The Worst Day of My Life (so far)

Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to this one, however, I’ve never been that scared.

I can remember the day when my parents told me my mom had cancer, and when the cancer came back and she had to go through more surgeries. That’s probably the biggest one (one of those days) in terms of the most scared I’ve been. It might be a tie for the time when our niece had to have surgery on her brain when she was just a baby, that was pretty nerve wracking.

Sure, we’ve had other struggles, it was sad when our first dog died, it was scary when our second dog was paralyzed, but come on, these are dogs, this is a human being, my mom no less.

When Beth had Reagan there was a certain degree of concern, more like thought for the unknown, but everything went as planned and Beth had a fantastic doctor (thanks Dr. Wai).

Well, today was the scariest day of my life.

My parents were going to be coming into town for a visit, so I came home at lunch to mow the lawn really quick and then head back to the office (as quickly as one can mow, shower, and grab a sandwich).

As soon as I was done with the yard, I came in and Reagan and Beth were in the kitchen. I plopped a chunk of cantaloup in front of Reagan (her current favorite) and I thought it was strange she didn’t grab for it right away (Beth was cutting them up on the counter behind Reagan).

I started washing my hands and I heard Beth say “Reagan, REAGAN… John!??”

I looked at her and realized she was not breathing, my first thought was “oh no, she’s choking on the fruit.” see, I grabbed a chunk that Beth was about to cut into smaller pieces, and I even said “Oh, she’ll be fine…”

I looked at her and her eyes were rolled back in her head (she’s 19 months by the way), and she was shaking, I could immediately tell she was having a seizure (this is a new one for us, never happened before). I have no idea what causes seizures, but I still had the “stuck fruit” idea in my head.

I pulled her out of her high chair and I did the heimlich maneuver on her, nothing came out. I placed her forward with her head in my hand and I whacked on her back a few times, then turned her over on her back and pushed on her stomach a few times, still nothing.

Finally, I stuck my finger in her mouth and found nothing, she was not choking on anything, but her esophagus was absolutely closed tight. She was blue to purple in the lips and nose and she was not breathing, though she did still have a pulse.

Some time during this, somewhere around while I was pulling Reagan quickly out of the high chair, I called out to Beth “call 911!!!!!”

I knew that she was not getting air, and as far as I could tell there was nothing blocking her airway. I had the thought that something might have been stuck lower down in her throat, but I also knew it was closed up and she was not getting the oxygen she needed.

While I was holding her in my arms, I pinched her nose and blew (hard) into her mouth until I could feel the air open her windpipe and I could see/hear her lungs fill with air. In-out, in-out… 3 – 4 times. She was still not yet breathing on her own.

This went on for a little while (it had to be a short time, but I honestly have no idea how long).

Eventually, (maybe 90 seconds before the start of this thing) she started to gurgle and she was breathing (sorta). I could hear the air going in and out (kinda).

Reagan was limp, 100% limp, but her eyes were no longer in the back of her head. She started to look around (without moving her head). Her face didn’t have much of an expression, just kind of scared and confused in her eyes (I know we might, but I really don’t want to see her eyes like that again). Color started to come back to her, so I laid her down on the carpet (somehow I went into the living room). She could not move her arms or legs, but could move her head a little, she was string to sit-up. I was able to calm her down by talking to her.

Beth was on the phone giving the play-by-play to the 911 operator, and I could hear “you are sending an ambulance, right? hurry hurry, she’s not breathing…” I think the operator was telling Beth things to tell me to do, but in my brain a switch went off “I know what to do, tell the lady to shut up and get that ambulance here…” (I didn’t say that, that’s just where my head was at)

I tend to get direct in a situation like this (I guess). See, about a month ago I took Tommy Ishmael’s “First Responder” training up at church. I learned all about what to do in a crisis like this, clearing an obstructed airway, CPR, how to use an AED machine, etc. It’s one of those things you do and think “when am I ever going to use this…?” I had been a lifeguard when I was younger, so I had taken CPR before, but Tommy’s class came at just the right time. Some things had changed, and he does a wonderful job, I’d recommend you take it, please.

Anyway, she was still laboring with her breathing, and I was not confident she was getting enough air (still very unresponsive) so I gave her a couple deep puffs of air into her lungs.

At this point she started to squeeze my finger, then started moving her arms, and eventually moving her legs. She was breathing, not really well, but breathing, on her own. My thought was “I’m not waiting on this ambulance, let’s get in the truck”

So, while we were in the garage, the ambulance came.

I rushed her to them and they took her immediately, they asked some questions and got to work. They sat her up and she was making more noises (she was only producing a low mown up to this point, unlike our very vocal little girl).

