The following post was written on Monday morning, several hours before I was badly burned in a kitchen accident. I had decided that morning not to schedule it to post because I felt it was too heavy and didn’t want to overwhelm my blog readers. As I write from the burn unit of the same hospital where Yirmiyahu was in the intensive care unit a year ago, I’m feeling a lot of things – I’ll share about that in another post (I apologize for not writing more now to update all of you but I’m not up to it yet) – and my overwhelming feeling remains gratitude.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared pictures from Purim this year and also a couple pictures from last year. When I pasted those pictures into that post, it was hard to look at them, knowing that I had no idea what was about to happen to my life. Anniversaries of difficult events can be very hard times and in these last two weeks I’ve thought a lot about where we were a year ago.
On Purim a year ago, my life was normal – some challenges, some good things, just like most of you. And then a week later I began the hardest period of my life, when my oldest daughter who had an eating disorder and was visiting the US for a three week trip was taken to the emergency room. The saga began when I was called right before Shabbos by a friend who told me dd18 would probably need to hospitalized since she hadn’t eaten for a week. My anxiety on hearing this was very high; I was far away and unable to do anything to help. My friend then called me on Friday night at about 2 am – it was Shabbos for me -knowing that even though I couldn’t pick up the phone I would hear her as she left the message on the answering machine. She told me it was okay, they got her to drink a Boost and it looked like she wouldn’t need to be hospitalized. That began a period of over two weeks in which I hardly slept.
After Shabbos I couldn’t call to find out what was happening since in the US it was seven hours behind us and they wouldn’t be able to answer my call. I couldn’t sleep much that night, sensing that when morning came that there would be bad news. I finally fell asleep at 5 am and was awakened at 7 am by a phone call. It was my friend calling from the hospital where my daughter was taken on Shabbos. It was midnight there and she told me that a group of about ten people from the community had gotten together at midnight to meet at the hospital trying to figure out what to do to help my daughter. They said I needed to come immediately, that her situation was very bad and it was urgent I be with her.
I had an eight month old baby with no passports and the American embassy wasn’t open on Sundays. I rushed to the Ministry of the Interior where we were able to get an Israeli passport for Yirmiyahu within a half hour. I spent the afternoon trying to get an emergency appointment at the embassy the next morning.
We went to the embassy knowing that in the US they were working on getting me a flight for that day but I had no idea when I would need to travel. We were issued an emergency three month passport for Yirmiyahu; a lasting result of this situation is that his American passport doesn’t have the English name I had planned to give him – Jeremy. The flight had to be made in the name that was on the passport and to make his ticket, I gave them the Hebrew name on his Israeli passport since I couldn’t take a chance that there would be a technical issue with the American passport. Every time I see his US passport it reminds me of the urgency and fear of the situation we were in at the time.
In the meantime, a flight was made for me for Monday evening with the hope that we’d be able to get the passport in the morning; I had no idea what was happening with the flight details until after we left the embassy and got confirmation that my flight would be that evening.
Right now I can’t detail the visit that then took place when I got to the US. I have a lot of hard memories and my stomach clenches up as soon as I think of any part of that. I slept between 2 – 4 hours a night for over two weeks, which exacerbated the stress of everything. The tension was enormous, trying to get Tehila health insurance, trying to get priority admittance to the eating disorder unit of a local hospital while special arrangements were made to allow her to have emergency room status for eleven days. This was done since she had recently turned 18 and technically someone with anorexia who was her age would have been put her in the adult women’s psych ward, a unit where no one felt she belonged nor did they think she’d get the help she needed.
Meanwhile, Tehila wasn’t eating or drinking anything. Her heart rate was dangerously low (I think it was down to 32) and the risk of sudden cardiac arrest was very high. Since she was legally an adult, they couldn’t give her anything more than a fluid iv without her agreement, so she didn’t get any calories or nourishment during her entire hospitalization.
The stress of Tehila’s medical situation was compounded by my lack of transportation and the difficulty in getting to visit her each day. Once I took Yirmiyahu with me since I had no one to watch him; Tehila was in a private room in a non-contagious ward – and I kept him in my arms or in the carseat the entire time, except for the few minutes that Tehila held him. It wasn’t enough. Somehow he picked up a virulent virus as a result of being in the hospital for this short visit.
On Friday night – in the middle of the night – Yirmiyahu began to spit up. I didn’t think much of it. The next day I was at a friend afternoon, Yirmiyahu threw up a couple of times and he had a couple of loose diapers. By Sunday morning he was making little fussy sounds – I told a friend at 8 am that morning who gave me a ride that something was wrong, he wasn’t himself. I was planning to reconnect with some area friends at a homeschoolers get together that I had been very much looking forward to, but in the next two hours became so worried about Yirmiyahu that I didn’t go.
A friend who is an energy healer who I was meeting with that morning was also concerned when she saw him. She asked her son who is a paramedic to look at him, and he didn’t see anything to be concerned about – I was worried about dehydration. Since it was Sunday our pediatrician wasn’t in the office and when I called the doctor on duty and described to her what I was seeing, she said it sounded like a virus and to keep him hydrated. My friend offered to drive me to an emergency clinic if I wanted but I was so exhausted and didn’t trust my ability to think straight. I had concerns about insurance that were part of this – at this point I was planning to return with Yirmiyahu for four months after Pesach and was worried this might affect them giving him insurance -and I thought I was overreacting due to exhaustion and stress and seeing things that weren’t there.
