Do Miracles Happen? Ch. 02byRabbitrunner91©
I hear her retreating steps and focus my attention on Andrew. His breathing is shallow and short, his heart is fast but strong. His fingers are black, a sign of no oxygen in his blood. His airways are not blocked and otherwise everything appears normal. He wants to cry but can't get a breath. Claire appears at my side and I open the bag, retrieving a small cylinder with hoses coming from the top. A little deeper I pull out a nose clip and attach it to the hoses, then put it in Andrew's nose. The valve is opened and I adjust the gauge. Within a couple minutes his color turned brighter.
"What's happened with him?" I ask.
"I don't know. He's never done this before."
"Go get Aaron and bring him here. He shouldn't be in my car alone."
She's gone and returns in a moment. Andrew is looking better and has started to cry. His breathing becomes deep and steady. Too deep, I think. Something is keeping him from getting oxygen into his blood.
The baby's out of danger; I turn my attention to Claire. "What can you tell me about him? Anything. I need to know."
Before she speaks, Aaron asks, "Are you a doctor?"
"Yes son, I am. Claire, was there anything unusual about his birth? Does he ever turn blue, for any reason?"
Initially she shakes her head, then pauses. "When he was born, the nurses took him away for a while to check him. He was brought back and nothing more was said."
"Anything else you've noticed?"
"Well, when he cries a lot, his face gets blue. I try to keep him calm so it won't happen."
I'm listening with the stethoscope to his heart, there is a 'whooshing' sound I've heard before and don't like.
"What's wrong with him, Bob?"
Andrew is starting to play with the tubes, they feel uncomfortable and he wants them off. I adjust them so he can't reach them and affix with tape. The family's watching and want answers. How do you tell someone their child has a hole in his heart?
"Bob, please tell me what's wrong?"
"Something's not right with his heart; he should be checked out a hospital."
Aaron is inquisitive, "What are those pipes?"
"They're to help him breathe, so he won't turn blue." I'm looking at Aaron, but talking to Claire.
She's on the verge of tears. "Clair, he's okay for now. But he really needs to be checked out."
For a mother to see her child turn blue, really blue, and have tubes attached, to help him breathe, it was shattering. She wants to hold him but knows she shouldn't; wants to protect him and feeling like she's to blame for the child's illness. Kneeling beside Andrew, Claire supports his head, kisses his cheek and lets her hair dangle in his face. This is a game they've played before and his arms reach out to play with her strands. She's smiling at him as tears drip from her cheeks, she loves this child, and for the moment he seems normal.
"Clair, he should be taken to a hospital to be checked out. We need to know more about what's going on. Right now he's stable, but we better be going. Can you drive?"
"Bob will he be alright? Please tell me he'll be alright." She pleads.
"We'll know more when he's been tested."
I give instructions, Aaron will ride with her and watch Andrew and if there is any change, she's to stop. She understands and we resume our journey, following the blue signs with a white 'H'.
Using the GPS map, I locate a hospital about 30 minutes away and in half hour we're pulling up to the emergency entrance. Inside I give a brief over view and a preliminary finding as Claire fills out hospital forms. She doesn't have insurance, but that could be handled later, right now we need an exact diagnosis.
As the procedures are performed and Claire follows along, I sit with Amy on my knee and Aaron is busy touching everything in sight. She and Andrew returned from the X-Rays and she held him, keeping his hands away from the oxygen tubes. It's a paradox; she has the look of a mother's love and a mother's fear.
I was attempting to corral Aaron and Amy, they were quite a handful, keeping their fingers away from the drawer with medical instruments, from the cabinet with supplies.
The findings, when the doctor returned showed Andrew had a hole in his heart between the left and right Ventricle. By itself, this wasn't serious in an infant, but combined with a poorly formed Tricuspid valve, created a situation where enough oxygen wasn't getting into his blood. He'd need surgery, but for now there was no urgency, provided he had oxygen available 'as needed'.
I could see both a look of relief and a look of concern. Her child would need surgery and this was overwhelming, because she had no way to pay.
She was given two prescriptions, one an oral medication to adjust the heart rhythm and the other for oxygen, to be administered as needed. Claire got the children, I visited the financial office and discussed her account. I knew a few strings to pull, and was able to have the account paid from the hospital benevolence fund. She easily qualified and the hospital would pay for all charges.
