If the mother-baby ward of the Sparrow Hospital is heaven, with the nurses, lifted by angel wings, gliding the halls and emitting blessings, then the ER is a blazing hell. Severed appendages seemed to dangle from the ceiling and the thick aroma of pinkeye filled the room. With wailing screams chasing our ears, we hurried through as claws scraped the tile after us.
The pediatric ER was better, but still, no heaven. The sulking boy to my right with a bandage on his eye made me keenly aware of every single item I touched. I felt the girl’s squeals from across the room seize my spine, and I sat frozen in wide-eyed horror. Isaiah seemed as freaked out as I was (or he was just too sick to budge) and, fortunately, he wasn’t his usual explore-the-world, touch-everything self.
When his name was called, I heard the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ say it, and the doors cast a heavenly light as they opened.
It had been a long day. My fifteen-month-old ate and pooped, ate and pooped, drank and vomited, drank and vomited so many times we were concerned he might be dehydrated. I first took him to the Lansing Urgent Care where the hour and forty-five minute wait shooed us off to the sister location in Okemos. There we sat, him on my lap, and only one other waiting patient, chatting on her iPhone about worker’s comp. We were called in shortly after her.
The doctor there confirmed that my son seemed dehydrated and, boom, just like that we were damned to hell, the pinching anus of the hospital, the ER.
And, there we were, having survived two medical facilities and an ER waiting room, counting down the minutes for the doctor in our own hospital room with Finding Nemo playing in the background.
The kid was beat, as was I.
Through the credits of Finding Nemo, and deep into a series of horrible Disney Channel originals, we met with multiple nurses, a resident, and a doctor, answering the same questions over and over and over again.
“He started with cold-like symptoms, began coughing so much he’d throw up, then he couldn’t keep anything down, and had a slight fever, blah, blah, blah, we are afraid he’s dehydrated.” This was on repeat for so long that the words started sounding weird in my ears.
As they poked and prodded, the whole process took about four whopping hours. They gave him medicine, and he gave it back in vomit on the floor. He fell asleep twice, but each time the nurse connived a new horrible means of waking him up. First it was a needle to his thigh, and a half hour later, when we thought there could be no worse way to wake a person up, they shoved a thermometer up his butt. My heart broke for him both times, and I imagined how I would lash out on anybody trying the same moves on me.
Finally, when the torture ended, we were discharged. I breathed again the Lansing air and kissed its icy ground. It was just after six P.M. and because lunch was a chocolate covered pretzel, I stopped at a local food truck for dinner (StreetKitchen…it was amazing). I took it home where I scarfed the Buddha Belly on the living room couch with an IPA chaser, only then realizing just how exhausted I was from the day’s happenings.
It was indeed an awful and hellish day, pushing each of us to pure fatigue.
The next morning, when I laid on the couch, still tired, my son laid on my chest, and we stayed there for about twenty minutes before I turned on Mulan. And, to be honest, that moment was one of the best and most cherished moments I’ve had with my son since the day he was born.
As his heartbeat synced with mine, there on the couch in the sanctuary of our own home, I learned again the valuable lesson that the gates of heaven are usually through the fires of hell. The simple glory of a father and his one-year-old son cuddling on the couch after a difficult couple of days made all the chaos, illness, vomit odor on our clothes, and exhaustion completely and utterly worth it.
I could have held him for eternity.
Thank God he’s okay, and thank God for those little moments.