It was the hospital waiting room, the aroma of disinfectant and stale coffee filling the air. People were talking, in their own separate discussions. Voices seemingly melded together as part of a choir, singing different words but all the same tune. As the noise grew louder, my vision began to blur and my heart started to race. Much like in those movies where the main focal point is moving in slow motion while everything else is at a rapid pace. I was tunnel visioned to the ICU doors. A young woman walked through the door making a determined line straight to the waiting room receptionist. “Which is the Sullivan family,” She asked in a hushed, but adamant voice. I stared at her waiting for the words to pour from her mouth. I knew what she was going to say. “Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan?” She asked. “I need you to come with me.” Under my breath I asked her if everything was alright, knowing the answer already. My husband and I stood up, following her towards the doors. Like a prisoner being walked to his execution, head sullenly stooped, making slow and deliberate steps. My Aunt and Uncle were there with us and said they would wait there when the nurse interrupted and said, “No. You guys can come back, too. You should come back.” My husband and I looked at them and said, “Yes, come with us.” It was a reaction that almost felt necessary. A sense of security washed over me, knowing they would be there. As we entered through those peach painted, wood framed doors my husband grabbed my hand and I turned and looked at him in the eyes. “Are you ready?” He asked. I let out a sigh and said, “Yeah… Here we go.”
Those halls, the same ones that I used to get from one end down to the other in matter of seconds over the years, all of the sudden seemed a mile long. “We passed the scrub sink. Why did we just pass the scrub sink?” I whispered to my husband under my breath, as the nurse kept us walking. We were never allowed not to scrub in before, as we could spread infection to our child awaiting a heart transplant. She knew. There was no time to waste. As we passed right through those heavy glass doors, to the ICU, all eyes were on us. There must have been at least ten nurses and doctors in the room, crowded over this one small boy. My Israel. I looked up at his monitors, noticing that his stats were quickly dropping, his heart only beating at 36 beats per minute. One nurse was about to push a drug in his IV to speed up his heart, another was breathing for him with the bag and mask. All of the others were crowded around looking down at him. It’s funny, I don’t remember any of their faces, only him. His sweet, angelic face.
For a split second I imagined what he must be feeling. So many people, smothering you with looks of panic and concern on their faces. Machines chiming, as if they are counting down to your death. I imagined how frightened he must have been within his mind. It was then that I finally stood in his shoes. I could feel the immense pain wash over me, struggling to breathe with each gasp, the nausea that accompanied his strict regimen of medicines. The hunger so overwhelming, the inability to eat. I felt my bones throb from head to toe. I realized that this is what he has felt everyday for nearly three years of this battle. I immediately turned to the nurses and doctors who were preparing more IV medicines to give him. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked. “We didn’t want it to be this way!” The nurse with the syringe of Dopamine asked, “Do you want us to give him this to keep his heart going and speed it up? If we don’t give this to him now he will die.” My eyes kept being pulled to an empty corner of the room. I could feel him there, watching me as his little frame began to appear. He looked so peaceful, so happy. His cheeks were rosy, his demeanor was that of someone who had finally been set free. He was already gone. I told the resident doctor to stop and leave him alone, it was time and we were not going to put him through this suffering anymore. He capped the syringe and backed away from the bed. “Are you sure, Elizabeth?” My husband asked me. I looked up with tears filling my eyes and said, “Yes. I’m sure. It’s time.” Once again my eyes being pulled to the corner of the room like marionettes attached to strings with no control of their own. I saw him smile. I felt his joy, his peace. He was already whole. My Aunt was next to me and started quietly crying and praying aloud. My husband, at the foot of the bed. “You can go home when you’re ready, we understand. I love you,” he said. I kept to Israel’s side, softly caressing his arm and his beautiful red hair. “I love you. When it’s time, you can go home. I am so very proud of you, my baby,” I said. Across from me the nurse was still breathing for him. “I want to hold him. Without all of these tubes and wires. I need to hold him.” I told her. Just as I did the day that I bore him, I needed him within my arms. His heart was beating slowly. “Do you still want me to do this?” The nurse asked as she continued to slowly push air through the breathing mask over his face. “Will he feel like he can’t breathe or be in pain if you stop?” I asked. “No,” she said. “Then yes, please stop,” I replied. Another nurse came over and unhooked him from all of the monitors and placed him carefully in my arms. He was so still. So quiet. I knew he wasn’t physically in his body because I could still see him in the corner smiling at me, with a large ethereal figure standing beside him. As he took his last breath I held him to my chest, feeling the soft, shallow breath whispering across my collarbone. I took in the sweet aroma of him, one last time and kissed him goodbye.
It became ironic, how his life had come full circle before my eyes and within my arms. I carried him, feeling him grow within my stomach. His first movements. I welcomed him into the light and held him close as he took his first breath. I watched in awe the first time he smiled and my heart melted at his first laugh. Watching the sweet reactions that graced his tiny face as he took his first bite of real food. As a parent, I never conceived of a day where I would be giving him back the light. Only this light was different. This light was permanent.