Parenthood Part II
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 ...