It all started on Valentine’s Day.
Olive had struggled to eat the night before, so she and I had been up all night. When she seemed absolutely exhausted the next day, I chalked it up to the previous night’s sleeplessness and didn’t think much of it. Josie, Olive and I went on an outing to Spokane Gymnastics with our cousin Amber and her kids, and then headed home for naps. Olive was still sleepy and didn’t seem to want to eat, so I decided we would take a nap and see if that solved anything, and call the doctor if it didn’t.
When we woke up, Olive could barely open her eyes – the only word I could think of was “lethargic,” and since that never coincides with anything good, I immediately called the doctor. I explained what had been happening and they had me take her temperature, which turned out to be 96.7 degrees. She hadn’t felt feverish, so I didn’t take a temperature before then – turns out a low temperature is just as bad. The doctor told us to go to the ER immediately, and I hung up in a panic.
We had been planning to go to Eric’s parents house for the weekend while they were out of town, and Eric was already there. Luckily, we had the car, but I called him to let him know what was going on and to figure out what to do with Josephine. We decided to just have me bring her with us and meet at the hospital. I started darting around the house, trying to get the two girls ready to go and convince a two-year-old that we had to get out of the door now.
Cue the first of many, many blessings – there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find our friends Natalie and Max, who were just dropping by with some brownies. I burst into tears and explained that I had to get to the ER, and Natalie was gracious enough to stay at the house with Josephine. I thanked her, ran out the door, and headed over to the hospital.
We walked into the Valley Hospital ER and were rushed into triage. The nurse explained that 96.7 signifies hypothermia, so we had to get Olive warmer – and fast. We brought her into a room, she was stripped down and placed in a bed under a warmer, and the next few hours were spent poking and prodding her, while I stood there feeling helpless.
By this point, Olive was breathing and her heart was beating, but she was otherwise non-responsive. She would stare off into space, but even if you clapped your hands in her face, she didn’t seem to notice. She was fitted up with an IV, had blood drawn, and even had a lumbar puncture, to help the doctors figure out what was going on. Through everything, though, I barely heard her cry, which, for me, was the most frightening part.
Even with all of this going on, I was shocked when the ER doctor came in and explained that the on-call pediatrician was on her way. For some reason, I still thought this was a little thing that would be resolved quickly, so we could go home. “Is she sick?” I asked the doctor, to which he replied, “Yes, she’s very sick.” My heart sunk.
Eric arrived to the ER with Josie as Olive was getting her lumbar puncture. I went to walk Josie around for a bit and came back to talk to the pediatrician. It turned out that there was blood in the fluid that they pulled from her lumbar puncture, another very bad thing, so they were going to get MedStar to bring her to the pediatric ICU at Sacred Heart, where they were better equipped to handle whatever was going on. I decided to ride in the ambulance with Olive while Eric took Josie home to go to sleep, still hoping that this would be a quick fix and that we would all be back together the next day.
This is when things get a little disjointed.
I remember seeing my baby lying motionless in the hospital bed, with nurses and doctors rushing around her. I remember trying to call my parents from the hospital phone, regretting for the first time that we had gotten rid of our cell phone service. I remember the patient transport employee bringing me tissues and the student nurse, Karli, asking me if there was anyone I could call to be with me while we waited.
And I remember wishing I could disappear. I remember thinking that I just couldn’t do this.
The pediatric intensivist, Dr. Mellema, came and asked me if we had given our daughter a Vitamin K shot at birth, and I just stared at him and said I had no idea. He said they needed to bring her in for a CT scan, but every time they tried to place an IV (which she needed before she went for the scan), the vein would blow. She was bleeding from every spot that she had gotten poked that night, including the LP point on her spine.
I watched everyone move in slow motion, it seemed the complete opposite of what you see in the movies. I wondered why they couldn’t move faster when my daughter’s life was at stake. Everything felt frantic, but it didn’t move that way. Finally, they found a vein, got the IV in, and moved her downstairs to the CT scan.
