Instantly my world was turned upside down.
It had been a restless night without much sleep since my oldest son woke up around three o'clock in the morning with an earache. He cried for almost three hours until he finally started feeling some relief from the Motrin I gave him and drifted back off to sleep, just in time for me to get up and start getting ready for work. What a day this is going to be, I’m already exhausted and now I have to call my boss at home, who also happens to be my mother and tell her that I’m going to be late unless I bring my son to work with me until I can have his ear checked out. In either case, she’s not going to be happy. She does not tolerate absences due to dependant illnesses and takes that a step further since she typically uses me to set an example for others. But… I might just as well get it over with. With my heart racing and my hands a little shaky, probably just nerves from the restless night I had, I dialed her number and instantly my world was turned upside down.
In a panic stricken voice my mother answered the phone.
“Hello!” She almost screamed.
“Oh My God, mom? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Ronnie isn’t breathing, the paramedics are here now. I can’t talk.” “Click”
Jesus Christ, what do I do? I cry, of course, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll cry! No wait, that wont help anything. TIFFANY! Tiffany will know what to do. She’s stronger than me in a crisis. So I dialed my sister’s number like it was programmed into my fingertips without any of the hesitation that I had felt earlier this morning. But now what? I can’t just tell her that our baby brother is not breathing.
“Tiffany” I said nervously, “I have to tell you something. Ronnie is not breathing, the paramedics are there now.”
Of course she asked all the right questions, none of which I had the answers to.
“What happened? Where are they taking him?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t ask.”
I’m so stupid, how could I not ask. What’s wrong with me? I can’t call back; it must be crazy out there. But I can’t go out there either; I’d probably pass them on the way. A moment later my phone rang and it was Tiffany.
“They are taking him to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I’ll meet you there.” She said.
I called Troy, he’s on his way home, and I put the kids in the car to take to the sitter’s house early this morning. I didn’t know exactly what my plans were, but I had to get to my brother. I dropped the kids off in their pajamas and was giving them sweeter kisses and tighter hugs than usual when my phone rang again. This time it was my husband.
“There’s been a change of plans; they are taking him to Manatee Memorial Hospital, because they say its closer. I’ll meet you there.”
I arrived at Manatee Memorial Hospital in record time, and met my sister in the parking lot, but where the hell was the Emergency Room? We had gone through the wrong doors. I began to think we were never going to find him, when again the calm reassuring voice of my little sister who always pulls together when she’s needed speaks out.
“Excuse me, my brother was brought in by ambulance. Where can we find our parents?” She asked.
“Right over here miss, they are in the family room.” The nurse spoke quite frankly and without emotion. To her, this was a job, nothing more.
The family room was a small closed off room separated from the rest of the waiting area. I stared at the door for what seemed like an eternity, afraid to open it, not knowing what I would find? I found my heartbroken parents behind that door. My mother sat there red-eyed, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, no socks and worn sneakers. Her purse clutched in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other.
“Thank you,” she said, “for coming.”
I know she was disappointed, she was hoping it was a nurse coming to get them. And there sat my father almost comatose. This is a vision I shall never forget, a sight that has been permanently engrained into my memory. He sat there slumped in a chair, completely exhausted, wearing a ratty white undershirt, faded black jeans with a belt to hold them up. He had no socks on and wore black shoes. His eyes were red and swollen from the tears, which were still present. He was shaking inside and out. Waiting. Waiting for some news. Will it be good or will it be devastating?
“Libby woke me up. Daddy was already awake, but I was still lying in bed.” Mom explained. “I heard her scratching at the bedroom door. She’s not supposed to be out here, she should be in Ronnie’s room. Come here Libby, where is your Daddy? Ronnie? Ronnie? Why is Libby out here? Ronnie? Where are you? Oh My God, he was laying on the floor.” She paused as the tears caught in her throat. “I couldn’t see him very well. He was wedged in between his chair and the end table. Ronnie wake up! Oh my God. He’s Blue. Ron, RON! Come Quick. It’s Ronnie. Help Me! Is he Breathing? Call 911”. The tears streamed down her face as she stared blankly at the wall and described the gruesome scene.
My father began to speak slowly, replaying more details of the morning.
“Please help me. It’s my son, he’s barely breathing. Maybe one breath every ten or fifteen seconds. It sounds like he’s drowning. I have to sit him up,” he explained.
“No, No, lay him down.” the stern voice from the 911 operator barked!
“But he can’t breath! My father pleaded. “Oh dear God, my son is dying, please help him. God. If you never grant me another wish, let my son live. Help him to breath.”
“Sir it’s going to be at least twenty minutes until the paramedics get there, you’ll have to give him artificial respirations.”
“I am, I am”…. Screamed my father. “I think he’s breathing again, but you have to hurry!”
