Its 5:01 in the morning and Michael and Ari are boarding a helicopter. The Helicopter pilot and flight nurses all try to be reassuring but I am definitely not feeling at ease. My eyes are swollen and puffy from crying. I'm cold, my hands are trembling, and I can feel my heart racing. I'm filled with fear and disbelief. Ari is being medi-flighted to a Pediatric ICU. She has been intubated and is on a ventillator. We spent the last several hours in our local ER. Our trusted pediatrician decided Ari needed to be transferred to a children's hospital. The diagnosis is pneumonia and her left lung is collapsed, she can't breathe on her own. Before they leave, Michael and I hold each other, I can feel his tears moisten my cheek. We are both silent and numb. She's just shy of turning Two years old. This can't be real. It has to be a bad nitemare. Ari is fighting for her life and we don't know if she will survive.
I'm on auto pilot as I drive home from the ER and wake up Lindsay and Nic. Its too early in the morning for their alarms to be going off to get up for school. I feel guilty for waking them from their slumbers and I dread telling them that their sister is gravely ill. I just want to hold them tight and tell them how much I love them. They are only 12 and 14 years old but they are very perceptive for their ages, they can easily pick up on my emotions. I try not to let them see how frightened I am. I explain as best as I can that Ari is flying to Valley Children's hospital with Michael and we need to get there as soon as possible. Its a 90 minute drive so I need to pull myself together quickly. They offer to pack their belongings and suggest we eat breakfast from the drive thru at McDonalds to save time. I don't object, because I really need some caffeine to stay awake. I feel like I've been up for days. On the drive, they begin to ask questions and have real concerns for their baby sister. I try to answer their questions honestly but I feel myself choking up and fighting back the tears. I don't want to admit how grave Ari's condition is. So I gently share that the doctors in the PICU are the best in California and they are going to work really hard at getting Ari well. I'm hoping that they accept what I am telling them. I'm trying my hardest to believe that what I am saying is the truth!
Nine days later and Ari is improving. She is taken off the Vent and is on oxygen. The doctors think she is out of the woods and are cautiously optimistic. She is finally awake too. We are able to hold her, wrap her in her favorite blankie, and sing her favorite songs, and tell her how much we love her. We are so elated. We've never left her side. At least one of us, Michael or I, has been in her room 24/7. We just want to take her home and resume our family life as we know it. But we are painfully aware that our lives have changed again. We are frightened of what the future may hold. Ari has CP and with that can come respiratory complications. She is fragile, any colds, flu, or viruses can wreak havic on her lungs. This wasn't her first bout of pneumonia but it was the worst one ever. She fought the battle and won. We are incredibly grateful that we have been given more time with Ari and hope that the worst is behind us.
Its 5:01 in the morning and I gently touch Ari's arm trying to wake her. She looks so peaceful I almost feel guilty for getting her up so early on this Saturday morning. A couple of minutes later her eyes open. She looks at me and smiles that sweet smile of hers and says, "Its race day Mom!" Yes it is, I reply. Are you awake enough to get out of bed? She pulls herself up and rolls over the bedside. She puts her feet on the floor and slowly limps to the bathroom. I feel my body get tense as I observe her stiff gait. I see her struggle but she never complains. She is happy with this Early Morning Wake Up Call because its Race Day. Its our first 20 miler race and she has been looking forward to this all week! Its going to be a glorious day.
With Miles of Smiles,