Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parenthood -- Part II

This is a continuation of my next to last post about the biggest life-changing experience of my life. You can read part one here.


Parenthood Part II

The pediatrician's words penetrated my chest. The pain, the shiver, that coursed through me would not have been more pronounced had some stabbed me through the heart with an icicle.



The doctor tried to reassure my wife and I. "It could be nothing. Lots of babies have murmur's. I'm sure the pediatric cardiologist will be able to tell us more after he runs a few tests."



Waiting for those tests, Jennifer and I held hands, but said very little. I wanted to offer her some type of reassurance but how could I -- when the situation was beyond my control? Already I'd promised myself to teach and protect my son and within the first few days of being a father I'd failed at the latter.



At the age of twenty I'd been diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called Wolfe, Parkinson-White, and my assumption was that I'd passed on my shoddy heart gene onto my son. For the first time in my life I truly knew what guilt felt like.



The tests confirmed that something was wrong. That is all I remember. I do not recall the exact words the cardiologist used to deliver the news. I do not even remember mine or my wife's reaction. I probably should but I do not.



I do know it was said that our son would need surgery and that the hospital in Amarillo was not equipped or staffed to perform such a procedure. Houston and Dallas were discussed, as was the official medical term for our son's condition. --Coarctation of the Aorta.



Basically, the main vein that leaves the heart supplies blood to the lower half of his body had a narrow spot which prevent his legs from getting the blood he needed. this condition was very severe came him a slew of other problems if not corrected. I am not capable of writing the worst of them.



Soon after the harrowing news was delivered, we were told that Children's Hospital in Dallas was sending a plane up to pick up our son and fly him to Dallas. The plane had room for only one parent to ride along.



Jennifer still had staples in her stomach from the c-section and really she was in no shape to be traveling, and I couldn't bear not to be with my son, so I told the hospital staff that I would be going along.



The plane was supposed to arrive in a few hours so as my son was moved into the Neonatal ICU at Northwest Texas Hospital, I made a mad dash for home to gather a few things to take along to Dallas. Jennifer called her OB/GYN and talked him into removing her stitches early, so that she could catch a commercial flight along with her sister and meet me in Dallas. Her parents, my mom, and her sister's family made plans to make the six hour drive south the Dallas so as to provide us some much needed support.



I left the hospital where my wife and son was and headed for home. Outside the sky was dark grey, and the clouds hung low in the sky. I passed the VA hospital where my grandfather was, and wished I had time to stop. I'd been to visit him once since my son was born, but he'd been asleep so I still had not talked to him. My mom and grandmother had told him the news that we'd had a baby boy and that we'd given him my grandfather's name (Lee) for a middle name.



Tears streamed down my face as I drove by the facility. I looked to the building and spoke to my grandfather as if could hear me, even though I knew he could not.



At home, I hastily packed a bag, made arrangements for the care of our dogs, and hurried back to the hospital. A freezing drizzle began to fall as I sped back to my family.



My heart shattered when I arrived and found my tiny son in the throes of a seizure. The doctor and nurses frantically worked to end his violent shaking. Jennifer was there, but again, I do not remember the details of what was said between us. No one had answers as to why our baby was having a seizure, other than to say seizures were not a normal symptom of his heart condition.



After what seemed like an eternity, but what was probably less than five minutes, his body ceased it's frantic movements. Then he lay still. Too still, but the doctors said that was the result of the medication they had given him so that he would rest for the flight.



Delayed by the adverse weather the place finally arrived three or four hours later than expected. My son and I rode by ambulance out the the airport where a small twin engine plane with multicolor balloons and the words Children's Hospital of Dallas were painted on the side.



I stood on the icy tarmac while the paramedics lifted the plastic enclosed incubator inside. A thin sheen of ice now covered the ground and the sides of the plane. The crew made room for me and closed the door. As we sped down the runway for takeoff I watched my son, comforted a slight degree by the rise and fall of his chest, and the fact I was with him. I hurt that Jennifer was not there with us.



I tried to imagine the scene on the other end. I wondered how long it would be before he went into surgery. I wondered how long he would be out. How long the recovery would take. How long before we got to all go home and live the life we'd dreamed these past nine months. I did not allow myself to ponder the other question that lurked at the back of my brain, but as we lifted off and cut through the low hanging clouds I, for the first time in years, prayed to a God I wasn't sure I believed in.


To be continued ...

Part 3 can be read here.

40 comments:

Eric S. said...

Thank goodness you had family to provide that support so desperately needed during times like this. I can understand why this is hard to write, it's hard to read through tears.

angel, jr. said...

This was hard to read, so take your time writing it.

lyzzydee said...

How very scary, I blub at the slightest thing, so this is torture!!

Kristen Painter said...

Scary stuff, but well written. Looking forward to the last installment.

Hilary said...

What a nightmare. I can only imagine how frightened and helpless you both felt.

debra said...

{{{{{{Travis}}}}}}}}

Junosmom said...

You know, Travis, this is going to be worth publishing. I know you want to write novels, but personal narratives for magazines are also marketable. Great writing.

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Travis,

There is a strong, visceral power to this story.

It is right now when I feel the limitation of written words, as I write them, because I do not know how to adequately respond, and yet feel compelled to respond.

Even when this ends well (and it had better end well) and even when this leads to an epiphany in how one ought to live life, this is the sort of thing that gives me the terrors of ever becoming responsible for a life incapable of looking after itself.

That said, I am waiting for the positive resolution to my fears.

