke or blowing it in his direction? Her heart rate's up afterward. She's jittery and keeps says she needs to go now. The RU doc comes in.

Who else lives with you princess? (He has asked if she prefers her name or her daddy's nickname for her and she assures him he is to call her princess.)
"My brother. But I want a sister and another brother and a kitty."
Do you have a kitty at home?
"No, but we are all kitties," indicating her dad and I.

Is she meowing? And then she's singing "Busy Bee," and aria she's created in the ER though we all shush her as we are crying with the joy of her sharing the music she can't help but share anytime, anywhere.

She falls asleep after a few more breathing treatments. Her oxygen plummets, the alarm goes off again and again. More breathing, chap-stick on parched lips. They try to attach the oxygen around her nose. She screams. She fights. She rips it out and the screams reverberate against frazzled nerves. She's not fully awake, I explain. She is done. Music is not calming her down and she it hitting the nurse away. Exhaustion is overpowering her , but still she fights. I hold her in my arms. I almost drop her, but no one is connected to her as I am. I know her anger, her fear, I know about being loud, about self preservation. I am not afraid of her screams. They are as familiar to me as mine are to her and I stroke the hair plastered on her head. I tell her the story of the Wizard of Oz.

My back is bone and fire. She is dead weight with an attitude. The ruby slippers calm her, Dorothy calms. her. Dorothy overpowering the wicked witch, losing her voice in the tornado.

"Where did her voice go, Mama?" The storm was so strong and so powerful when she called her Aunty Em's name, her voice got lost in the wind.

"Will it come back?" Yes, the storm will pass by and it will be awful, but then it goes away and it's quiet again.

She settles against the pillow and the Albuterol resumes it's healing breath. I watch her fog up the mask. How did an unconscious movement of the diaphragm drawing in life giving gas get to be such hard work?

Breathing has reduced my pain. By learning to breathe the right way, my thoracic pain is diminished, cervical pain reduced. Breathing done correctly brings blood flow to injured areas, strengthens my core, and is taking inches off my belly. It has taken me about two months in PT to get it right and I'm still working on it. Breath is bringing me strength. Blow out the candles, sweetheart. Good job, sweetie, you gave such a big breath!
"The tomato won't take it away."
The nurse stops and looks at my daughter. What?
"I don't like the tomato. It took Dorothy's breath away."
I supply that I think she means tornado.

Do tornadoes have warnings?
Somehow my husband was home that day. Somehow my dear friend texted me to have my son come to her house after school before required homework and chores, which I am an absolute stickler for. He is not there to be terrified as they take his beloved Sis away. My hubby is there to carry, to shoulder, to process what I cannot and to run around as I snuggle with her, as I breathe with her. In and out, the new way I've been taught. I need help to do it right.

So does my daughter.

She still has her breath and her voice.

Praise God, the tornado didn't take it away.

*Thank you to every angel who loves our baby girl. She will be just fine. She had an asthma attack brought on by a common cold. We have the best family and friends in the world. Thank you.