(My little darling the day before...)
There's been a little accident. Happened a week ago, actually, but I wasn't able to write about it then. So I decided to let my three scheduled posts run, thinking that by now it would be easier. But it's still not.
Last Friday morning, we were all at home together (it was Quebec's National Holiday), still in our PJs, wondering what to do with our day. M started making peanut butter pancakes with LP. I put the kettle on, then brought my very hot tea mug to the table. Little miss F had finished her breakfast, so like I sometimes do, I sat her on my lap. I automatically pushed my mug a little further to make it out of her reach, since she's been wanting to grab everything, lately. Then, during a second a distraction while I talked to LP, the unthinkable happened: she still somehow managed to grab it and spill it on the table. On herself, mostly.
I still remember the moment when I realized that this was going to be really, really bad, but that there was nothing I could do. I jumped out and yelled. "What's wrong?", said M, startled. "She burned herself, she burned herself!', I shouted, completely hysterical. "Put her under cold water!" After a few seconds she started crying, an extremely loud, high-pitched, non-stop shrill that would go on for the next hour and a half. M immediately put her into the kitchen sink with running water. I was trying to be focused but mostly failing, my heart racing, taking LP to his room to try and get him dressed (he had started crying too) while telling him that we were going to the hospital, then just throwing his clothes on the floor and giving up, then running the cold water in the bath for no reason, then reaching for towels and wetting them, all into the same 30 seconds. I went back and grabbed her. "Don't panic, it's going to be OK, it's going to be OK," M kept saying, but I knew it wouldn't be because I could feel the extreme burning sensation on my own thigh and wrist. We undressed her (she was wearing a onesie and jeans), and she was completely red on her abdomen, with skin peeling off already (M said this was the moment he realized this was for real, worse that everything we had ever experienced as parents). I put her onto her changing pad and applied cold wet towels on her. I told M to get LP dressed and take him to the neighbors, which he did. During this time I was still running around like a mad person with her in my arms, getting more towels, putting her on my bed to get dressed in whatever clothes and shoes, taking a diaper. When he came back, I asked M to assemble everything we needed to go to the hospital, then I had the idea to take her to the neighbors, too (our neighbor is a firefighter, so he's trained as an emergency first respondent). We stormed into their house with the naked, all wrapped baby. His wife dialed 911, he pulled out bandages used for burns, and they sat me down on a chair with F on my lap, applied the bandages on her, bringing new cold wet towels every minute. LP was downstairs with their girls, apparently OK (he told me later that at this point he was "reassured"). M was running in and out of the house, bringing our car seat, her pacifier, our house and car keys to leave them, a blanket and some clothes, the diaper bag, her medical ID, etc. The wait seemed endless. She kept looking at me in shock, not understanding what had happened to her, her mouth dry from shouting, almost yelping in real, real, pain. I basically wanted to die.
Finally the paramedics arrived, two women, one of them the rudest, least compassionate person I've ever met. They decided to leave the temporary bandage made by my neighbor, installed her in her car seat, then on the gurney, and put her into the ambulance. I climbed in, and M followed in our car. The ride made her calmer. They monitored her heart rate, which was regular, and gave her oxygen, which I was told was standard procedure for pediatric patients. I couldn't believe I was going through this, speeding on the highway in an ambulance with strangers taking care of my little baby. We arrived at a local (suburban) hospital I had never been to, and just like in Grey's Anatomy, two people were waiting for us in the yard, helping us to rush her in. They brought her into the "shock" room, and told me to wait outside. I asked one of the guys to bring me some OJ, since I am hypoglycemic, had not eaten anything, and was feeling really faint. Someone did almost immediately. I could still hear her wail. I wanted to just lie on the floor and break down. After two minutes, a nurse came to fetch us, just as M was coming in.
