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What to Do When the Unthinkable Happens to Your Child

by Deborah Cruz

You know it’s bad enough that we live in a world where I have to feel trepidatious every time I drop my kids off at school or hear a siren. It’s bad enough that I have to live in world where people bully other people for sport and children are regularly kidnapped, raped and murdered. All these things, I think about every day. I think of childhood diseases and cancers and getting hit by a car or stolen an these things scare the hell out of me.

Yesterday morning was one of the worst of my life thus far.  We all hate to see our children sick. It makes us feel helpless. For me, it is the worst feeling in the world. Worse than anything else I have ever experienced. I’d do anything for them to never feel pain. Give it all to me. Let me take the pain and sickness and let them only feel well and happy.  My mind goes to dark places when my children are sick.

When my nephew was 3, he was diagnosed with leukemia and since then, I have been acutely aware of the mortality of children. It is the one thing that scares me above all else; loving someone else so much that you can’t imagine surviving without them and knowing that at any time, anywhere, it can all be taken away. It scares me more than anything. Yesterday, I found myself in the emergency room with my oldest daughter and I was scared to death and helpless and all I could do was pray.

My 8-year-old woke up yesterday morning and immediately said she had a sore throat and didn’t feel too well. The night before she complained of a slight headache and scratchy throat, so I suggested that we take her temperature and sure enough she had a slight fever, 99.9. School says it’s not a fever until it’s over 100. Mommy says it’s a fever over 98.6. The three of us walk down the stairs through the foyer and make our way to the kitchen. Both girls stand by the counter while I grab some ibuprofen, only this is when things when terribly wrong.

With my back is to her, I stood about 5-feet away grabbing the ibuprofen, Bella screams out terrified, “Mommy, I can’t see!”

“What?” my mind is racing. I run over to her and immediately start putting my hands in front of her face to see if she can see anything.

“Can you see this?”

Staring blanky at nothing and her voice starting to crack, “No, Mommy, I can’t see anything!”

I am swept up in fear because the first thing that comes to my mind is the photophobia caused by meningitis. The very thing I lost a student to in the matter of a weekend. Oh shit! What do I do?

As she was finishing her sentence, her eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed into my arms. Luckily, I was standing directly in front of her. I was hysterically shouting her name and shaking her. I was terrified. For a few seconds, that felt like an eternity, she was completely unresponsive and my mind went to the darkest place of all; was she dead? Oh my God, she’s dead.

Then she opened her eyes but she was still limp like a rag doll. My heart was beating a million miles a minute. My chest hurt. My heart literally felt like it had exploded. I drug her to the nearest chair (my 8-year-old is 75 pounds and 4 foot 10 she is almost as big as I am). I couldn’t think straight. All I knew was that I had to get her to the hospital now and I didn’t know where the closest hospital even was. As I dialed my husband, 2 hours away, just arriving at work, she said, “Mommy, I’m going to be sick!”

She is shaky and still limp-like. I walk her to the bathroom and hold her so she doesn’t collapse face first into the toilet tank. She is wobbling. I am shaking. I am trying to stay cool because my 6-year-old is watching the whole thing go down. Not crying, not scared just looking to me.

“Gabi, please get your sister some water.”

She did, no complaining or back-and-forth. She kicked into fight mode and she was calm and rational and I have never seen this side of her because usually she is the first one to fall apart. I was amazed. I needed her to stay calm. I couldn’t handle one more thing going wrong. I was on the mommy edge.

sick child

I finally reached my husband, I choked out the words,“Bella passed out. I have to take her to the hospital. Where’s the hospital?” Fighting back tears. He tells me to call his mother and he is on his way. I can’t reach her. I frantically call my brother who is 5 minutes away. He tries to calm me down but I am in the other room from the girls and I can barely breathe, never mind talk. He’s coming right over to take us to the hospital. I am hysterical in my mind but trying to keep my cool in front of the girls but inside, I am falling apart all over the place and collapsing in the fetal position in my own pool of snot and tears. I am praying. Constantly.

“Gabi, go get dressed and come back. “ She does. “Stay with your sister while I grab my clothes. “

I ran faster than I knew I could and grabbed whatever was nearest and then I grabbed her clothes and ran back downstairs where I found her pale and meek, sipping water as her baby sister, held her hand and watched her every move. I dress in the living room and then dress her. My mind is still in that very dark place. I can’t unsee her motionless in my arms, unresponsive and I can’t stop feeling like my world just ended. I’m having a panic attack but no time for that now.

