Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Day I Died

Mom said I was always a sickly baby. The doctors told her I was born with tonsillitis. She and Dad would rush me to the hospital with strangely high fevers. I spent quite a bit of time at St. Vincent’s in the pediatric ward. I remember two of the nurse nuns. One was young, smelled good, gentle, and wore soft soled shoes. The other was older, had facial hair, wore hard soled shoes, and did not have much patience.

When I came down with the measles, my fever was so high I was packed in dry ice. Countless trips to the emergency and transfers to St Vincent’s, I cannot fathom what panic and stress I put my folks through those first four years.

My Parent’s Story

I had another fever. At the hospital the doctor told his nurse to give me an injection. The nurse held up the vial and asked the doctor if he was sure that is what he wanted to give me. He said, “Yes.”

The nurse had a difficult time getting the medicine in the syringe. It was too thick. She injected me and I was sent home.

Mom, Dad, and I went over the Grandma Vesta’s and Grandpa Leslie’s house. Grandma was rocking me. She said sick babies fuss and cry. I was silent, she was very worried. Then I had a seizure. Dad grabbed me; Mom grabbed her coat and out the door we went.

The hospital we usually went to was across town, so we went to the one closest to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

The doctor on call was once a fine young doctor. Unfortunately he had a propensity to go on a bender now and again. So Doc grabbed me, I wasn’t breathing now. He and a ‘Very Young Nurse’ worked very hard to get me to breathe again.

Dad assisted Doc in using some very pre-war equipment. The rubber was so old it was sticky. As soon as I was breathing again, Doc told the ‘Very Young Nurse’ to get the ‘on call ambulance driver.’ Dad said quietly, “I’m right here.”

“Call Nolan,” Doc said firmly.

Back then, as now in many small towns, the firefighters were volunteers. Some of the firefighters took classes to learn to drive the ambulance and help the doctors transporting patients. Dad did all that and was a first aid trainer as well.
When Nolan and the ambulance arrived, everyone got me and the equipment in and Nolan took off. Dad and Mom followed in our car.

All was steady until Rex Hill; Nolan hit the gas on the ‘souped up’ ambulance. Seems he and Dad decided the engine needed a bit more umph in certain cases.

Dad had trouble keeping up. At the Tigard Grange Hall Nolan pulled over and turned off the engine. Mom grabbed Dad’s arm and said, “Oh, she’s alright.”

Dad knew better. He sat with Mom for a couple of minutes as she realized what this meant. Then he got out of the car and was hit by a spray of gravel as the ambulance sped out; lights and sirens blasting.

Dad and Mom joined in. Mom was trying to wipe the blood from Dad’s eyes; some of the gravel hit him pretty hard.

Nolan’s Story

He was surprised when he was called to drive that day. He wasn’t on the call list. But, being who he was, he showed up at the hospital and he was shocked when he saw Mom and Dad standing there.

He helped load me and the equipment into the ambulance and headed for St. Vincent’s. Between watching the road and Dad’s car behind him; he caught glances of me. I wasn’t breathing very well.

At Rex Hill, Doc said, “We’re losing her.”

That’s when Nolan hit the gas. At the Tigard Grange Doc said, “She’s gone.”

Nolan pulled over. Turning to look at me, he saw this little powder blue baby with blonde hair. He told me later that I as the most beautiful baby he had ever seen. (And not to let his children ever hear that.) Right then, I looked like a statue of what a perfect baby should look like.

That is when the ‘Very Young Nurse’ said, “Like hell I’m going to do this to that woman back there.”

She used a brand new technique called ‘rescue breathing.’ She took in a lung full of air and covering my nose and mouth with hers; blew into my lungs. Nothing. She picked me up and gave me a couple of good slaps and I breathed in so I could mewl.

Nolan said I went from blue to pink in less than a snap of the fingers. He turned on the ambulance, sirens, and lights and was off to the races.

I survived. Bet you didn’t see that coming?

My Story

All my life I had wanted Mom and Dad to stop at the Tigard Grange on our way to Portland. They always said, “No.”

No reason, just no. I was mesmerized by the way the Grange Hall looked, set back among trees. Very peaceful. It always reminded me of the old hymn “Church in the Wildwood.”

One Sunday, when I was 19, Mom, Dad and I were going to Portland to do some shopping. I asked if we could stop at the Tigard Grange. Mom and Dad passed glances and finally said, “Yes.”

We stopped; I sat there looking at the building. “Why am I so intrigued by this building?”

“Because this is where Doc pronounced you dead and the ‘Very Young Nurse’ brought you back.”

“I know who Doc is, but who was that ‘Very Young Nurse?”

“She never wanted you to know. She felt she was just doing her job and didn’t want you worshipping her.”

And with that, we got on with our shopping.

A few weeks later, I was having dessert with my boyfriend Allen and his family. His nine year old brother, Ross, was dancing around the room like he had ‘ants in his pants.’ He suddenly stated, “You died when you were a baby.”

“I know that, my parents told me. How do you know?”

Exchanged looks ran around the room. “I know the nurse who saved you,” he said.

Now worried looks ran around the room. “Who was that:”

And Ross pointed to his mother, Doris. “I don’t want to hear any thanks from you, I’m just not comfortable with that,” Doris said.

I said, very quietly, “Thank you.”

Allen said there was no need, as he thanked her every hour of every day since we had started dating.

I had known Doris and her family all my life. There were only three grade schools, one junior high and one high school. Everyone knew everyone else. How the adults kept the secret of her identity from me was one high conspiracy.

To this day I thank the Lord for Doris, Doc, and Nolan. Without them, you know.

1 comment:

  1. Very moving story! Thank you for sharing it. What a scary experience for your parents!