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Piercing sirens came bursting through the ER doors, a sound they’ve become exceedingly familiar with. The beige walls surrounded every corner of the ER. Doctors in all colored scrubs came rushing over to help the paramedics.
“I need help over here!”
“What do we have?”
“Not really sure,” the doctor and paramedics curved the corner pushing the little girl into other double doors. They walked into an area that only they would have been acquainted with. “She collapsed at school…it’s got to be her heart…her breathing is very shallow.”
“Have you contacted the parents?”
“Yeah they’re in the waiting room.”
“Lily Peters. Four years old.” They walked away from each other with distressing faces. The pain each felt filled the room. The doctor went into the bright OR.
“Ok, let’s get her hooked up! Where’s my team? Get some IVs and a respirator on her! Come on people, let’s move!” The team was running around and scrambling to get everything situated for operation. The doctor bent down and whispered in her ear, “OK Lily, can you breathe for me?”
I held his hand, although sweaty from fear escaping through his pores, I didn’t let go. I gazed in his eyes that once sparkled like stars, now were a dull, dark blue. Inside those dull blue eyes, tears sought to break free but his manly exterior would not tolerate such a girlish emotion to consume him. Therefore, I just held his hand. I realized it was quite obvious that I yearned to say something. I wanted to tell him that it would be okay, that it would get better, to just not worry, but I had to persuade myself first. I had to make sure I knew those things before I let them escape my lips and penetrate his ears. I knew that if I didn’t believe it, he would know which in turn would make him more distort. I just held his hand, and strived to convince myself.
We sat there in the waiting room. It had been an hour, with no remark of what was transpiring with her, not one doctor came out with any sort of news. All we knew was what the doctors informed us when we got there—she was ill and her heart was gradually weakening on her. She required surgery. We were told the surgery could be up to four to six hours since they’re dealing with her heart and just like that she was out of sight. She’s only four—she needs me. All and all, we sat there in the waiting room, staring at the floor, the ceiling, and out the window, anything that made time pass. However, we didn’t talk; we sat in silence, hand in hand, as we pleaded for time to pass by hastily. His melancholy turned to resentment. Every minute, every second that surpassed, I felt him getting devoured in rage. His grip became tighter, it hurt, but I didn’t let go. He got up and began pacing the floor as if he was trying to make a moat with his feet. Up and down! Back and forth! Round and round! He went up to the front desk and questioned, “What’s happening? Why hasn’t anyone given us any information?” He ranted and raved. The lady at the desk appeared shocked, her eyes big like a deer caught in headlights. I stood up, grasped his hand in mine and led him back to our seats. At that very moment a single tear fell from his eye. I was stunned.
Ring! Ring! Ring! “Hello?”
“Hi, is this Mrs. Peters? Mother of Lily Peters?”
“We have some information concerning your daughter.”
My feelings of trying to be strong for him soon went away. I felt like a little girl who had just lost her dog; in search for answers, confused and misplaced. I tried hard to stay strong for him but the harder I tried I could not put up the fight and at that moment tears fell from my eyes like a rain storm had just struck my face. I peered away from him and tried not to show him that my girlish emotions had consumed me. He looked over and saw me crying. He got up again and went to the front desk; this time with full rage. Yelling. Pounding. Stomping. Finally, when we both got control of ourselves, we sat there and waited; hand in hand. All the time we had gained, from just waiting, I began to contemplate our situation.