“Sir, count his respirations”…the man directed.
Coffee, I would like some coffee.
When Tiffany and I returned with the coffee, Mom and Dad were gone. The nurse had called them back to see Ronnie. Before panic could set in, the nurse came to get us. We passed a sign the said one family member at a time. My heart was beating out of my chest. My hands were wet and my mouth was dry. The nurse walked us down a long, cold hallway and opened the double doors to a large room crowded with monitors and machines all of which surrounded a stretcher in the middle of the room. Lying on that stretcher in front of me was a body. He looked like my brother, but no… it couldn’t be. This body was gray in color, blue around the mouth and there was dry blood around his lips and on his teeth, his tongue looked bruised. His hands and feet were cold. Tubes were coming out of his nose, his mouth, his chest and his arms. The only sound was the rhythmic beeping of the monitors and the respirator raising his chest and letting it fall, my father stood there on one side of him, and my mother on the other and tears ran down their cheeks.
The doctor that had been treating my brother has asked us to say our goodbyes. As we suspected, this was a drug overdose, and Ronnie is not doing well. He had died once already on that bed and the doctors were able to resuscitate him, but the chances of him pulling through this were grim.
“It is a miracle that this child made it to the hospital alive.” The doctor told us.
My father was the only thing that stood between Ronnie and death for twenty agonizing minutes while he used his own strength to keep a beat in his heart and gave him his very own breath but now he stands here helplessly being told to say goodbye to his dying son. There is absolutely nothing that he can do, nothing that my mother can do, and nothing that I can do. So we prayed.
“Dear God… as this child lays here before us I ask you to help him, give our son; our brother another chance. Forgive him, for he has made a bad choice, which led him down a path that no one should dare travel; a path that has caused him great pain and mental anguish. Forgive me for I have failed as his sister to be there for him to steer him down the right path. If you can give this twenty-four year old brother of mine a second chance at life, I will see to it that he knows how much he is loved, he will have my support, he will feel my faith and know that I need him. Its not that Ronnie has made any more mistakes than the rest of us. It’s just that his mistakes were far more destructive. This choice he made so long ago took control of him, he no longer had the luxury of making choices after that. Dear God, if you can find one more miracle to shed on our lives and in our hearts, I will spend the rest of my days making sure that every member of my family knows the love that I have for them. I will never again take for granted this precious life that you have given us, never close my eyes at night without saying I love you to those who should be told and I will try to put into perspective the things in life that really matter and realize that life is too short to take for granted.”
Thirty minutes later we were told that Ronnie has begun to stabilize and was being taken to the ICU. Once we were brought up to ICU, a pulmonary specialist came to talk to us and explain that Ronnie’s lungs have sustained the most apparent damage and right now this is the primary concern. So many other things were running a close second, but none of them matter if he cannot breath. They have already suctioned a great deal of debris from his lungs in the ER, but they will be performing a bronchoscopy to try to clear more. Right now, only one half of his right lung is functioning and none of his left lung is functioning. The Doctor was back within thirty minutes to tell us that the procedure had gone well. His blood oxygen levels were up but they might need to repeat the procedure again later. For now though, Ronnie seems to be doing a little better. Finally a breath; a sigh of relief, but for my father, who very shakily approached the doctor to ask:
“How serious is my sons condition at this point? I need to know.”
“Depending on how long Ronnie was without oxygen, he may have brain damage, which can occur with oxygen deprivation in as little as six minutes. He could also have permanent cardiac damage and possible liver and kidney failure.” The doctor was pleasant but frank when he spoke to us.
In the ICU, both of my sisters, my brother-in-law, my husband, my parents and I all stood around Ronnie. Each of us were touching a part of him, squeezing his hands, waiting and praying for a response.
“He looks a little better,” we said,
“He has a bit more color don’t you think?”
They had cleaned him up and washed his hair. We tried to stay positive as this devastating weight descended upon us. The nurse said we should let him rest, but none of us wanted to let go. Visiting hours were over though, and it was time again for us to say goodbye.
I prayed one more time as I lay a guardian angel upon his chest.
“Please watch over this sleeping child tonight, I do not know what his future holds. Please let him be here tomorrow when I come to see him. Help him to be strong, give him the strength to get through this night and dear god, please be there for my parents.”
On the way home that night as we were on our way to pick up our precious sons, I prayed one more time. I spoke out loud not sure if I was speaking to Troy or to God or both
“Please don’t ever let that be one of my children lying in that bed. I think I would lay right down beside them and die.”
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|Reviewed by Isharra Jamari
|Very touching story...I lost a brother at 17, and always regreted not having the chance to say Good-bye...and thirty years later I lost a sister, who died in her sleep...no good-byes again. But the difference between now and then is I know that they are near. They are the whispers in my ears!