She got the call today.
One out of the gray.
And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away.
She said she didn’t believe it could happen to me.
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.
November 28th, 2016. I got the call.
Ellie’s pediatrician was on the other end, explaining what he saw on her chest X-ray that was performed not even two hours earlier. My vision began to narrow, a gut wrenching knot forming with each passing word. Her heart? Super-enlarged? What do you mean?
“You need to put Ellie in the car and drive straight to children’s hospital in Aurora. They’re expecting you. If she turns blue on the way down there, pull over and call 911.”
If she turns blue? Did he really just say that? Is this really happening?
At this point, I’m sitting in my driveway, tears streaming down my face as I answer, “yes, okay.” The moments that followed are a bit of a blur. Ellie’s dad and I gathered her up and drove over an hour to the place I would not leave for the next ten days.
I remember doctors and nurses coming in and out and eventually piling in to talk to us. Their faces somehow simultaneously soft and serious. Ellie had what was called a coarctation, or narrowing, of the aorta. Hers was so severe that her heart was having to work harder to pump blood than it could possibly maintain, causing the muscle to super-enlarge which in turn caused severe left ventricular dysfunction. Big words that literally took hours to understand. We were weeks, maybe days, away from Ellie’s heart entering cardiac arrest. I remember being completely bewildered and wide-eyed.
We were admitted, Ellie had surgery on November 30th, and we were released on December 7th, 2016. These are dates that changed my life forever, and it all started with a phone call.
Some people love phone calls, others dread them, and I happen to find myself falling into the latter category after that fateful November day. Today, though. Today was an exception.
A couple weeks ago at Ellie’s last cardiology appointment, I was told the narrowing in her aorta may have worsened again. Again. As in for the second time. As in cause for heart surgery number three. As in my world started spinning very slowly, almost coming to a complete stop. Is there a word worse than maybe? Sure. But in that moment, absolutely not. She had been too hysterical during the echo and collecting vitals for the cardiologist to be able to trust his findings. This led to scheduling a sedated echocardiogram during an already scheduled abdominal surgery. We would definitely know then. And so the waiting game began.
For many days now, I have functioned as a shell, never ceasing to wonder what could be going on in my baby’s body. Had her tissue thickened and narrowed again? Would she have to have a third thoracotomy? A fourth surgery? It had been the same amount of time between her first two heart surgeries and that second surgery to now. I guess it would make sense that if it was going to worsen, it would happen within the same time frame. Sense I just couldn’t fathom.
I got the call today.
Ellie’s cardiologist was on the other end, explaining what he saw on her sedated echo that was performed four days ago. I was expecting this phone call. I had been waiting for this phone call. Anxiously. Impatiently.
He told me he was very pleased with the results, that her narrowing had not worsened, and that her heart function remained good. With those words, the absolutely crushing weight of uncertainty immediately lifted and let loose a dam of built up tears.
My baby. She was okay.
March 15th, 2017. July 14th, 2017.
July 18th, 2017. I got the call.