This had better end well, and you ought to know that you are dragging an awful lot of unknown people into your life. We are brought in whether we want to be dragged or not, which is the power of a well-told story.

Chris

Patti said...

i'm already a bundle of emotion and these last two posts just killed me. oh,man...

Charles Gramlich said...

Very powerful. Certainly take your time getting it all out.

I remember when my son had surgery on his hand at 17 and how hard I prayed for him. A child's illness can reduce a parent to a wreck. Perhaps you don't really know what panic and pain is until then

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh man. Travis, this is just gripping. And terrifying. As a parent, I know the anguish you must have felt.

But your writing is excellent. I couldn't tear myself away from it.

Melanie Avila said...

Wow.

Poetry Sue said...

Being a parent I can feel the confusion and guilt and pain and fear that you must have been going through... Sometimes the telling of a story helps with remebering the lesson of life... To live it and Love it, To enjoy it and Find joy in it. Children are the most precious gift and to have the possibility of losing that gift to something you have no control over is terrible... I hope this turns out ok..

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ditto to what's gone before me.

Monnik said...

I agree with angel, jr. this is hard to read. You tell it well.

Kate said...

Oh man, scary stuff. You know, heart murmurs and heart problems seem to be surrounding us lately. We have a lot of family whose children have had similiar things, and we have a friend who is going through the same thing with her little boy. They are actually going to be heading to California next month for the last surgery. It's amazing the stuff you get through.

Can't believe I haven't stopped by here before.....talk to ya later.

Sara said...

Wow. I agree with Angel Jr, it is very hard to read - fighting tears at work right now - so I can only imagine how hard it is to write it, never mind the fact that you also had to live it.

I'm looking forward to the next installment!

SUV Mama said...

Hey T-
Having gone through hell with our first, it's hard to comment. So forgive this pregnant, hormonal woman but know you've got tears of support.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Oh.Emm.Gee. Harrowing stuff here.

Amy said...

Wow Travis...Keena had mentioned to me that your baby was sick several years ago but I never heard anything else. I'm anxious to read the rest of the story!! Blessings..amy

Mr. Shife said...

No need to apologize. We owe you a thank you for sharing. Looking forward to hearing the conclusion.

Scott Lessard said...

Travis,

I hope this is helping with any healing that you might need/want. You are an amazing story teller.

Now, can you explain the whole mounting a duck with a woody comment from my site?

SL

Merry Monteleone said...

Once you get it all out, you really should think about submitting it for publication, Travis... hard to read, but worth the journey.

NotsoStoneCold said...

As I know the outcome, I only wish to bear witness that Travis has become exactly what he wanted, an attentive, involved, caring and loving father. I am sure he is a hero to his boys.

Cloudia said...

Travis:
This is moving, soulful, and powerfully written. It is stripped raw so the esential beauty of your yearning and fears singes through the screen.
Amazing to have a friend like you who touches my heart yet who I've never 'met.' BRAVO & Aloha

Ello said...

Wow Travis. Oh wow. My heart hurts too. I'm a wreck reading this. It reminded me so much of the pain I went through when I found out my oldest had a hole in her heart. She was born a little early which was why the hole hadn't closed up. Luckily several pediatric cardiologists helped us through the process and she is hole and murmur free.

When are you posting the next installment? when you say a few days do you mean 2 or more? NO pressure, but I'm a bit anxious to read it.

Mom In Scrubs said...

The only thing getting me through this heart-wrenching story is knowing everything turns out ok...

Take your time.

BTW, did you get your Wolfe-Parkinson-White ablated? That's what I do for a living, so I'm curious!!

Jennifer A. said...

This is a gripping piece, Travis. I feel your fear and anguish as I read it. It also brings back so many heart-wrenching memories. My first son was born with one non-functioning kidney--a genetic abnormality I passed on to him. So I understand completely the guilt you experienced over the belief your child had inherited his heart problem from you--even though you obviously could not have helped it if that was the case. I felt that same sense of guilt over my son's problem. Writing something that so many people find relatable and that touches those that can't relate, too, is a true gift.

Janie said...

Travis.

I can't even imagine how hard all this was for you. Thanks for sharing. Please continue.

Anndi said...

I'm holding my breath. I had an ultrasound at the Children's Hospital before my Chicklet's birth because my OB/GYN was concerned there might be something wrong with her heart. I was spared your nightmare, thankfully. My mind went there though, before I found out everything was ok... and it was hell on earth.

*hugs*

Josh said...

good lord man, tell us more! :) can't wait to read the rest

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh my gosh, you have me in tears!

Crystal Phares said...

Oh, you made me cry...

spyscribbler said...

Heart still in throat, but waiting patiently. And hopefully.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Bless you all, Travis. Taklong as you need.

Hugs, Terrie

theneatos said...

Holy Moly ... thanks for sharing. And I can't wait to hear the rest.

Marla said...

So stressful. Nothing worse than having your child totally in the hands of others and having so many questions, so little answers and so much stress! I can't wait to hear the rest of the story. What a great Dad you are. We have had many drives where both J and me were in tears. Those are the longest car drives in the world.

Barbara Martin said...

Travis, thank you for sharing this part of your life. I agree with Junosmom, that you should think of publishing this personal narrative account. Its a difficult task to go back through and into the memories of this event, while trying to put it to words that others will understand.

jerseygirl89 said...

I am crying. Take your time.

Annie said...

No time for a long comment, I'm jumping over to part III.