Then after all their questions were answered, she started passing out again, and that’s when they said “one of you can ride up front” – “Beth, get up front” and I shut the door, they took off…

I was back in the house, change my shirt, put on shoes, and “the keys, THE KEYS, WHERE ARE MY STINKING KEYS!!!!”

After I got everything together, I went tearing after them in the truck – I got there quick. That’s also when I called several people to pray – I only used my cell phone between construction zones 😉

I called Beth and she said “We’re here, she’s been crying the whole way” I could hear Reagan balling in the background… beautiful music.

I ran in and she was already in a room and had stuff connected to her “how did they do all this so fast? They did this so well, are we really at Anderson?” (Maryville folks will get that one).

So, she would turn to me when I said “will you give me a kiss” and she would point at things, no verbal responses yet, but she was screaming her head off this whole time too.

Eventually, she would say things, at least the things she can say “ma ma, da da, Abby (from Sesame St.), that made me feel better.

They took blood, took a chest X-ray, and a few other things, but she was getting back to normal (as normal as a 19 month old is on a hospital bed with tubes up her nose and wires attached to her).

4 hours later we were leaving the hospital.

Reagan had a high fever that the doctor thinks was brought on by a mild case of bronchitis (she never even coughed). We checked her and she had 102° fever, but that may have been on the way down.

The doctor thinks she had a febrile seizure (see here & here). After a high fever breaks, something in the not yet fully formed brain isn’t protected and can cause a seizure. This is, by the way, no fun. Apparently, 1 out of 25 kids will have one, and then about 33% of those who have one will have a few more before they grow out of it (usually kids stop having them from 3 – 5 years old). Even though they usually cause no harm (unless a child falls or chokes on food or something), and are not all that uncommon, it was/is still very scary to us.

He gave her a strong IV anti-biotic as well as a prescription for an oral antibiotic to take over the next 10 days for the bronchitis. She should be okay, but if her fever spikes again, this could happen again 🙁

We don’t think it’s any kind of continuing seizures, just a result of this fever. We’re sure praying that way, and we could definitely feel that many of you were praying for little Reagan. And thank you so much for those of you who stopped by in the ER, we have a great church family.

Pastor Tim came first, and he went to go pick up my parents from the airport. The message I left for my dad on his cell phone about 30 min. before they got on the plane was “Reagan had a seizure and is in the ambulance with Beth, I’m following in the truck…” I’m sure that makes for a stressful flight!

After Tim, Gwen (his wife) came, then Pastor Mark and Jayna (his wife), then Pastor Jack, Keith Baker, and Pastor Rich came by too. It was a great comfort to know people care (even though, I hope people at church know folks care who don’t come by as well).

By this time my parents were there, they haven’t seen me since Thanksgiving, what a great reception!

Anyway, we got to go home around 5:15PM, we had been there since about 1:15PM. You would not have known anything was wrong with our little dynamo, she was her usual self, and the grandparents loved every min. of it.

So, dad and I didn’t get to go to the Cardinals game (BTW, St. Louis beat the Dodgers 8-4 & Texas beat the Red Sox 8-4: great day for baseball!), and Beth and mom missed “girlfriend night” at the church – bummer. But, we’re just glad Reagan is okay.

Those were the scariest few moments in my life. I know we might have to go through that again, or something like it, or maybe something worse, but for now, I’m glad that one is over!

So, thank you all so much for praying. Please keep praying that her fever will not come back, that she will get better from the bronchitis and that this is all behind us.

I believe in the power of prayer and I am so thankful for friends, family, and a great church family who are there when you need them.

If you don’t have a church that you call home, get one, and then you make sure you make it a good one.

Blessings!!!!!!!!!

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

-Heb 4:14-16 (Message)

About John Harris

I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

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  • Jen Dean

    John and Beth,
    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts from the moments the Lord carried you through. We are so thankful Reagan is ok and doing well. God is so good to orchestrate all the details in our lives so that we know His presence. We love you all and pray that this will be a time of beautiful thanksgiving to God for Reagan’s precious life and the joy she brings to you. Love, Jen, Ryan and Miles

  • Jen Dean

    John and Beth,
    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts from the moments the Lord carried you through. We are so thankful Reagan is ok and doing well. God is so good to orchestrate all the details in our lives so that we know His presence. We love you all and pray that this will be a time of beautiful thanksgiving to God for Reagan’s precious life and the joy she brings to you. Love, Jen, Ryan and Miles

  • We were super scared for you guys. I can’t even imagine going through something like this. It’s ironic that someone mentioned to us just the other day that kids can have seizures if a fever spikes out of nowhere sometime.

    Glad all is well, ya big hero!

    bd

  • We were super scared for you guys. I can’t even imagine going through something like this. It’s ironic that someone mentioned to us just the other day that kids can have seizures if a fever spikes out of nowhere sometime.

    Glad all is well, ya big hero!

    bd