It was late and the sky dark when we drove to a motel. I'd picked up the prescriptions earlier, then got us something to eat. McDonalds would surely love us, for all the money we were spending in their establishments. The usual two rooms were rented and I helped her get the kids settled and into bed. When they were asleep, we stepped through the open doorway into my room, we needed to talk.
Sitting in a chair, she placed her face in her hands and cried. It was the first chance she'd had to relax and the enormity of the situation was only now being felt. I sat on the bed and watched her, she was tired of 'being strong', there was no shoulder for her to cry on, she felt alone. I retrieved a box of tissues and she thanked me, dabbing her eyes.
"Andrew's going to need surgery. You know that, don't you?" I asked.
"I know it. There's no way I can have it done. The cost from the hospital today, …"
Interrupting, "It's paid for. The hospital covered it. You owe nothing."
The range of emotions to cross her face was priceless. "I don't owe anything?"
"Nothing. I discussed it with their financial aid people and your account will be fully covered."
"How can I thank you?"
"Don't thank me, you're not out of the woods yet. Where will you travel from here?" This was a leading question.
"I don't know."
"Do you have any friends?"
"You don't know of anyone in California?"
Again she shakes her head.
"Then you can't stay there. You'll have to return."
She nodded knowingly, and then added, "But I don't know anyone in KC either."
"What about Denver?"
"I don't know any one from Denver?" she says with a scowl on her face. "I've never been there."
I let her think. For a full minute she looks at the wall, reasoning, then…"
"Oh." And she looks right at me. "But you've done so much already."
"Do you want my help? If there's someone else, I'll bow out of the picture."
She was brought face to face with the fact, there was no one else; only this stranger. "Thank you." She mouthed, not making a sound.
"Then you'll return to Denver with me?"
"I know. Thank you, Bob." She can't say it enough.
Aaron woke and called out, she rose and went to see him. I lifted the phone and called Gene.
"Hey, Bob, where are you? The family's waiting to meet you."
"Tomorrow afternoon, not too sure of the exact time. I've got some people traveling with me."
"What'd you do, find a girlfriend?" Teasing me.
Knowing it would irritate him, I use bad language, "Not hardly. It's a woman and her three children; 5, 3, and an infant."
"Knew you flunked English at the University." He joked. "Where are they headed?"
"She promised the kids they could see the ocean for Christmas, so we're traveling in caravan. That brings me to my question. Would it be possible they could stay with you too? I don't know how much room you and the Sara have, but it would be a help. I could sleep on the couch, perhaps the kids could sleep on the floor."
Claire had returned and was listening to my end of the conversation.
"Bob, it's no problem. We've got lots of room, everything will be ready when you get here. Besides our kids and hers could play together; they're close to the same age."
We talked for another 10 minutes before I hung up. "Did you hear? He said you're welcome to stay."
She didn't say anything, she sat beside me on the bed, and gave me a squeeze; appreciation written on her face.
"How's Andrew doing?"
"He's sleeping peacefully."
"We better get some rest too."
Before standing, she gave me a peck on the cheek, then disappeared into her room and closed the door.
I certainly hoped I was doing the right thing. I was wondering if I'd bitten off more than I could chew. Time would tell.
In the morning, we went through the usual routine. The drive to Modesto was uneventful but the 'mountain view' was fantastic and Amy was enraptured by the trees and scenic overlooks. It was after 3 o'clock when we entered town and it took us a while to locate Gene's home.
Driving up to his house, we're greeted by his family. His children were anxiously waiting; wanting new friends to play with. Gene and I warmly shook hands and introductions were made by all. Claire and Gene's wife disappeared inside along with the kids.
Gene and I were left standing in his front lawn. "You want to fill me in on Claire and the kids? There's more to it than you told me last night."
From the beginning I related everything over the past 4 days, how I'd helped her out, the decision to travel together, the medical emergency, and the decision to return to Denver.
"That's quite a story. Never figured you to become entangled in other people's affairs,"
"I'm listening, if you've a better idea, I'm open. Wouldn't be right to cut her loose and fend for herself. Would it?"
"Think the 'Big Man' upstairs is pulling strings?"
