The Mom, whose name is Sharon because I don't feel like cute nicknames right now, called me upstairs this morning. I was reluctant to go, because Autumn has finally arrived in New Jersey and the twins and I were celebrating by burning our house down. Well, not me, I was trying to light a fire in our wood burning stove, but the twins were all hands and arms trying to reach around me and spread it to the rest of our home. So when Sharon called, I balked. So she called again, and the second time there was an edge to her voice that made me move. I stuffed a protesting twin under each arm and headed upstairs.
Something was wrong with Kathryn. Getting out of bed, she had fallen, she had bumped her head. She couldn't stand; my wife was holding her. Help her get to the bathroom, my wife told me, she can't walk. But there's a reason that it takes two people to raise a child, because of course she could walk, here, watch. I took Kathryn's hands and we took a step down the hall. She dropped like a rock. Something was wrong with Kathryn.
The next few minutes stretched out for miles. Kathryn's left leg wasn't responding. Her left arm wasn't moving either. She didn't understand that this was happening because she wasn't understanding anything. "Kathryn," I asked, "how many fingers am I holding up?" She was looking off to her right, not at me, not at my fingers. "Two," she said. "Kathryn, my fingers are here, can you see my fingers?" I waved my hand, I waved it hard, my wife was looking at me, her eyes wide and scared, like mine. Kathryn didn't turn her head. "No. I lost them," she finally said.
We helped Kathryn onto the toilet, but it no longer mattered, she had lost control of her bladder already. We cleaned her up and I peppered her with questions. Did she know where she was, where she went to school, who her teacher was? She got them all right. Then I tried again with the fingers. I put one finger directly in her line of sight. "Kathryn, do you see my finger?" "Yes." I told her to follow it with her eyes and when I moved it, her gaze didn't shift. "I don't see it anymore, Daddy."
I broke several major traffic laws this morning getting here, to this hospital. It had taken Sharon and I several minutes to dress Kathryn in clean clothes, not just because her left arm wasn't responding but because Kathryn didn't understand that it wasn't responding, which made putting on her shirt somewhat similar to trying to knit a live sheep, but once dressed, we loaded her into the car. Sharon stayed behind with the twins and I drove at unreasonable speeds to this hospital that, until today, I would have said was 30 minutes away. Now I know it's only 10.
Halfway here, Kathryn started throwing up.
A few months ago I got an email. It was a letter from a gentleman whose wife was about to have their first child, and he wanted to know if it was really as bad as I present it to be. He had been reading this site for a while, reading while I gleefully related all the casual harm that parents and children inflict upon each other, and he wanted to know, before the child arrived, if it was really that bad. Of course, the answer is no, it's not. But sometimes, oh those sometimes, it is the scariest fucking thing you can ever imagine.
Sharon had called ahead to the hospital so they knew I was coming. The doctor met us at the door. It was just a hair past 8 AM. Now it's just past midnight and we are still here. Kathryn is asleep next to me, with exactly twenty-four EEG contacts glued around her blonde head, and she's snoring.
By mid-morning, Kathryn had almost returned to normal. She was still throwing up, but her body functions had returned and her ability to track a finger had, too. The doctors think that this morning she had a seizure, a whopper of one, that left her brain temporarily unable to do the things that a brain normally does. We are still here because they want to monitor her overnight.
I should be asleep, too. I know that there are people monitoring her right now, on little computer screens, and they'll know even before I do if something goes wrong, but she's so small. She's so small in this big hospital bed and she's got wires coming off her head and IV drips in her arm and something happened in her brain this morning, in her brain, and for a few hours this morning my Kathryn was gone, she was gone, and the spark in her eyes was dulled and I didn't know if it was coming back and she's so small. She's so small.
She's so goddamned small.