Palm Sunday weekend, we were able to enjoy some time with other preemies at the Seton Main NICU reunion in downtown Austin. Wow, 800 people attended. That’s alot of miracles in one place.
We may have gotten there toward the tail end of the festivities, but we made up for it in energy. All the bigs, including Clare, beelined to the popsicles and then the bouncy house and slides with Scott in tow. Luke and I took refuge in the shade at the sand art table. It was quite lovely.
To our surprise, we ran into one of Luke’s neonatologists (neo’s) from Dell. Because Luke spent time at two NICUs, we have the privilege of attending not one, but TWO shindigs each year. And, because both hospitals are part of the Seton Family of Hospitals, we had many overlaps in neo’s. Dr. Sharnberg is a very gentle, very genuine man. It was an honor to see him. He was interested in hearing about Luke’s progress and it was quite cathartic to talk about it with someone who just understood all the lingo and who understood Luke’s case through and through.
God bless those doctors and nurses. I know I’ve said it before, but they are amazing. They have become a permanent part of the fabric of our family. I feel like Luke’s journey has woven this giant quilt, it has holes and perhaps a few mis-stitches, but it is gorgeous. Not because of its size, but because of all the unique and wonderful people we’ve met along the way. Dr. Sharnberg’s piece of the quilt is quite precious to us.
We were happy as could be, playing in sand, eating treats and playing, when I struck up a conversation with one of the nurses. I was reminded that it was a weekend and the day shift nurses were working. Luke coded on a weekend day shift. At 6:30pm to be exact. The nurse with us through all of that drama was Bob. Bob just happened to be working.
On a whim, we asked one of the nurses if we could head up to the NICU and say hi. “Of course!” she replied. While Scott and the kids sat in the car, Luke and I trotted up to the 8th floor. That elevator dinged, the door opened and I was completely, 100% unprepared for the flood of emotion that was meeting me on the other side.
All of a sudden it was September 26, 2009 all over again.
The bench. That damn bench. I remember sitting on it, calling Scott on my cell and blubbering that he needed to come to the hospital because Luke was sick. Very, very sick.
Around the corner, I glanced at the nurse on the other side of the NICU window, pushed the button and asked to see Bob. My eyes caught something just behind her and I realized that a nurse was holding a baby in the same spot, in the same bay where Luke resided.
I had to turn around to hide my eyes filling with tears. I squeezed Luke a little harder. Just when I thought I might fall apart, the familiar “click” of the NICU door sounded and I turned to see Bob. It took him just a moment to remember and then I reminded him, “Luke Whitaker. NEC baby. We paged Dr. Wermer when we saw the blood in his diaper. He coded. Then we transported to Dell.” Immediately it all came back to him, too. We both just looked at Luke for a moment in silence. We got Bob caught up on Luke’s shenanigans, surgeries, setbacks and accomplishments. Luke played peek-a-boo and when it came time for pictures, Luke sat dutifully next to Bob.
There were so many things I wanted to say to Bob. “Thank you” just hardly seemed adequate. I think I just nodded, the familiar tears returned and he nodded. He understood.
This momma didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be to head back to the NICU where it all started. I distinctly remember, as if it were yesterday (and there are many days when it feels like just that), walking out of the Seton NICU, with eyes so red, so bright with tears, for the last time. There wasn’t a dry eye in Bay 2 on that warm September evening.
We have come so far. Yet, we still have so far to go. I am grateful for the journey and even more grateful that I have this sweet face to remind me just how deep love can go.