Primary Children's is sending a fixed-wing airplane to pick up Liam. One parent, they tell us, is allowed to accompany the patient. The other one will have to drive. Abe goes home to gather up a few more things and start the drive to Salt Lake. He insists that he can drive alone. As he leaves, I ask, "Are you sure you don't want me to call Marty? Or Nick? They could ride with you and keep you awake." "No, no, I'll be fine," insists Abraham. As soon as he is out of the room, the slightly neurotic alpaca-loving RT looks up from torturing my infant with her deep nasal suctioning and says, "Call Nick. Or Marty. Also, maybe they'll let you breastfeed on the airplane."
The next few hours I spend puttering around, gathering up our belongings, eating, pumping, making phone calls, sending text messages. I call my sister, awakening her out of a deep sleep, and ask if she could spare her husband for a ride up to Salt Lake. "Um, um," she says, and I can almost see her shaking her head and trying to pull off the cobwebs. "Um. I'm so tired. Hold on. Um, I think Marty has to go to work in the morning." I feel like a louse for waking her up and making such a hearty demand. Tears fill the back of my eyes. "Right," I say. "Duh. Sorry. Love you." I hang up.
My text message awakens Loriann, who immediately calls to tell me that she loves us and is praying for us.
Abe calls later to tell me that Marty is riding with him to Salt Lake.
I keep dipping the pacifier in sugar water and plugging it into the baby's mouth.
Three people comprise the Life Flight team: Lisa, an efficient young woman with kind brown eyes and black buns on the sides of her head, Dave the pilot, and a sleepy-looking blond woman whose name I immediately forget. Two members of the Idaho Falls Fire Department are there to man the ambulance that will take us to the airport. The younger one tells me that his little girl spent some time at Primary Children's Hospital last year. "They are very good there," he says.
Dr. Hatch is still watching over the process. He looks exhausted. I shake his hand as the the team loads Liam into an incubator and start rolling him in a gurney toward the exit. I say, "Thank you so much for everything." What I want to say is, "You are a good egg."
The fireman who drives the ambulance is in his forties. "Those kids," he says, "They're nothing if not a source of worry." He tells me he has two daughters, ages sixteen and nineteen. The older one just recently moved out, got a job, her own place. We talk about the weather. Isn't it crazy, how it can be snowy one minute and sunny the next? "If you don't like the weather in Idaho," he says, "Just wait a minute and it'll change." I laugh like I've never heard that one before. We drive along in silence and I imagine that he drinks coffee out of a thermos and votes a straight Republican ticket. I wish I were five and could sit in his lap.
The airport is windy and Dave lets me wear his Life Flight jacket. He gives me the mandatory pre-flight emergency exit/under-seat flotation device/oxygen mask/safety belt lecture. Liam's gurney is loaded onto the plane.
Take-off. I am surprised at how many lights are on in Idaho Falls at this hour. It is beautiful. I try to enjoy the flight, as I imagine it is costing me one thousand dollars a minute.
Liam is screaming and I can't even touch him. I see him in his incubator, attached to tubes and hoses, flailing his little arms around and screaming so hard his face has gotten splotchy. I pray. "Dear God, he is so little. He doesn't understand any of this. I can't comfort him right now. I can't do anything for him right now. Will you please send someone to comfort him for me? Please, Father, you know I don't ask anything for myself. All I want is for you to spare an angel, perhaps, someone you don't really need, for just a few moments to come comfort him. Please, Father, please. He is so little. He is so innocent. Please." I beg and plead for several more minutes. Then I wait. Nothing changes. Liam continues to scream, continues to flail. This is the first time I've prayed since Liam got sick. It is also the last.
Lisa looks up at me and shouts over the noise of the plane, "It must be so hard for you to see him so hungry and not be able to do anything!" I nod. "I'm sorry!" she says. The blond lady has fallen asleep.
Salt Lake. The ambulance driver who takes us from the airport to the hospital is a darling man whose accent reminds me of Brad Pitt's in Seven Years in Tibet. From this I conclude that he is Austrian. "What is up with the little pumpkin?" he asks, jerking his head toward the back of the truck, and I love him instantly. I love him even more when he says, "Do not be alarmed if I run some red lights. At this time of night, I'm not going to sit at a light where there isn't any traffic." He, like the first ambulance driver, also has two daughters, though his are little: four and six months. He tells me that they taught their older daughter ASL to help assuage the terribleness of her twos. We drive down an empty street lined with trees and old Victorian houses.
I don't remember how we got to the PICU. I remember getting out of the ambulance and handing over the Life Flight jacket; next I remember standing next to my baby while a team of medical personnel hover over him, giving him a new IV, poking his heel yet again, trading his little nasal cannula for the bulkier CPAP, which is attached to hoses instead of tubes. A girl in a brown ponytail shakes my hand. "I'm Dr. So-and-So," she says. "I'll be taking care of William tonight." I wonder if she's over twenty. The crib next to ours is occupied by a nine-month-old who is also attached to oxygen and IVs. His Mom, who looks like she's about my age, is bowed over in a rocking chair next to him, fast asleep. I am sorry we are making such a ruckus.
It's all I can do to keep from ripping the head off the next person who comes in to draw yet another blood sample from my six-week-old's heel. I want to scream at her: "There is NO BLOOD LEFT! He only weights twelve pounds! Leave him the hell alone!"
Abe arrives. I am grateful he is there to hold me.
Liam's respiratory rate has dropped from 80-90 to 60-70. His chest retractions have been reduced considerably. His blood glucose levels are up. Abe falls asleep on the chair/bed next to his crib.