Project Underblog. Megan has a powerful voice, and a powerful story to share. You can read more of her writing at beyfamily.wordpress.com.
[caption id="attachment_1998" align="aligncenter" width="660"] graphic by Jennifer Tucker[/caption]
“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” – Saint Benedict.
Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, kidney disease, poisoning, and ironically, school children. A pretty heavy-duty religious icon for a little girl, but he was sole reason why Mia ended up in the emergency room on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
As if decided by fate, my youngest daughter is now tied to him as her patron saint.
It’s difficult to write about this experience because every time I think about it, my heart drops at the possibility of what could have been.
It was like any other day. A long holiday weekend and my parents and sister were in town visiting. We took a morning trip to the beach, enjoyed lunch, and returned home just in time for a nap. I placed Mia into her bed and closed the door.
Then everything changed in a heartbeat. Just… like…that.
She hadn’t been down long when her dad heard a cry coming from her bedroom. When he ran in, she was standing on the bed choking. He got her airway clear, but whatever it was fell further down and lodged in her throat. She could breathe, but was in a lot of pain and sick.
Mia cried, “Mommy, I swallowed money. It’s stuck. I can feel it. It hurts,” as she pointed to her lower neck. I wrapped her in a towel and drove to the neighborhood hospital.
The first hospital didn’t have a pediatric unit, so they could only stabilize her and snap an x-ray. The x-ray determined she swallowed a coin of some kind. It looked incredibly large, so we all assumed it was a quarter.
After what seemed like an eternity, the staff finally arranged an ambulance to transfer her to the local children’s hospital.
Here in the pediatric emergency room, everything was kid sized. Tiny blood pressure bands, beds, and monitor attachments. The nurse told her pick a pair of pajamas. She selected pink Minnie Mouse ones.
Mia was assessed and x-rayed again. This time, we received a more detailed view of the coin. It was marked with a cross and a maze of letters. Quite a bit of speculation swirled around the ER as to what was lodged in Mia’s throat. Foreign money? Game piece? The mystery deepened.
The doctors looked at her x-ray and returned with her treatment plan. She would need surgery and be put under general anesthesia.
A common every day surgery, they said. We do four to five of these procedures a week, they said. She’ll go home tonight, they said.
I was terrified. I tried to put on a brave face for my daughter, but had to look away and compose myself. Tears stung my face and there was a lump in my throat holding back a larger sob.
But Mia was brave, braver than me. She trusted all those around her. She didn’t feel well, but smiled at everyone anyways.
A short while later, they wheeled her upstairs to the pediatric unit. It was early evening and the children’s wing was empty. Rows of tiny beds and cribs lined the halls. The light was low and it was silent.
We met her surgeons who gave us an overview of her procedure and then our anesthesiologist quietly said; “It’s time to get her to the operating theater. She’s happy and unafraid. Give her a kiss. You’ll see her soon.”
As I softly kissed her forehead, I told her I loved her. Tears rolled down my face as they wheeled her away. I felt completely helpless. Mommies are supposed to fix every thing; I was in a situation where I could fix nothing.
The nurse walked us to the waiting room and like the rest of the children’s wing it was empty.
Time passed slowly, but about an hour later her surgeon walked in and cheerfully announced, “Look what we found!”
He opened his hand and there in his palm was the coin.
Our first words were, “Is she okay?”
He responded, “Oh, of course. She came through with flying colors. She’s just fine,” and handed over the coin.
Next, he handed us an 8×10 photo of Mia’s insides. Yes, her insides. The camera they used for surgery snapped forever photos of her throat with and without the coin, also included were stomach and upper intestine photos.
It was an unexpected and unusual gift.
Then there was the coin; the mysterious coin. We looked at it closely, it was light and had Latin writing stamped only on one side. A quick Internet search of the Latin letters popped up an image of a St. Benedict’s medal.
Mia’s newly minted patron saint.
A few minutes later, the nurse came for us. She said Mia was still asleep, but was stable and doing fine. We walked into her recovery room where she was peacefully dozing like a modern day sleeping beauty. The nurse told me to tickle her feet, but she continued to sleep.
Finally, we finally whispered the magic words, “Do you want a popsicle?”
And like true love’s kiss, her eyes flew open; she smiled, and said, “Yes.”
The nurses continued monitor her until they were satisfied she was ready to go home. I had no shoes, socks or even a coat for her. The nurses slipped on yellow fuzzy socks and wrapped her in a large soft blanket. She cradled small pink barf bowl in her lap.
We were gone just eight hours. It felt like we had been gone for eight days.
Mia walked in the house, happy to be home, and just a little too excited she had a good story to tell. It’s a story she still tells often.
After hugging everyone, she drank a glass of apple juice, and went to bed. I tucked her in and kissed her good night just like any other ordinary day.
In the morning, she came in my room and climbed into bed with me. I was grateful; I wrapped my arms tightly around her and snuggled close.
Just days later, Mia would turned four years old. She blew out her candles and ate her purple birthday cake. She learned to ride her new bike. We were lucky.
I still don’t know where she got a St. Benedict’s medal, except that it came from her piggy bank. It will forever remain a mystery.
Someday, we will turn her medal into a necklace. A good luck charm, I hope.
And I like to think, Mia will always be watched over by Saint Benedict.