For a change, this week anyway, I’m going to step away from all the stupid political fighting. Besides, does it really matter who’s running the government? Hell, both party’s have been screwing this country over for as long as I can remember. And to tell you the truth, right now, I have more important things to worry about.
I’ve never really talked about it here, but because of my job I travel a lot. In the last three weeks my travels have taken me to Western Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. I don’t worry too much about things when I’m gone. My wife’s brutally independent and does a good job of taking care of things while I’m gone. My kids are all grown and doing their own thing. And I suppose like most of people, I take it for granted that everything’s always going to be okay.
Well, I got a phone call the other day that reminded of just how stupid that way of thinking is and how in a blink of an eye everything can change forever. I’m not going to get into details but the call had to do with one of my kids and it scared the hell out of me. For now anyway, everything’s okay but the whole thing reminded me of another time about three years ago when I received one of those life changing phone calls.
So if you don’t mind, I’d like to share that story with you today. It’s a story about my young grand daughter, Emily. It just happened to be the first story I wrote for “The Topeka Metro News” and it helps explain where the title of this blog, “Room 235” came from in the first place. I call the story, “The numbers.”
Numbers, do you ever think about them? Personally, I've never given them much thought one way or the other. But over the course of the last 23 days I've learned numbers can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Numbers like 17, 235, 15,12, 160, 87, 65/45, and 23 all became to mean everything in my granddaughter's world. Emily was born 17 weeks premature on November 12th. and was transferred to “Room 235” of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center. This was the day my journey through her world of numbers began.
Good morning Emily, I'm your grandpa. I know, I'm probably a little scary looking but you'll get used to me. Hey, look at those numbers on the ventilator. The nurses tell me 15 is excellent for your oxygen level. And that the vent setting doesn't get much better than a 12. I know it's been a pretty rough first day for you, so I'm not going to stay too long. You be a good girl and mind the nurses, I'll see you in the morning. And remember that grandpa loves you.
And so our daily routine began. We talked about the adventures we were going to have once she got to come home. First and foremost I explained she was going to have to put on some weight. At 1lb., 4oz., it was going to be hard for her to ride a bike. I offered to start bringing her chocolate chip cookies and pop. Emily and I both thought it was a good idea, but the nurses had other plans. We talked about her first day of school, about the fishing trips we were going to take, and about going 4-wheeling in the mountains when we go to Colorado in August.
I told her how lucky she was to have two grandmothers, Linda and Debbie that loved her so much. We talked about her aunts, uncles, and a few of her cousins. I warned her about the stupid cats and dogs she'd meet. I even warned her about staying away from boys. I'm not sure, but I think I saw her blushing after this conversation. But mostly, she liked hearing about her mommy and daddy.
Over the course of the next few days I learned about the other numbers on the monitor above her bed. The top one was her heart rate. I learned that 160 was a very good number indeed. And that 87 indicated how much oxygen was in her blood. The 65/45 was the blood pressure.
All day and night long the doctors and nurses watched these numbers. They made adjustments to the machines and medications according to what the numbers told them. They were very up front with us from the beginning. Some days were pretty good. Others were pretty bad, it all depended on the numbers. The nurses referred to this as the roller coaster ride.
Monday December 4th was an exceptionally good day. Her numbers were even better than they had been the previous weekend. She was finally able to open her eyes for the first time. They were the biggest, most beautiful, brown eyes I had ever seen. We talked a little about riding the train at Gage Park. I blew her a kiss, told her grandpa loved her, and promised I'd see her in the morning.
Sometime around 9:00 o clock that night the hospital called. Emily had taken a turn for the worse and we needed to get there as soon as we could. It was the numbers, the 15 and 12 had turned into 101 and 40. The 160 was now a 50. The 87 was somewhere around 35 now, and the blood pressure that once read a steady 65/45 wasn't even registering anymore. They told us her system was shutting down, she was dying, and they didn't think she'd be able to hang on for much more than 3 or 4 more hours.
Ultimately the numbers did get the best of Emily, but she did beat the 3 and the 4. She hung on another 24 hours, and in doing so we were all able to say our goodbyes. I'm not sure what the others said to her. For me though, I just held her tiny little hand, kissed her on the forehead and told her I understood if she had to go. I told her to remember that grandpa loved her, and that no matter what, I’d never forget her.
We had Emily with us for 23 days, 4 hours, and 42 minutes. And for that I'll always be grateful.