I have seen a lot of strange stuff in this world. Most of what I have seen have been weird, and a few have been freakishly bizarre. But if any one thing stands out as the most surreal thing I have ever seen, it would have been the event I witnessed at just before 2am on a rainy Friday morning, 15 years ago today.
Somehow, a team of doctors and students opened up my wife's belly, and pulled out a living human being. Barely living, but living nonetheless.
That signaled the beginning of the end of 2 days of harrowing experiences that nearly left takayla and my son dead. It was so unlikely they would survive at one point, they asked me to "alert relatives, ask for prayer, and decide on what I wanted done with the remains." I mean, at one point they talked about how they prepare babies for caskets. The short version of the story goes like this:
Wed, July 18th - 9:40am
While on the Metro bus to the midwives' office at Georgetown hospital, she goes into labor. She doesn't know it, because she had so many Braxton-Hicks contractions for the last month and a half, we weren't taking them as seriously anymore, even though CR was two weeks late. When she went for her prenatal check, they said, "Oh my... you have already dilated 2 cm!" Thus began her painful ordeal. She called me, I tried to get out of work, but my boss, who had said I could leave at any time, suddenly changed his mind when it meant he would have to come in early to work that day. Much fighting ensued, and when I threatened to shut the store down, he showed up, intentionally bedraggled, and told me to go with this look like I had REALLY inconvenienced him. But now it was the middle of the day, and busses were only running every hour, and I just missed the last one. The way it was going, it would take me at least 3 hours to get to downtown DC. I called cabs. Oh my, a convention was in town, and cabs were all delayed 3-4 hours. A convention? On a Wednesday? Luckily, Cheryl Evry drove from the FanTek house in Fort Washington to pick up my sorry ass in Springfield Mall, to drop me off in downtown DC, where we got lost a few times. She still got me there in 40 minutes. Estimated time of delivery was 8pm that day.
8pm went by. She was only dilated at 5cm. I stayed next to her while she had labor pains every 3-4 minutes,
Thursday, July 19th
By Thursday, she stopped dilating at 7cm and never got any further (10cm is the minimum for delivery). Then her condition took a serious turn, and this is where things get a little blurry because none of us really had slept since Wednesday morning. I have to be honest, our main reason that we chose midwives was that they were cheaper, and we were uninsured (back then, employers did not have to have health insurance for employees). But they were awesome, and insured or not, I'd pick midwives again (they treat pregnancy and childbirth as a natural thing, not a disease that needs cured). Since we were at Georgetown Hospital, they handed her over to the doctors, and the doctors were not awesome. I don't know which of the 5 or so doctors that wafted in and out I hated most, but they were one big irritated blur for the next 24 hours.
What was obvious is they wanted me gone. They tried, multiple times, to get rid of me, including moving my wife without telling me where she was going. At some point she had an epidural, which I caught the tail end of. They also told her I went home, when I didn't. The midwives, and this is as shining example why I thought they were so awesome, kept finding her and sneaking me back in. Then my wife and unborn son got some massive infection, and they put takayla on sulfides, which raised her and my son's temperature to dangerous levels.
Through all this, all I kept thinking was that there was no way I could pay for all of this. The midwives (note, they were awesome) told me, "Don't sign a thing. Tell them you can't sign anything because that would be illegal. They want you to sign things so they can bill you, but they have to give her procedures whether you sign or not. If you can't afford it, don't sign it." Boy, did I get a lot of pressure to sign things. I even got threats, immature threats I might add, like "What kind of man are you, afraid to sign things, can't support his kids... your wife is ashamed of you..." and so on. I merely stated to everything, "I cannot sign anything, it is illegal to sign any form with intent to fraud, and I have no desire to defraud this hospital." Because I did that... well, more on that later. But it was damn good advice.
In and out, in and out, the midwives snuck me in and out. They gave me news, fed me, and made sure I had access to a free phone.
