We had traveled south for a friend’s wedding on the 21st and were staying with my aunt and brother in a two-bedroom condo in Maple Ridge. It was Saturday morning and despite having plenty of things to do, including brunch with Tim’s brother and sister and her son before the wedding, I just couldn’t get moving.
Perhaps it was the pregnancy, perhaps it was something else. The kids were up early enough, but I wasn’t motivated to get ready for brunch or the wedding. Before I knew it, 8:30 am rolled by and my aunt left for work. The kids were playing, I was engrossed in a book trying to ignore the nausea I felt, and I kept thinking I should have something small and light to eat since we were having brunch so late.
Suddenly, I heard Tim scream at Nathan, followed by Nathan screaming. I looked up and Tim was on the balcony shouting that Nathan had fallen out the window. I rushed to the window and looked down. Roughly fifteen feet below, my boy was upside down with twisted neck, the concrete retaining wall propping him up at a weird angle.
Tim leapt over the balcony railing and rushed to Nathan’s side, picking him up and trying to console him. The neighbour downstairs came outside to see what the commotion was. I remember her gaping wordlessly in shock at the scene.
Tim began talking about going to the hospital and my mind began whirling with a hundred thoughts a second. The neighbour passed me the fallen window screen and I closed the window and leaned it up against the sill. I grabbed the car keys and tossed them to Tim who walked around with Nathan in his arms to the front of the building.
Abby had begun crying for Nathan, and I hurriedly calmed her down as best I could, asked her to get her shoes on, and hastily changed out of pj’s myself. I grabbed a few things, but I wasn’t sure if Tim would wait for me or if we would be walking to the hospital. We rushed downstairs and found Tim just putting sandals on that had been in the back of the car. It wasn’t quite 9:00.
We hustled into the car and Tim took off. I began praying that Nathan would be alright, that we would get to the ER quickly, that there wouldn’t be a wait to be seen, that everything would be alright. Abby, Nathan and I couldn’t stop crying – though we certainly could understand why Nathan was so upset.
At one point, Tim hit 120 km/h on Dewdney Trunk Road. We turned down the street the hospital is on, and having grown up here, I remembered the next light at the last major intersection before the hospital is a slow one that takes forever to change. I started to say so, when suddenly it turned green for us just as we pulled up behind a car waiting at the light.
We pulled up in front of ER, Tim jumped out with Nathan and Abby and I went to find a parking spot.
And I was nervous about waiting to see a doctor because twice in the last six weeks or so my brother had been left waiting for long periods of time in this very hospital despite severe gall bladder issues. One such wait was nearly 12 hours long.
But almost immediately, they asked us to come around the desk and the triage nurse was asking questions about what happened, how far did he fall, how did he land, did he have any allergies, had he been in the hospital at all in the last three months…
A few minutes later they took us to a room and barely five minutes after that the doctor came in. She assessed him and decided the best course of action would be to insert an IV in the event they might need it later, then send him for X-rays.
Some things are easier said than done. Despite all our efforts, Nathan was still crying, still screaming and squirming as if he couldn’t get comfortable. Tim had been the one holding him up to this point, but the thought of watching the nurses try to stick an IV in our little boy’s arm was too much. He took Abby to the waiting room and I stuck around. At one point, they asked me to step to the side out of sight so they could get Nathan to lay still. They were concerned he would wrestle them to get to me.
It was hard, standing just outside the room, listening to my baby scream and not being able to go and console him. It’s one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do as a parent.
And it wasn’t over yet. It took several nurses and the doctor to hold him down for the IV. It felt like forever before they were successful. I sent text messages to my aunt and my brother. They both left work to come to the hospital to be with us. I sent a very quick tweet asking for prayer.
Once the IV was in, I thought I’d be able to stay with him from there on, but the next stop was X-ray and of course, pregnant women are strongly advised from going in. They asked me to sit outside. And once again I felt helpless while my boy screamed and cried in another room, out of sight.
There was a woman and her daughter in the waiting room outside of X-ray. The woman offered to get me a coffee, and I so appreciated the offer but I don’t drink coffee. She told some stories of their scares with her children, she shed tears for me and my baby and it was all I could do not to bawl.
Tim and Abby came down the hall shortly after, and I felt a bit of relief knowing my family was mostly in the same place again. A few minutes passed and my aunt arrived with toys, crayons and colouring book to distract Abby.
They rolled the crib out of X-ray and my boy whimpered and cried down the hall back to ER. When they rolled him back into one of the rooms, he actually stopped crying for a few minutes. We saw recognition in his eyes, and he even smiled a little bit at us. At least until they began moving the crib again.
They rolled him back into the semi-private room. We waited, tried to soothe him into sleep because his exhaustion was so obvious. The doctor came back to see him, and she made me wake him up so she could check his pupils. That was hard – he’d hardly had fifteen minutes of rest and I had to wake him. But he fell asleep again afterward and I was warned he would be checked every 30-60 minutes, and we would have to stay until 3 pm at the earliest to ensure that he was fine. That was another five and a half hours away at that point.
Things got a little better after that. Nathan was able to rest, each inspection of his pupils was fine. We were a little concerned that the doctor didn’t come back with the X-ray results, but at one point a nurse assured us that if there was anything of concern, we would know.
At about 3 pm, Nathan had enough. He began freaking out again, thrashing about until Tim picked him up and took him out of the room. Each time he tried to come back into the room, Nathan freaked out and thrashed again until Tim moved away again.
The doctor came back, did one final inspection, and advised us of our duties over the next 24 hours. She told us that she, and the pediatrician and the radiologist had all reviewed the X-rays and there was absolutely no sign of any broken bones, and no indication of head trauma. They were not recommending a CT scan at all. She didn’t use the word miraculous, but they were definitely amazed that he was essentially unharmed, except for a few scrapes and bruises.
I know who to thank for protecting my baby, for keeping him safe despite the terrible situation. I woke up so profoundly grateful this morning, knowing there were so many other possible results after a 15 foot fall to concrete.
And I also want to thank each and every person who offered prayers or good thoughts for us while we were waiting to find out about Nathan’s injuries. It boosted my spirits and gave me hope.
Thank you also to my aunt for keeping Abby occupied – it’s been awhile since she played the role of “Aunty Mum”, like she used to sometimes for my brother and me.
Thank you to my brother for being a real standup guy, from running errands paying for parking, and cheering us up.
Thank you to my sister-in-law for bringing coffee for Tim (I’m not sure he would have lasted much longer without it), and snacks for all of us. It got us through the first rough part of the day.
Thank you to the medical staff for the prompt attention and help.
Also, please excuse the formatting here, I wrote this on my cell phone.