Here's the ninth chapter of Kiylee's Christmas.
Chapter Nine – The Morning After
I didn’t sleep much. I kept seeing her tiny blue body floating
in the big green tub. I snatched her and held her. Then the helicopter
would land and pick her up and I would climb in the back, clutching her
little body to my shirt that was stained with poop and throw up. At
the hospital, I would run up and down all of the halls, clutching Kiy
and crying, looking for Mom and Dad and not being able to find them.
I woke up with tears streaming down my cheeks when Grandma turned on the light. “Kira, are you OK, Honey?” she asked.
“I just want Kiy,” I sobbed.
Grandma sat on the edge of my bed and put her arms around me. She
hugged me close and whispered, “Everything’s going to be OK. Just try
to go back to sleep.”
I dozed off again and when I opened my
eyes, the bright sun shone through my window. It was Christmas! But
then I remembered Kiy. Was it a dream? I dragged myself out of bed and
hurried to the master bedroom to tell Mom and Dad about the horrible
dream I had.
But they weren’t there. They were at the hospital
with Kiy. The tears came again as my mind wandered through the events
of Christmas Eve. I flopped down on their bed and pulled a pillow over
my head. I was vaguely aware of the phone ringing from far away.
I was so glad to hear Dad’s voice. He told us that he would be coming
home for a few hours to check on us. Mom was going to stay with Kiy.
The doctor hadn’t been in yet, but they almost had Kiy’s fever down and
they were hoping that she could come off the respirator sometime on
Christmas Day. He also said that they still had Kiy under sedation so
that she would not pull out her respirator by herself. She also had a
catheter, two IVs in her forehead, and lots of other wires and tubes.
Dad explained that because the water was so cold when we found her,
Kiy’s body temperature was about 72 degrees when she got to the
emergency room. The doctors were very concerned about bringing her
temperature up before hypothermia set in. They decided to warm her from
the inside out. They took out some blood, warmed it up and put it back
in. They repeated this over and over again all night long until she was
warm. Then about 4:00 a.m., when she finally warmed up, she started
running a fever. He said they weren't even able to touch her for a
while, but she was finally sleeping, so he was going to come home.
think they were worried that we would be disappointed because Santa
Claus had not visited us. They should have known that we were just
worried about Kiy. The only Christmas present any of us wanted was to
know that Kiy would be fine and coming home soon.
straightened up the house for Dad. He didn’t need any more stress from
us, but he didn’t show up for about three hours. Just as he was about
to leave the hospital, the nurses decided to take Kiy off the
respirator. They said she was breathing on her own and progressing
wonderfully. Dad said that the nurses thought that Kiy would probably
be able to come home around New Year’s Day. We were so happy! We could
wait until New Year’s Day. We could wait until Valentine’s Day, as
long as we knew she would be coming home! Then Dad gave us the best
news. We needed to find our coats and shoes and we could all go and see
I think we were all in the van in less than five minutes.
Dad wanted a quick shower and a change of clothes. He also had to
gather a few things for Mom and we were all waiting patiently in our
seat belts when he finally locked the front door.
It took us
about 30 minutes to drive to the hospital. The van was incredibly
quiet. We had no idea what to expect. We were nervous and scared and
excited all at the same time. Dad looked very tired. I sat in Mom’s
seat in the front, but he didn’t want to have a conversation, so I
stared out the window and watched the lines of the freeway pass by.
Dad parked the van in the visitor’s parking lot and we all climbed
out. Nathan didn’t want to go inside the large unfamiliar building. He
hung on my hand until Dad finally picked Nate up and put him on his
The lobby was huge with a high ceiling and several
elevators. Kiy was officially in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, but
most people called it the PICU. Nathan had always hated elevators and
he had a short tantrum before we were able to get everyone inside and
the right buttons pushed.
As we stepped off the elevator, Dad
led us into a smaller waiting room with a couple of TVs and a large
aquarium. It also had lots of chairs and a couple of couches. A half
dozen people were lounged there. Some were even sleeping on the couches
with their belongings scattered around like they were actually living
at the hospital.
Dad opened a door and we entered a room about
the size of Mom and Dad’s walk-in closet at home. It contained a bed a
little bigger than mine and an alarm clock. Other than that, there was a
small walking space and nothing else. “What’s this?” I asked Dad
“This is our room,” Dad replied.