"I'm confident He was at the beginning. Right now, it's like I'm her only option. Yeah, I'd say He's behind it. I just don't know where it's going."
"Let's grab your bags and come on inside. I've taken the next few days off so we can go places and do things. We've a lot of catching up to do."
Inside he showed me to the spare bed room. "Where's Claire and her kids staying?" I asked.
"The two older ones can share rooms with our kids. We've set up an extra bed for them. Claire and the baby can take the extra room upstairs and this place is for you. Like I said, we've plenty of room."
"Thanks Gene, you're the greatest."
The remainder of the day was spent talking and renewing our friendship. Claire and Sara had hit it off and were comparing notes on the kids and raising a family. Aaron and Chris (Gene's boy) were running around the house playing. Becky, his daughter, was showing Amy her dolls and they were doing 'make believe'. Andrew was crawling around on the floor playing with some toys he'd found, Claire was keeping a close eye on him.
It was after supper and the ladies were doing dishes. I helped Aaron and Amy take a bath, getting them ready for bed. It was still a little early so all four of them were playing together. Gene and I were sitting in the living room. "Is there a chance we can take the kids to the ocean and play on the beach? Claire promised her kids."
"Wrong time of the year to go swimming, but I imagine we could visit one of the beaches along the coast and let them get their feet wet."
The ladies had finished in the kitchen and joined us. Sara, holding their youngest, found a seat by Gene and I scooted over to let Claire sit on the couch. We talked for a while before it was time to put the children to bed. I volunteered to put Aaron and Amy down while Claire put Andrew in his crib. Up to this time he'd not needed the oxygen, but we were keeping an eye on him. When I finished, the three had resumed talking in the living room and I took my seat beside Claire.
We talked late into the night and it was near midnight before we ambled off to our beds. I slept, not having the pressure of work hanging over me. Maybe I was working too hard, I rolled back over and caught some more Z's. In the morning, I felt relaxed.
Everyone else was up and about, by the time I showed my face in the kitchen. "Welcome sleepy head." Sara said.
I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes when the four older ones peeped around the corner. "Breakfast ready?" Chris asked his mom.
"Sit up to the table. It's ready."
I helped get them seated and bibs tucked in and Claire spooned the scrambled eggs onto their plates. Andrew had the hi-chair and was babbling away, banging his spoon against the tray. Claire and Sara had the others under control, so I popped the top on a jar of baby cereal and proceeded to feed Andrew.
Gene came in the door. "Claire, could you move your Suburban? I need to get my car out of the garage."
Sara moved to watch the older children while Claire went outside. "She's a nice lady, Bob."
"Yeah, but she's had some really bad luck lately. She's all tore up inside over it. Not sure what to do."
"Gene told me what you're doing to help. I think it great."
"She needs more help than I can offer."
Andrew was banging his spoon again, impatiently waiting for the next bite. "This guy's got some serious medical problems. I'm going to see if some friends will help with the procedures and costs."
Breakfast was finished and we piled into two cars and they gave us a tour of the area. I liked the almond orchards and was fascinated by the industry. The harvesting was almost automated, mechanical shakers, and sorting. Aaron wanted to see the ocean and we explained the trip was scheduled for tomorrow.
The day slipped by, almost with out notice. Everywhere we went, the four older kids would hang on me, wanting rides on my shoulders, or giving me a playful swat on my behind, before scampering out of reach. Gene and I also would grasp their arms and legs and swing them over our heads, then let them fall between us. Squealing with delight, they wanted more, and this only made the younger ones want to be included.
Sarah had brought along brown bags for lunches and bottles of water. We stopped along the road at a 'pull off' eating and watching the other motorists travel by. Aaron was a climber and had found a route up the tree, snagging his britches and tearing a pocket. Claire was 'put out'. "Aaron, these are your good pants. Now what are you going to wear?"
He was chagrined and didn't say anything. His mom was upset, he was only being a little boy and they climb trees, don't they?
I saw the downcast face. "Claire, if they can't be fixed, I'll buy him another pair."
She stood there with her hands on her hips, trying to be angry, but couldn't. Instead she bent down and gave him a motherly hug. He smiled and scampered off among the trees, chasing after Chris.
