|Eli Christmas Eve at Betts' house, not feeling well.|
It was just before 1400 hours when the phone rang. I was still upstairs after having put my three-year-old down for a nap trying to make myself do something productive. I cracked the window so I could hear the girls outside on the trampoline on the warm December day and began chipping away at the laundry mountain that was a fixture in our bedroom floor. Housework overwhelmed me easily during the last few weeks, and I had given up on the laundry to the point where I only washed, dried and put it all in one pile in our floor. Then we would just dig for whatever we needed when we needed it. I couldn’t get ahead of it and had no help in getting ahead of it. It just snowballed into this mountain that was used at bedtime as a soft landing spot for the kids chasing each other or a great hiding place for hide-and-go-seek. I didn’t care if they didn’t care, which they only did when I asked them to dig for their own underwear or socks or school clothes. But, when it came time to help me fold and put away, suddenly the mountain-view wasn’t so bad again.
|The day before his first MRI he finally felt|
well enough to ride the go-kart that Santa
brought at lesat once.
At that moment, the sky fell with a great crash upon our home. My knees weakened and I trembled under the weight. Each breath I took got shorter and deeper, and I began to pace the floor in our bedroom thinking incoherently out loud. I said, “I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time understanding. This doesn’t sound … This isn’t good. I don’t’ really understand or I don’t know… I think I’m going to faint.” Dr. Cox said quickly toward the phone, “Kristie, please lie down, is anyone there with you?” I said, “No, wait… I’m not going to faint, I’m going to throw up.” She said, “You need to get a neighbor.” Then I heard Vic in the background say “She needs to call her sister on her cell.” “Can you get to a phone, call your sister…. (to Vic) what’s her name?... Call Wendy, have your daughter call Wendy to come. Please.” I said, “No, I am going to faint… no… I do need to throw up. No, I just need to put the phone down and sit down, can I do that.” “Yes, yes, but call someone to come.” I sat on the edge of our bed and limply let the phone drop to rest beside me. I was suddenly numb, lifeless, empty. I didn’t have the strength to puke or faint. I stared out the large windows on our back wall at the gray woods behind the house. I was devoid of thought and in a daze of confusion and disbelief. Then I heard the girls jumping on the trampoline outside through the crack in the raised window, and I thought The children. What I am doing? I don’t have time to puke or faint. I picked the phone back up and could hear the doctor and Vic talking. “I’m, sorry. I’m back,” I said. Then Vic and I began to make plans for me to meet them in Memphis. When we hung up, the blood flow returned with a rush, unleashing emotional adrenaline that was physically painful and sickening. Trembling, I made it downstairs to get Wendy’s home number off the side of the refrigerator. My brother-in-law Dave picked up, and he being the first person I talked to I just said, “It’s not good, Dave. Eli’s MRI is not good.” He said slowly and quietly, “Oh, no… no. Ok, I’ll call Wendy.” I told him to have her come to the house to stay with the kids because I needed to leave for Memphis where Eli was being taken to St. Jude.
When we hung up, I felt a desperate need to gather and protect. I went outside to the girls, nervously combing my hands through my hair, still reeling from the blow. Their laughter and play slowed my charge toward them, and I took in a deep breath as I approached. I wanted to bask in the warmth of their innocence, but with tears slowly escaping my eyes, I calmly said, “Girls, I need you to come in.” I don’t know why I needed them to come in, but I just did. They stopped jumping, and immediately sat to put back on their shoes, watching me. My 10-year-old, Abbey, asked, “Why do we need to come in, is something wrong with Eli?” Looking at their faces concerned and confused by my appearance, I thought How can I tell them, and what do I tell them. But, I answered her as I decided long ago that I always would and that is with the simple, straight truth. I plainly and sadly said, “It’s not good, girls, it’s not good.” Then I shared what I knew with them and explained the plan for us all so far. We came inside, and at about 1445 hours I wrote the following post on Facebook: “Dear friends, it is not good. Eli has a tumor on his brain. He is traveling by ambulance to Memphis to St. Jude for surgery. I will be meeting up with Vic, who is traveling with him. Your prayers and thoughts are needed at this moment and for a life time. thank you.” Terrified by now, I could feel the eye of Satan. I was sick, nauseated from his presence and regretting my weakness for an unhealthy lunch. As my trips to the bathroom slowed, I began packing an overnight bag with clothes for Vic, Eli and me. Wendy was at the house, Caleb was still asleep and the girls were settled with television and a snack. I didn’t know what to take and was just throwing something in the bag. We can make do with whatever, until we come home, I thought, because I had reasoned that Eli would have this surgery during which the surgeon would pluck out this tumor thing and we would be home in a few days. I packed quickly and lightly, as I always do, but the plan was for me to wait until they left Huntsville Hospital in the ambulance so we could arrive together. Time passed, and the night stole the light to my path. About 1800 hours, Vic called to tell me that they were in the ambulance and on their way. He asked if I wanted to talk to Eli. No, I didn’t want to talk to Eli; I wanted to over-fill my senses with Eli. “He is fine, he’s in a good mood if you think you want to,” Vic said sensing my emotional hesitation. “Ok, then,” I said with a cleansing sigh, “see if he will.” In his trademark slow drawl, Eli said “Hey, mama.” My heart ached and stomach tightened at the sound of his little voice. “Hey, buddy,” I said, “Daddy, said you are riding in an ambulance.” “Uh-huh,” he said and I could tell he was smiling. He continued, “And, mama, guess what. The doctor said we were going to ride a long way to a big city called Memphis to another hospital.” “Yes, I know, baby,” I said trying desperately to control my quivering speech. “Daddy said that you were going to come in the Rav4. Are you doing that, are you coming in Daddy’s car?” he asked hopeful, not because I was coming, but because the Rav4 was coming. I told him yes, and we talked about him being sedated for the first time, and what was in the ambulance, and about what would happen when he got to Memphis. Vic filled me in that plans had been somewhat changed. St. Jude was sending us to LaBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. St. Jude uses LaBonheur for any major surgical procedures. A pediatric neurosurgeon from LaBonheur would take over and we actually would not be at St. Jude for a couple of weeks. It was all such a torrential whirlwind of unknowns and updates. My mind was foggy and I continued to feel physically sick, but I was desperate to get on the road.
|Eli before his first surgery|
|Eli before his surgery showing his Betts the|
city, cars, and roads that he watches from
the 7th floor window at LaBonheur
|Eli and some buddies and family before his first surgery.|