I'm not sure how to begin this entry. It's taken me a month to get to the point where I can think about writing this and here I am, still struggling with the words to describe what has gone on in our family the past few weeks. I haven't talked about it alot really with people outside family but on here I can just share the story and y'all can read it. I guess I'll just start with the beginning...
July 3rd was a normal Monday for us. Joel went to work, I was at home with Alex and Chloe. That evening when Joel got home from work, he headed out to mow the lawn that was getting pretty high. He finished most of it but had a bit more to do after supper. I headed out with my friend Gretchen, to a sign language class that I've been taking from a dear lady in our church, Cathy Schafer. Not too long after I left there was an accident. The kids were outside playing as usual but Chloe ran up behind the mower and her leg, arm and back were injured. A young man visiting next door heard Joel yell and he came running over to help. He called 911 and helped Joel get Chloe inside. The Kingsville firetrucks and ambulances were at the house in minutes and took over getting Chloe stable. Nate, Joel's brother who is a policeman, was on duty in our area and heard the call and raced over to our house. My parents arrived before I did and so Joel was surrounded with family at a critical moment. Gretchen drove me from where I got the call from Joel back home. I was so thankful she was with me. I have never prayed like I did on that trip home, with my heart, soul and mind. When I got to the house, I saw about 6 police cars in the court, a fire truck, ambulance and the helicopter. They had Chloe in the ambulance gettting her ready to fly down to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. When they brought her out they let me see her for a minute, I just told her I loved her so much. Seeing her like that was heart wrenching, not knowing what exactly happened and what was wrong with her felt like an ice pick in my heart. Seeing Joel and Alex so distraught and knowing what they had just experienced was more anquish on top of everything else. Joel flew with Chloe in the helicopter, Gretchen took Alex home and my parents drove me to the hospital and Nate met us there.
When we got there, Chloe was in surgery. So we waited and cried and waited and cried. Finally the orthopedic doctor came out to talk with us. They had a whole group of specialists in there with her and worked incredibly hard to save her foot but they just couldn't. They had to amputate her foot above the ankle. Hearing those words was like a blow to our hearts. Joel and I just sat there in shock. It was like having the worst nightmare of your life and you can't wake up. I just kept thinking, this can't be happening to her, to us. Why God? Why? Chloe's left arm, her deltoid muscle, was also cut but they were able to sew that up and her back had a superficial cut as well. The Drs spent hours in there with Chloe, cleaning her leg. When she finally came out it was about 11 pm. They took her to the Pediatric Intensive Care unit. In that room she had 3 other children with her. When I went in to see her, I wasn't prepared for what I would find. She was hooked up to a ventilator, had a nose tube in and a million other tubes in her and she was sedated. If my heart could have literally torn in two it did at that moment. Seeing my baby girl like that was more than I could bear. I couldn't breathe or barely talk, just cry. I ached to hold her but I couldn't. What greater agony is there for a mother than to see her child in pain and not be able to do anything about it? Everyone came in to see her before heading home for much needed sleep. But who could sleep after that? The hospital had a room for moms with a child in the PICU so they sent me down there. I'm not sure any of us slept much that night. I was back up in Chloe's room at 6 am, I couldn't bear for her to be alone.
They would operate on her two more times that week, Wednesday and Friday. Each time was so hard. I walked into the OR with her, put a gown and mask on and stayed with her until they put her out. It was horrendous seeing her lying there. Each time harder than the next because she knew what was going on. I could do nothing but stand there and tell her I loved her. I have never been more afraid in my life...afraid something would happen and I'd lose her, afraid something would go wrong even more. After the second operation, they moved her to a different room in the PICU. A semi-private room with one roomate, a baby girl a few months old. One of the hardest things about the PICU is that you see not just your sorrow but dozens of other families. You just stand with your little one in their room or you wait in the waiting room and listen to other tell their sorrowful stories. It makes it that much harder to be there and yet you realize you're not alone. As I stood with Chloe, I watched the family of the little girl. I guess her prognosis was not good and her parents were just teenagers. So I stood and cried with them, remembering my sister months ago stood in that same PICU with her little preemie baby, Moses. He passed away there, and so I cried for Chloe and the nephew I never will know on this earth.
