Last week l found myself in the [Overlook] emergency department, my 11-month old son lying motionless between my legs and struggling to breathe as nurses and doctors flooded the room to stabilize him, start lV lines and suction him. Honestly, it is hard for me to write this without crying. I suppose because in that moment my adrenaline kicked in and all of my fear and terror was pushed down so that I could remain ever vigilant for my son, and it is only now, after the fact, that I have truly allowed myself to release my guard and process what we went through.
You see, my Henry, like so many other little ones this season, contracted RSV [respiratory syncytial virus]. I had heard the warnings a thousand times, but I never took it to heart. I knew things weren't right though. I looked down at him in my arms, and I could see every muscle in his little body tensing and fighting to breathe air into his lungs. When the doctor told me to go to the emergency department, I prepared myself for a possible admission to the pediatric unit. I could handle that—it would be a rough few days, but we could manage.
You can imagine my shock and fear when I was told by the nurse that it didn't look like he was going upstairs. I immediately knew that meant we were going to be transferred to the PICU. Next thing I knew, my son's pediatrician entered the room; he had come from home to sit with me and tell me that Henry was very, very sick. They couldn't stabilize his intake of oxygen, and they needed to admit him to the Pediatric lntensive Care Unit. I nodded sílently and tried to blink back tears while he explained it was the best place for him right now.
I immediately sent my husband home to pack up supplies and arranged for my parents to stay with my older son. I chocked back sobs as he asked me, "ls Henry going to die?" The transport team came, and we rode to Morristown. My little man was so sick he barely moved the entire time. My heart sunk as we pulled into the lot at 10:45 pm and the realization hit me: "This is really happening." We rode up the elevator and quietly entered the unit, and much to my surprise we were greeted by a group of smiling and welcoming nurses who gathered to make us comfortable. I can't tell you how good that made me feel.
I barely left Henry's side throughout his stay. As l'm sure you know, that unit becomes home for you when your child is there. Every person I came in contact with consistently asked me if there was anything we needed, not just for Henry but for me, too. They helped me make my bed the first few nights and showed me where to find supplies. The medical team is exceptionally skilled, compassionate and supportive. The child life team was a tremendous blessing, providing a play mat and toys for him once he was able to get out of bed. The family room provided us with a place to gather and connect without disturbing little Henry, and it offered us an opportunity to meet and support other parents as well. I can't say enough good things about the care we all received during his stay.
A friend of mine has said, in a hospital you run into some people who are truly having the worst day of their life and some who are having the best day of their life. That rang true to me in the PICU. I was so very grateful for the care we received, because when that worst day comes it makes all the difference in the world.
Please, please share my story with your donors, the people who made this level of care a reality, because I know the PICU was there when I needed it because of their generosity. I want them to know that they have not just made a gift to a hospital; they have given a gift to every single family who comes through that PICU's doors. I am eternally grateful.
- Lorie S. McDonald