Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Miles vs. Life

Everything can change in a moment.

My best friends, Kandace and Jessica, were in town visiting. We had been at the pool and came home to hang out with my sons. As we arrived, we immediately went to Miles and picked him up to take pictures with him. Miles was all smiles.

Pictures with Miles just moments before the incident.

Pictures with Miles just moments before the incident.
While taking photos, Bryce asked me to help him change the car’s oil in the garage. As I walked out, I heard Miles’s pulse oximeter alarming. Miles alarms so frequently that I didn’t think much of it. There was a nurse by his side so I assumed she knew how to handle it. That moment is frozen in time for me. I wish I had walked in sooner.

After hearing the alarm continue for awhile, I walked in the living room to see my friends standing horrified and the nursing bagging Miles. I walked up to see him blue and lifeless. His oxygen levels were at 3% and heart rate was dropping. I remember yelling for someone to call 911 and I ran to the kitchen and dialed myself. My hands were shaking but I knew I was moving quickly. The operator asked several questions. Was he breathing? Where do we live? How old is my son? Is someone performing CPR? I screamed for Bryce to come in and get an oxygen tank and his face changed as he ran in the house. He knew what was happening.

I was transferred to another operator to repeat the questions. I started crying into the phone. “She isn’t bringing him back! Pease hurry!” His sats were at zero now. The nurse kept saying the same thing, “Come on Miles! Come on baby!” She was shaking his unresponsive body. She asked my friends to flick his feet but they were paralyzed at what was unfolding.

I threw the phone to Jessica and took the ambu bag away from the nurse. I squeezed it and felt no resistance. I began chest compressions. I heard Bryce yell, “Check is trach!” That’s when I look down to see his trach dangling around his chest like a necklace. The nurse had been bagging him for about 3 minutes without an airway. She never checked. For a moment, I thought it was too late. I moved into action.

“His trach is out!” I screamed. I grabbed another trach, opened the package, pieced it together and put it in Miles’s neck. My baby’s lips were purple. His eyes were in the back of his head. Life was gone.

My husband was struggling to get the oxygen tank going. He asked for help and his voice was shaking and cracking. I began bagging Miles while I held his trach in place with my other hand. I stopped every so often to do chest compressions. Nothing. I tried again. “Please come back Miles!” I begged him. Nothing.

The visual of my tiny baby. Purple now. Beyond struggling. Given in to defeat. It is burned in my brain forever.

I thought I heard sobs behind my but I never turned from him.

I slowly saw color enter his face. First blue, then white, then pink. I heard the nurse say, “He is coming back up.” I just continued working on him. He began having a seizure or temors from lack of oxygen. His hands were shaking and he stared blankly.

EMS arrived and flooded into the room. At least a dozen of them. They started assessing Miles.

I asked the nurse to put his old trach ties on. She could not do it. I asked an EMT to hold the trach so I could put the ties on. I got them on quickly but as reality was setting in, I saw how much my hands were shaking. As soon as they were on, I saw how loose the nurse had put his trach ties on and I knew that’s why this whole scenario happened.

Miles had color now but still no life to him. His eyes stared blankly. Was he gone too long? How long had it been? I knew he had been without oxygen for almost five minutes. He must have brain damage, I thought.

Bryce came to our side and said in in the sweetest voice, “Hey Miles. Hey Buddy.” Miles turned and looked at him. His eyes had life!

I heard Weston crying. He woke up to the chaos and probably felt terrified. Jessica brought him in our bedroom to calm down.

I felt a pat on my back from the EMT. “You saved him mom.” Another EMT stood in front of me. “Yes you saved him.” She said. I finally let go of the ambu bag and got up. I saw for the first time how many people were in the room. I walked straight to Bryce and cried in his arms.

The paramedics assessed Miles but we all decided not to send him to the ER. He clearly wanted to go to sleep and he ended up sleeping a lot the next 24 hours. Two police officers asked me questions and eventually everyone was gone.

