May 1st, 2010. We were up visiting my in-laws so we could celebrate DH's nephew's birthday party.
C and I walked together in the front yard, waiting for everyone else to be ready.
My father-in-law, "Pake," went to pull the van out of the garage so we could load it up. I held C while the van was in motion. It came to a stop and I put her down so I could get the car seat from our back seat and install it in their van.
I heard a bump. C cried out.
I whirled around. Pake had pulled the van forward toward the house. C lay face down behind the right front tire. I ran to her and had her in my arms before I could even think about proper procedures or potential spinal cord injuries.
Pake scrambled out from the driver’s seat. “I thought you had her!” he cried.
I should have had her. It was my job to keep her safe and I put her down. How could I have let this happen? I should have known he wasn’t done moving the van.
Her cries were weak and anguished.
“We need to take her to the hospital,” Pake choked out.
My mind reeled, still not fully digesting what had happened. Hospital? Was it that bad? I didn’t see any blood. Maybe she was fine?
I tried to set her down in front of me so I could look her over. Her leg collapsed under her and she screamed in pain.
I snatched her back up and hugged her little body tighter to me. Her breath rattled in her chest. No, no, no. Something was wrong.
I found a bench to sit on. Arms wrapped tightly around her, tears falling into her soft halo of ringlets, praying that she wasn’t heavenbound. Not yet. Please, no.
Just last week DH had shared that the thing he most wanted me to change was to be more careful with our daughter. He’ll never forgive you for this, a cruel voice hissed in my mind.
DH's mom, "Beppe," came out to see what happened and we checked C from head to toe. An ugly red pattern traced a path up her left leg and across her lower back.
Tire marks. Oh, God! What chance did a twenty pound, twenty month old baby have against a more than two ton vehicle? What kind of mother was I to let this happen?
Beppe went inside the house to tell DH what had happened. DH had just gotten out of the shower and said we should leave without him.
Pake and I tried to get C into the van. My in-laws live out in the country, their house is set well back from the road and the nearest hospital had very limited services, so that an ambulance wasn’t a good option. She screamed when we tried to put her in the carseat.
“Just hold her,” Beppe said as she climbed in the front seat.
I cradled her in my arms and carefully fastened the seat belt around us. Tires screeched and we sped on our way to the Kaweah Delta Hospital.
I let C nurse for comfort during the ride. She would pull off to cry out in pain from time to time. Her eyelids fluttered and I saw the whites of her eyes. Was she going to sleep or losing consciousness?
Ahead a light was red. Pake slowed the van to a near stop as we approached the intersection. No one was coming.
“Just go,” Beppe urged. She turned to look at us. “She doesn’t look good.”
It was true. C’s cries had weakened further. She grunted with each breath. Her mouth had a bluish cast. I truly feared we were going to lose her.
Beppe called ahead to the hospital to let them know what happened and that we were on our way. She made other calls, asking friends and family for prayer, and making arrangements for someone else to pick up the food we were supposed to have delivered to my nephew’s birthday party.
One block from the hospital we hit another light. This time another car blocked us from breaking the law. I watched helplessly as the bluish cast around C's mouth spread.
When we arrived they ordered me to stop breastfeeding immediately. C began to cry weakly again. A nurse ushered us directly to a trauma room they had prepared.
We stripped off her clothes. Nurses weighed and measured her and attached electrodes and wires to measure her heart rate, pulse, oxygen level and respiratory rate. I heard someone say that her blood was only 87% saturated with oxygen.
They scrambled to find an oxygen mask that would fit her tiny little face. The white hospital gurney dwarfed her small body, now covered in tubes and wires.
Up to this point I had been crying uncontrollably, but suddenly I became aware that I needed to be strong for C. Tears dried and I gently stroked her hair and squeezed her hand. In a soft voice, I explained what was happening to her in the simplest and most reassuring terms I could muster.