Nevertheless, I remember everything she’s ever done; her life is implanted in my head like a camcorder on record all the time. One day last year, in particular, comes to mind. It was kind of chilly, the beginning of fall and she nagged and nagged because she “had to go to the park!” Since it was such a ‘must,’ we went. She did everything; monkey bars, jungle gym, swing, teeter totter—anything one could think of. Lastly, it came time for the slide. Now, she was too big for the little kiddies slide and she knew she was. She wanted to be a “big girl” like she said and go on the “big kid one,” even though she could still fit in it. One foot after another she climbed up the ladder of the slide. After every step she looked down at me standing at the foot of the ladder. I thought she was so brave for a three year old, I knew that slide was still, technically, a ‘kiddies slide’ but for her height, she was so tiny for three, it was a big one. When she finally got to the top she stared down with fear and astonishment written all over her face. I was so proud. I was clapping, and jumping up and down because she had made it that far. Then when I looked in her eyes I could truly see how scared she was. She had the look of ‘what have I gotten myself into?’ So then, in a split second, she sat down and slid down that slide. When she reached the bottom, she was full of smiles, she was dancing and saying “did you see me just do that!” From that moment on, I knew she could do anything she ever wanted and conquer it. I knew she would be a trooper.
Across the room, a family of three was awaiting news, just as we were. A doctor arrived and the mother, I assumed, jumped to her feet. With poignant eyes, the doctor leaned over and said, “I’m sorry ma’am, we did everything we could.” I died a little on the inside when I heard that fateful news and I knew he heard it too.
“I’m sorry who is this?”
“This is Mrs. Smith calling from the main office of Harwood Elementary.”
“Oh, is everything OK with her ma’am? I dropped Lily off almost an hour ago.”
The mother ran to her husband with uncountable tears; her head laid gently on his chest and he positioned his head on top of hers. I knew what he was thinking, “Why didn’t you save him?” What was really killing him, he couldn’t save him, he didn’t save him. All he could think was “Why?” But instead he clutched his wife and said, “It’s alright baby, everything is going to be alright. She’s in a better place.” With every word, we could hear him choking on his tears and grief.
I then had become furious. No! Not at her, at him. He was the man. He is supposed to be the one who is stronger, not me. He should have tried to convince me that everything was going to be alright. I love that girl just as much as he does. I was the one that held her when she cried; the one that budged when she wanted a little more; the one who laid in her bed at three am when she had a nightmare, so why was he so weak? What had he done? I began to hit him in the pit of rage. He yelled, “What the hell? Stop! What are you doing?” Everything else he said was just an agonizing noise drowned in my tears and hyperventilating.
I screamed, “I need comfort, I need closure, I need….”
He bluntly interrupted me and whispered, “Breathe babe.” He held me close.
“It’s okay. You have every right to be angry. Just keep breathing. I don’t know what I’d do if both the girls I love were in the hospital,” he said with a grin on his face, in his attempt to make me feel better.
This wasn’t about me, this was about her and I needed him here with me, even if I was the one being strong for the both of us. I need him.
It now has been two hours with, still, no news on her condition. We had sat there in silence for at least twenty long, slow minutes. How could this be happening?
“I’m sorry to inform you Mrs. Peters but Lily was rushed to the hospital; I tried to get a hold of your hus…”
“What’s wrong? What happened? What hospital? Why didn’t you contact me sooner?”
“She was having a hard time breathing. She got rushed to St. John’s…”
“Thank you.” Click.
I looked over at him. He was in a complete daze. His brown hair was shaggy as if he woke up that morning with no intention of doing it. I will admit I like his hair that way—natural. I noticed he had little wrinkles by the corners of his eyes, I don’t think I’ve ever seen those before. He was still fit for his age but that last year he let himself go. I didn’t care; I mean the last couple years I’ve let myself go. Who was I to be cynical? He was dressed very nice with a suit on since I had contacted him when he was at work to rush to the hospital.
Ring! Ring! Ring! “Hello?”
“Lily got rushed to St. John’s! She can’t breathe”
“Calm down, hunny. I can’t understand you! Are you in the car? I can’t hear you! Stop honking your horn!”
“GO TO ST. JOHN’S NOW! LILY CAN’T BREATHE!” click.