The next day he slept most of the day and seemed to be recovering; I gave him lots of fluids whenever he woke up and that evening I took him to my chiropractor who does energy work. By this time Yirmiyahu was looking better than he had the morning before but I was still worried because when he woke up from his long nap, he was unsettled – not like himself at all. She checked him energetically and said ‘he’s starving’ and went with me to the store to find a formula that he wouldn’t react to, since she tested him and found him allergic to the formula he was having at the time.
All night long I felt worried about Yirmiyahu. He just wasn’t himself. I gave him the new formula and continued pushing fluids to keep him hydrated. I planned to take him to the doctor in the morning. It was now Tuesday, the day we were supposed to fly back to Israel – but first thing I got a call from the hospital that my daughter was finally going to be transferred to the eating disorder unit of another hospital and I needed to get there immediately. This ended up being an all day event rather than two hours and I got out of the hospital at the time I was supposed to be at the airport checking in.
A friend picked me up from the hospital and took me to where I was staying, where I frantically packed and then we raced off to the airport. At this point Yirmiyahu seemed to be doing okay; I had left him sleeping when I went to the hospital in the morning and the first time that day I held him was when I put him in his carseat to go to the airport. I got there just ten minutes before boarding.
Just a couple of minutes before the plane began to taxi down the runway, Yirmiyahu threw up again. I had been telling myself that my chiro would have picked up if something was really wrong, no one else seemed to be worried, it was just a virus that would pass – but at that minute the thought went through my mind, what would happen if I get off this flight now and get medical help? I had no reason to think it was anything more than a typical virus and with nine other kids I had never experienced a virus that didn’t pass given time, rest and some immune support but I was feeling really worried.
I transferred to my next flight and my seat mate was a doctor. He commented when he saw me changing Yirmiyahu yet again – his diapers kept soaking through- and I mentioned that he was sick. I was reassured that there was a doctor next to me for over ten hours who was seeing my baby close up – who I conversed with at length about a number of topics – and didn’t see a problem.
Ds14 and dd12 picked me up at the airport and were both very worried as soon as they saw Yirmiyahu. (When we talked about this last week ds told me his head looked like a skull.) I reassured them with whatever words I had been using to reassure myself, wanting to just get home and speak to dh about it so he could assess the situation and decide what to do. We got home and ds5 looked at Yirmiyahu and asked why he looks like a different Yirmiyahu than the one I took to America. It was late at night and dh went to sleep before the kids so we had no time to talk; he woke up and left the house before I woke up and so it wasn’t until late morning that I finally spoke to him.
I wanted to take Yirmiyahu first thing in the morning to the doctor but was so dizzy from exhaustion that I literally could hardly stand up and was afraid of dropping him. My husband was out all morning and as soon as he got home, I asked dh to take Yirmiyahu to the doctor. I was so anxious by now that I couldn’t even tell dh how worried I was, just told him to take him right away. When they got there, the doctor – who had interned in the pediatric intensive care unit – immediately put him on oxygen, called an ambulance and they were sent to the hospital.
When my husband called to tell me Yirmiyahu was dehydrated and they were going to the hospital, I was so relieved. I was so relieved someone else finally saw what I was seeing, that something was wrong. Dh took him to the hospital on Thursday; we decided dh would stay with him over Shabbos so I could be with the kids so I could reconnect with them after having been gone a week and a half. On Sunday morning I went to the regular pediatric unit and they told me Yirmiyahu wasn’t there; they looked him up in the computer system and that was when I learned that Yirmiyahu was in the pediatric intensive care unit. It was at that moment when I realized things were much worse than I had suspected.
I entered the silent intensive care unit and glanced at a bed with a young child propped upright with tubes and wires everywhere. I didn’t see Yirmiyahu and asked a nurse where he was. The nurse asked my name and then pointed to the child propped up in the area just to the left of me. I said no, that wasn’t him. He told me it was. I went closer and the nurse was right – it was my own precious baby and I didn’t even recognize him when I was looking for him.
That time in the intensive care unit was…intense. I asked them if I could hold Yirmiyahu, and he spent most of his time in my arms while connected to his wires. I kept crying and apologizing to him that I let this happen to him. The guilt was overwhelming. When he was released after five days to the regular pediatric unit (where he spent another five days), the nurse that accompanied us told us that his bloodwork when he came in was so bad that none of them expected him to live.
I described to the nurse all that had happened and asked how it could have looked like he was doing better and then be on death’s door a day later. She said young children have a strong ability to rally but that when they deteriorate it happens very fast.
Looking back, I technically did all the right things- I did everything right except for listen to my gut feeling. I kept overriding my inner voice and intellectualizing that the people who were medically trained knew better than me. I can see in retrospect that we were meant to go through what we went through, since there were enough people involved every step of the way who might have realized what was happening to Yirmiyahu but didn’t.
We returned home from the hospital a day before Pesach, emotionally drained but overflowing with gratitude that both of our children who had been in dire danger were still alive. As grateful as I am to be where we are now, the memories of that time are very hard and this anniversary period is filled with some very intense emotions. I’ve been processing a lot for these two weeks and now that it’s getting easier I’m finally able to share here with you.
Yirmiyahu and I left the hospital the day before Pesach, and as we approach that anniverary – this week marks when I went into the hospital with him – I’ve begun to plan for a seudas hodaah – an official meal of gratitude – to thank God for His unending goodness to me.