Friday, March 11, 2016

366 Project - Day 71 - "Parenting in the Emergency Room"

March 11, 2016 - "Parenting in the Emergency Room"

I was recently asked the question: What is it, exactly, that is so physically hard about parenting?

It's a simple enough question... isn't it?

Yet the answer is so complex that it is, in and of itself, a hard one to explain. It truly needs to be experienced in order to be understood... so the only answer I was able to give was along the lines of "Just wait. You'll find out soon enough."

My wife and I have two children. Our daughter is about to graduate high school and is preparing to move out of state to begin college this fall. Our son is a freshman in high school, and struggles to get through each day of being a teenage boy with Autism. The last eighteen years have been a rollercoaster ride for us as parents. There have been extreme highs and major dives to low points with lots of twists and turns and loops along the way. At the very least it can, at times, be a very emotionally-draining experience... which in turn ends up becoming a very physically-draining one.

Today has been the perfect example of the rollercoaster ride of life as a parent - as 90% of my day thus far has been spent in the emergency room with my daughter.

The day began beautifully. I woke up early... saw both kids off to school... took care of a few necessary tasks - then went right back to bed to sleep in a little... only to be woken up by a phone call from my wife saying that she had just received a phone call from the high school that our daughter was having an emergency and that they were calling 911. My wife was in the process of rushing to the school and trying to arrange for her mother to come pick me up so I could meet them at the emergency room.

All I knew was that something had gone wrong and that my daughter was shaking uncontrollably and her eyes were moving back and forth like crazy. I didn't know if she was alert or not. I just knew those things and that the ambulance was on its way.

A sudden sense of panic set in - during what was, perhaps, the most agonizing 15 or 20 minutes I've ever experienced. I was shaking like crazy... my heart was racing... I couldn't focus as I tried to make sure that I was ready to rush out the door as soon as I saw my mother-in-law's car pull up. I don't know how many times I had to stop myself to calm myself in order to be able to do something. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. I found myself talking to myself - saying things like "No No No No No No No No" over and over again... and actually telling myself what I needed to be doing as I scrambled to find both my Xanax and my Parkinson's meds to stop the shaking. I was running around the house... and suddenly realized that I was crying and praying harder than I have in a long time.

The knowledge that something bad has happened to your child - yet not knowing exactly what is going on and being helpless to do anything produces a sense of pain and agony that really cannot be described.

We raced to the hospital and actually pulled in at the same time that the ambulance was backing in. I rushed in to the ER - hysterical - and the attendant wouldn't let me through because she hadn't been entered into the system yet. Thankfully a different staff member heard what I was saying - that of course she hasn't been put into the system yet because they're in the process of taking her out of the fucking ambulance as we're standing here fucking talking - and he went into the ER and then came back out to walk both my mother-in-law and me to the room.

Walking into the room... seeing your child shaking uncontrollably as staff members try to figure out what the heck is going on is an absolutely terrifying experience.

Thankfully we have an amazing ER here... and the staff is incredible. They had her calm as soon as possible - and hooked up to an IV while they ran blood tests and such to find out what happened. I don't know how long we ended up being there... it was at least three or four hours, I think. Little by little she became calmer and calmer... and you could see that she was stabilizing and returning back to her normal self. Things became much more relaxed in the room... as staff brought us drinks and food and such as we waited for the doctor to come in.

We're home now. She is doing well and is going to be fine. It appears that the entire episode was a result of her body reacting to a recent increase in the dosage of a medication. The medical particulars of what happened don't really matter any more though... what matters is that it was one of the most terrifying experiences I think we've ever had as parents.

Now that we're home... I can't help but think about the last 18 years. The late-night doctor calls. The trips to the emergency room. The many sleepless nights. The physically exhausting days. The mornings when it was a struggle to get out of bed because you were just so worn out - but you had to do it anyway. The emotional highs and lows of milestones like the first day of kindergarten and the first time your child came home in tears because of something another child said or did to them. All of the ups and downs... all of the emotional highs and lows... all of the times where you found yourself crying in your bedroom, wanting to scream... and all of the times where you found yourself crying tears of joy, of happiness, of pride.

Being a parent truly is the hardest, most emotionally and physically demanding job there is - and it has to be experienced in order to really understand just why that is the case.

I wouldn't trade it for the world though.


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