Brooding On

Drama in the Checkout Line

Okay.  It's been over a week now, and I think I'm ready to talk about it.  Before I begin relating the dramatic events that transpired last Tuesday, let me first say that I know that I've had it pretty good in terms of child-centered drama.  Sure, we've had the usual topples and falls, the paper wads up the nose and BBs in the ear.  But, nothing serious.  Last Tuesday, however, was my most fear-filled moment thus far as a parent, and I'd like to recount it for you now.

Tuesday started like any other day, only Girl 2 came down the stairs with pink cheeks.  A quick check with the thermometer revealed that, yep, she was running 102 degrees.  She said her throat hurt but otherwise had no complaints.  She popped some Tylenol while I whipped her up some Cream of Wheat.  About 20 minutes later, the fever had broken, she'd eaten two bowls of hot cereal, and was chasing her brother around the house laughing.  It seemed she was feeling better.  Obviously, she couldn't go to school, but could we still run the Wal-Mart errand I'd planned for today?  We were in desperate need of some groceries AND I'd spent 30 minutes searching the price-match adds and generating our meal plan accordingly, and those adds expired today.  She was tackling her brother, surely she could handle a quick trip to Wal-Mart!  Right?  (In retrospect, I admit this was not my finest parenting moment.)

In the store, she was a big helper, running up the aisles in search of granola and the like.  In the checkout line, she jumped in line ahead of me and paid for her TicTacs with her own money.  The cashier handed her the receipt, Girl 2 turned to put it in her purse, and then  . . . she fell down.  Onto the floor.  Just collapsed.  With no warning whatsoever.

My first instinct was that she'd tripped or something, but then I saw it . . . her eyes.  Wide open, glassed over, and rolling back into her head.  She was unconscious.  I was immediately on the floor, holding her and yelling like a crazy person.  "Help!  Help us!"  I was yelling her name.  I was shaking her.  I was slapping her cheeks. 

When we got to the doctor later and the nurse asked me how long she was unresponsive, I wanted to say 5 minutes because it sure felt like it.  In reality, it was long enough for me to freak out (as described above), then attempt to pull myself together enough to start to check pulse and breathing and try to remember my CPR training.  Maybe 15 seconds?  The longest 15 seconds of my life. 

And, then, suddenly, she was awake and on the floor of Wal-Mart with her Mom in her face and about 8 Wal-Mart employees hovering nearby.  Needless to say, she was scared.  The Wal-Mart employee who went on record as a witness claimed that she saw Girl 2 smack her head on the floor, but there was no knot and her head didn't hurt. 

After getting her comfortable, filling out the official Wal-Mart accident report, and being escorted to our car, I drove her to our family doctor who'd agreed to see her right away.   We must have looked pretty funny.  I carried this 50-lb. first grader like a baby as Little Boy walked alongside us into the doctor's office.  But, how could I let her walk?  The last time she did, she passed out without warning. 

The doc ran all kinds of tests and did bloodwork.  She tested positive for Flu type B and was dehydrated.  The dehydration probably led to her fainting spell.  She showed no signs of head trauma, and the doctor suspects her fall was cushioned by her arm.  In the week that followed, she so generously, passed that flu around to the rest of us (except John, so far - knock on wood). 

But, in the days that followed, as I was cooped up in the house caring for all of these sick kiddos and pushing liquids, my mind kept reproducing the image of Girl 2 splayed out on the floor with her eyes rolling back into her head.  It seemed that everytime I closed my eyes, there it was, haunting me.

That first day, I didn't let her out of my sight.  I set my rear view mirror so that it was looking right at her face on the way home.  I lay next to her as she napped that afternoon so that I could listen to her breathe.   My mind was so stuck on that moment of terror in the floor of Wal-Mart . . . that moment when I was thinking "this is it.  This is the moment that every parent fears.  I'm losing her.  I'm losing her right now!"   I became overwhelmed by the responsibilty given to me by God to care for her to the best of my ability.  Lord, what a daunting and humbling task! 

But, later, a breakthrough happened.  I was running on the treadmill in the garage.  John was home and watching the kids inside.  But, I couldn't listen to music or an audio book because I was too busy waiting . . . listening for the shriek. . . waiting for John to cry out for me to come inside because she'd collapsed again.  That was when I realized the fear that had overwhelmed me.  I was tip-toeing around, waiting for disaster to strike.

I've prayed similar prayers before, but it was time to pray it again. . . Lord, I know that they are not my children, but yours.  Thank you for honoring me with the task of providing for and loving on them.  Equip me to be best mother that I can be.  But, help me to know that there is only so much I can shield them from.  I give this burden, too great for me to carry, to you.  Please bury this fear and let me rest in the peace that comes from knowing that you are in control.  

And, you know what?  The ever-present image subsided.  And, when I look into her eyes, I see them full of life.  And, when I dropped her back at school for the first time once she was better, I did so knowing that she wasn't going in alone. 

I know a few "over-protective" parents.  I'm sure you do, too.  Here's the thing. . . there are things that as parents we can do (and should do) to protect our kids, like washing hands before eating and not allowing our kids to eat rusty nails and stuff like that.  But, we are surrounded by dangers.  Any moment could be "that moment."  I now know that Girl 2 could be running across the yard kicking a soccer ball and then suddenly collapse to the ground.  But, we cannot live in fear.   Parenting is a high calling.  It requires a lot from us -- some days more patience than I can muster. But, fear is not one of those things.  Pray protection, and then let the fear go.  Besides, the safest place for them to be is in His arms anyway. :)