This story is by Kimberly Anne De Jong and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Mommy, Taryn looks funny,” said Bethany.
I turned around to see Taryn flailing her arms and legs, her lips blue. “Matt, pull over now. Something is wrong with Taryn.”
Matt put on his blinker and headed toward the side of the freeway. I stared at Taryn, unable to reach her in her back-facing child car seat.
When the car stopped, we both jumped out. Taryn was on Matt’s side of the van, so he unbuckled her seat belt and carried her to my side of the van. “She’s not breathing. She’s choking.” He hit her on her back, trying to dislodge whatever was stuck. It seemed to take five minutes, but in a few seconds, Taryn was breathing again. Matt had seen nothing dislodged, and it didn’t matter because her flailing stopped, and she cried. We were so thrilled to hear a sound coming from her mouth.
We were concerned something might be wrong with Taryn as I tried to calm her down. I felt her forehead and realized she still had a fever, but it was too soon to give her medicine again. Matt took out his phone and Googled the closest hospital. It was 15 minutes away. He handed me his phone before returning to the other side of the van. Matt quickly secured Taryn into her car seat. She had stopped crying, but the tears were still rolling down her cheeks.
Earlier in the morning, before we left for our seven-hour drive home, we had checked both of our children’s temperatures. Bethany had thrown up the night before, and we wanted to make sure she was feeling better, even though she said she was. Her temperature was 99.8, less than yesterday. I gave her some medicine to lower it. She seemed happy and healthy, playing with Grandma as we packed the car.
Taryn also had a fever, but hers was about 101. Matt had mentioned he noticed new teeth cutting through her gums at breakfast, so it seemed logical. Taryn received a dose of medicine, just in case she got sick like her sister had last night, even though she seemed happy. Her middle name was Joy, and it was usually undeniable she was filled with Joy.
Until this point, the drive was uneventful. I had relaxed in the van’s front seat as my husband drove. The girls, ages three and one, were quiet in the back seat. Our family had been on the freeway for about two hours, and things were going smoothly. Next, we would look for a park in Tulare, about fifteen minutes away, to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I had made at Grandma and PaPa’s house before leaving on our drive home. It would be a quick stop since we hoped to make it to my parent’s house for dinner.
Instead, Matt pulled our van back into traffic. I held his phone and gave him directions. We made it to the hospital in thirteen very long minutes, and he parked in front of the Emergency entrance. Matt released Taryn from her car seat and handed Taryn over to me. I gave him a quick kiss before I walked as quickly as possible to the Emergency entrance. Matt and Bethany drove away to move our van to the parking lot. A security guard was standing against the wall, just inside the entrance door, and out of urgency, I asked him where to go with my daughter, who had stopped breathing and possibly had a seizure. He brought me to the front of the line, where I told the receptionist about Taryn’s symptoms and age. She asked me to enter the door to the right. A nurse approached the door and led me to an open room.
Another nurse came by to help draw blood. They strapped Taryn to the bed with loose strips of cloth, and she cried again. It took a while to find a vein in her tiny arms before the nurse drew blood, filling several tubes. Once they had drawn enough blood, the second nurse carried the tubes to the lab. I held Taryn’s hand, but it didn’t stop her tears.
Next was the catheter. I couldn’t believe they would insert a catheter, but I knew they needed to test her urine. The nurse opened up her diaper and had the baby catheter in within seconds, for which I was thankful. Taryn screamed, but I was determined to stay strong and not cry because my baby needed me to be strong.
Once the nurse removed the catheter, she closed up Taryn’s diaper. “You can hold her now. We are waiting for her test results. If they show nothing abnormal, we will have you stay here for a while, while we observe her. Then you may leave. However, if we find something abnormal, we may need to airlift her to Fresno Children’s Hospital.”
“Thank you.” I sat in a chair near the bed, rocking Taryn as I whispered a prayer to God for her recovery. Once her crying stopped, I called Matt to update him. “They have drawn blood and urine for tests. I have her calmed down in my arms now. How is Bethany doing?”
“We have been walking around the building. Bethany is fine, but she wants to see Taryn. I’m doing my best to keep her distracted. We walked to the car to get her sandwich so she could eat something. I’m not hungry. I want to be in there with you, but I know it’s best for Bethany to be out here. How are you doing?”
“I’m okay, just concerned for Taryn. They will take her by Medi-flight to Fresno Children’s Hospital if something is wrong. Everyone’s very kind, and they bumped her to the front of the line since she’s a baby. I’m so glad they did because I couldn’t have stood in line for 15 minutes or longer. I will call my mom while I wait.”
“I’ll call mine, too. I love you, Julie.”
“I love you, too.”
A nurse came to check on Taryn now and then. Finally, after an hour, the nurse checked Taryn’s vitals. A doctor came in to talk to me. “Taryn had a Febrile seizure, which results from a fever. It is common among young children, but it did not cause her to stop breathing. She possibly choked on a piece of food she vomited. The results of her tests look great. We will release her now, but you will need to bring her to her pediatrician tomorrow for a check-up. We need you to sign some paperwork, and you can leave. I hope you have a less eventful rest of your drive home.” The nurse handed me the forms, smiling at Taryn. Taryn didn’t smile back. Instead, she rested her head on my shoulder.
I thanked the doctor and nurse, signed the forms, and texted Matt that we were leaving the hospital.
Matt and Bethany were waiting when we came out of the emergency room exit. “It’s great to be going home,” I said. “I am weary from the time spent in the hospital. I think Taryn is, too. She’ll take a good nap once we are back on the road.”
Taryn’s middle name is Joy, and she was usually a smiling, laughing baby. But she smiled for the first time in hours when we walked outside. Matt took Taryn from me. He kissed her, and she looked at her daddy, smiling a second time.
I picked up Bethany, hugging her. “I’m so happy to see you, Bethany. Mommy missed you.”
“I missed you, too, Mommy. I missed Taryn, too. Daddy said I’m a hero.” She smiled.
“Bethany, you are a hero. You saved your sister’s life.” I gave Bethany a big hug before setting her on the ground.
“Daddy says I get to have a hero party with cake and lots of frosting.”
“We know how you love lots of frosting,” said Matt. “Maybe we don’t need to make a cake, just a bowl of frosting.”
“That would be good, daddy.”
Matt chuckled and grabbed my hand as we walked. “Julie, while I was waiting, I remembered Bethany’s middle name of Alessia, named after my great-grandmother. When we gave that middle name to Bethany, I recall it means ‘helper, defender.’ So, true to her name, she helped Taryn today.”
“Yes, she did. I hate to think about what would have happened if Bethany hadn’t alerted us to Taryn.”
“Julie, I look at it this way. Today, we got the joy back in our baby, thanks to Bethany being a helper. We are blessed,” said Matt. He put Taryn in her car seat and kissed her cheek. She smiled.
“I’ll be sitting in the back with the girls the rest of the day,” I said. I strapped my seat belt in the van between my girls. “We came so close to losing Taryn today; I realized we can never take either of their lives for granted.”