Free Fall — with a Ripcord


When Ray flew to Orlando on 12/3, I thought I would use the upcoming week to get Christmas “done”, so that we could just enjoy good family time the rest of the month.

I did end up doing a lot of (online) shopping while he was away, because I only slept in the bed two out of the five nights he was away.  Abbie would do OK during the day, but as night approached her oxygen needs would go up, up, up.  There were nights she was on six liters, and I was still working hard to keep her sats up.  Then, the sun would come up and life would calm down for a while.

The consensus was that she was suffering with a virus, and that I just needed to keep doing what I was doing:  multiple nebulizer medications, chest vest treatments, helping her cough, hydrating her, and giving her as much oxygen as she needed.

By Friday, 12/9, I was thoroughly exhausted, but it seemed that Abbie was on the mend.  She was needing less and less oxygen and looking better as well.  Ray was home, and Kyle arrived for Christmas!  The weekend was fairly calm, and we all looked forward to our family being complete with Chase’s arrival on Monday.

Kyle and I left to pick up some medication for Abbie around 11am on Monday.  About an hour earlier, I had noticed she seemed a little warm.  99.7…no big deal.  We picked Chase up at 12:30, and soon after Alicia called to say Abbie was needing 3 liters of oxygen, with a fever of 100.8.  I called the doctor, and left a message since they were at lunch.

My two big sons were starving, so we stopped for lunch.  As the check arrived, I got two calls back-to-back.  Dr. Lau’s office called to instruct me to take Abbie to the ER.  Alicia called to say that Abbie was needing 4 liters, with a temp of 101.2.  “She can’t wait much longer”, were the words I heard as we stood to leave the restaurant in a rush.

As we pulled up I remembered that the van was dead.  I directed Chase and Kyle to jump start it while I got Abbie ready to go.  I ran in the house to find Abbie literally gulping for air.  6 liters, 7, 8.5…nothing would bring her out of the mid-80s.  Our travel oxygen only goes to five liters.  I knew I had to make the dreaded call.

I called out the door “When the van starts, just move it out of the way…I am calling the ambulance!”

I HATE calling 9-1-1, but was so grateful when we heard the first sirens.  We had the oxygen concentrator pegged at 10 liters, and Abbie was still in severe distress.  The firefighters put her on 15 liters and that eventually took her up to 90.  We moved her quickly to the ambulance once EMS arrived, and it was another Moses ride through traffic.  Watching the sea of cars part is a little surreal.

Ray met us at the ER.  Abbie was not doing well.  The word “intubation” was floating around, as she was struggling so immensely.  They gave her a nebulizer of epinephrine, which helped.  After a second one, she was moved up to the PICU.

I was numb from shock.  “Free fall” were the only words that came to mind.  It had all unraveled so terrifyingly fast.  Ray and I were forced to confront the “what if” questions, and think about decisions we would make if Abbie did not respond to treatment.  Out of body.  Or, perhaps, I wish it were…I wish I didn’t have to be in the body whose ears heard the questions, whose lips gave answers, whose head nodded in agreement, who heart shattered with the understanding that one day I may have to let my daughter go.

Finally, my family was all on the same island, and yet, not together.  This was a stomp on the pieces of my heart already scattered on the floor.  It was a very difficult day.

Abbie got progressively better through the week, and was discharged Saturday morning.  While it is wonderful to be home, caring for a newly discharged, medically fragile child remains difficult.  This is now the third week of little sleep, and I am really feeling it.

We finally decorated our tree on Sunday, because we always wait to have everyone there to do it.  The stockings are hung.  And that is all.  I love Christmas, and Christmas decorating, but it is not feasible this year.  Another poke at a tender heart.

The boys have been wonderful.  Helpful, funny, understanding, loving to their sister.  I am so grateful that Abbie hopefully got her sickness out of the way before Christmas.

And, through all this, I am profoundly grateful, that even during a frightening free fall, the rip cord of faith sustains us.  Wonderful friends surround and encourage us.  Family supports us.  God’s word stabilizes even in the most violent of storms.  We are truly, truly blessed.

P.S.  – A funny, little (non) coincidence.  I googled “free fall” looking for an image for this post.  I chose the photo above, and then was curious about the back story.  It was posted on the blog of a pastor, who lost his eldest daughter in a traffic accident in 2009.  This was not the lead element of his blog, but I found my way to Makenzie’s story, and smiled brokenly at the too-familiar reactions he described as he and his wife realized their daughter was gone.  If you have a moment..visit


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