Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire. ~Thomas Keneally
After reminiscing about My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University- ARTsylym, I couldn’t refer to that experience without including another, for they will forever be intertwined.
Even to this day, thinking about the events that unraveled on the evening of April 16, 2005 makes my heart race and pound out of my chest with fear and anxiety. It has been nearly a decade, yet I can still remember that most horrible feeling sitting in my gut, but by the grace of God turned out just fine.
What happened? Kyle was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Let me set the stage to put things into perspective. It was indeed Saturday night, April 16, 2005. How do I remember the date? Besides it being a horrible and memorable experience, earlier that day I was at Seton Hill University in Harlen Gallery with the rest of my group, Mike, Josh and Albert, setting up our senior show. We left, preparing to return early the next morning, on Sunday to work throughout the day to get our art exhibit ready for Monday’s opening. Sometimes plans don’t go as planned!
As I was leaving, literally pulling out of the parking lot around 11:00 pm or so, I got a call from my mom informing me, mom and dad had Kyle over at the emergency room in Latrobe. YIKES! Just hearing those words, your mind races through all horrible scenarios.
Graciously, mom clarified Kyle was alright but he was really sick and was throwing up massive amounts of mucus. I knew when I picked him up on Friday, he didn’t seem like himself, so I knew he wasn’t feeling very good. Even when I was hanging with him on Saturday during the day, he wasn’t a typical three year old. Mom said he wanted to sleep with her and dad that night and as soon as his head hit the pillow, mucus erupted from his throat. So much so he couldn’t breath.
Upon hearing this explanation for the emergency room visit, I was already in route to meet them in the waiting room. You know the dreaded waiting room. The one that seems to steal not only hours from your life, but it appears to remove days from the calender.
While barreling through the automated doors, I spotted Dad holding Kyle, a weak looking three year old, who fell asleep on dad’s shoulder. Up until this point, Kyle was in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with sever sinus issues, respiratory problems, ear infections that sort of thing. (Don’t tell me smoking around a baby doesn’t affect a child) We were all too familiar with a sick kid. Eventually, Kyle started to join the land of the healthy, once he had tubes put in his ears to help the drainage. That and he also had his tonsils and adenoids removed, and later scrapped again, twice.
Once the nurse called Kyle’s name, indicating he was next in line, I happen to be holding my little man. I followed the procession and walked him back to a weighing station. The nurse instructed me to lye him down so she could weigh the package. As soon as his head rested parallel with his body, he began projecting strands and strands of mucus! It was a horrifying site! The nurse, who was closer to Kyle, grabbed him and set him upright and started clearing out his throat so he could breath. Once sitting perpendicular to the bed he was fine, but the minute he was lying down, he was drowning in mucus!
As soon as that happened, the other nurses came rushing over and called the doctors. Almost immediately, they whisked him back into his own room and started an IV, sitting him upright of course. Mom, dad and me scurried after the medical group, following Kyle. We wanted to remain at his side so he wasn’t afraid, and to calm our own nerves. There was always something about Kyle, and still is that calms us and puts us all at peace. Perhaps it’s because he is a part of Ryan, my brother. Having Kyle around means Ryan is still beside us.
The doctor checked Kyle, made some notes, left, came back, made more notes, left, came back, checked him, left and came back again. Nurses and doctors were entering and exiting the room every few minutes, either poking him with something, or sticking him with a needle or pushing a tongue depressor down his mouth, or inspecting his ears and so on. You name it, Kyle had everyone’s attention, which under normal circumstances he would have enjoyed. Not so much this time, but Kyle was a pretty good sport, except for the IV.
Without much communication, the doctor finally pulled us out of the room to deal us in on the plans. They had already called life flight from Children’s Hospital, they were taking Kyle as soon as the helicopter arrived. WHAT? I felt sick to my stomach! Just hearing the words LIFE FLIGHT makes your mind race, especially when I didn’t fully understand the severity of the situation, nor the exact situation.
Please keep in mind I am no medical professional, so my details may be slightly off, but I clearly remember what he told us. It appeared that Kyle had strep throat. The doctor said he had to have had it for at least a week now, fever and all. The infection caused his tonsils to touch, cutting off his airways. He also had an ear infection (or both), which was compounding the situation. So needless to say he was pretty sick!
The conversation was rushed, there was no time to stop and think. They were in emergency mode and my head was in a whirlwind.
As I’m trying to comprehend what everything means, I got the weirdest question asked by the doctor, “How much do you weight?”. What? Really? Apparently, they didn’t know how Kyle was going to be on the flight to Children’s Hospital, so they were considering having me hold him for the ride to Pittsburgh. Without hesitation I agreed!
