The talk from Annie’s medical team has turned from medicines, x-rays, tubes, and sutures to oral feeds, parent education, discharge checklists, and insurance details for transport home. That’s right: home! It’s been confirmed that Friday at noon Annie and I will be picked up from CHOP by the ACH med flight team to return to Little Rock! Looks like we will spend a few days finishing any work on her feeds and final discharge checks before we introduce Annie to our house, but at this point, Little Rock is sounding a whole lot better to me than Philadelphia.
Philadelphia will always hold a wonderfully special and quite sacred place in my heart. This is the city and these are the people who saved Annie’s life. Over the last week and a half, I’ve learned various routes to walk to CHOP each morning. I’ve frequented a few local restaurants. I’ve witnessed more than one angry outrage between a pedestrian and a taxi cab driver. So I’d say, I’ve pretty much got this whole being in Philly thing down. 🙂 But because our stay here has meant so much, I’ve started thinking about taking a souvenir home with me. Should it be a Penn sweatshirt to remember the beautiful campus I stroll through every day? Should it be a CHOP fleece to remind me of the warmth and comfort the hospital has offered me during our stay? Should I keep my orange Ronald McDonald resident bracelet forever?
No. None of these would be enough. I realized that I don’t need to buy a souvenir. I’m leaving here with so many souvenirs imprinted on my heart and mind. For example, now when I hear an ambulance roar through the neighborhood streets, I’m paralyzed with empathy for the family who occupies those gloomy seats. When the tweeting alarms ring down the 6th floor hallways and the intercom blares “6 south, 1 bed 2,” I know what it means. The nurses’ faces flush stark and white, and the designated caregivers drop everything to rush to the scene. It’s a CPR call for a patient in Annie’s former pod. I cry, shudder, and pray! That could’ve been us. It really could’ve been us. When a new family is rushed in and crowded by the surgical fellow and research team, I know what their tomorrow holds. And then I see their baby on that tomorrow, lying limp and still cold from surgery. I pray for his parents who are about to see the haunting reality of these congenital heart defects. I pray for him, too, that in a matter of days his parents may also be able to celebrate the miraculous hand of God through our shared surgeon.
This is a place that I want to always remember, but in a way I’d also like to forget. Even though Annie has done well, with just a little ways to go, I still grieve. I still don’t want to spend the first 2 1/2 weeks of her life in the hospital. I don’t want to know what those alarms mean. I don’t want to feel what those parents feel. And most of all, I don’t want to return here in 3 months to do open heart surgery all over again. We rejoice in Annie’s recovery, but we are also coming to terms that this is a new life for us. This new life doesn’t end when we discharge from ACH. I needed the CPR class for a reason. I need the cardiologist on call number in my phone on speed dial, because Annie may not look like it, but she will always be different, fragile, and half-hearted.
Even now though, I choose joy! Instead of any sweatshirt or bracelet, I’m getting the best souvenir from Philadelphia! They saved Annie’s life and gave me this day and the hope of tomorrow with my Annie. My sweet newborn daughter will be at home with us soon! What more could I need to remember?
Waiting for the med team to come get me!