Thursday night was when the bad news kept pouring in, and changed by the hour. "Your wife is not going to make it." Then, "Your wife might make it, but your son's heartbeat stopped." Then, "No, the monitor slipped, your son still has a heartbeat, but your wife is dying." Then "I don't think either one of them will survive." The worst news came around 7pm, when I was told that there was only a 20% chance either of them would live, and if I had to choose, which one would I pick to live? When I told a midwife that, she was appalled, and said that sort of decision should never be handed to the father. Then I got some "grief counselor," assigned by the hospital, who told me about caskets, funerals, calling relatives, and so on. Most of this time, they wouldn't let me see her because she was in the Natal ICU, or I could only see her through glass.
By 10pm the decision was made that they would do a caesarian, and they were prepping her for surgery. The midwives, ever the sneaky type, dressed me up like a doctor, and snuck me in through the student entrance. I sat next to the anesthesiologist, who, oddly, was also a student. He kept telling me he didn't feel well. He was nice enough to give takayla ice chips, even though he was told not to. Keep in mind, takayla, had been in labor for almost 40 hours, had nothing to drink, was dehydrated, feverish, in labor, and paralyzed from the waist down.
I held her hand through the entire procedure. Only later in the operation did she know it was me. Then, at 1:53am Friday morning, my son got introduced to direct light for the first time, and ... said nothing.
He wasn't breathing, and a deep purple with pale accents. I had seen that color before; when I discovered my mother dead at the foot of her bed some three years earlier. But they whisked him to a table, pumped out his mouth, and he made a gurgling noise. He was rushed to Infant ICU, where they found one of his lungs was open at the end, so when he drew a breath, it went right through the lung and into a bubble underneath which pushed his other lung shut. The operated on him at once, and he started his slow road to recovery.
But takayla was pretty sick. I wanted to stay with her, but I hadn't really slept since Wednesday morning, and the hospital called the police and they escorted me out of the building. I took the bus home, and tried to sleep. The tape I was playing in my Walkman was "Art of Noise - Below The Waste." I can't listen to that tape anymore because of that.
I couldn't sleep, so I went to Castlecon, which by the greatest of luck, was in Bethesda that year, a mere straight bus trip down to Georgetown Hospital. This is how CR became a "Castlecon Baby." FanTek people ferried me back and forth to the hospital. So did Christine's cousin Janita. Eden Miller gave me a hug. Security Central was reading Weekly World News over the airwaves; top story was "Aliens Mated with my Weedwacker!" People let me sleep on the floors or beds of their rooms.
After a week, takayla was released with a United Way nurse that visited daily for a week. Janita stayed and helped out immensely. CR got to come home a week later. Our hospital bill was $57,000. But, because Christine was gone for work longer than she had told them, they fired her. This seems like a bad thing, but due to some Washington DC law, suddenly we only owed $15,000 because you couldn't bill the unemployed (or something). The only bills we still owed were the ones I signed for before the midwives told me not to.
It took 7-8 years to pay all those off. takayla got a job the following month that paid a lot better, but I lost my job six months later, which got us evicted from our apartment, had to live in the projects for a few years, and I didn't get another full time job until two years later... but I got to raise my son, which was cool. Bill collectors hounded us daily, but through a combination of legal loopholes, like "I never approved this procedure. I want signed proof." Remember the midwives' advice? Came in handy. Many cases were dropped because they had no proof of the procedure. Some couldn't get money from me because *I* was unemployed. And those that tried to freeze our bank account... whoops! We didn't have one! (Really, we didn't have a bank account for many years, paid bills with money orders, cashed Christine's paycheck against her company's bank...) Others just gave up after a time. The rest (about $9000) were paid off slowly, with a final burst of money when I worked all the overtime at the AOL NOC back in '98.
And obviously, NONE of this even comes CLOSE to what takayla had to go through: 40+ hours in labor, near death, and she had to deal with me flipping out all the time. She still has to deal with the flipping out, come to think of it. CR came out okay, but he still has asthma of course, and three small scars on his left side where they did the surgery, he did suffer jaundice for a while, and had a voracious hunger that had him eating solids at 2 months. But he's not purple anymore!
So, Happy Birthday CR! I can only speak for myself, but it's been well worth it. You're a great human being, and I am glad to know you. And happy "Not Dying On Me" day to takayla.