The next thing I knew I was sitting in a room with Eric and our Bishop from church, and seeing the doctor wheel in a computer with pictures on the screen. I kept hoping he would smile, but he didn’t. I wanted some indication that everything was okay. He started showing us pictures of Olive’s head, starting at the bottom of the skull and then moving up. He pointed out what represented bone, what was blood, what was brain – both healthy and damaged tissue. The pictures made their way through her brain, and finally he stopped on one in the main part. I took one look and broke down crying before he had time to explain. Just by looking, you could tell it wasn’t good. Where the left side of her brain was supposed to be, there was a huge (16 mm, to be exact) mass of blood, pushing her entire brain off center.
Dr. Mellema explain that a clot had developed which was placing immense pressure on Olive’s brain. Not only that, but there was bleeding on the back of the right side of her brain as well. The water pockets that are within the brain were completely destroyed, and the tissue on the left side of the brain looked mostly damaged. He said that the lack of Vitamin K in Olive’s system resulted in her body’s inability to clot. Anything as small as putting her down in her bed could have caused this bleed. Since she couldn’t clot, the bleeding didn’t stop. There had been one other case of this that the doctor had seen – I asked what had happened then, and was told that the baby hadn’t lived. We were told that in the small chance that she did survive, Olive would most likely suffer from severe brain damage.
I cried and screamed and threw things. Eric held me while I sobbed. I know I couldn’t have survived this experience without him. He told me that he and Bishop were going to give Olive a priesthood blessing. I assumed that it would be one of comfort, of peace, one to help her pass from this life.
I stared at the floor while Eric spoke the words of the blessing. He told Olive that the faith and prayers of many would help her through this trial. And then he said that she would survive this and would go onto live a long life.
Faith is often described as a little seed that starts small and grows over time. My faith began as a seed, embedded within that healing blessing. I believed that if God had inspired my husband to speak those words, our daughter would live. I didn’t know how, and even then it was more a hope than a knowledge, but it was there and I held onto that throughout this whole experience.
At this point, I decided that I had to leave the hospital. I wasn’t sure if I could sit there and watch my daughter suffer, so I went home with our Bishop and Eric stayed with Olive. I will be forever grateful that he endured that first night alone with her, because I know that had to have been the worst.
The only way to get Olive into the surgery that she needed to remove the clot was to get her to start clotting everywhere else, and the only way to do that was to pump her full of plasma and Vitamin K. The doctor wasn’t sure how long she would take to start clotting, or if it would happen soon enough to make the surgery worthwhile. Even then, the surgery was incredibly dangerous, and there were very few studies of it being done on such a young person (she had turned one month just the day before). There was a chance that if the pressure on her left side was removed too quickly, the entire right side would be damaged as well.
I got home to find that our Bishop’s wife had been kind enough to stay with Josie, even though they were both leaving on a flight the next morning. It was close to midnight when we said goodbye and I sat down on my bed in shock. I talked to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and didn’t even cry – it had started to feel like a bad dream and I was completely detaching myself.
As I was sitting alone, trying to sleep, a scripture came to my mind.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
I needed the strength of God, and of others, to help my own unbelief. I got on Facebook and shared what had happened, ending with a plea for any prayers or thoughts on Olive’s behalf.
At 1 AM, Eric called to tell me that Olive had began clotting a little over an hour after they begun her Vitamin K treatment, which was a miracle in itself. Our decision now was whether we should have her undergo the risky surgery, or see if the clot would resolve on its own.
After praying, we felt the surgery was the best option, and it began just after 2 AM.
The next morning, I awoke to find messages from friends and family all over the country, each sending prayers and well wishes our way. Soon, Olive’s name was on multiple temple prayer rolls, candles were being lit for her at mass, and some were even meditating in favor of her recovery. The response from all kinds of people, of different backgrounds and religions, was totally overwhelming. I suddenly felt stronger than I have ever felt before and it was only made better by the phone call that said our little girl had survived the surgery and that it had been a success.
To be continued…