The event has replayed over and over in my head thousands of times. Of course, when I reported it to the nursing company, our nurse blamed us for the event. She said we were poking Miles’s shunt. It is clear she is making excuses because she made a mistake about the trach ties but I don’t blame her. People panic in these scenarios.

I did ask her later why she had the ties on so loose and she said she knew they were too loose but she hadn’t gotten around to tightening them. She said she had a, “fat finger, small baby neck scenario” so she had trouble getting them on.

I am in the process of fighting the state of Arizona about Miles’s nursing hours. They want to cut him from our 112 hours a week, to 54 hours a week. This is the minimum a ventilated child can be given. They want Miles to have minimal care. It’s heartbreaking but I’m not a mom that is afraid to fight the good fight. It’s my full time job right now. Lefebvres VS. The State. Bring it on.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

If I Were Being Honest

Many parents of special needs children share this poem by Emily Perl. It’s really encouraging because it gives your path a new feeling and new meaning. It just makes sense and states feelings in a way most of us cannot. We all want our life to be a trip to Italy and when we land in Holland, we have to appreciate the scenery. We have to watch people taking their trips to Italy while we learn to smell the tulips and build an appreciation for Holland. I was ready for the slower pace of Holland. I was ready to give up the dream of Italy. But how on earth did we end up in Haiti? I didn’t read that anywhere in the poem.

Bryce and I have joked about our move to Haiti throughout this process. Joking is how we feel normal. But if I were to be honest with myself, Haiti is how this feels many mornings when I wake up and remember why my son isn’t home with me.

As our plane departed for Italy, it took a detour to Holland. We looked out the airplane window down at the landscape of Holland and thought to ourselves, “Ok, we are fine with this. Let’s stop here and we will love it and never try to leave. We promise.” But the plane flew over Holland and turned south. It kept flying and flying and flying. Where are we going? It’s getting hot. We are getting uncomfortable. Where are we landing? Say what?!? We are in Haiti. Oh hells no. I did NOT buy that ticket.

It’s harder to find the beauty in Haiti. Yeah sure there are beaches, but come on, the storm has taken its toll on the former white sand. The food is good, but it’s too different and gives me a stomach ache. The people are courageous and welcoming, but they have suffering in their eyes. Am I a Haitian now? There is no return flight. Forget Italy, what I would give to have ended up in Holland.

I get to find beauty in the calloused, the broken and scraps of former homes left after the storm. As callouses smooth out, they become tough and resilient. As our stomachs get used to the new tastes, they start to desire the cuisine and find ways to cook the food. As we tear through the roughage, we pick up the pieces of our old homes that meant something to us, and we build new homes. Haiti has guts. It has character. It has #1 bestseller stories. Frankly, Italy and Holland couldn’t last a day in Haiti. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Whose Side Am I On Anyway?

This has been a fascinating process of heartbreak, struggle, acceptance, peace, joy and fear. And not necessarily in that order. I truly thought I was in a good place. I was ready. Miles is coming. I have had false labor several nights now so the bags are packed and the birth plan is printed.

Yet I started to get more emotional. I felt a lot more stress. I had what I would describe as small panic attacks. I was scared and I wasn’t sure if it was because of Miles’s disability or just because I was having another baby. I went on acting normal and functioning the same as usual, but I was shorter with my husband and had less energy for my son. Something was happening and I just didn’t see it coming.

I ended up picking a fight with Bryce one night. We had been having a lot of tough conversations about a plan to become financially self-sustaining in this seemingly impossible scenario.  All the help was putting Band-Aids on something bigger and the options we began discussing upset me tremendously. Our main option was for me to go back to work full time. Even saying the words made me bawl hysterically, not because I don’t like working (I actually miss it), but because I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from my sons when they need me.

I have read so many blogs of other Spina Bifida parents in this exact same scenario. It’s one of the most expensive life-long birth defects so nothing we are experiencing is abnormal. We went from living life simply and comfortably, to feeling like we are drowning. I believed that the fear of this is what was causing my stress but it wasn’t. Finances have never consumed me and I’m not very materialistic. I don’t care about those things and I’m not afraid to go without. I am just so appreciative to God for the beautiful life and family He has given me. There was something different gripping my heart and Bryce identified it.

