Our minds don’t process horrific news efficiently enough to communicate facts to others. Facts and planning aren’t a priority to the biological process Charity was going through. Really bad news is not assimilated well. Later conversations with the lead doctor on Allie’s case revealed Charity was in shock when Allie arrived at the hospital. She was not processing the night’s events accurately. There was no way she could get the details right.
Allie’s little, broken body was responding to the breathing machine, but she did not breathe from the time the 911 call was placed until paramedics arrived at the apartment. Brain damage was inevitable.
Charity joined us in Allie’s PICU hospital room an hour or so after my arrival. I hugged Charity as hard as I could. I wanted to take all her hurt away. She humored me and let me hug her for a minute, then pulled away. She started talking to Allie and making playful cooing sounds; her signature mommy noises.
I can’t fix this. Nobody can fix this.
People process crises differently. I was crushed immediately, all at once, by this new reality. I tried to think of ways to get things back to normal. I went into despair as I realized “normal” didn’t exist. A new “normal” was slowly emerging.
Charity processed the crisis more slowly. There was a physiological mechanism in place protecting the emotions of this poor mother, my little girl. The full weight of the situation was going to take months to fully settle into Charity’s mind. If the pain hit her all at once, she would be obliterated.
While I was in San Francisco and Susan still at home in Florida, we talked often. Susan and I always prayed together about big decisions and situations in our lives. And we prayed regularly everyday individually. But the shock of violence that put Allie in the hospital destroyed our prayer life. Our minds were wreaking havoc on us. Susan and I wanted to be a praying people, but we thought this situation was too big or, maybe too late, for prayer. Maybe the time for praying had passed because we’d prayed wrongly or with wrong motives. Guilty thoughts and self-accusations ran like talk-tracks in our brains.
I shared these thoughts with the hospital chaplain. He put me at ease and listened gently as I took him through my mental gymnastics about prayer. He did more listening than talking; in fact, I can’t recall that he said anything memorable. He listened and then prayed a prayer I know God heard. He brought me the comfort I needed to make it through the rest of the day.
Everyone that I spoke to on that first day at the hospital was compassionate and professional. The staff went out of its way to make me as comfortable as possible and give me as much information as they could. Every question I asked was answered. Some answers were a little beyond me, so, when I got stuck, one nurse, Joanne, was willing to speak to a close family friend on the phone. My friend, Kathy who was a part of our faith community, was a nurse that worked in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the West Palm Beach hospital where Allie was born ten months earlier. Kathy was with our family the day Allie was born. Joanne brought Kathy up to date, and Kathy was able to relate all the information back to me in a way that I could understand. Kathy was honest. Things didn’t look good that first day. Allie’s survival was doubtful.
Support from a faith community
I don’t know how people live outside of a community of faith. There is no way we could have done this if we hadn’t put down roots in a local church. Crisis saps your energy. But having friends willing to shoulder the burden infuses you with fresh strength. In the early stages, we needed our friends as much as we needed air. People did whatever they could, small or big, to help us.
As that first day came to a close, I was by myself in a city 3,000 miles away from home. I ate in a busy cafeteria across the street from my hotel where food was cheap. I had no idea how I was going to finance this trip and wanted to eat as low budget as possible.
I was exhausted as I walked across the street to my hotel room. I checked in earlier that day as soon as I arrived and dropped my suitcase on the bed and went to the hospital. I unzipped my suitcase and an envelope fell on the floor. “Where did you come from?” I heard myself ask out loud as if somebody was listening. It was stuffed with cash. I found the $1,200 Dave or Lyette (I don’t know which) stashed in my bag before I had left Florida.
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