Almost immediately we were alerted that life flight landed and soon they would be taking Kyle. I’m telling you what, everyone from the nurses, to doctors and the entire staff were all wonderful and very patient with us. During our short stay there, they kept us informed and moved quickly for the sake of this little helpless boy.
It was at this time, I was informed that I couldn’t go with Kyle because they brought an extra doctor in case they needed to do an emergency tracheotomy. What is going on? Now hearing that, I about died! This night went from bad to worse!
Mom, dad and me were allowed to go up to the roof to see Kyle off and to make sure he wasn’t going to panic or freak out. As soon as he was wheeled out onto the roof and saw the helicopter waiting for him, he said, “Loot, Aiya it’s Harold!” His eyes got big and a smile even made its appearance. Going with it, we cheered Kyle on and built up the excitement, that he was going for a ride on Harold the Helicopter.
You see, for years, Kyle was a HUGE fan of Thomas the Tank Engines. He had all the toys and miles upon miles of tracks, accessories and naturally he owned just about every cartoon video. He LOVED Thomas the Tank! The helicopter from the cartoon was named Harold, hence his association. Almost too perfect! God was helping us all through this ordeal.
We stood in the doorway, for we were not permitted out on the launch pad, waved and smiled, putting Kyle at ease, even though we were completely on edge. Once the helicopter door shut and Kyle was out of sight, we all darted downstairs to get the car. I drove us into Pittsburgh going probably way to fast for even a race car driver. I thought my parents might yell at me, but instead all dad said was, “There’s no cops out, let’s get there.” Meaning, speed to get us to Children’s Hospital.
We were told it takes about twelve minutes for life flight to get to Pittsburgh, I made the hour and half trip in twenty five minutes. Yes, one might have guessed I was speeding and to be honest, I didn’t care in the slightest, for the only important thing in my life at that moment, was getting to Kyle.
I dropped mom and dad off at the main door to find Kyle’s room and sit with him while I parked the car. This all happened so fast, I truly don’t even remember entering the building, nor do I remember parking the car. I do remember running through the hospital frantic trying to find my family. Low and behold, who did I manage to find? Yep, one of the doctors who was on the flight that I just talked to not even twenty minutes earlier. She gave me a shocked look and simply said, “I know you didn’t obey the speed limit to get here so fast.” I just smiled and gave a look, ‘Where is Kyle?” After her judgement comment, she was very gracious and led me in the right direction.
Upon entering the room, I found Kyle in ICU with a T-shirt hanging over the bottom of his crib/bed and stickers near him. Apparently, they found Kyle’s weakness for stickers and hooked the kid up. Did I mention they were glow-in-the-dark helicopter stickers? Boy was he excited! I was excited for him.
Kyle was looking a little perkier, I’m sure it helped that he napped on the flight and the IV gave him an added boost. I remember the smile Kyle flashed me when I walked in to join everyone. He couldn’t wait to show me his stickers! It was a bittersweet moment of joy and excitement for him, yet uncertainty for being in the ICU. He went on to tell me about his ride in Harold, even though the doctors said he slept the entire ride down. Believe it or not, this kid was on cloud nine! I owe part of that to the doctors who transported him and played up the Harold card. They helped turn this nightmare into a dream come true for our little three year old.
On a side note, after this ordeal, Kyle played with Harold the Helicopter in a whole new way. Even when I watched him play or when I joined in, Harold the Helicopter took on a whole new meaning and transported people around, even the other tank engines.
All night long, dad sat by Kyle’s side, never leaving. I sat most of the night by Kyle, for we were only allowed two people at a pop. Finally by morning, Kyle was moved to a room and surprisingly, by later that day, the doctors informed us that he was getting discharged. I stayed until the paperwork was official before heading back to Greensburg to join my group in setting up the ARTsylum show at Harlan Gallery, Seton Hill University.
Even though is was a frightful experience, it was also a blessing in disguise. Not long after that incidence, Kyle had surgery on his ears; tubes put in, eventually a permanent tube; his tonsils removed; his adenoid removed and then later scrapped and scrapped again. He was closely watched for additional ear infections and bouts with the croup and pneumonia, all he suffered with severely up until that point.
Do you know, Kyle remembers that helicopter ride to this day? Or at least he remembers the idea of it, fortunately not in a bad way. He recalls getting to ride in a helicopter and he’s acutely aware that not many people have that opportunity. Of course his was a good reason, which I don’t ever bother to bring up, I let him have his helicopter ride. In fact, when I purchased flight lessons for Kyle for his ninth birthday, Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday he commented that he rode in a helicopter but never an airplane.
Without reservation I am truly grateful for the doctors and the complete medical staff at Latrobe Area Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Equally, everyone was wonderful, kind and sincere with Kyle and our family. Mostly they helped to get him on the road to wellness while keeping him at ease. They also started the process for his future medial procedures and monitoring, eventually getting him to healthy!