I had switched teams.

We clung hard to God when we received Miles’s diagnosis and there was no doubt I could not have gotten through that time on my own. But as months went on and I accepted his disability and the possibility of worst case scenarios, I forgot that I still needed God. I became comfortable and complacent and things were back to normal again. The birth of Miles was still far away enough that I didn’t have to be overly prepared but I was far enough away from the initial news that I had time to accept.

As the approach of his due date came near, the realizations became clearer. My son has a disability. He doesn’t perform well on tests and we aren’t sure what the problem is. I won’t get to hold him when he is born. This is terrifying and I don’t know what our new life will look like. I stopped standing next to God looking at fear and I began standing on fear’s side looking at God from a distance. I had switched sides without even knowing it. We prayed for God to bring us back on His side and the next morning I woke up feeling like a different person. No tears, no anxiety, no distrust.

None of this means that the fear doesn’t still exist. It’s present but I’m no longer on its team. Fear is on the other side of the battle field and I will fight it with fury because it steals joy. Nothing can take joy away from having my son. No amount of money. No diagnosis. No nasty doctor. No discouraging ultrasound. No sacrifice.

I’m back on the team of hope, joy, faith and insurmountable love. I know now that God wasn’t going to let me have Miles until I learned this lesson. 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Little Patch of Grass

After our surprise hospital stay at 32 weeks pregnant, we have known that Miles does not look very good on Non Stress Tests (NST’s). I have asked many times if there is something else wrong with him and the answers have varied, but mostly the answer is we don’t know. Since then, I am required to get a Biophysical Profile ultrasound twice a week. This ultrasound looks for fine and large motor skills, amniotic fluid levels and he has to practice breathing for 30 seconds in a 30 minute period. At every test, he waits until the 29th minute to start breathing. Every time I ask God to show us he is healthy and to make him breath if he is actually ok. Every time he has passed all the tests, until today.

At today’s ultrasound, Miles wouldn’t move at all. He wouldn’t breath. The tech was almost violently shaking my abdomen, but still nothing. I wish I could say this surprised me, but nothing does anymore. The doctor decided to follow with an NST which was pretty unnecessary to me since I already knew what would happen. He didn’t do anything during the NST either. Normally, all of the results would send me back to the hospital but there is an overall sense of what’s the point? I need to have these tests redone tomorrow and I have a feeling if they are the same, I will be in the hospital again.

When the medical staff talks about my son, they have a sad, solemn look on their faces and don’t look me in the eye. They use words like “Unresponsive,” “Non Reactive” and “Under Performing.” They say things like “Wake up baby!” None of these results are new or unexpected but today they just affected me differently. The tears flowed easier today and fear gripped my muscles. All my nervous habits have come to the surface. These words are describing a real person. This is a real life. This is my son’s life. I want to believe that he will be ok. Some days I truly believe it and some days I’m just convincing myself.

So many people have graciously and selflessly helped us through this time. There has been emotional and financial support that we have desperately needed. Eventually my parents couldn’t bear that fact that every dime we have and that is given to us, just goes to doctor bills and all fun things have gone out the window.

For a long time I have daydreamed of having a patch of grass in our yard for our kids. My parents paid for us to get this patch of grass but it hasn’t been installed yet. I spend a lot of time staring at our dirt yard, fantasizing about this little piece of life growing in it. I picture getting to watch my boys play in this grass, watching them grow and hosting friends in our yard. I used to imagine a life of jet setting and excitement but now I just daydream of a little piece of grass in my yard. It seems like such a luxury now. Something so simple will mean so much.

Most people won’t understand what this grass will mean to me. It has almost been a little token of hope through this all. When I picture Miles at his healthiest, he is laughing and giggling in the grass and playing with Weston. I have tried to pass the time of anxiety of serving others in whatever way I am capable as I have accepted so much service lately. But in my quiet moments, I stare at this yard and imagine what is to come.