“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” St. Benedict
Mia now has her own a patron saint. Saint Benedict. The patron saint of Europe, kidney disease, poisoning, and ironically, school children. A pretty heavy-duty religious icon for a little girl, but the sole reason why Mia ended up in the emergency room on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I had not written about her experience sooner because every time I thought about it, my heart dropped and I was scared at the possibility of what could have been.
Thinking about it still gives me that feeling, but I feel like I can share now. Writing gives me peace. It is soul soothing.
So here I go, flashback to November.
It was like any other day. A trip to the beach with the family, lunch out at Sam’s Chowder house, and home for nap time.
Then in a split second, everything changed.
Just. Like. That.
Mia was napping in her bedroom when her dad and my mom heard a cry. When he ran in, she was standing on her bed choking. He got the airway clear, but whatever it was fell further down and lodged in her throat. She could breath, but was in a lot of pain and sick.
When asked what was wrong, she said, “I swallowed money. It’s stuck. I can feel it. It hurts,” as she pointed to her lower neck.
I wrapped her in a towel and we jumped in the car. The hospital is less than a half mile away, so it was a quick ride.
The first hospital couldn’t do anymore than ensure Mia was stable and take an x-ray. The x-ray determined she swallowed a coin of some kind. It looked incredibly large on the x-ray, so we all assumed it was a quarter. After what seemed like an eternity, the staff finally arranged a transfer and ambulance to the children’s hospital.
Once we arrived, things moved more quickly. Unlike the last hospital, everything here was kid sized. Tiny blood pressure bands and monitor attachments. The nurse let her pick a pair of pajamas. She chose the pink Minnie Mouse ones.
Mia was assessed and x-rayed again. To our surprise the x-ray showed a more detailed view of the mysterious coin. It was marked with a cross and a maze of letters. We had no idea what it could be. There was quite a bit of speculation around the ER as to what was lodged in Mia’s throat. Foreign money? Game piece?
The doctors looked at her x-ray and returned with their treatment plan. She would need surgery and she would be put under general anesthesia.
A common every day surgery, they said. We do four to five of these procedures a week, they said. She’ll go home tonight, they said.
I was terrified. I tried to be brave for my daughter, but had to look away. Tears stung my face and there was a lump in my throat.
Mia was brave. Braver than me. Trusting. She didn’t feel well, but had smiles for everyone.
A short while later, they wheeled her upstairs to the pediatric unit. It was early evening and the children’s wing was empty. There were only rows of tiny beds and cribs lining the halls. I had to turn around again because I wanted to cry. I wanted to sob. We followed along next to Mia’s rolling bed until we reached her room. Our doctors came in and met us. They told us what would happen and how long it would take. Our anesthesiologist told us she had two little girls too. She reassured me. She took out her iPhone and turned on “Tangled” for Mia. She said, “It’s time to get her to the operating room. She’s happy and not scared. Give her a kiss. You’ll see her soon.”
As I softly kissed her on the forehead, I told her I loved her. Tears came down my face as they wheeled her away to the operating room. It was the worst feeling in the world. The nurse walked us to the waiting room. It was also empty. They said 45 minutes. I watched the clock.
About 50 minutes later, the doctors walked in and announced, “Look what we found!” He had the coin in his hand.
Our first words were, “Is she okay?” They responded, “Oh, of course. She came through with flying colors. She’s just fine,” and handed over the mysterious coin to us. She was an excellent patient. Charming and sweet, even though it may have been scary. She didn’t even cry when they inserted the IV into her arm. Most kids do. The combination of laughing gas scented with bubble gum and watching Tangled on the iPhone was enough to keep her occupied.
Finally, they handed us an 8×10 photo page of Mia’s insides. Really. Her insides. The camera they used for surgery snapped forever photos of her throat with and without the coin, her stomach, and upper intestine. An unexpected gift.
Then there’s the coin. The mysterious coin. It had latin writing on it and was only stamped on one side. Just one quick internet search of the latin letters popped up a St. Benedict’s medal. Mia’s newly minted patron saint.
A minute later, the nurse came for us. She said Mia was still asleep, but was stable and doing fine. We walked into the recovery room where she was hooked up to all kinds of machines. Sleeping sweetly. Peacefully. It was past bedtime, so I think she would have slept there all night. So, we tickled her feet and whispered “Do you want a popsicle?” Her eyes flew opened. She smiled and said, “Yes.”
The nurses were surprised she had woken up in such a good mood. More often than not, kids wake up angry after being put under anesthesia, a side effect of the drug. But not Mia, she woke up happy as a clam, impressed that she was given two popsicles, instead of just one.
We left the house in such a hurry, I hadn’t grabbed a coat, shoes, or socks. It was freezing out. Her nurses brought her fuzzy socks, a soft blanket, and even let her pick a toy. Mia also admired the fluorescent pink bandage they put around her arm after removing her IV. So, they gave her the whole roll to take home. She was unhooked from the machines and gently put into a wheel chair. We rolled her out and put her in the car.
My mom, dad, and sister were waiting for us when we arrived home. We had been gone for about 8 hours. It felt like we had been gone for days.
Mia walked in the house happy in the fact that she had a good story to tell. It’s a story she tells often.
After saying hello to everyone, she drank a glass of apple juice and went to bed. I was so thankful to tuck her in and kiss her good night.
In the morning, she came in my room and climbed into bed with me. I was so happy, I wrapped my arms around her and snuggled close.
Just days later, Mia turned four years old. She blew out her candles and ate her purple birthday cake. She met Jasmine, the Disney Princess. She learned to ride her new bike. We were lucky.
The care we received at the children’s hospital was amazing, but I never want to go back. It was heartbreaking, not because of the outstanding staff or top of the line facility, but because of the other parents who walked those halls with much sicker kids that mine. Kids that maybe didn’t get to go home after just a few hours. My heart goes out to those families.
I still don’t know where she got a St. Benedict’s medal, except that she took it from her piggy bank.
Where she picked it up will forever remain a mystery.
Someday soon, we will turn the medal into a necklace. A good luck charm, I hope.
And I like to think that Mia will always be watched over by St. Benedict.