At least seven people were taking care of her. They had changed her diaper, removed the bandage, put electrodes on her tiny body. A nurse had even brought in a small bottle of formula, "just in case". When I told them I still breastfed her, they asked me to try right then, to see if it would calm and comfort her, but she wouldn't take the breast, she was too distressed. The friendly doctor reassured us while his very efficient team worked. When he asked when had this happened and M told him "half an hour ago," it didn't compute at all. It seemed like it had been years. She had second degree burns (superficial as opposed to deep) on about 10% of her body, mostly her abdomen, with little spots on her left hand (I think she's going to be a leftie like her mommy). He expected her to heal relatively quickly without requiring any kind of procedure. But because it was 10%, after she was stabilized they would have to transfer her to one of the two Children's Hospital in Montreal (which Will and Kate are scheduled to visit tomorrow). Again, standard procedure for a baby this age, not because it was so critical, but because there were concerns about her maintaining her body heat and hydration. You lose a lot of heat and fluids with such a burn, so she would need to be monitored. They decided to wait a little before doing another bandage, because they wanted to see how "far" the burn would go. They gave her ibuprofen, then attempted to install her hydration IV. They made me leave, because apparently I looked (and felt) as if I wouldn't be able to take it. I expected it to be endless and awful, but M came back to get me after five (long) minutes of hearing her wail again. It was done, and they had given her a small dose of a morphine derivative.
F was now calm and awake, just looking at everything around her with her very wide eyes. They wrapped her abdomen up again, and she did not say anything. We waited for the other ambulance to arrive. One of the nurses told us that she would accompany us there and discuss the case with the team taking over. I was sitting by F's side, still blindsided. But then I realized that her expression had changed. She was smiling at me. And when I smiled back, she did a little hand wave with her burned hand, something she had started doing just the day before. I cannot tell you how much better I felt at this moment. My baby was back. She was going to be alright.
Before momentarily leaving him again, I told M to call everyone, to arrange for his sister to pick up LP, to have his parents come from Quebec City. We hopped into another ambulance, arrived at another hospital. F slept the whole trip. This time, the paramedics and the nurse were really friendly, and I was so grateful for them to be there. After the nurses "transferred" the case, we were taken to a small room within the ER, where they hooked her onto a new IV machine, examined her, took standard samples from her throat, ears and nose (to verify if any unusual bacteria was on the surface of her skin, which would have made infections more likely). They took us to the "Observation Room" adjacent to the ER, where they let us put our things into a small glassed room with a rocking chair and a crib. M left with her to be seen by doctors and get a better bandage done. Again, they suggested I stayed behind, because I "looked too weak and pale". I was such a wreck I didn't really argue. Being with her would be agony, being without her would be agony. I thought that they would come back within five minutes, so I sat on the rocking chair and watched the seconds pass on the clock, one after another. I could hear a baby wail and assumed it was her, I couldn't control myself, I was crying hysterically again. Once in a while a nurse would smile tenderly at me and told me everything would be fine. Over an hour passed. I didn't think I could physically take it anymore.
Then M brought her back. She was calm and happy to see me. He told me that they had cleaned her wounds, peeled all the little dead skin off, and she hadn't even cried for a second. The doctors had taken pictures of her chest with their iphones and put it on a repository, so if someone else wanted to see it they wouldn't have to make her endure any more pain. She was all bandaged up, including her hand. They told us they would soon take us to a room on a different floor to spend the night. Several nurses and doctors came to check up on her. I nursed her, I hadn't all day and it was nearly 3 PM. She fell asleep in my arms.
M went to have a bite to eat, then I did -we were still running on empty stomachs. We called LP and told him that we were alright, bébé was OK, we would be back soon. I texted my mom who was begging for reassurance. I didn't feel like I could talk to anyone except my son (I still find it difficult, actually), I was so certain everyone was going to blame me and I didn't think I could take it.
Around 5, we were taken into a private room in the Trauma department. There was a bed on the floor for me as well. Nurses took care of her, taking her vitals, bringing her a high chair and a tray of homemade purees within five minutes. We put her into it and she ate with great appetite. She was pretty much back to being herself, curious, social, smiling, chatting, batting her eyelashes to flirt with everyone. She truly amazed us.
