One PICU Day at a Time

I’ve learned many fascinating (to me) things about hospitals in the last couple of years. I know that when a bathroom is “terminal” a cleaning crew has to go in wearing near hazmat suits to clean it out. I know that a Code Gray means someone is extremely upset and it’s probably not a patient. (My favorite, Attention. Code Gray in the billing office. Code Gray in the billing office.) I know that the foam hand sanitizer hanging outside the patient rooms is so powerful it can burn through an iPhone case. I know that generally you do not want a bunch of people with gray scrubs in your room because they are Respiratory Therapists (RTs) and they are working hard to get your child breathing again. I know that the PICU does not have showers in the rooms, like the lower level floors. It does have a community shower down the hall, but by using it you risk seeing a trauma patient comatose and his parents experiencing an emotional trauma so intense it goes straight through you. I also know that you should bring your own water bottle to the cafeteria if you want ice water or else you’ll pay $.56 for that cup, based on principle not price of course. Fascinating things. At least they are to me.

For those of you catching up Nathan was in the PICU last week for RSV and bronchiolitis. He was admitted on Tuesday night (my husband’s birthday) after four days of awfulness. He had already been to the ER on Saturday night, the pediatrician on Monday morning, and his daddy had checked him numerous times. No one suspected RSV this late in the year. But Nathan is unpredictable like that.

I was worn thin going into this hospital stay. Early in the week consisted of coughing, whining, crying, snot on everything, fevers every four hours after Tylenol wore off, and the worst, really labored breathing. I was tired in a way that redefines tired.

On Tuesday, I was planning to go to bed right after the kids. We went to the hospital instead. Once we got to the ER, Nathan got rushed back for low oxygen levels and then the ER doc said, “He needs to go to the PICU.” That’s when I woke up to the whole situation. At that point adrenaline kicked in and I was back in the game. I had to be.

The whole experience has me thinking yet again how will I have the stamina to give this kid everything he needs over the long haul? He’s a sweet kid, but his compromised body systems bring on one not-so-lovely surprise after another. It’s exhausting. At a first glance, it is so easy to lose heart when I dwell on the impossibleness of my ability to care for him. What I not only learned, but experienced, from this hospital stay was that I can only do one day at a time. That’s when and how God can, and does, renew me day-by-day.




After a long day in the ICU on Wednesday that involved very little sleep, lots of flipping around in bed, getting tangled in wires, and endless whining, Nathan ripped out his oxygen cannula that evening. I was in the room with his nurse when it happened. Both our eyes went straight to the monitor where we expected his oxygen levels to drop into the 80s like they had early that very same morning. Instead the monitor read around 98. We looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

Nathan looked at me. His expression clearly said, I DARE you to put that thing back in. He promptly stuck his thumb in his mouth, closed his eyes, and fell asleep. Finally.

Well maybe you know this, or maybe you don’t, but it takes a good hour, at least, to get anything in a hospital. Unless of course it’s an emergency and then six people immediately show up at your bedside. But generally if it’s just something you need it has to be ordered, tracked down, found from somewhere, from someone. It involves a lot of phone calls and waiting. So Nathan’s nurse said she would work on getting him a new cannula but that he looked fine so you know, no rush.

By the time she came back with the respiratory therapist and a new cannula, he was fast asleep. It was my turn. I looked at the nurse and DOUBLE DOG DARED her to put that thing back in (in the nicest, sweetest way I could muster of course). And since his oxygen levels were still above 94 the whole time he was off the cannula, they agreed.

That was the last flurry of activity as I lay on the super small, super short couch-bed trying to come down off the last 24 hours. It was finally quiet in the room. my husband was spending time with Mac at our friends’ house. My heart was not quiet though. The pace of my heart still felt ICUish. Like I should be on high alert. It wasn’t high alert time anymore though.

I needed a pace that was slower.

A pace that was slower than the Respiratory Therapists running through the halls in response to a code blue.

A pace that was slower than the list of worries churning through my mind for my boy being cared for in the hospital, and my boy being cared by friends.

I  needed a pace that was slower than the scroll of my Facebook page, which was my companion, my entertainment, and my addiction during that day alone in room 225.

Be still.

I began to listen to the, quieter now, beeping monitors.

I began to listen to the breathing of my son. Still rapid, but no longer labored.

Then I listened to my own breathing. Slower than his. Beginning to calm. Wondering what the breath of God sounds like?

Be still and know that I am God. 

Be still. This is your pace. No matter what is going on around you, or in you. Be still.

Be still and know that I am God. 

This is how God had been renewing me inwardly in spite of my external circumstances.

I needed rest and renewal. I needed it all week long. When I felt I needed it most, I was sent to the ICU. The most un-relaxing place on the planet (aside from a war zone). Through that experience, I discovered renewal doesn’t look like early to bed but “rest in me,” “come to me,” “be still.”

Nathan got discharged on Thursday night. We were so excited to be together as a family again, sleeping comfortably – and breathing comfortably – in our own beds. Yet we trust that when the next bout of chaos hits, when our tanks are on empty, and we don’t have much to give, God in His great grace will strengthen and renew us again, and then again.



You should also know that Nathan pulled out his feeding tube and tried to crawl out of bed on Thursday morning. He did a great job getting himself home a day early by being a problem patient. Just look at that mischievous face.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

#ER #hospital #hospitaltrip #PICU

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