I learned a couple of things about myself yesterday, namely that 1) I would not make a good medical professional and 2) that when faced with a situation over which I have no control, my initial reaction is to start praying. I had suspicions about the first one; the second one, I’m glad to find out.
M had been under the weather for a few days; I suspected a cold. Yesterday, his cough had gotten bad, so we went to the store to pick up some medicine. He was fine, eating normally, interacting with me, maybe a little tired. We were standing in the checkout line when he leaned against me and said, “I don’t know what’s going on with me.” I asked him what he meant, and he seemed to be having a hard time putting a sentence together. His face was grey, and he was very warm all of a sudden. I asked him if he felt sick to his stomach and he said yes, he thought he was going to throw up. Now, any of you who know me know that that is the one thing in this world that I really don’t handle well. But what was I going to do? We set our stuff down and walked to the bathroom. He seemed really out of it, and as I got him in front of the toilet and got his jacket off, he just crumpled to the floor. His eyes were open, and he was breathing, but I had no idea what was going on. I heard myself praying, and in the space of about one second, I thought, Should I call 911 and have them come to the Walmart bathroom? Should I call J? I need J. What do I do??? I said, rather idiotically, “M, you can’t just lie on the floor,” and I picked him up. He tried to sit up but was unable to and said, “I’ll just lean against the toilet.” I patently refused to consider the grossness of that, and as a woman walked in the bathroom, I barked at her, “Go get me some help! My son just collapsed and I don’t know what to do.” She ran out, and I called J and told him I needed him there RIGHT NOW. He reacted the way he normally reacts to crisis, by getting irritated with me. I decided to deal with that later.
An employee came in and began speaking to M. I asked her if she had medical training, and she said her mother was a nurse and she had had much experience with children. I figured that would have to do, and to be honest, I was glad to have someone else in control. She checked him very proficiently for signs of concussion (of which there were none, thank God), and she asked him about his head and his stomach and had him walk a few steps. He was coherent but cold and clammy and said he was thirsty. We found a bench near Customer Service, and she brought him some water and brought me the items I had abandoned.
When J got there, I filled him in on what had happened, and we decided to take M to Urgent Care. The nurse-practitioner said yes, he had a viral cold, but that she could find no reason for his “vagal response.” And that was that. We went home.
[I did some research on vagal response and learned that it is the main cause of fainting, or “syncope.” It can be triggered by many different things, including locking your knees, the sight of blood…and intense coughing. And all the symptoms M was experiencing – the nausea, feeling hot, not being able to form a sentence – are premonitory symptoms of vagal response. It happens to people who are standing or sitting, but once they fall down (which they will), they immediately regain consciousness, if they lost it at all, because efficient bloodflow is restored to the brain. M could have been a textbook case.]
M was fine the rest of the evening, if a little tired. He was a bit clingy for awhile, but then he began hugging me and saying, “I just want to love on you, Mama,” and patting me on the shoulder. I think he could see that I was emotionally blasted. I needed to sort things out, and I could feel the aftereffects of the adrenaline rush that had surged through me, so I decided to go for a drive. But first I dealt with J’s reaction. He’s used to me being able to handle all sorts of stuff, and I told him I realized that it was probably weird and unsettling for him when I am less than my normally-competent self. But when I tell him I need him, it’s because I need him. I need him to think clearly where I cannot, to be strong when I am floundering. There’s something about the sight of your child fluttering to the ground like a piece of paper caught on a breeze that is beyond nerve-wracking, and I knew I wasn’t thinking clearly. I think he got it.
So I went for a drive to clear my head – I had so many thoughts and emotions flying around. I kept seeing M’s grey little face, and each time, it triggered a feeling of absolute helplessness. (Even as I write this, the same thing is happening.) I remembered that I stood in that bathroom praying over my son because there was nothing else I knew to do. There in the car, I had this conversation with God:
Me: God, I felt so helpless. Do you even know how horrible I felt, that I couldn’t help my child?
God: Yes, I do.
Me: Yeah, but you had an advantage – You knew how it was all going to turn out with Your son. I had no way of knowing with mine.
God: But you know Me. And the first thing you did was to begin talking to Me. You did help your son.
(Big exhale) All I can say is thank God for that affirmation. Thank God that when it comes down to the wire, He’s the One I turn to. (You just don’t know these things about yourself until they’re put to the test.) Thank God for the peace that passes all understanding – sometimes it’s literally the only thing that salves a hurt. And thank God for a much-improved son who was bouncing off the walls today because I made him stay in bed.
Tomorrow is Christmas Day, and even though yes, the birthdate is probably inaccurate and yes, some traditions have pagan roots, it’s still the day the followers of Christ set aside to acknowledge His birth. So thank God for His Son, whom we celebrate. Celebrate freely, friends, this Child who gave us access to the Father through one Spirit. And take the time to thank Him for your own children, too.