Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the best things in life...

"The best things in life, aren't things", a quote that has been my motto for quite some time. I'm not sure of the author, just that it came from a 70s canvas cloth wall hanging, rainbow artwork and all, that used to hang in my parents kitchen. 
On the heels of giving thanks for all that is good, the night after Thanksgiving was one my husband, family, and friends, will never forget. I am thankful that since Tatum is just a year old, there will be no memory to speak, except that which is told to her.
Freshly bathed, I brought sweet Tatum to her daddy at the dinner table with the rest of the family and some friends. As I finished bathing Anna, I hear a high pitched crash. I see Kieran at the edge of the table, I think he has knocked over a wine glass and has gotten in trouble. I whisk him out of the way, to find that he is not the reason for the commotion.
It's our baby. What's happened? Why is my mother-in-law and father-in-law standing at the counter holding her face?
It doesn't register, until I see her tears...and the blood. 
Calm for just a moment, I slide her over to me and hold her face as well. I see the cut, which looks as though she may need some stitches or glue, nothing more.
A closer look and I see her eye.
It's the size of a small bouncy ball.
We are in trouble.
The next several minutes are as though we are in another world. Tatum is crying, I rock her back and forth on the floor. "We need to call 911!", I shout. 
Erik and my father-in-law run to the neighbor who happens to be a doctor. 
My friends ask how they can help, my mother-in-law tells me to follow Erik.
In my sweats and wool socks, I race down the stairs, baby in my arms, heart beating out of my chest.
The neighbor's door swings open. He attempts to examine her but her eye is so swollen, there is nothing he can do except to tell us to get in the car and rush to the hospital.
We run back to the house, Erik has the car in the middle of the street ready to pull away. I hold her in my arms for the 10 minute ride, a first and a last as I am the biggest stickler about car seat safety over any of my friends.
Still not knowing what really happened, I race her into the ER and attempt to explain what happened. Too shocked to make any sense, they ask Erik to speak and ask me to sit down.
There are others in the ER, but it is quite clear that we are the most urgent case.
We are seen and the doctor is very kind, but it is clear after just a few moments, that we must drive an hour and a half away to a Children's ER. 
The baby sleeps the entire way from the adrenaline rush, she is exhausted.
I am exhausted. We've had no sleep and have shed enough tears you would have thought we would have run out.
I am able to sing to Tatum to avoid being sedated for the ordered CAT scan. The whir of the machine and finger to her lips, and the sound of my voice as I sing round after round of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star calms her, and she falls asleep.
They are able to get the scan, but the results are terrible.
The opthamologist looks at her scans for over an hour, while we wait.
He approaches our room and proceeds to let us know that he is unable to perform the task. We arrange for a small winged plane to take us to another hospital. I am terrified, but will do anything at this point for my baby.
Praying to God that my baby will not lose her vision, I ask my late grandmother, Frances, for whom Tatum is middle named, to watch over her. I am thankful to God at the same time, knowing that Tatum is here, she is alive and no matter what lies ahead, the best things in life aren't things.
The UC hospitals are not able to accommodate us, but the local plastic surgeon who is not on call, decides to come in and take a look.
5 minutes and he says he's ready.
5 minutes? Really?
"The reality is, there is no one else and if it were my family member, I'd get in and get that glass out". Well then, that's enough for us.
He examines Tatum and is looking for the cut to Tatum's eye. The injury occurred while being held toward the table and she sandwiched her little body forward, and hit her cheek on the wine glass. 
No one would guess what was to come.
We wait for the anesthesiologist to arrive. He's young and he has twin 3 year olds with a baby on the way.
"I'm here for you. I'm here for her. We're going to take really good care of her". At that moment, he wasn't just a doctor, he was a dad, and he got it. That, and the fact that he was the first to say, "she". Everyone prior to that kept calling Tatum a boy. Insignificant, I know, nevertheless, it drove me crazy.
Erik, my father-in-law and I give her a kiss as she's carried away to surgery.
We each crash on a couch in a waiting area. We are the only ones there, it's the middle of the night and we are physically and emotionally drained. Somehow, Erik and I manage to drift to sleep as we wait. We are awakened by the doctor's approach and he tells us that he has retrieved a lot of glass. The reason for no cut on the outside of the eye? The glass entered the cheek and shattered, and then traveled all the way up around the eye!
Miraculously, the glass did not sever anything or damage the globe, from what they could see.
Another CAT scan shows that not all the glass is removed. He must go back and retrieve what is left. 
More time passes. 20 minutes? 30 minutes? I don't really know. Time was moving quickly, yet seemed to stand still.
The doctor returns with a small cup which holds around 20 pieces of glass, one of which is clearly the rim, all the way down to tiny shards. "Would you like to keep this?
he asks. "It's pretty incredible." That, it is, but we decide to forego his offer as the mental picture is quite enough. 
A third, and final CAT scan shows the all clear. We thank the doctor for his amazing work and for all he has done. The anesthesiologist returns to tell us that the baby is now awake. 
He invites me back alone and lets me know that she has done well, he's changed her diaper and she is now resting. I thank him profusely. How can I ever repay the plastic surgeon or him, for taking care of my baby? Thank you does not seem enough, but it's all that I have.
Tatum pats herself three times, and then me. She's been taught by our loving "Weezie", our daycare provider, to pat herself when we say her name and pat the other person when we say theirs. She takes large gasps of air in and out from the discomfort of the tubes down her throat, yet she nurses and takes comfort in my arms.
The nurses give us a blanket to keep her warm and a stuffed duckie with a cute bandage over its eye.
It's perfect. It's the first animal sound that Tatum has acquired in her repertoire. "Qua-Quack", she says.
We are wheeled out to the car and I put my sweet girl in her car seat. She claps her hands as if to applaud everyone for taking such good care of her. She claps as if to say, "Hooray, we're going home!"
We drive the hour and half back to the house, to try and get some rest before finally heading home that night.
It's Erik's birthday, one he'll never forget.
He is greeted by sweet cards that his mother helped Kieran and Anna to make:

We are home and wake the next morning to treat her eye.
She is agitated by the tape and nothing more.
She sweetly scoots off to play.

She's had a cold and I wipe her nose ever so gently a thousand times over. She prefers that I do not.
I could retouch the images to save others from seeing the "yuck", but then it wouldn't be real. And this, all this, was very, very, real...surreal. 
My mother arrives to help with the kids, though with Tatum's incredible spirit, it's to help me the most.
Little ones are incredibly resilient. 
A balloon and stuffed animal delivery from my office manager and friend from school on behalf of my 
staff certainly makes her day.
Yesterday, we received the seal of approval from the pediatric opthamalogist. 
"You are incredibly lucky", she says. You can remove the patch and I'll see you in a month.
No longer a pirate, as Anna would call her, but now with a rainbow eye, she is expected to make a full recovery. A complete freak accident, one that could happen to anyone and one that I would never wish on anyone. Though I'll certainly never forego a good glass of wine, I'll never look at one the same.
Still, I am reminded especially this Christmas how precious life is and the true gifts that we are given by God.
The gift of sight.
The gift of scent.
The gift of sound.
The gift of taste.
The gift of touch.
This Christmas, and always, may you hold close to your heart,
that the best things in life,
aren't things.
We love you, sweet Tatum.


  1. Wow. What a miracle. I think that between your Francis and our juma our kids are pretty lucky. Two amazing grandmother watching over their great grandchildren. I am so glad that everything turned out with no long term damage to her eye. Your story made me cry. I can only imagine what you must have been going through. It's awful to watch your babies hurt. Your kids are so lucky to have such amazing parents. Sure wish we could see you all more and hope u have a much better (calmer) Xmas. Love you guys. Lisa

  2. I'm at a loss of words for now. But, I'm thankful for you all and hold each of you close to my heart. Love always. Marna.

  3. Oh baby! I cried all over again! No need to say more! I was living this with you! Well done! I love you! Mommy

  4. I am at a loss for words... so very happy all is well again.

  5. That was unreal and I am so happy Tatum is on the mend. Meghan had a similar freak accident and had emergency eye surgery at 1. She got a few grains of sand in her eye tear duct which became infected and turned into blood poisoning. She fully recovered and had no problems thanks to awesome Dr.'s like you experienced. What a great mom you are and so lucky to have a great mommy yourself :) Love, Chris Holmberg

  6. Wow, what an astonishing story. I'm not quite sure I understand what happened with the wine glass, but I hope she's ok today!!!


It's a beautiful noise-And it's a sound that I love- And it makes me feel good-Like a hand in a glove -Yes it does, yes it does-What a beautiful noise

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