I have never gotten greater joy to spoil an ending than I will right now: as of today, Emi is on a strong road to recovery, but only a few days ago we were on an ambulance heading to the emergency room of Texas Children’s Hospital. I write this as much as a warning to parents as anything else, and if any of this might help parents of any young child, it will have been worth it.
Two Thursdays ago, Emi was going on forty eight hours of vomiting, after every attempt of trying to feed her. I found it strange that Tuesday, when she started vomiting, it seemed to be out of nowhere. She had not been around other young children, as she had been when she had gotten other viruses. None of us had any symptoms, and her brother was not sick after having eaten the same foods. I immediately began checking the cleaning solutions to see if she had, perhaps, swallowed something. Everything seemed secure. Claudia and I just accepted that she might just have gotten some stomach bug.
On Thursday, I began to really worry, and I started piecing together what had been happening. I started remembering that neither I nor Claudia nor my mom had actually seen her get any food down her throat. My mom had watched her the day before, and her words echoed to me on Thursday.
“Mijo, I tried to feed her, but her food came right back up, like she couldn’t swallow. I think her throat was sore from all that vomiting she did yesterday.” I called Claudia, and she couldn’t remember Emi keeping food down for long…actually now that she was thinking about it…yeah, she didn’t see her get the food down for more than seconds at a time. A lump formed in my throat.
“Babe, do you think it’s possible that something’s stuck in her throat?”
“I guess anything’s possible, but I don’t see how,” she responded.
It was then that I decided to take Emi to the emergency room… just to double check.
In the middle of a hectic day, the word “Babe” lit up my cel phone, and it rang.
Her words all strung together: “On-Tuesday-I-took-a-watch-battery-away-from-Emi-And-Now-I-Can’t-Find-It.”
My earlier question had made her revisit what had happened on Tuesday, before Emi began “vomiting.”
We rushed to the closest emergency room, where they had us hold our baby down for x-rays. We had barely exited the X-ray room when I heard the tech say in a loud, slightly nervous voice, “I already see it in there.”
They didn’t tell us, and we had to ask what was next.
We would be taken by ambulance?
The staff would know how to handle a situation in which the battery slipped?
We wouldn’t be going to Texas Children’s Woodlands?
Nothing else by mouth for now?
And one more thing. She needed IV access.
With the exception of the X-rays, Emi had been pretty calm. Other than the occasional fussiness, she just wanted to be held.
As we held her down for her stick she started crying. “No. No.” You can imagine how it affects a father’s heart to hear his daughter crying, “I good, Mommy. I good, Daddy.” She didn’t understand why this was happening. She was pleading her case.
I remember trying to predict how the ambulance driver would look, how I would sum him up. I was imagining a bald, big dude, sharp as a tack, and taking charge of the situation.
Instead, walks in Woody from Toy Story dressed as an EMT…and seeming to be a little more dim-witted.
Right behind him, though walked in a Chicana, slightly shorter. Together, they were about as tall as the guy I was imagining. Lina, by herself, was twice as sharp, though. I hoped that he would be driving, while she would be with Emi.
I asked her questions about the hypothetical things that could happen on our way to Texas Children’s-Med Center.
“No, Lina, I’m not a doctor or a nurse,” I said. “I just watch a lot of TV.”
About ten seconds passed in silence.
“And my wife just got her master’s degree in nursing.”
“Oh,” she said. I could tell that in one swoop she had instantly and mistakenly attributed my questions to my wife’s profession instead of to my own study of medical mystery cable programs and Grey’s Anatomy (the tele-drama, not the book).
Occasionally, her gaze would wander, as she talked about medical traumas in her own family, and about her questions to my wife about their “protocols.” Jargon floated around the truck for the whole trip. For the most part, though, I felt that my daughter was being watched by secret service personnel.
She rarely took her eyes off of Emi. The conversation eased me some, but her attention to my daughter really made me feel secure.
“The last time I picked up a baby, everything was fine until we started to pull up to the hospital. Then he went downhill. I’m happy that ya’ll arrived safely. Take care.”
We waited in front of a counter, where we spoke to so many people about so many things.
So it’s a battery?
Tell me what happened.
The procedure is risky.
Weigh in. Now weigh in without her.
Machines beeping, sirens of urgency.
It’s in her esophogus, not her trachea. Yes, it’s preferable, but still awful.
So when did she swallow the battery?
Fifteen docs…fifteen recitations of the story. Each needed their own
And then they told us…one of the doctors, I can’t remember which…and I can’t remember the exact science behind what he was trying to explain…”when the battery is in the body, it can create a current and activate the battery. It can leak.”
“If it were a coin, we could wait until later on this evening, but this has to go immediately.”
They shoved some papers in front of me to sign. In the middle of the two-page document, I was called away.
“Dad, I need you in the room,” yelled a doc.
I ran. Then I breathed a sigh of relief. “Of course I can help take off her outfit so that she won’t cry.”
They shoved the papers back in my face.
“No. Don’t apologize for rushing me to sign. Rush me as much as you can.”
Specialists started arriving and started carrying some equipment in order to rush us away. I was told later that such behavior was an indication of how urgent things were.
The last specialist showed. He looked like how you might cast an older, slightly more successful, brother to the Winklevoss twins…also an Olympian. “I told them up there that you were here and waiting. That lit a fire under them,” a resident told him.
And like that, we were off.
– by Hector Chavana Jr.