"Let him be a little boy. It only comes along once."
"I know. Maybe I'm trying too hard. He really needs a father. But that won't happen." The look on her face changed from bright and happy, to one of discouragement. Gene and Sara saw the transformation and glanced in my direction. I wanted to enfold her with my arms, but didn't dare. How could a man possibly walk out on this woman? The only word I could think to describe him was 'jerk' and maybe that was too soft.
Andrew demanded her attention at that moment and she soon forgot about her heart ache. Her spirits lifted when Amy brought her a couple wild flowers she'd found along the fence. Claire let Amy stick them in her hair and they stayed there the rest of the day. She doted on these children and she loved them with her whole heart.
The kids had missed their nap but weren't sleepy and Gene located a children's park. We let them run and play on the equipment while we sat and watched. Occasionally I pushed them on the swings or helped them with the teeter totter.
The sun was setting when we collected the children and drove back to Gene's house. Sara produced a quick supper, Gene and I helped with baths, and all six were asleep in no-time. I'd tucked Aaron under the covers and saw Claire standing in the doorway, watching. "You're good to them. They like you, ya know."
"You raised them right."
Evening was filled with more talk from us adults. We sat around the table, drinking cups of hot chocolate and just reminiscing. Gene was a cut-up at University and made some joke that had us all rolling with laughter; my sides were aching. The ladies were smiling at Gene's antics. Clair's laugh was a high contralto and rose above our voices.
The next day we packed up our cars and headed to the ocean. It was a long ride and we arrived about 11 o'clock. The wind was stiff but the sun shining and the kids ran along the beach. I helped them take their shoes and socks off and rolled up their pants to keep them dry. We'd brought extra, none-the-less. The waves were high and rolling, this kept us back from the waters edge.
Sara grabbed a cardboard box from the car and produced small shovels and buckets for the kids to play. Joining them, I dug a moat and built a sand castle. Becky was watching and Amy joined her. In a minute they both had their hands in the sand and were forming a mound and a ridge to one side. Showing them how to keep the sand moist, they built a wall around their imaginary house. Aaron and Chris ran up and started their own version of a fort with a flat wall, bridge, and gun turrets.
Later, the tide was coming in and the waves crept closer to our construction site. Gene, Sara and Claire watched us from a higher vantage point with the babies, as the water, leveled our work. The boys, seeing the destruction, started jumping up and down on theirs and this action spilled over to the girl's project. I took a moment to calm down the rising emotions and tears.
Building in the sand was quickly forgotten and we walked up and down the beach searching. One of the toy buckets was soon filled with a variety of colorful seashells. We washed them off and toted them back to the grownups for their inspection.
I took a break and reclined against a rock beside Gene as the kids went running down the beach in search of new adventure. Sara spoke, "Bob, you're great with kids, you really like them, don't you?"
"Just a kid at heart." I smile back. "At work I see too many children who don't have fun. They're too busy watching TV or, because of home circumstances, responsibility is shoved on them at an early age. All the fun of childhood is being robbed from them. They should be allowed to use their imaginations, to play 'make believe', have adventures with others their own age, and read stories." Looking around, I see their eyes on me. "I didn't mean to get on my 'hobby horse'. Got carried away I guess."
"If you like kids so much, how come you don't have any of your own?" Gene questioned.
"Humpph. Took a wrong turn in my life."
"What do you mean?" asked Claire.
"I'm a physician because I like children, the problem is, so much of my time in University and Med School was spent learning; an Intern works 20 hours out of 24. I'd be 'on call', have to work late. At the hospital, after Med School, most of the doctors didn't spend time with their wives or kids. That's not what I wanted; it wouldn't be fair to the family. I don't want my work to get in the way, and right now it would."
"You don't like being a doctor?"
"On the contrary, I enjoy it. When I started out, I had all these visions about helping others. I got my eyes opened up; it's all the other stuff that goes with it, keeps me from what I love most. Don't want to take on the responsibilities of a family, knowing I'm not able to give them what they need most; my time."
We're quiet for a while, watching the children running along the beach, barefoot. I smile, seeing the fun they are having. Turning to Gene, "This break had been very therapeutic, and being with you and the children is just what the doctor ordered. Should do this more often. Trouble is, you live so far away."