“You slept here?” I couldn’t believe it.
“Yes,” Dad said.
“And so did Mom.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “Well, when we
did sleep.” Dad continued, “One of us stayed with Kiy all the time
until about 4:00 a.m. when we couldn’t even touch her because of her
fever.” Dad rubbed a tired hand across his beard. “Then we came in
here and slept until about 6:00.” I put my arm around Dad’s shoulders
and gave him a squeeze. He seemed to need a hug, because he squeezed
back. Then Neal tugged open the heavy door and we found ourselves in
the waiting room again.
We stepped through another doorway and then
we were standing outside the blue double doors that led into the PICU.
Even Nathan was very quiet. There weren’t any signs or anything, but
we could hear the monitors and buzzing sounds before we even opened the
Kiy was in the very first bed on the east side of the
room. The sun was streaming through the window, lighting up her bed.
Mom was sitting in a chair right next to the bed. She wasn’t asleep,
but she looked like she should have been.
I was a little
nervous. Mom had said on the phone that she wasn’t mad at me, but I
wasn’t sure how she was going to react until she looked up and saw us
all standing there by the door. She stretched her arms into a wide hug
big enough for all of us and we ran to her. Mom squeezed us all like
she hadn’t seen us for months. When she finally let go, I peeked over
at the bed to see Kiy. I was afraid to look at her. Dad had said that
she was all bloated from the IVs and she had wires everywhere, but I
wasn’t ready for what I saw.
That baby lying in the crib didn’t even
look like Kiy. Her wispy blond hair that was usually flying everywhere
was matted to her swollen face. Her big blue eyes were tightly closed
beneath two huge round circles taping needles into her forehead. She
sucked quietly on a pink preemie pacifier. At least the pacifier was
familiar. She always had one in her mouth at home.
Kiy was only
wearing a diaper and I could see one big wire hooked into the inside of
her leg just above her knee. She had three round circles with what
looked like snaps on them attached to her chest and there were wires
connected to the snaps and then into several big machines. I knew one
of them was a heart monitor, because I’d seen stuff like that on TV. I
didn’t know about the other one. Her feet and hands were still pretty
blue and they looked cold. I wanted to touch one, but I was afraid to.
I looked at Mom and her eyes were full of tears. She was
hugging Nathan and he was struggling to get away. Grandma and Dad were
crying too. I couldn’t help it when my own eyes began to water. What a
Christmas Day! It was my fault that we were all there in the hospital
when we should have been home opening presents and eating Christmas
cookies. And my poor little Kiy! What had I done to her? Why didn’t I
stay in Mom and Dad’s room after they left? Why didn’t I wake her up
and take her downstairs and get her some cereal and watch a movie with
her instead of leaving her in the bedroom all by herself?
my head and let the tears fall. Deep in my heart, I knew that it wasn’t
my fault. I knew it wasn’t Nathan’s fault either. It was nobody’s
fault, it was just an accident. A terrible, awful, horrible accident;
and it happened to my little Kiy!
Suddenly, I felt Mom’s arms
around me. I turned and sobbed into her shirt. “Why did this have to
happen to Kiy?” I choked. “She is so sweet and so tiny and so....”
My words were muffled as Mom stroked my hair. “There must been some
reason that we all needed to go through this experience. We just need
to be grateful that she is still with us. The doctor says that she will
probably not die, but we won’t know about brain damage or physical
damage for a while.”
I slowly lifted my head and stared into Mom’s cloudy blue eyes. “Brain damage?” I questioned.
Mom still held me in her arms, but she was looking at Kiy. “Yes,” she
said quietly, “The doctors say that it is far too soon to know if there
will be any permanent damage. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
and see.” The words echoed in my brain. What kind of brain damage?
Would she be able to walk? Talk? Feed herself? And what could happen
to her physically? She was off the respirator, so I knew that she would
be able to breathe on her own, but would she have lung damage? Heart
damage? These disturbing thoughts swirled through my brain like the
snow that was beginning to fall in spite of the sun.
I walked to the
window and stared at the half-full parking lot. How many other families
were spending their Christmas Day like we were? Were their babies
hovering between life and death with such uncertain futures? Did they
blame themselves and wonder what they could have done to make sure their
babies were safe and healthy?
