My first ambulance ride was about 9 years ago. There were no lights and sirens. The seatbelts were tucked into the bench and I held my little boy’s hand as the ambulance drove from County USC Hospital to Kaiser Sunset. He was stable and he was being transported for observation.
Kid3 was 8 months old. I didn’t process the fact that there was standing water in the bathtub or that it could be a hazard to the baby crawling on the floor. He wasn’t walking and I didn’t know he could pull himself into the bathtub until he pulled himself into the empty tub about a week later. Kid1 was home alone with their Dad and had his hands in the tub with a Lego Boat he wasn’t even allowed to play with when his brother was awake because Legos are an obvious choking hazard. When I got home with Kid2 and Kid3, I was unloading groceries and the ex was running out of the door. We had one car at the time and he was ready to escape the moment I walked in.
I was having a tickle fest with Kid1 when Kid2 started tugging on my shirt. My nonverbal autistic 4 year old son saved his brother’s life. My baby was in the cold water on his back, arched and blue faced. I pulled him out and tried to remember CPR. I took the classes and knew the drills but in that moment I forgot it all. I pushed on his little belly and water flowed out of his mouth. I didn’t realize I could have made things worse if he had aspirated that water. I was frantically screaming for someone to call 911. I was screaming at the top of my lungs for someone to help me. I was home alone and so helpless. I didn’t have neighbors to call on because they saw too much. We didn’t invite them in because they saw enough from outside. I found a landline phone with my limp son in my arms and called for help. The ambulance came and the paramedics took him away. His chest was rattling in air and he was otherwise unresponsive. We only had one car at the time and I was stranded at home with two children. I waited until my sister came, or maybe it was my mother in law. I just know that I waited for them and the ambulance took my son. One of the fire trucks stayed, then took me to my son. It was agonizingly slow. They obeyed all traffic laws and carefully kept an eye on me because I was a caged animal.
My house was a mess. I had been at the store, and my major clean up day at the time was Sunday evening. (They go to their Dad on Wednesday, so that’s my new day.) I was tickling my son and preparing to get to work. I picked up here and there throughout the week, but caring for two children, aged 5 and 3 with sensory integration dysfunction and a crawling 8 month old that started walking at 9 months meant my house was a disaster. Dealing with the messes on my terms meant I was angry a lot less and able to play with their trains and Playdoh. It meant not freaking out over yogurt on the ceiling and peanut butter on the walls. It also meant the house was a hazard. I didn’t have help and it was less stressful to not invite people over.
When I arrived at the hospital, I was held at a distance until they were sure I wasn’t trying to kill my son. It was standard practice for the situation. They see that on a regular basis and had to imagine the possibility that I could do the unthinkable because other mothers had thought it. They interviewed my family and neighbors. They asked if there was abuse in the home and my Mom later asked if there was because she suddenly wasn’t sure what she had seen and what I had said because I was not living like the daughter she raised, spitting fire and raging at the world. I was in someone’s shadow and I was still defending my position there.
My neighbor across the street expressed her concerns about the times I was yelled at or other times she saw anything that wasn’t love. She saw power and aggression and she reported what she saw and for years I didn’t want anything to do with her because she saw what I refused to acknowledge. This is the same neighbor that filmed what my ex took out of the house when he left and offered to call the police for me.
Two days ago my chest pain was extreme. I couldn’t stand up straight and the band of pressure was squeezing me painfully like I was placed between two icy plates of stone. For a person that has willingly given birth 7 times, I can say I never want to relive the sensations I felt Wednesday. It was hard to stand, and I was slick with sweat. I called 911 and stayed in bed, barely pulling on yoga pants and a tank top. I asked Kid3 to help me and get dressed and I’ve never had his obedience react so swiftly in the months since I’ve become a single mom. When they arrived and asked me to sit up for them, I vomited in a waste basket as several paramedics watched and checked my vitals. They moved sticky contacts from my chest to my legs to get the best possible reading. I was given pills to chew and a spray under my tongue because I was presenting as a heart attack, and they checked the important things. I was given baby aspirin. I had to take it during IVF because studies show baby aspirin helps keep you pregnant through the first trimester of an IVF pregnancy and it’s not a taste you forget. It was becoming clear to them it was probably stress, but still felt I needed the lights and sirens on the way to the hospital.
It’s different when you’re the patient. Normally I’m hyper aware of everything, but there was a haze of activity. I don’t know how many paramedics arrived. I don’t know what I was given. I remember being put in a chair and being bumped up a flight of stairs and out of my front gate in a bed that was a chair but was a bed because that felt better to me. I didn’t even notice being swabbed before I was stuck so they could check my blood sugars. I just know that my neighbor across the street held my son’s hand and called my family. She met me at the hospital and took Kid3 to his Dad for me.
My nurse asked about my stress levels. I told her it probably was just stress. I explained the way my life looks right now and that I was sending my kids to be with their Dad. It’s the same stress I’ve had for months but some days are harder than others. At some point I was given Ativan and the giggles started before the pain subsided and I drifted off to sleep. They should bottle that stuff and call it happiness because it was like being drunk only I wasn’t and it was like being high . . . which is probably why it’s not handed out like candy or sold over counters.
Right when I was being discharged, my Dad picked me up. My neighbor still checked on me throughout the night and into the next day. I have good neighbors and I owe her homemade brownies or something equally less stressful than macarons or homemade toffee. My Mom and Stepdad came by. My sisters have been calling me. I feel loved and cared for. I am loved and cared for.
I’ve been resting for the last couple of days. I’ve been sleeping when I feel I need it and I’ve replaced coffee with cocoa. The only marathons I’m contemplating are on Hulu and Netflix. I may start a Xena Warrior Princess Marathon because I loved that show when I was younger. And Star Trek because . . . Well, no explanation is necessary, but I’ll be sipping Jasmine tea because I don’t like Earl Grey. So now my geek is showing but it is who I am. I’m still happy. My joy wasn’t stolen. I just need to give my body the rest it needs when the stress builds. I could’ve built a castle with my shoulder load on Wednesday and if I’m lucky, there will be no more ambulances in my future. The next time I see a paramedic or firefighter, I will thank them for their service the way I first started to almost 9 years ago. I still thank every one I see because of the handful of people that saved my son’s life and kept me calm when I was afraid for his life.