Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Community of mothers: full circle

This is not an easy blog entry to read. Please clink on if you are feeling sensitive today.

Today was an emotionally exhausting day. We've been prepping, full-tilt and with the not so insignificant assistance of friends, towards propping up the house and making it look like we actually live here. The retro-closet look is so out, after all. Today we had plans for another massive project and instead, after canning a batch of peaches, I chose to ferry my friend out to Silverdale.

She'd never been to Tuesday Morning. Oh no, said I, no homeschooler should do without Tuesday morning. So I gleefully took a break. My spirits improved and we did what we needed to and all was well. Until the van wouldn't start. In the hot, so hot parking lot of treeless Silverdale shopping. After about half an hour of cajoling, I managed to convince the thing it was not in alarm mode, and it started. We continued on to the waterfront park.

As we spread our blanket and the kids tottered off to play, an older Asian woman who was cradling a child called out to me. But what she said, urgently was "Mom! Mom? Mom! Can you come here?" As I approached and climbed the gazebo I called out to my friend to be on alert for the rest of the kids. The girl in her arms was much older than I first thought. Sized like a pre-schooler, she was probably eleven or twelve, maybe older. Her arms were drawn up in a pose characteristic to muscular dystrophy and the woman had her face down on her lap. She was appearing to vomit, but it wasn't her stomach. Given our own medical background I recognized she was expelling large amounts of mucuos, from both her nose and her mouth.

The woman was frantically trying to pull it out of her, away from her passages. Given what she had to work with (not much, we found out later), she was doing a fine job of keeping the child breathing. She introduced herself as Anita, caregiver to this child (she told me her name but I won't write it here) and said "Is she breathing? " She kept asking me, "Is it working? Is she breathing?" I knelt down beside the child and took a napkin I had brought from our lunch and cleared the hair from her eyes. She was seizing slightly, or having a nervous tic, as her head kept shaking slowly as if she was saying "no." I murmured, "It's OK, it will be alright. We're getting you clean."

I stood back up and told the woman she was breathing but clearly not doing well. "Is she verbal? " I asked.

"No, no, she cannot talk."

"What happened to start this?" I asked, looking over their table. There was an unopened salad, some orange soda and a swarm of yellow jackets all over the table. A bowl of melon chunks lay on the ground underneath the table.

She gestured to the bowl and said "She ate that then started to vomit. I call the father but he is not answering. I keep waiting..."

"Have you fed her melon before?" I asked her, helping to clean the girl off again, becoming more convinced this was an allergy reaction I fully dread.

"Yes, many times." To myself, I thought "That leaves the bees." They were THICK, and the girl was completely incapable of speech. At this point she thrashed a little and I could see her face. She was more lucid than she had been, and her eyes focused on me, a stranger. She began to moan and I backed up slowly.

"My name is ~L~ and I am not going to touch you. I will help you but I won't pick you up. I am helping Miss Anita to help you." She faded out again, mollified I guess, but went right back to voiding the mucous, working her damnedest to breathe. She had no hives, no visible edema, no vomit left in her.

The cell phone on the table rang and Anita talked to someone on the phone. I heard her say "No, I don't know what to do." At that point I'd had enough. This reaction was BAD. All I needed to spur me on was a conversation long ago with a National Park Ranger; he had spoken to us regarding our own daughter's allergy and how bee sting had a much worse outcome with regards to time-to-treatment.

"Have you called 911 yet?" I asked her, and she shook her head and said "I, I cannot" and I realized her language barrier was holding her back. "Do you want me to call them? Can I call them for you?"

"Yes! Yes!" I sprinted back for my cell phone and dialed it in. We were very close to a fire station and I knew it, so I wasn't surprised to hear the sirens before I even got off the phone. The entire interaction I'd had with the woman and girl had taken less than three minutes, if that. While we waited for the first responders, I packed the woman's things and cleared their picnic. I continued to help clear the girl and watched helplessly, having done everything I could do.

I called over to my friend, who was on the blanket not five feet from the gazebo, "You might want to tell Cecily (4) and D-meister (3) what's about to happen." They'd never seen that big of a red, wailing truck that close, and it was coming to their picnic.