I am crying right now thinking about it. No mother should ever have to see that, ever.

My brother pulls up and we race off to the hospital. It’s a good thing that he came because I couldn’t drive. I was in no shape to drive. My mind settled in that calm before the storm place and I was going through the motions of doing everything I could for my child, I wouldn’t allow the fear to rear its head. I had to gag and bound my fear and throw it back in a closet until I knew what was going on. I had to keep my mind clear for what was coming. I asked a million questions and was very specific about recounting the events of the morning and the previous night. I was her unrelenting advocate. I asked for prayers from my friends because sometimes prayers and faith are all that can soothe your soul. I even learned about 555 Angel Number that changed my life for the better.

All the tests came out fine; the blood work, the glucose, the EKG and the 2 hours of heart monitoring. Blood pressure was fine. The only thing wrong was that she was running a fever, which had now escalated to 100. 4 and her throat was red.  They gave her antibiotics and sent us home. They gave me no answer for WHY my perfectly healthy child passed out. They told me what wasn’t wrong but said sometimes these things just happen when you are sick. This didn’t sit well with me. This is my baby; my world.

I immediately, contacted our pediatrician to inform her of the situation and she had all the labs sent to her and we scheduled a follow up. I called my brother-in-law who is a doctor and one of my closest friends who is an ER doctor. I gave them the run down, the tests and results and asked for their professional opinions because these are two people who love my child and are qualified. Consensus is that there was a drop in blood pressure from the fever and not eating yet, which caused temporary blindness and then her to pass out. Both said to push fluids because children dehydrate when sick. I felt a little more at ease and then our pediatrician called and confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed rest, plenty of fluids and to come in on Monday.

This morning, my mind is still in that dark place. I can’t stop seeing her limp in my arms. She woke up full of energy but I kept her home today because she still had a slight fever and more to the truth, the thought of sending her out the door after what happened yesterday morning made me sick to my stomach. I just want to hug her and never let her go. I feel crazy and scared and facing my children’s mortality, the one fear that I thought I had bound, gagged and locked away in some space I’d forgotten about years ago.

Thank you all for the prayers and positive thoughts. It meant a lot to me yesterday when I was sitting there in the ER and my mind was going to the really dark and awful place. You were my flotation device when I was drowning in fear.  Now, I am off to have a good cry.

sick child

How do you deal with these sort of situations without freaking out and how do you get past that fear that lingers in the pit of your stomach afterwards?


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Considerer 2013/10/04 - 11:41 am

WOW! Just so glad she’s okay! What a terrifying experience!
(and very well written – I felt as though I was there with you – my heart was in my mouth the whole way through)

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:25 pm

Thank you for your kind words and sorry that you felt like you were there with me because that was a terrible place to be yesterday morning.

Considerer 2013/10/04 - 4:33 pm

It shows. Just so glad she’s okay now! Thank goodness the doctors were able to make such a quick diagnosis. What a relief.

Myndee 2013/10/04 - 11:47 am

Wow. I’m shaking just reading that. I cannot imagine how you must have felt. I have not experienced anything like that, and I can only pray that I would handle an emergency properly. I am so glad she is on the mend. Take care of yourself and your sweet girl.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:26 pm

THank you. I was a mess….on the inside. On the outside, I had to hold it together but it wasn’t easy.

Kim Tracy Prince 2013/10/04 - 11:51 am

Time. Time is the only thing that will truly get you past it. You must push through the terror and live your life, and in time, the feeling will fade, but this experience taught you something valuable and will stay with you.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:26 pm

I know you are right. Bella choked on a raisin when she was about 18 months and they’ve never been allowed back in the house since:)

Mel {Outnumbered 3 to 1} 2013/10/04 - 11:52 am

How scary! I’m glad she is alright! Have her blood sugar levels been checked? I have low blood sugar and get faint feeling from time to time, it starts with a blank blindness and I’ll have to sit down.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:27 pm

@MEl, They did check her glucose yesterday and it was fine.

