When you lose a child, everything changes.
Your innocence is replaced with fear, because now you know too much. You know that pregnancy can be dangerous. You know your life can change in an instant. You know bad things happen to good people. You know the little things can become big things, and that no matter how much you protect them and do the right thing…if you have other children, they could die, too.
Our 20-month-old son AJ is our second baby. His big sister, Ashlie, was stillborn at 41 weeks and one day in October 2015. Our fears of also losing him are present with every cold, every tumble, every car wreck we miss, every news story we watch. We are hyper aware that life is not promised.
It’s why I’ll be forever grateful to whatever woke me out of a sound sleep early last Friday morning.
AJ had stuffy nose and a slight cough during dinner last Thursday night, but we weren’t overly concerned. Then he vomited all over me, himself, our sheets and his beloved Mr. Bunny right before bed…and earned himself a second bath. After bathtime take two, I calmed him down, got him to sleep and threw Mr. Bunny (and the sheets) in the wash.
After I put him to bed, I decided I’d make this month’s post all about vomit and how I finally had a hint of what my poor mom went through all those nights I couldn’t keep my dinner down. My husband Tony and I went to bed laughing about how far I’ve come in dealing with icky things such as poop, snot and all the other fun things babies do.
Around 1:45 a.m., I woke with a start. Panicked, I flew out of bed to check on AJ. He was snuggled with his replacement animal—Christmas Mickey Mouse—and sleeping soundly. I gently pushed the hair off his forehead, fiddled with the humidifier and tiptoed out of the room. After a quick visit to the restroom, I got back in bed.
It took me about 20 seconds to adjust the sheets and get comfortable. As soon as the rustling stopped, a low, almost inaudible gurgling sound came from the baby monitor propped beside our bed. I picked it up to get a closer listen. I heard it again. It was so soft that if we’d been asleep, we’d have slept right through it. I jumped out of bed and burst into AJ’s room, already knowing it was nothing.
Our perfect little boy was convulsing face down in his crib.
Panicked, I moved him to a different spot. The convulsing continued. He was repeatedly arching his back like a cat trying to pass a hairball.
I called for my husband, terror rising in my chest. Tony grabbed him out of the crib. AJ’s body went limp, his head rolling to one side. Tony started yelling his name and telling him to breathe.
“Call 911!” he yelled, but I was already stumbling into our bedroom for my phone.
I told the dispatcher our baby wasn’t breathing and what our address was and how to find our house and omygodohmygodohmygod please hurry please hurry. At some point, I unlocked the front door and turned on the porch light. Ohmygod please hurry. Just as she told me she was going to walk me through CPR, AJ emitted a stifled cry. Tony had swept his mouth and dislodged whatever was blocking his airway.
We knew the sound meant he was getting air, but he was still limp and not responding. Two police officers arrived almost immediately, telling us the squad was on its way. When the paramedics arrived, they entered the house and began their assessment. They rushed Tony and AJ to the street where the ambulance was waiting. I threw on shoes and a coat and ran after them.
In the ambulance, AJ was dazed. He was emitting a low whimper with his eyes still closed, not responding to our repeated attempts to wake him up. I vaguely remember telling one of the paramedics I had to go get our insurance card. He told me they’d wait for me.
I sprinted into the house, grabbed my wallet and our phones and started out the door. I turned around and flew downstairs to grab Mr. Bunny out of the dryer. I was in the house for maybe two minutes.
When I opened the garage door, the ambulance was gone. Heart racing, I jumped in my car and headed toward the hospital…hoping I’d chosen the right one out of the two closest to us. I had no knowledge of AJ’s condition and knew it probably wasn’t good. They’d left without me.
Crying hysterically, I called my mom, then my closest friends and prayer warriors. It was 2:15 in the morning.
I screeched into the parking lot and ran toward the ER. The cold night air stung the hot tears streaming down my face. When I got to AJ’s room, he was crying, too.
Thank you, Jesus, I whispered before I pulled him into my arms, both of us sobbing.
The diagnosis? Croup. The consensus was that his swollen airways had made it harder for him to cough out mucus from his cold, and he’d been choking on it. Had I not woken up or my husband not known to sweep his mouth for obstructions, this story might have ended a little differently.
We spent the night and most of Friday in the hospital and were discharged Friday afternoon. We rushed him back to the ER on Saturday for difficulty breathing. He was readmitted and we spent another night in the hospital, but he stayed joyful the entire time, because he knows how loved he is. As I write this, we are home and diligently watching him sleep on the monitor that helped save his life.
When you lose a child, everything changes. You know that every breath and every heartbeat are a gift, and you treat them as such. You give thanks for every blessing and are grateful for the little things, because in some cases, the little things are the things that save your son’s life.
Special thank you to the North Canton EMS/Police and dispatchers for the lightning fast response. We are truly grateful.