I was still in my plaid, blue pajamas but I had already done my make up and hair. He’s got the perfect bronze skin that everyone goes tanning for but in that light or maybe just the situation, he appeared unusually pale. I was still convincing myself that it would get better, and that news was on the way concerning her. I looked over at him again. He had not changed. He looked almost dead, as if no breath of life was entering or escaping his body. I wanted to shake him to make sure he was still alive, but he was content and I did not want to be the one who disturbed him. I let him be.
One hour later. No news. Still waiting.
The room seemed to be getting darker. The lights seemed dim and the room was getting smaller. I eyed the pattern of the carpet—dark green and blue stripes. We faced the front desk which was well light compared to the rest of the waiting room. The chairs were set up quite unusual to me; just going every which way, facing every direction. No pattern. Next, I looked outside, what a strikingly, sunny day but to me it felt like a bitter, rainy one.
“Are you hungry?”
No answer. He tilted over and muttered, “I’m going to walk around.”
“I’ll go with you. I can walk with you. I need you.” I needed him. All my strength was weighted on his shoulders, with him I was strong, and without him I was weak again.
“No!” he yelled as he stood up from his seat. “You don’t need me, get a hold of yourself. God! Hey babe, you know what I need?” I shook my head. “I need to be alone. So if that’s alright with you—I’m going!” He walked away in fury. The people in the waiting room stared at me, as I sat there in disbelief.
In a matter of minutes, he came back; drenched in his own tears, I assumed.
He hugged me—tight. “I’m sorry. I just can’t take this.” We sat back down and he buried his head into my lap. I stroked his hair with one hand, knowing that would calm him down, and held his hand with the other.
“Breathe,” I whispered.
His hand in mine now felt soft and damp. It had been three and a half hours and our hands had yet to depart from one another, for the most part. Even though, a couple times I think he tried to pull away but I would not allow. That was my comfort, his hand in mine. I needed him. I needed him like I needed her. I needed her. I need her. Everything was going to be okay; everything had to be okay because I need her. I don’t just want her around, I need her around. She is my rock. She is the legs to my table, without her I would break. She is going to be okay. At that moment, I smiled. She is everything to me; my house, my job, my car, my love, my pain—my life. I don’t understand how I doubted her fate before.
I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry! She’s going to be okay! We’re going to be fine, regardless of the outcome. Ok hunny?”
He smiled too. My confidence, reassured him that everything was going to be well. He knew deep down, but he needed me to make sure it was official. “She is going to be okay. She is going to be okay.” I said that in my head probably a thousand times and every time it was even more relieving. I just held his hand, although sweaty from fear escaping through his pores, I didn’t let go because I knew all would be well and if not I would be okay with that. She lived a fulfilling life and was surrounded by people that love her and she would leave this earth knowing that. But I knew that she was going to be okay, and she was going to fight to get better. If not for herself, she’ll do it for me because I need her. She’ll do it for mom.
When the doctor finally came out to speak with us, I immediately shot up in hesitation to see her. It was the most at ease feeling, like taking a dip in a pool on a scorching summer day. The only problem with this is that when I finally made it to the pool, a storm came rumbling in.
The doctor finally made his way to us. I had no idea what he was saying; I heard bits and pieces of the conversation.
“Don’t know the problem….condition unstable…staying longer…coma…on breathing machine.” He went on and on with his doctor lingo. All I heard in a complete sentence was, “You can see her now.”
I must have bolted because the next thing I knew I was in her room, staring at my little girl. Wires. Tubes. Needles. Beeps. Machines. I neither saw nor heard any of those or at least attempted to ignore them, all I focused on was how beautiful my girl looked—just like the day she was born; her first breath of life. She still is the most gorgeous girl I’ve ever set my sight on even with all these things affixed to her that kept her on this earth with me, keeping her alive. A single tear glided down my cheek. I went to her bed side. In my head, I repeated “she‘ll fight for mom.” I persisted to think happy thoughts of before, when she was okay and now, how she would be okay. She looked so serene as I held her hand and bent down to her ear and whispered,