How do you say thank you to someone who has saved your child’s life?
How do you thank someone for using every ounce of their stored knowledge, of experiences past both good and bad that play into current circumstances?
How do you say “thank you for not giving up, even when it seemed like we were fighting an uphill battle”?
Are there enough words to express your gratitude to the team of doctors, nurses, and ANP’s who stood beside your baby’s bed and called out orders and brainstormed new ideas and found impossible to find veins so life-giving meds could be administered in the face of overwhelming septic shock? To thank those doctors for taking the time during one of the scariest episodes of your life to explain a little bit about what was going on so that in your fear you could try to absorb and understand a little bit of the chaos surrounding you?
i don’t know how to do this. I do not know how I ever CAN thank them all for what they have done.
Our team here on 5West, in the ANP unit, has been a team of miracle workers.
My daughter was seen in the ER on Sunday May 5th, admitted into a room at 7:05. Her typical sepsis workup began, albeit a little slower than usual due to a packed house. My mom instinct had started going crazy somewhere around O’hare on our 3 hour drive north, and by the time we were sitting int he room for an hour with no more than a nurse coming in to get basic history, I was near panic. Once the PA, Matt, came in, he quickly assessed my panic level coupled with Kendall’s wonky presentation, and went to get his attending. Even through this time, the belief was that we were still dealing with sepsis, and plans were made to admit us up to our regular floor (11West). Labs were run, X-rays were taken, and vitals were cycled. And cycled. And cycled some more. At this point, near 9:30, we had two nurses in our room (I’m not sure if it was shift change, coincidence, someone else’s instinct, or just part of the sheer miracle of that night). Both nurses were quite unhappy with the vitals, mostly the BPs we were getting on Kendall. All I knew is that she was going downhill in a way I had never seen before, and I told the nurses I did not feel like going to the floor was the right choice. Matt came back in soon thereafter and said that he could call PICU for a consult. Antibiotics were running by this point, and things were continuing to get worse instead of stabilizing. Garrett, one of our angels that night, went to find Matt and the attending (whose name escapes me), and made an emphatic plea to get PICU down there NOW. The attending came in to discuss some of the labs with me, and when I asked to see them myself, I knew something was very very wrong. I didn’t know what, but I knew my daughters body was definitely not reacting in any way that I had ever seen before. She herself was starting to be more lethargic, spiking a high temp and having what we believe were febrile seizures. To say I was becoming scared is an understatement.
Things finally began moving quickly, and we were given a room on the 4th floor PICU, but that was quickly changed to the 5th floor PICU. i am not sure how or why that change was made, other than to say that God KNEW where my child needed to be. In the elevator on the way up to 5th floor, Garrett was continuing to cycle Kendall’s vitals, and they began bottoming out in the elevator. He was very concise in explaining to the admitting team, all of whom were waiting in Kendall’s room for her what was happening, and they hopped into action.
I’ve had a medically challenging child for 4.5 years now. I know a lot. I daresay I know more about SOME things than many residents do. I know my daughter like I know the back of my hand. But I did not know what was happening right then. I do not know if every child is greeted by four nurses and two doctors and an ANP upon admittance, but Kendall was. I do not know what made this all happen – if it’s protocol, or just a smart doctor who could read between the lines of what we were seeing in the ER. But I know that we are talking about timing that was down to NANOseconds changing the outcome drastically.
The admitting team worked RELENTLESSLY on Kendall for three hours. Three long hours of horror and blood and medications and words that will have scarred my momma heart forever. Severe septic warm shock. Severe DIC. Severe acidosis. Not responding to fluid resuscitation. Extremely high levels of pressers and steroids. FFP and cryo and PRBC transfusions one after another after another. Ultrasounds to find veins and blood oozing out of every pore and stoma on her little body. Asking if I wanted her baptized right then and there. Our doctor from Special Needs coming in in the middle of the night to hold my hand and make sure I was doing ok.
My brain is still in protective mode. I cannot fully digest all that happened that night, or the days that came afterwards. The doctors and nurses on this floor working to pull my daughter Kendall back from the brink of death deserve medals, TV shows, million dollar checks. Far more than any “survivor” deserves their fame and recognition, these doctors and nurses and ANP’s deserve it. They are the reason my daughter is a survivor. Through the acidosis, ARDS, septic shock, DIC, necrosing tissues, intubation, bedside surgery – and so many more issues I cannot even think of right now – this team stayed by Kendall’s side, by my side, by my husbands side. When her sisters came to visit her, wondering why their sister was so sick or why she had tubes coming out of her mouth and every orifice of her body seemingly, they were by their sides too.