Casey 2013/10/04 - 11:55 am

OHMYGOD that is so scary. Goodness. I’m sitting here crying with you. SO GLAD everything is okay but FUCK. One time Roozle choked in the car when she was about 1.5. I still relive the moment of seeing horror on her face. The memory comes with less panic as each year goes by, thankfully. These moments shape us and will surely make us better parents as we understand how delicate this all is. Or at least more thankful parents. Definitely more thankful. All the love to you all as you heal from this experience. Go gently.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:29 pm

Oh,I know! Bella choked on a raisin when she was 18 months and I still won’t let raisins in my house. She couldn’t make a sound and was turning purple. THat was terrifying. I agree, I am more thankful for every day with my girls but yesterday, I swear in that split second when I thought I lost her…my mind was lost. I’ve never been so afraid of losing anything in my life as I was in that moment.

Colleen @The Family Pants 2013/10/04 - 12:12 pm

HOly OMG Debbie!! This had me with a lump in my throat. How scary! I am so happy she is ok. And oh your mama heart! I swear I don’t know how our parents did it. She’s going to be ok. Don’t forget to breathe, mama. (((hugs)))

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:30 pm

I’m trying to breathe but damn it;s hard when you are choking on the lump in your throat. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life.

Christy Dougherty 2013/10/04 - 1:14 pm

First things first..freak out, cry if you need to, it’s okay!! Second, I am so glad that Bella is doing okay and also glad that Gabi was able to be the amazing child you knew she was!! Finally, my youngest son has given me 2 scares like that in his short 8 years. The first one was when he was about 18 months old. He was running from me and ran head first into a steel pole. He split his head right on his eyebrow. I caught him just as he fell backwards and passed out just briefly. Luckily my husband was able to butterfly him and we didn’t need the hospital that time. The second one was when he was 3 and I was just home from my mastectomy. His little testicle swelled up and my husband rushed him to the hospital with the idea that they might have to do surgery. They didn’t it was just a virus, but there is nothing worse than feeling that there is nothing you can do, and for me there was nothing I could do as I was home bound recuperating!
I still cry when I think about those two incidents! So, it’s okay to cry. You are a mom and these are your babies!!
Again, glad that she is going to be okay, and you will be too!!

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:33 pm

Poor mama! I know what you mean. This is one of those moments that I will never be able to unsee or erase form my mind. I’ll always be afraid of this now. I hate that but at last I will always be aware. And yes, I need to go have my cry.Maybe in the shower tonight or maybe I should watch a sad movie. I did that after I miscarried and it helped me to get the never ending cries out because it was like I was a bottomless pit of sadness. Man, loving babies so much is rough. It breaks my heart into a million pieces just to think of them hurting at all.

Vikki 2013/10/04 - 1:24 pm

So scary. I’m so glad that everything checked out but whoa.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 3:34 pm

Super scary. I hate anything bad happening to my children, ever. I’ve never been so freaking scared and felt so helpless in my life.

Kristen Daukas 2013/10/04 - 4:02 pm

Oh. My. Gawd. I am so sorry!! And I am so grateful that she’s okay! It’s amazing that none of us ever stop to think about where the hospital is until we need it and like you went thru – no way are you going to be able to figure it out then. Hugs to you all.

Deborah Cruz 2013/10/04 - 4:10 pm

I know where a hospital is but the only one I’ve been to was for my D & E and that was on the other side of town and I needed to get somewhere fast. NOw, i know where the hospital is. Now, my husband is not traveling next week. Now, Bella knows id she ever starts to feel like she’s leaning to sit down. Now, I know that when you are terrified that your child just died in your arms, it feels like your world ended and you might be having a real life heart attack and then your brain and heart might explode. Thank you for the hugs. I will take them all.

christen 2013/10/04 - 5:56 pm

Wow, just relived a horrid moment I had with my daughter reading this post. I know what that exact moment feels like when you think your whole world is gone. You will never forget what was happening and that moment in time that feels like a lifetime in itself is now etched forever in your brain. It will soften over time. I promise. My outcome was also a positive result and I thank the universe everyday that was not her time! It makes me appreciate every day with her and cherish every second!! Stay strong. You are a Mom. You are strong.

Tracie 2013/10/04 - 8:44 pm

How very scary! I’m go glad it didn’t turn out to be something serious.

Susi 2013/10/05 - 11:20 am

Oh, how very scared you must have been. I was crying reading this as I can’t help but feel the same way. We’ve had our share of “incidents” but nothing like this. I don’t know that I could have remained calm like that. I’m glad that your daughter is fine. Hugs to all of you!

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