Monday, January 26, 2009

Crossing the NICU Styx - Part 2

(If you haven't read part 1, you probably should start there.)

From across the water a shining figure appeared with an entourage and great fanfare, and even Cerberus whimpered in his presence. An angel of the Lord, I thought hopefully. He stared down at my child and the foreign words tumbled out, “Coarctation of the aorta... removal of the section and reconnection, deep hypothermic circulatory arrest...stopping blood flow to the organs, av canal...heart lung bypass...pericardium...sewing patches into the ventricles.” He spoke for some time describing his plan to secure the golden coin and the great risks it entailed. I could not listen to him, for my own voice was shrieking in my head, “He’s going to kill my baby, he’s going to kill my baby...” With sudden clarity I saw that he was not an angel. He was just a man, a man with no scars on his palms.

There are moments in life when you freeze, dig in your heels, and refuse to accept reality. You screech to a stop and the spinning world crashes into your back with its full force, knocking the air out of you. In a split second its pummeling affect leaves your body torn between puking and suffocating. With all your might you push back against it, struggling to reverse it just long enough to undo the tragedy that has befallen you. When that striking moment stretches into days and days stretch into weeks, you realize that your core is being smelted by God the Blacksmith. It hurts so bad.

Throughout the days and nights, I could hear the prayers of those in the Land of the Living beseeching the Lord with her name, Kimani... Kimani... Kimani. Hundreds, maybe thousands of voices pleading for her life. Mine too.

On Day 91, the gates of Hades opened up to receive my daughter. Cerberus drooled in anticipation. He would not let me pass with her. Somewhere beyond she would lay nearly frozen, disconnected from life, while the surgeon’s hands worked to fashion graceful conformity from a grave aberration. I gave her back to God that day. Still though, I called down every promise I could remember from His book. Then my husband and I, alone among the strangers on the river bank, waited the day through to find out if we had our baby or not. If not... if not... then part of me would forever stay there in that dark place.

Finally the heart surgeon came out to find us. His radiant smile gushed through my veins. He placed a glittering gold coin in my hand and I clutched it tight.

I paid it to the ferryman just as soon as I could and he loaded us into his boat. We made it almost half way across the rushing waters, almost. I was so focused on the light coming through the door to the way out that I did not see him coming. Cerberus. He lashed his tail at her, ripping her out of my arms. She fell into the water. No, not water... blood, poisoned blood... blood sepsis.

I screamed at God. I am no Job. I told Him the truth. "I am close to insanity now," I cried. "I need to be released now," I begged. He replied, "Go find her." He did not mean my daughter.

She was just down the bank a ways with her infant son. A mother like me, but not. A brokenhearted child like mine, but not. She needed me. Together we watched over our babies as their bodies labored to recover. Charon tormented us, flipping golden coins in the air. Heads they live, tails they die.

No, it doesn’t work like that I tell her. There is a God I tell her. Her eyes are hesitant but she wants to believe me.

After 113 days in the abyss, Kimani, all seven pounds of her, safely crossed the NICU Styx and entered the Land of the Living. I thank God everyday for sending her back to me.


Anonysister said...

there were moments here when I almost couldn't breathe... and though all of it touched me deeply (especially the waiting-alone-together with your hub), there was something striking about that moment when you moved over to the other mother... the way pain can bind us together if we let it... a terrible, marvelous thing.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know I mentioned you in the latest post at High Calling Blogs, as being a blogger who can tell a great story (I don't know that this is the best way to describe a post like this... but it really is a powerful story).

Anonymous said...

Wow, you kept me in a state of anticipation to the very end. What relief to hear that she would be okay. And what a blessing that God was able to use you through this ordeal. I will be praying for Mom M and Baby J.

JoAnn said...

Something about the way you write, and the life-or-death situation you are writing about...terrible beauty, sharp as a knife entering my heart.

My Emma was born with severe medical problems too. Four pounds fourteen ounces of her fighting to survive. 5 weeks in NICU, 2 more months in the hospital before we could take her home.

Praise God for His mercy towards our daughters! I will pray for the other mom and her little one...prayer DOES change things!

Katrina said...

Breathtakingly beautiful words you have written here... so descriptive... so gripping. I read the whole thing with bated breath and am rejoicing with you in the outcome.

Anonymous said...

The words woven in your story gave me a chill. So glad your daughter is now living. How much stronger she is and you are for going through what you did. God has truly placed an awesome blessing in your life. God Bless...

Billy Coffey said...

Just so, so moving. Praises for you and your child, and prayers for M and J.

Jennifer @ said...

You are the "unknown contributor" but not "unknown" to God. Clearly, He is with you.

And clearly, you already knew that.

God bless you, dear one. You inspire....

Unknown said...

I read your post and remembered my eldest daughter and her first 12 hours of life. She was born with a slow heartbeat and they kept her in an oxygen tank (or whatever they call those beds) and I think about how scared as a dad I was.
It was one of the first times that I called on my new extended family as we'd recently joined a new church and they were there for us. They prayed that everything would be OK.
It was, even though she is still diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, but knowing that God and almost strangers are with you in times when family can't be change you by giving you belief in people.

S said...

Wow! Beautiful!

mommydaisy said...

As someone who observed, it is amazing to read this and to see the depth of what you were going through. I mean I knew it was intense, and hard, but this is a beautiful way to portray what you experienced -- and how you felt through it.

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