I felt Dad’s hand resting on my
shoulder. It didn’t make me jump, it was just kind of comforting. I
turned to meet his eyes. They were red and puffy with dark circles like
he hadn’t slept in days. “Should we go?” he suggested.
turned back to Mom. She was holding up Nathan so he could see Kiy. He
wasn’t impressed. I don’t think he even thought it was Kiy. I looked
quickly at Dad. “Can’t I stay?” I asked. “Just for a little while?”
Dad was about to say, “No,” I could tell, when Mom answered for him.
“I think it would be a good idea if both Kira and Neal spent a little
time with Kiy.” She squeezed Dad’s hand. “Why don’t you take Grandma
and the kids home, grab a little nap, and then come back? Then Kira and
Neal can ride back with you and spend some time with Kiy.”
agreed. He certainly was tired and he did need a nap. We started
gathering the kids together and putting on their coats. We were just
getting ready to leave when the blue double doors opened to a face that
looked vaguely familiar to me. She was a young, blonde woman in green
doctor’s clothes. She gave me a big smile and then she turned to Kiy.
“How is Kiylee doing? From what the doctor said, it only looks like
good news.” I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she said,
“You don’t know who I am, do you?” She chuckled. “I’m Amy. I was the
nurse on the life-flight helicopter yesterday.” She paused, “I worried
about our little Kiylee here all night until I had to come in and see
for myself that she was OK.”
“I knew you looked familiar,” I
said. I turned to everybody, “Do you guys remember Amy?” They all had
blank looks until I said, “The helicopter ride? Remember?”
chuckled again. “You know,” she said, “I came down here earlier and
visited with your folks and they said that it would be OK for you all to
come out to the launch pad and look at the helicopter before you go
home. Would you like to go now?”
When we left Mom and Kiy in the
PICU, I wasn’t sure if I could ever be happy until Kiy was safe at
home, but Amy’s smile was contagious. She seemed so positive that Kiy
would be fine that I started to believe she was right. After all, she
was a nurse and she’d seen lots of babies like Kiy survive horrible
accidents. Amy knew what she was talking about! Besides, I’d never
been inside a real helicopter before.
The launch pad was on the top
of one of the buildings of the hospital. I was glad that Dad was with
us so that he could hold onto Nathan. I held Kiyna’s hand on one side
and Kinsey’s hand on the other. I didn’t want more accidents with any
of my other little sisters. Neal walked ahead with Amy. I couldn’t
hear what they were saying, but I’m sure that he was driving her crazy
with all kinds of dumb questions.
The helicopter seemed huge when
it landed on our street, but when we got up close to it, I could see
that it wasn’t really that big at all. In fact, the inside was smaller
than the ambulance we had seen on our field trip to the fire station,
but it had the same type of equipment. There were all kinds of monitors
and machines and medicines. They had a little refrigerator that held
blood and other stuff that needed to be kept cold. Everything was
wrapped in plastic and very sanitary.
The little bed that they
put Kiy in was strapped to one wall. There were a couple of seats plus
the seats up front for the pilot. Amy climbed up inside the
helicopter. She looked like she belonged there. She pointed to the
machines and began explaining what each one was for. We listened for a
while until Nathan decided he was ready to go home. He started tugging
on Dad’s hand and throwing a fit, so we thanked Amy and she led us back
to the elevator. I hope I never see that helicopter up close again!
We crossed the parking lot and headed for our van. I usually held onto
Kiy when we went anywhere, but she wasn’t there, so I held onto Kiyna.
She probably thought I was weird, but she didn’t say anything.
helped Nathan and Grandma up into the van and the rest of us crowded
in. I usually get the front seat when Mom is not with us, but I didn’t
say anything when Grandma clicked her seatbelt and settled there. Part
of me was glad that Grandma was with us, but the other part of me felt
like I could have watched the kids without her. I was hoping that Mom
and Dad would still trust me to baby sit when they weren’t home. Not
that I particularly like being home alone at night, but I could still
watch everybody during the day.
The wailing of an ambulance
interrupted my thoughts. My heart started thumping and I linked my
hands together. I craned my neck to see the flashing red lights. Dad
pulled over to the curb and we watched the red and white vehicle go
whizzing by us toward the hospital. Kinsey started to cry softly. Dad
turned to see what was wrong and I watched the sadness fill his eyes
when he figured out that nobody was picking on her. I swallowed the
lump in my own throat and rested my head against the cool glass of the
window. Nothing was over yet.