They then moved her to the Intermediate Care unit one floor down a day after the 2nd surgery. That was a bit better, quieter and not so much trauma. The nurses were fantastic there and they tenderly cared for Chloe. In that room, she only had one or two other babies with her. There was a pull out chair that I could sleep on at night beside Chloe's bed so that was better. My mom stayed with me most nights but out in the waiting room on a bench. I don't think I could have done it without Joel coming in to relieve me during the day and my mom staying at night. We didn't sleep much during those two weeks but enough to survive. We'd come home and crash.
Slowly but surely after her surgeries, they began to take Chloe off of things. The nose tube, oxygen, catheter, etc. And more and more Chloe began to talk more and come back to herself, and watch movies of course. She must have watched Toy Story 100 times there! Having her talk to me for the first time in days was like water to a desert. I've never heard sweeter words than when she said, "Mama". I began to think of all the things I thought were important before really didn't mean a hill of beans. What I would scold the kids for was so trivial, that at least I had them with me! How many times I had put other things before my kids and how different it would be now. If they wanted me to sit with them then dang it I would do it because I would think how awful it would be to lose them. My heart aches for every parent who has experienced such loss. I haven't known that, what we've been through doesn't compare to that kind of loss.
A few days after Chloe's 3rd surgery, they moved her to the regular part of the children's floor. A semi-private room with one other baby for a roomate. That was even quieter, if a hospital can be quiet. She would be there for about a week until they discharged her. After a few days there, we decided to bring Alex in for a visit. He'd been dying to see her but until then we felt it would be more traumatizing for him to see her the way she was. But now that she was a bit more mobile, still attached to tubes but able to take a ride in a wagon, it seemed to be a good time. Chloe was beginning to be a little depressed after being there a bit but when she saw Alex, she perked up and started ordering him about as usual! :) It was a good day finally to see them together and playing.
The Drs began to do bandange changing on Chloe's leg. I'm not sure why but they always chose really crappy hours of the day, like 6 am and 8 pm. Always when you're sleeping. The changes were really difficult. Seeing her leg for the first time was painful for me and a reality check, as long as I didn't see it I didn't have to think about it. Having to stand and hold Chloe was really hard, she would just scream and cry for them to stop. What greater agony can a mother know than to watch her child in pain and not be able to do anything to stop it or change it? Would that in an instant I would have gladly traded places with her. I asked God why couldn't it have been me and not her. The nurses said that a child will fight everything they want to do because it's the only "control" they have. And Chloe is my fighter and so she fought everything most of the time. Sometimes she let them take her temp or check her blood pressure. She was on so many drugs it's hard to know what was a side effect and what was just plain being sick and tired of being messed with. The Drs said as soon as I was able to start helping with the bandage changing that Chloe would been on the move toward going home. So that was pretty motivating. She wasn't eating a whole lot either and they were concerned about that. But the day Alex came in, she ate lunch with him! Slowly they started to wean her off IV drugs and on to oral drugs. She had an epidural in since after her 1st surgery. They said that research showed the longer you had one in the less likely your chances of having phantom pain later. We pray that is so.
So exactly 2 weeks later, we brought Chloe home! I've never been so happy or so scared in my life. What happens if something goes wrong? What do I do? etc. But Chloe was glad to be back in a familiar environment and we were nervous as anything to have her! Joel went back to work the day she came home, it was so good to have him there at the hospital. When Chloe came home she came pretty much back to her normal self again.
Before the accident, our circumstances had changed and we decided to move back to my parents house. So while we were in the hospital, Joel had moved alot of our things over. We traded bedrooms with my parents and put Chloe's bed in there with us. She did really good at night, we were worried that her sleeping would be disrupted after being in the hospital. But after about a week she moved into her own room and we traded back rooms. Joel's parents arrived the day after she came home for an already planned visit. It was great timing, they were a tremendous help to us and it was good for them to be with the kids again. They stayed about 10 days.