Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas is my Thanksgiving

*This was posted on Flickr last year, but I've posted it here now as it still rings true for me*

This morning, Aethan and I decorated the tree and made cookies. We told each other the stories that go along with each ornament. We drank egg nog. We decorated to the sounds coming from the wind up nutcracker that Gwen gave us. This is my favorite time of the year. It always has been. I don't mind that every year the stores bring out the Christmas stuff earlier and earlier. I don't get sick of Christmas carols. It's the most intoxicating heartwarming time of the year. Nothing else compares.

But, 6 years ago practically to the day, things were not so wonderful for us. Aethan was 5 months old and coming up to his first Christmas. He started to have a few rough days. Just under the weather, but we didn't think much of it. He was laughing and alert. And then, one night, he started to throw up. He'd nurse, fall asleep, and then wake up and throw it all up. At about 5 in the morning, I thought it would be best to take him to emergency because I was worried he was getting dehydrated.

We went to the E.R., and they started doing tests. Blood test, urine tests, all sorts of tests. We were admitted into pediatrics so that we would be "more comfortable" we were told, just until the test results came back later that day, when, we were told, we would go home.

At some point, it was determined that Aethan had a massive kidney and blood infection. He had gone septic, his blood was riddled with e coli bacteria. The only problem was that no one had told us. Everyone assumed we knew. The dr assumed the nurse told us, the nurses assumed the doctors had. Or something like that.

I was alone at the hospital with Aethan, his dad had gone home, because we thought we were just waiting on tests...nothing serious. The doctor came in and told me that she was going home to her family for dinner and she'd be back in the morning to do a spinal tap on Aethan to rule out meningitis. I was SO confused. Weren't we going home? I thought we were just waiting for tests? The doctor laughed at me. Laughed. She said "with an infection this bad, you're looking at 10 days in the hospital at LEAST. We'll try to have him home by Christmas." And then she left the room.

I think if there was one moment in life where I felt everything crash down around me, this was it. She was gone, I was alone, I was scared. Aethan was sick, he was struggling to stay alive. We weren't *just* waiting for tests.

By the following morning, Aethan was so sick that they air lifted us to Victoria, where they have a pediatric intensive care unit. Aethan was born with unilateral hydronephrosis. Basically, the tube coming out of his left kidney was too narrow. Pee couldn't drain out fast enough, backing up his kidney and making it difficult for him to deal with infection.

Doctors were brought in, 2 of them. They would preform surgery to repair the kidney and he would need iv antibiotics to stop the infection. Aethan plugged through it all. He fought as hard as he could, slept when he could, nursed when he could. He lost a lot of weight. But he started to come around. He was more aware at that age about what was happening than most would think was capable, he dealt with things that most adults can't cope with.

Finally, I got to bring him home. He was going to be OK. We got home on the 23rd of December. Just in time for his first Christmas. It was such a relief. Now, 5 years later, Aethan has no lasting health issues. He is a normal, healthy boy. But it is this time of year when I really give thanks. Christmas not only brings the usual magic that it has, but it also reminds me of how low things can go. It reminds me of the worst time, making me more grateful every year that we are having a good Christmas, safe and warm and healthy.

I give so many thanks for every decoration we hang on the tree, for every cookie we bake, for every Christmas story we read. I give so many thanks that this year we are cuddled on the couch and not at the hospital. That Aethan's visit from Santa isn't in a hospital bed like his first.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Universe, for making my little guy better and having our hard times become water under the bridge. I don't take one second of it for granted.


  1. My family spent last Christmas in the hospital...waiting, waiting, I know how you feel. Thankfully everything worked out and my younger brother is alive and well but it was an awful time.

    PS. Thanks for adding my button! Of course it's ok :) I'm following your blog now :)

  2. This was and is the most amazing piece of writing...straight from the heart. You are an incredible mom, wife, sister, friend and daughter and you make me proud to call you my own.

  3. wow how scary!! and to not have been told by the nurses or drs? that must have been tough. glad to see he is all better now :)