The last time there was a Friday the 13th in February, it was 2009. I remember this because that was the day my five and half month old son stopped breathing. It had been a gnarly awake-all-night-sick-baby fiasco the night before and on the morning of the 13th we went straight to the pediatrician's office to see what in the world was going on. What we learned was that Terrible Things were going on, and we were quickly and calmly transported to the children's hospital via ambulance. What followed was an exhausting day of confusion and misdiagnoses. Once we were put in a room, crowds of medical students clustered in the doorway, offering guesses and suggestions for treatment. Why was the little guy having such trouble breathing when his lungs looked OK? Why didn't any of the interventions work? There was a lot of head scratching until finally his little body gave a big NOPE and he crashed.
There are moments seared into your memory. They happen all through your life. Good moments, bad moments, scary moments, funny moments. And the moment that sits at the top of the pile for me was the one where I chased a gurney, barefoot, through an empty hospital hallway in the middle of the night. On that gurney were a nurse and my son. She was counting chest compressions as another nurse held an ambu bag over his face. He was an awful color; a color no person should ever be. Other doctors and nurses ran alongside the gurney, shouting numbers at each other. Heart rate, blood oxygen level, blood pressure. I lost them when they ran through the doors to the ICU. And when I ran up to the doors, they were locked.
We'll let you know.
That's what a young doctor told me before she went in.
This was the moment our entire family history, our entire family dynamic, our ideas about the future, our thoughts, dreams, plans… this is when everything tilted on its side, a planet being thrown off its axis by a spontaneous asteroid strike. Shattered isn't the right word. Devastated isn't the right word. I didn't have a right word. For a very, very long time I had no words.
But now, six years later, I do have a word.
We were so lucky to have a pediatrician who knew something wasn't right.
We were so lucky to have decided to stay at the hospital instead of going home.
We were so lucky he crashed so close to the ICU.
We were so lucky the on-call doctor was able to intubate even when she discovered why he wasn't breathing. (Hello, wonky trachea.)
We were so lucky he was only without oxygen for a very short amount of time.
We were so lucky to have so many friends and family ready and willing to take a long, scary journey with us.
And today? Today I am lucky to have a six-year-old who is fiercely proud of his scars. I am lucky that some days are so typical I forget to remember to feel lucky that he breathes without assistance. I am lucky that in the mornings he cheerfully pops out of bed, sneaks into my bed, and kisses me once on the forehead, once on the nose, and once on the chin before he runs downstairs. I am lucky he never stops running. I am lucky I get to be scared that he's going to bring home all the germs the first grade has to offer. I am lucky to hear his voice. I am lucky to feel his tiny, skinny arms squeeze my neck as he bats his long lashes and asks, "Can't I play Minecraft for just a littttttle bit longer?"
Today is one of those days that I always kind of hope will disappear into the ether. It won't be an anniversary. It won't be a reminder. It won't be scary. It will just be another day.
But I fully admit I'm glad to be able to take a moment, to look at the Legos everywhere, to look at the socks I asked him to pick up at least seven times last night, to look at the little pile of hand-picked clover making a bed for a rock "that looks like it has a face!" and to just feel grateful.
I am so grateful. It hurts to be this grateful. It feels undeserved. It feels randomly bestowed. I wonder what I owe. What promises did I make on this day six years ago, to make today possible? I don't know. I don't remember.
I just know that we were lucky. And that is something I will never, ever forget.