That's how many hours we spent in the Palm Beach Children's Hospital.
That's how many hours I spent wondering if we would ever come home.
If he would ever get better.
Wondering, why him? Why me?
It started off as a stuffy nose, that escalated into a slight fever, that turned into a high fever and a baby that wasn't responding to my voice. I made the decision to take him to the ER, and then I doubted myself when we were sitting there for hours and he seemed perfectly fine. But over the next few days, his fever got worse, some nights going above 103. Tylenol only helped so much and we were starting to exceed the 5 doses per day maximum. I didn't know what would happen once we reached that point.
But we never found out, because his fever disappeared overnight, just the same as it appeared in the first place. I though, that's it. We're going home. Then he stopped being able to breathe. Nurses came in and other, more specialized nurses were called, and words were thrown around like rapid response and PICU and intubation. I cried. I was confused. We were getting better! I said, though no one was listening. I was convinced they were exaggerating. But watching Rory struggle to take a breath convinced me that everything was not okay, that maybe it never would be. There were breathing treatments and steroids ordered, respiratory therapists visiting every three hours of the day and night, nurses checking his temp and status every hour. No sleep, no privacy. A baby that would cry and cry and couldn't nurse and therefore couldn't be comforted. Me, completely unable to soothe, to help. My mom, strong for the both of us because I sure as hell couldn't be.
Blood was taken everyday, numbers coming back too low or too high and meaning absolutely nothing to me. A blood transfusion was suggested, and I agreed, because what else could I do? Except his IV started leaking and they tried to find another but his veins were so small inside of his tiny little body and there wasn't one single nurse in the whole hospital who could find one. We know- they all tried. While I paced the halls and listened to him scream, I cried, and I'm sad to say that I didn't pray- I yelled at God, inside of my head, of course. I asked him why he couldn't just cut him a break. As it turns out, that night was the best night in the hospital. Despite the fact that his arms and hands were covered in failed attempts for an IV, we got to snuggle together completely wire free. We had a whole 9 hours with nothing between us. He slept on my chest, in one of those terribly uncomfortable pull out chairs, but it was the most peaceful sleep either of us had while there.
Then morning came, and it was time to try for an IV again. An angel nurse got it on the second try and all I could think was, where were you last night? I was prepared for a bad day, for more of an inconsolable baby, but at some point during the night, Rory had made a turn for the better. I didn't want to get my hopes up- it had happened once before and we were thrown back into the fire quick. But he seemed to stay better all day, and the transfusion only helped him even more. Then I heard the words I'd been wanting to hear all week.
"If he stays stable, you can go home tomorrow."
I almost didn't believe them. Even the next day, when the discharge papers were in my hand, I still didn't believe it. I was afraid that I'd step out of them room and into a trap- just kidding! We need more blood! But we made it downstairs and outside, and we both got our first breath of fresh air in five days.
And I thought to myself, It's over. We made it.
Simple as that.
Except, I can't help but be afraid that we're not out of the woods just yet. I'm full of fear- afraid that he'll get sick again, afraid to let anyone touch him or hold him or get too close. I'm afraid to leave the house with him. I sleep with one eye open, afraid that he'll stop breathing. I don't know when I'll be able to get over everything, or if it's as easy as that. I can't help but wonder if maybe this isn't just a one time thing. If maybe we'll spend our lives worrying about Rory. I don't know how to convince myself that he's okay, and I don't know how to stop seeing him the way he was in the hospital.
After we got back to the house, the skies opened up and covered everything in a sticky, warm fog, and as the sun broke through the clouds, it set the world on fire. The clouds were glowing in hues of orange and pink, gliding across the sky in puffs and swirls. We went outside and breathed in the wet air, the four of us finally together. I could still feel the fear inside of me- I think it'll always be there, festering, begging to be remembered, but Aubrey was running in circles around me and Rory was snuggled up in his daddy's arms and I thought to myself,
It's over. We made it.