I carried our young daughter into the emergency room. I had one arm holding her back and another underneath her legs, cradling her in my arms. My wife followed closely by my side. The nurse at the front desk took one look at the three of us from behind her monitor and pointed to a room to take her.
I placed my five-year-old daughter gently onto the exam table. She looked tiny on the table. A doctor and nurse came into the room and immediately started working to set up an IV and asking my wife and me questions about our daughter.
Our daughter had been fighting cold and flu-like symptoms for two-and-a-half weeks. We had kept her home from kindergarten and taken her to her pediatrician, but she hadn’t gotten any better. Every time we thought she was on the mend, she would take a turn for the worst. She couldn’t keep anything down and looked pale and flushed. Her once bright and shiny eyes were replaced by a blank stare. To top it off, she had become lethargic, could barely keep her eyes open, and had come down with a temperature. When her temperature spiked at 102, we couldn’t wait any longer. We scooped her up and took her to the ER.
When the nurse taking my daughter’s blood pressure, let my daughter’s hand go, it flopped on the bed like an anchor falling to the bottom of the ocean floor. I looked at my wife. She could feel the fear building inside of me. She felt it herself. We both felt powerless.
Let the nurses do their thing
As the ER staff worked on my daughter, my wife sent me out to the lobby to call her parents. We were supposed to get together for pizza. She wanted me to call them and let them know what had happened, that we instead were at the hospital.
I hadn’t been out of the room long, just long enough to call her parents, as well as, my own, and to make a quick run to the rest room. We had raced to the hospital as soon as I had gotten home from work. I was still wearing my tie, now nothing more than a loose knot, and hadn’t had a moment to catch my breath. I didn’t have time now, I needed to get back to the room. I threw some water on my face and said a quick prayer.
Changing the channel
When I came back into the room, it was like I was watching a completely different movie, like the television channel or a light switch had been flipped. When I had left, the room had been heavy with fear. Now it was light as a sunny day. My daughter was awake and sitting up, slurping a cup of ice and ginger ale. She had gone from deathly pale to a beautiful smile.
When she saw me, my daughter put her cup down and reached out to wrap her arms around me to give me a hug. Her tiny hands worked their magic. I felt like a 60-pound pack had been lifted from my shoulders.
In the short span of time that I had been out of the room, the nurse had been able to get fluids inside of my daughter, and the fever had miraculously broken. Within a few short hours, her fever and the flu’s worst side affects were a distant memory. When the doctor came back into the room, he gave her the once over and said he thought the worst was over. She had to stay overnight as a precaution, but the flu had run its course. Her color was back, she was actually hungry for the first time in weeks, and she looked like she had never been sick.
I’ve thought back on the memory much over the years, especially during the pandemic. One minute we feared the worst, the next my daughter and I were holding hands, skipping around the hospital room. The pandemic has been the same way: one minute we worried constantly about getting Covid, the next, things seemed to have turned and returned to (somewhat) normal.
I’ve been reminded too that there’s nothing worse for a parent than worrying about a child’s health. Thousands of questions race through your mind: What’s wrong? Will they get better? Should we go to the hospital or would it be better to stay home and rest? You second-guess yourself at every turn. You feel helpless.
The next day, when my wife talked with the staff and checked us out of the hospital, I thought about how things could’ve easily gone in a different direction. The nurse reassured us fevers work that way, you can’t control them, you need to manage them the best you can.
In the end, it’s not that much different than parenthood. You manage the best you can.