A day like today makes me question what I am doing in this job. This is all still so very raw, still so very close to the surface, and everything else sometimes just seems so infinitesimal and unimportant and ridiculous that it all feels like a grand charade that I want to get out of.
I guess I’ve really been struggling for several days, with just a few breaks over the past weekend. But today I had my first closed-door, multiple-Kleenex, stuffy-nosed, red-eyed, full-throttle cry in the office. Two of them actually. One in the morning and one in the afternoon (20 minutes before a meeting—lovely). The afternoon one was set off by a conversation I had with a co-worker who injured her back this weekend. She mentioned that she was going to go to the ER this evening to get something for the pain. Red lights were flashing in my head: “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!” But seeing no way out of the conversation, I kept talking politely. “Yes, the wait at the ER is always so long.” “Yes, it’s even worse when you are sitting there in pain” (or holding your barely conscious child). Then she told me about a time she’d broken her ankle, went to the ER and had to wait too long, so she went back home, set her alarm for 2:00AM and went to the ER then. There were only two people in front of her in line then.
I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” And all I could think was this: Well, why didn’t I think of that? Why, at 4AM, when the fever spiked up again only an hour after a dose of Tylenol, when Hudson was so lethargic (or just very sleepy in my mind—after all, it was 4AM and she had been fighting this fever for a whole day), when she was crying out when I touched her little legs, why didn’t it occur to me that it would probably be a good time to go to the ER? Not too crowded, we’d get in and out quickly, make sure everything was OK. Why didn’t that nice practical reason FORCE ME TO PUT HUDSON IN THE CAR AND GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM?
I was dazed for a few moments. I tried to wrap up the conversation. I went to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. I took breaths. I went back to my desk. I called Ed and said, “I just needed to hear your voice.” And then I lost it. Big time. Sobbed for almost ten whole minutes. I don’t know when I will let go of this, but I clearly still haven’t. There’s just not a bone in my body, not a molecule in my brain, not a space in heart, that isn’t still begging, pleading, groveling for chance to go back in time and do that morning over on the chance that it would mean that Hudson would be alive right now, running around the kitchen while I get her dinner together. Everything we know about meningitis in kids that age says that a course of IV antibiotics should have cured her, that the day after she was admitted, she should have been moved to a general ward for a few weeks of more antibiotics and recovery time. I just can’t get it out of my head that if we’d just found a way to get her diagnosed sooner, get those drugs in her sooner, then she would still be with us and none of the kind strangers who visit here would even know who we are. The ER is a magical place in my head—even though the doctors have told me they think it would have been unlikely that the ER docs would have done a spinal tap at that point (and it’s not even certain that she had meningitis at that point—we just don’t know), the fairy tale in my head that begins with a 4AM trip to the ER (instead of a 8AM trip to the pediatrician and a 1PM trip to the ER for IV fluids) ends with my beautiful, happy, 22-month-old Hudson talking up a storm and getting ready for Halloween right now.
Why didn’t that happen? Why did this happen to us? Why is Hudson not here anymore? Why can’t I have her back? Why are our lives changed in the worst way, forever?
I said last week that I had nothing new to say. Looks like that is true. This is a record that is going to keep playing in my head for who knows how long. I wish I could take it out and smash it against the wall into a thousand pieces. But even then, it would not matter, because Hudson is not here.