My husband, Justin, and I woke with the sun in Miami, Florida. We had an early flight home and were quickly packing our suitcases to make the 5-hour flight back to Utah. All the way home I scrolled through photos of my kids on my iPad. I looked out the plane window and thought of the moment of walking through the door and throwing my arms around my 4 beautiful children. I knew that they would squeal for their gifts, so I doubled checked my carry-on to ensure that all 4 gifts were there. They were.
We hit the tarmac at Salt Lake International Airport. I reached down, grabbed my phone out of my carry on and texted my sister Becky, “we’re home! Thank you for watching my babies!” We were sitting in our seats waiting for the seat belt light to go off so we could move about the cabin. It did just as Justin received a phone call that will forever change my life. Justin said “hi pickle!” and I knew he was speaking to his sister Jill.
He then hunched down and said the words “chase, fell, life lighted, coma.” I started screaming “What?? What???” Justin put up his finger like “one minute” as I was pushing on his arm, losing consciousness. He then turned to me and said, “chase fell. He is in a coma, he was life lighted. They don’t know if he’s alive.” I remember hearing screaming, but not realizing that it was my own.
Justin got us off the plane and got us to a taxi that took us to Primary Children’s and to our only son’s bedside. I ran to his bed and saw the machines, tubes and heard the constant beeping. I collapsed. I was hysterically screaming and blacking in and out of consciousness. I remember a man crouching in front of me (I must have been on the ground) he looked me right in the eyes and said the words, “I know you are upset, but if you don’t calm down you won’t be allowed in here with your son.” Justin then scooped me up and pulled me into the chair next to Chase’s bed. He held me tight and wrapped his arms around my neck, placing his hands on my head, giving me a blessing.
I then felt a physical warmth start at the top of my head and flood to my toes. My heartbeat slowed as did my breathing. I then heard myself whimpering as tremors shot through my body as Justin rocked me. I looked up and saw a blurry view of my only son, lifeless there on the bed. There were 15 doctors surrounding him, stabilizing him. Chase had only gotten there 15 minutes before Justin and I did. I was the second one at his bedside, after my in-laws. That was the second miracle of the day; the first was that chase survived transport.
Chase was not breathing on his own, and when I heard the word “life support” my knees went weak. The last conversation that I had with Chase ran through my head. He had just gotten moved to the front of the class, again. I had told him that we would talk about it when I got home. My husband and I were downtown Miami and it was loud and I didn’t have the best cell phone service. I could barely hear him on the phone and I kept losing him. I told him I loved him. He told me he missed me and I told him that I missed him and would be home soon.
All I could do at his bedside was hold his hand. At Primary Children’s, they have a social worker whose main job is to support you as you go through your experience with your child. She gave me two journals – I knew that one would be for me and one would be for Chase. I just couldn’t give up hope that he would survive, though it looked grim. My mom was at his bedside from Colorado within 3 hours of his accident. I remember her saying, “It’s bad, Jenny. It’s bad.” We wept and held each other.
I wrote as if I was writing to Chase in my journal that first day:
January 15, 2012:
At 10:30AM you fell off of a slide, from the top, at the park with your sisters and PaPa. Mommy and Daddy were flying out of Florida after spending 10 days for our 10-year anniversary. I missed you so much son. We talked on the phone and you went up to my room for “privacy” to talk to me and tell me how you were feeling about things. We talked and talked and shared our thoughts.
At 1:45PM, mommy and daddy landed. Mommy turned on her phone to text everyone “Made it.” Then mommy picked up he purse from under the seat in front of her. Daddy then got a phone call and dipped his head down and put his other finger on his ear. He said, “What? What? Lifelight? Chase? Fell?” He hung up and I said, “What?” I was screaming but couldn’t hear myself.
Then Daddy stood up and started hollering for everyone to move and get of the plane because we had an emergency that our son was in a coma. I was screaming and shaking and not in my body.
We got to the outside and got in a taxi cab. We then drove very fast to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran inside the front door. I ran to your bedside and saw you. You were connected to tubes and so still. I couldn’t handle it. I was wailing, screaming your name. Daddy was holding me, trying to comfort me. You were so handsome Chase. You looked like an angel. They kept giving you more tubes and prodding at you. Daddy kept saying, “He’s in the best place. They are taking wonderful care of him. He will be okay.”
On January 19, 2012 I celebrated my 32nd birthday. As I sat at my son’s bedside and got overwhelmed with texts and alerts saying “Happy Birthday,” I told everyone that I just wanted prayers for my son. I whispered in Chase’s ear that all I wanted for my birthday was for Chase to wake up.
Doctors continually monitored Chase’s brain activity as well as the swelling. On my birthday, they did another CAT Scan and they couldn’t believe that Chase had NO swelling in his brain. They told us that with Traumatic Brain Injuries, that doesn’t happen. I knew that my son was a miracle.
The day after my birthday, doctors pulled Chase’s breathing tube and he was breathing on his own. I jumped up on the bed and kissed his face all over. Doctors had done another scan on my birthday that showed that his neck was not broken, so I squeezed his neck and kissed him all over. I heard Chase’s breath flowing in and out. I watched his chest rise and fall for hours. That Saturday, not even a week after Chase’s accident we were moved out of the PICU. As we left, a nurse shook her head with a smile and I held up my hands and said, “The Amazing Chase!!”
During our two-month stay at Primary Children’s, I was overwhelmed by not only the competence, but the generosity, support, and love from every staff member. The hospital staff became like a second family to me and I could not have emotionally pulled through what I did if I didn’t have the support from the staff. They became my second family. I am still in touch with many of the nurses, techs, and therapists. Thank you doesn’t seem enough … thank you for saving my son’s life, helping him get his voice, legs, and smile back. I am so grateful for Primary Children’s and every night we still pray over the doctors, nurses, and techs.
I will never read another news story the same again. I will know the pain, agony, and uncertainty that parents are faced as their precious children are flown into the greatest hands in the world – Primary Children’s Medical Center. THANK YOU!
Story Lines is a feature on Play Ground telling personal stories and experiences about the hospital – written by the individual. If you would like to share your experience on the blog, please contact us.