M went back home to get us some things and spend a little time with LP. Around bedtime, she became a little fussy, so she was given a micro dose of morphine. I hated my baby to receive narcotics, but I hated the idea of her suffering excruciatingly even more. M came back and stayed with me until she fell asleep at around 9:30, then he went home. I dreaded the night, but it ended up not being so bad. F slept well despite nurses coming in every hour, and despite all the tubes, wires, monitors that kept on beeping because her pulse was getting too high and such. She only woke up twice to nurse, and fell right back to sleep. I slept too, even if never longer than in hour-long stretches. They would take every dirty diaper I took off her and weigh it, to make sure she was hydrated enough. After a while, they determined that she was. Given the circumstances, she was doing very, very well.
Despite realizing the situation it's as if it hadn't really sank in yet. At this point I was just so relieved to see that she was doing well and that it hadn't been worse, it's as tough I had forgotten why we were there in the first place. I couldn't really see the bandages anymore, they didn't shock me, and I couldn't really imagine what was under them, either. I was still, however, endlessly thinking about the moment, reliving it, trying over and over again to see how it could have been different. Why didn't I let my tea cool on the counter like I often do? Why didn't I put her on her playmat after breakfast until I finished mine like I usually do? Why didn't I put her in the thick, long-sleeved sweater I had decided she would wear on that cool day, but put aside for after breakfast because I didn't want her to stain it? But also, how lucky that it was a holiday and I didn't have to deal with this alone. I additionally realized that her bulky, super absorbent cloth diaper probably stopped her from being burned on her lower abdomen,
genitals, and legs, so at least there was that.
M returned early the next morning, and the plastic surgeon who was going to be in charge of her from now on came by, so the nurses gave F morphine again and took out her bandages. I braced, and it really looked terrible to me, but everyone said that it wasn't a "bad burn" at all, and they had seen much, much worse. The surgeon told us we could take her home, and come back to change her bandages every few days. It would heal by itself, and after the bandages were gone we would only have to massage the area with lotion 3 times a day to help the skin regenerate, and keep her out of the sun for at least a year. She did expect the burns to leave a faint trace, not a scar per say but maybe just a slight discoloration. We told her we we supposed to go to California a week later. She said that she wasn't sure she would be healed enough then, but we would see.
The nightmare was over, but then a new, more insidious one was beginning. Our life sort of resumed normally, thanks mostly to LP, and thanks to F who has been nothing but a champ. We give her Tylenol every four hours, and have codeine on hand in case she's really fussy and seems to be suffering, but we barely had to give it to her. She laughs when we tickle and kiss her, greets us in her crib with a smile, and still adores her brother more than anything. She eats, and nurses, and babbles, and plays, just as usual. She doesn't seem to mind her bandages at all, and basically never complains. When I see her like that, it makes me feel OK. She gives me strength and energy. I try to remember that she won't always be like this.
But to tell you that I'm feeling good would be lying. I was deeply shaken, and every day it seems to sink in more and more. When I look at the pictures now it hurts more than when I took them. My tiny baby, so surprisingly strong, but so fragile, too. Seeing her wound (her chest basically has no skin now, and it looks so incredibly painful) is putting me in a really, really bad place. You have no idea how much I would have wanted to take the hit, take the pain in her place. It's so hard to accept that she has to go through this. I don't try to suppress these feelings, I just want to process them (writing this helps, I think), and find a way to live with them. I have fallen apart on occasions, it's only normal I think. But there are also some dark demons in there (figurative speech! I am not losing my mind, I promise), and I'm trying hard to fight them, because this kind of guilt is a bottomless pit, really, and no one wins if I give in.
I know you guys are kind people and you are all going to want to tell me that it's not my fault, I shouldn't feel responsible for this. And I know it's not my fault, of course. I never in a million years wanted or thought that anything like that could ever happen. I know that. But. This shouldn't have happened. My role is exactly to protect her from things like that. I didn't. I've been way too relaxed and carefree in such situations. I can't afford moments of inattention like those, and I have plenty of them, thanks to my usual tiredness and flakiness. I'm supposed to make sure she doesn't get hurt. She got really, really, really hurt.