I am not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words how grateful we all are to have our Kendall back.
I need to find some way to thank them, to grab them all in a huge hug and tightly hold them to convey my utter gratitude that goes so far beyond words. I know, though, that most of them would just scuff their toe in an “aww shucks” gesture. It’s what they do, right? It’s why CHW is #4 in the nation. Because every day, they save lives. But on this day, they saved my daughters life, and for that, we are eternally grateful.
I will forget names – I am sorry, it is somewhat a blur still. But these are the ones who stand out the most to me for all they did, and are still doing, for Kendall Quinn.
Dr Atwood – you stood in the back of the room with me calmly calling out doses of epi and norepi in a desperate attempt to get Kendall’s BPs up out of the “palp” range. Your calm demeanor and easy way of explaining to me what was happening without overwhelming me meant the world to me. You could see the fear in my eyes, could see me begging you to not let anything bad happen to her, to make it all better – and you resolutely answered that challenge.
Dr. Bane – you knew that art line needed to go in and you weren’t gonna let DIC and her crappy veins defeat you. You sutured that line into my fully awake and aware child’s arm and you were calm and collected the whole time. You brainstormed new meds and fluid bolus doses with speed and confidence and were instrumental in stabilizing Kendall that crazy night.
Kari – I cannot say thank you to you without tears filling my eyes. Not only did you help stabilize Kendall that night as the ANP on duty, but you worked tirelessly over the next few days to make sure she did not go down again. You watched her labs, listened to her lungs, watched her monitors, and helped guide the team to the right decisions. you have a quiet fierce strength about you that was just what my daughter needed.
Lindsey – I have not seen you since that night – but I know your amazing skills as a PICU nurse were a LARGE part of why she survived that night. Your ability to set up a quad fuse in 38 seconds flat amazes me still.
I know there were two or three other nurses in and out of our room that first night, along with a pharmacist who was probably getting a week’s worth of exercise running back and forth. To all of you – thank you.
Katie – another ANP hero. You were raked over the coals on rounds more than a few times, but you hung in there. You put all your knowledge to use trying to make sense of Kendall’s crazy labs that most definitely did not make sense. You knew when to push and when to let Kendall rest. you knew when to placate a very nervous mom who just wanted to spout random medical issues at rounds, and when to just let me talk and then flash your beautiful calm smile and move on to the next topic.
Jill – yet another ANP hero. the exasperation in your voice as we were ordering our 27th (or thereabouts!) dose of pentobarb for my child who refused to stay sedated made me realize that you were all in. You wanted her to rest and heal almost as much as I did, and that is saying a lot. You are amazingly smart, and I am so glad you were on our team.
Dr. Scanlon – I am convinced that any other doctor, for those first few hard horrible days, would not have been able to do what you did – save our Kendall. I know I probably shouldn’t be giving you any more of a big head – but then I think, no. Your supreme confidence in your skills, your knowledge, your training, and your instinct ARE a large part of what saved her. You told me on rounds one morning that she was the sickest kid on your team (probably on the entire floor), and that she was taking up much of your brain space trying to figure out what we were missing. I knew then that we were going to be ok. Any doctor who works THAT hard to figure out a kid is a spectacular, life-saving doctor. I saw you standing at her door, just looking in at her monitors with that furrowed brow, cup of coffee in hand, a look on your face that told me your brain was going three hundred miles a minute through the vast files of knowledge in your brain of “severely septic kids”. Your gentle way of leading us up to the moment of intubation was just what we needed. It wasn’t a shock, it wasn’t a “bad thing”, it wasn’t a sign of things getting worse. It was just what we needed to do right then. And then your concern over how much more she was working, how much sicker she was getting – I could see these things on your face. You told me from the beginning – “I’m a straight shooter. If she’s not getting better, I’ll tell you. I’m about as subtle as a two- by-four.” I am sure there were moments you thought you would have to walk into our room with that two by four. But you never let ME get panicked. You never made me feel like you weren’t 100% in charge of her care 100% of the time. You knew she was a fighter and you let her prove her fight to us. And when she needed support, you gave her the support she needed. I will never forget the look on your face that last night you were on service – you were also on call. As I was growing more concerned, you were too. I don’t think you were ever more than a few feet away from her room that entire night. That comforted me in a way I still can’t put into words. Maybe it should have scared me to know that you were just as worried as I was – but comfort is the feeling i remember.
