What travels we’ve had. So very awesome we are. Looking back on that day, it all only took a matter of seconds. And yet I’ve been writing about this particular moment in time for years. My mother wrote to me a letter on faith. It was “to be opened” when I was 14. Cameron, my ‘Punzie’, this is from my letter on faith to you…
I’d just dialed “Papa” on the cordless while holding you on my left hip as I always did. Yes, I was multitasking around the house, picking up an abandoned tennis shoe by the door and your sippy cup which always found its way under the piano bench by 4pm. As we made our way out onto the front porch, you babbled into my ear as I told my father I was actually going to be on television. His first question, more of a joke really, was whether or not I was getting paid for it, given the amount of personal funds (his and mine) I’d shelled out over the last few years doing volunteer work in my time away from the magazine.
As I turned at the edge of the porch to head back inside the house, I lost my footing. You and I fell down three porch steps to the ground. I was sure I’d broken my ankle, but not before watching your head hit the concrete. Hard. The cordless phone shattered into pieces just as I heard a young boy from across the street yelling out to ask if we were okay. You were shrilling at the top of your lungs, and I was stuck in slow motion.
“Kim, honey! Kim! Are you there?!!!” Papa asked from the soundbox of the phone that was just out of reach. I held you close to me as I tried to reach for the broken receiver.
“Dad, we fell off the porch…I need to call the doctor…I have to go!!” I hung up the phone and began checking for blood, but there wasn’t any. I think if there was blood my initial reaction would have been to call 911. I immediately called your dad at work and told him that we’d fallen outside. He could hear you screaming in the background and left work immediately. I kept checking your head and watching you register the gravity of the fall. I hadn’t moved from the ground because I couldn’t move my ankle. It had grown to twice its size and was turning purple.
Approximately 20 minutes had elapsed before Papa pulled up into the driveway where we lived. By now you were just slightly sobbing as I held you close to my chest. Do we go to the hospital? How would we know if something was really wrong even through there wasn’t blood? We were all watching you and realized after a short period of time you stopped moving your right arm.
“Is she moving her right arm?!!” I asked frantically. “Wait…can she move it?!!” Everything began to spin. Daddy raised your right arm and it simply fell limp to your right side. I began crying hysterically. “Oh my God!” I cried out. “God, please don’t do this…don’t let this happen…” Then Papa took out his keys (one of your favorite toys) and began shaking them so you would reach out your arm. You tried but you couldn’t move it.
An “Oh boy…” quickly rolled off Papa’s tongue. “Okay! We’re going to take her to the hospital right now,” he said with his voice now raised. “Let’s just say a prayer…” We all bowed our heads. If I had only been more attentive. A less selfish and self-absorbed mother. God was finally punishing me for taking you for granted. And rightly so. Yet Mom once told me that our God was not a punishing God. But it certainly felt that way that day.
The next thing I remember is your being rushed for a CT scan of your brain at Santa Monica/UCLA and overhearing another doctor say you’re having seizures and vomiting. I could register only bits and pieces of information as I was in complete sensory overload. You weren’t crying anymore but by looking at you I could see that something was gone. I held your hand and sung to you while the machine was scanning your head.
Momma’s Gonna Work it Out
“Momma’s gonna work it out, Momma’s gonna work it out.” I sang while watching your face twitch in seizure under the light. It was the same little tune I sung to you for the first three months of life when you suffered with colic until the early hours of the morning.
I’ve never prayed so hard before in my life. Anything that could come to mind I prayed over and over. The 23rd Psalm, (which at the time I could only remember the first line – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…) and the Our Father flowed under my breath as I watched the nurses and doctors checking your vital signs. Please God, I can’t lose her too. She is everything to me. Please, with everything that I am and have, don’t take her from me.
The attending doctor returned and reported that you had suffered a skull fracture and there was bleeding going on in your brain. Your inability to move your right arm was due to trauma to the frontal lobe of your brain affecting the use of your right arm. I was covered in vomit holding you and awaiting your transport ambulance from UCLA Westwood where my mother once worked (as an ER nurse), many years before. You would be going to the pediatric intensive care unit for further tests and treatment. I couldn’t stop crying.
Within the next hour we were in the pediatric ICU at UCLA Westwood. I was familiar with the layout of the hospital from my time there with my mother. The doctors and nurses tried to put you in a crib with a cage-like covering but you weren’t having it. (That’s my girl.) Your heart rate climbed through the roof each time the new set of RNs and doctors in white coats would approach you. The nurses wheeled a “kids” bed into the unit for me to lie on. And there I was, my 5’10 frame squeezed into a bed for 3rd graders, legs hanging over the sides. You stayed there directly on top of my chest for the next two days.
All I could do was ask that God give me strength for whatever uncertainty lie ahead. I had to believe that God loved me enough and knew that I wouldn’t be able to suffer another big loss. In the quiet of the night, I said the Lord’s prayer, and pleaded with God to give me another chance to be the mother I was meant to be when I first became pregnant a little more than two years earlier.
You suffered a skull fracture, brain bleed, temporary paralysis of your right arm and three seizures on Monday, July 22nd of 2002. By Wednesday, July 24th, you were moved out of the pediatric ICU as your condition was vastly improving. A day later you were babbling and pointing to objects on command, and smiling and playing shy with the residents who would come by on rounds.
“She’ll be ready to go home tomorrow,” said the main doctor. Your dad and I were in shock when after about a ten-minute observation, this guy with an MD said you would be going home. It was too much to take in. You’d been seen by a barrage of doctors and nurses over the last few days it was hard to keep track as to who everyone was.
It was terrifying to be so helpless and in all honesty, we thought the doctor was a quack. (This of course determined from years of watching ER on NBC.) In a thick South American accent, your doctor continued. “The brain has a magnificent ability to repair itself, more so than we could ever imagine. Your daughter is fine. We can prescribe anti-seizure medication for her as a precaution, but I really don’t think she needs it. It is up to you, but I really don’t think it’s necessary.”
Your father and I were dumbfounded. I don’t know which was harder to stomach, finding out several days earlier that the trauma to your brain had caused bleeding and affected the use of your arm, or being told after such an event that everything was coming to a miraculous close. I’ve been exposed to the medical profession for long enough to know that there are exceptions to almost every case, and no 100% guarantees on anything.
A week later, we saw the very same doctor on the Today Show giving a press-conference on twin baby girls from Guatemala who were conjoined at the head. Our quack doctor turned out to be Dr. Jorge Lazareff, then Director of UCLA’s pediatric division and head neurosurgeon performing the operation.
“I guess the guy’s not a quack after all huh?” Your dad said with a look of embarrassment.
“Thank God.” I answered, also realizing our initial conclusions were perhaps a bit off the mark.
Cameron is 15 years old today, May 1st, 2016. An incredible athlete, artist, student, daughter, sister and friend, – she’s a remarkable young lady and I’m most proud to be her mother. I can still remember how at three-years-old she came running into my bedroom, professing how I was the “bestest ever Mommy she’s ever had.” While the truth is that I am in fact the only mother she’s ever had, I believed her when she said it that evening. This little girl loves me with all her heart, and I love her in the same way. As I hold my daughter even now, I think about all of the blessings I’ve had in my life. Cameron, you are one of my greatest gifts. Always.
Article & Photos Copyrighted, 2016