When the EMTs got there, I got out. I went to the park bathroom and washed my hands and only then did I get out of the-business-end-of-Mom mode. That's when I had a jolt as I realized that I hadn't used our epipen on the girl. Should I have? NO, I thought, I shouldn't have... but would they be able to get anything out of Anita? I sprinted back to the site and spoke to the medic who was taking notes from Anita. I asked him if they carried epinephrine, and he said they did. I told him what I saw, what I thought about the bees, and that the girl was nonverbal. He paled, said "I'm on it," and sprinted back to the medics who had taken her. Right about then, her Dad rolled up and I was satisfied I could release the situation.

The whole thing was a fantastic blur. Was this why my van failed me today? To put an allergy Momma right in Anita's sights? The medics were so fast, so competent, and truly responsive to the changing situation. They didn't blow me off, and as it happened, I was spot on, so they probably saved her life today. Anita came back to me later to thank me. She looked so tired, so small, but she was smiling. "Dad came. He knows, he knows what brings out her allergies," she gestured.

"The bees?"

"Oh yes," she smiled.

We went back to the park situation, my friend and I, while I struggled to stop thinking about anaphylaxis as the elephant in my room. I spoke about how grateful I was that Washington state allows their paramedics to not only administer but to carry epinephrine (they did not in SC), and how interesting it is to me that mothers just turn into everybody's mothers when it falls upon us. How frustrated I felt that the parents had not prepared that woman in any capacity to contend with a known life-threatening allergy. How grateful I was that our children can tell us what the heck is going on with them.

Maybe I shouldn't have said that last bit out loud. The hour ground forward as my friend's son Raeden started screaming from down the hill. The play structure was visible to us, but it is situated just below a little hill so we could hear him, but not see him. He lay screaming on the ground, "Mama! Mama!" as we booked it down there. He'd been stung, also, as one of these crazy swarm had crawled into his sandal. Crazy indeed-- a moving 6 year old boy on a playground does not an attractive hiding place make.

Pascha carried him back up to our blanket where we did our version of first aid on him. He got benadryl, arnica, green goo and Mama hugs. His friend N-man gave him a feel-better toy and he seemed to rally. Bee stings hurt, so it took him a while, but N-man stayed with him until he was ready to roll again. Before that could happen, however, we were approached by a couple of other mothers.

"Is he feeling better?" First Mom asked. "I was hoping to see him again, because bee stings are so hard. They hurt so much, don't they?" she directed to Raeden. Back to my friend, she said, "My little guy is allergic to nuts and so we really watch out for stuff like this. Did you give him benadryl?' Second mom came up and First Mom indicated that Second Mom's family was allergic to nuts AND bees. Basically, they refused to leave until they were assured that Raeden had been administered both painkiller and benadryl.

I sat there, ready to pack it in and leave Bee Park, but I was struck by how quickly I had shifted positions. I had been that Mom, less than an hour earlier, stepping up to make sure someone else's child made it through, survived. I felt very included, along with my friend there, in a community of mothers. Despite the Mommy wars, beyond parenting techniques, there are very basic issues that will tie us together, and you can never be sure when they will appear. But they did today, and I was grateful, so very grateful, for it.


  1. Excellent story. It's true--we mommies are united in one thing--the love of our children.

  2. I have goosebumps right now. WOW

  3. Good job mama. Tough situation handled masterfully. I'm so glad you were there to help that little girl and her caregiver.
    :) XxL

  4. Well, now you've done it. You made me cry before 8:30 am. It's going to be one hell of a day.

    I'm glad you shared your story. It was heart-breaking and heart-warming.

  5. Wow, what a story. I'm so glad for that little girl that you were at that park. And how true, even though mom's have so many differences, we all can turn that off when a little one is in danger.

  6. well now i can blame the tears on very awesome of you. so many people in todays society turn their backs when in need,you are a inspiration.

    mom not just our name but a universal name for love.


  7. Wow, that upped my adrenaline just reading, Warrior woman. The world works in mysterious ways, n'est pas?

  8. Wow! What a day for you guys! It is amazing what we women can do when we have to. Good on all of you.

  9. Wow. You are my favorite thing, a level-headed woman. Glad you gave and received.

  10. You are awesome ~L~. I am so glad the universe arranged for you to be there when this girl needed your help. And so, so glad that we are equiped with the ability to bring out business-mom when she is needed.