You took the info you observed, the info from the ANP’s and our nurse, and you even took input from me – some scared to death momma who just wanted desperately to try to retain some sense of control or understanding over the events spiraling out of my control. You listened, and you explained and you used crazy analogies that even I could understand and you helped me gain back some modicum of control. I didn’t understand her blood gases, but I understood that she needed more boxcars. In a word – you were nothing short of amazing, and I will forever owe you a debt I cannot repay. You saved my baby’s life, and I know it was God working through you. Do you know how many people were praying for you and over you those nights? I hope you do. I hope you are never faced with having to place the life of your child in the hands of someone else. But if you ever are, I hope that that someone is as wise, confident, and amazing as you are. These words are so inadequate, Dr. Scanlon, but thank you. Thank you for giving me back Kendall.
Saving the most emotional for last – dear Rachel.
In spite of the efforts of everyone else – Kendall would not be here in the shape she is in without you. You are so far beyond smart I cannot even think of a good word for it. It is that wisdom that comes from your years of experience, but even more so from some place deep inside you, that is why Kendall is still “Kendall”. When I think of trying to tell you thank you, I pretty much just start crying. There’s so much to be wrapped up inside those words. You took my little girl on for the challenge she was and you fell in love with her like she was your own and you fought as fiercely for her as I was. You offered your thoughts to the team and got things done for Kendall that I didn’t even know how to ask for. You knew what she needed hours before anyone else even thought of it. You talked Ben and I through every little thing that was going on, shared your experience with us, helped us find our “PICU voices”. You could see how much she was struggling to breathe, and how much we were struggling to accept that she was not doing good and you helped the doctor and ANP’s walk us through what we all needed.
When I walked out of the room as the intubation was going to begin, we hugged and I told you “take good care of her” and you said “ i promise i won’t let anything happen to her, i’ll take care of her”. And we both cried a little bit. You knew how much I needed that hug, how much I needed to know that someone else was there and understood. When we came back in to our baby looking very different with the tube in her mouth and the machine breathing for her, you explained everything to us, you helped me brush her hair, you helped me realize it was still Kendall in there, she was just asleep. You spoke to Kendall through her intubation as if she was awake and conversing back with you. Your care and empathy for my child and for our family were amazing throughout that horrible time. When Kendall would wake up above the sedation and be fighting against that tube, you would instantly lay near her head and whisper things that I can only imagine were things about princesses and peaceful dreams. When I could not take the sight of her fighting and arching against that tube anymore, you took over as the voice and hands my child needed to hear. You would stroke her head as if she was yours, and for those moments I am so very grateful. When my heart was breaking in two as a momma and I needed to look away, you stepped in and took my place. Throughout that week, you did for Kendall what i could not do. You helped make her better.
I know you do this all the time. I know you are one of the most amazing nurses this hospital has. I know you don’t think you did anything outside of the ordinary – but for me, you did. For my daughter, you did. You are the reason she never floated too far out to sea away from me in those drug-induced dreams while she was sedated and her body was fighting a huge battle. I will never ever ever be able to thank you enough. You will forever be a part of Kendall’s story. Not a day will go by when I do not think of you and hope you are blessed. I cannot even find the words within me to utter my thankfulness for you and all you have done. All I have to offer are the sobs of a momma who is so relieved to have her baby back from the depths of that bad place, and the undying gratitude. Your fierce but quiet strength, your calmness in times of chaos, your beautiful smile no matter what was going on – these are the legacies you will leave us with from this stay. I pray that my daughters all turn out to be as amazing and wonderful of a person as you are.
At the end of the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, the main character returns to the graves of the men who died saving his life. He says to them, as i say to all of you who saved Kendall’s life this past week:
I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough.I hope that, at least in your eyes, i’ve earned what all of you have done for me.
Thank you is not enough, but it is all I have.
Thank you for saving Kendall, for bringing her back to us. For helping her survive in the face of some really crappy odds, and do it courageously and with the ferocity we see her live every day of her life.
As we say on the Kendall Krew, Keep on Keepin’ On.
forever gratefully yours,
the crazy mom in W508.