Me and my Mom have this running joke about how she gave birth to me twice. It is essentially true and ironically the second birth occurred Mother’s Day weekend of 1992. The Thursday before Mother’s Day my 16 year-old self had decided that it would be pretty cool to take my Mom and Nana out for Mother’s Day on my own dime. The destination? Tiffany’s, a restaurant that I had not at the time been too, that was well-known for its ribs and cheesecake.
There isn’t much I remember from that evening at dinner save for the fact that it was my Mom, my Nana, my oldest nephew, and I that had gone out to eat … and the cheese cake. I had ordered cheesecake for dessert, a cheesecake that unbeknownst to me, had ground pecans baked into the crust. Prior to eating this cheesecake, I remembered that I always felt “funny” when I ate the Little Debbie Brownies with the nuts on them that my older brother would bring me from the corner store. They made my throat itch so badly that I’d stopped eating them all together.
After the first bite of cheese cake that feeling I would get when I ate the Little Debbie cakes started only now it was about ten thousand times worse. I immediately began to spit the cake into my napkin and told my Mom that I didn’t feel well. She sent me to the car while she paid the tab and gathered my Nana and nephew. The last thing I remember is getting into the car, taking about 20 doses too many of my inhaler because I felt my throat closing, and then going cold. This would be my last conscious memory for two weeks.
When my Mom got to the car she found me passed out. I was sheet white and my lips were a dusky shade of purple. Panicked and having little sense of direction, she began to drive around the city of Union, NJ searching for the hospital. This search lasted approximately ten minutes and by all scientific logic I should have been brain-dead, but this situation would defy any logic you could throw at it.
Upon finding Union Hospital my Mom pulled into the area on the opposite side of the emergency room. Desperate, she got out of the car flung open the doors and began to scream for help. Her screaming, I can imagine based on her “normal” conversational octave, was enough to wake the dead and ultimately summon a hospital of doctors, nurses, and therapist to my aid. I was removed from the car and placed on the ground as the team immediately began to care for what appeared to be a dead kid.
My mom was completely devastated as doctors explained to her my limited odds of surviving the anaphylactic shock I’d endured. She was advised to call my family members so they could come and say good-bye to me. I was given last rites (it was a Catholic hospital I believe) and my family prepared for the worse. That evening in the waiting room, so I’m told, my Nana held a prayer vigil to end all prayer vigils. She prayed with absolute strangers for the complete healing of their loved ones even though, at least in my case, all hope seemed to be lost. And just like that I lived through the night … and the next night.
Doctors cautioned my mother about being overly optimistic about my outcome seeing as how the odds for anoxic brain injury due to the delay in my treatment were quite high. These predictions seemed accurate when on Mother’s Day the only thing I kept repeating much to my mother’s horror was “Happy Mother’s Day” probably sounding a lot like Igor. However, over the next few days and weeks I gradually returned to normal (or as normal as I’d ever be again 😉 ). My first memory? Waking up to a Russian woman who was trying to explain to me her open heart surgery by repeating the words “bad blood” with her thick accent and pointing at monstrous wound on her chest. Good times.
My mother is not a huggin’, squeezin’, excessive sugar givin’ sagely advice dolin’ kind of mom. There are times when I wish like hell she was, but then I think about this “second birth” and how people from the community surrounding the hospital where I’d been sick calling in by the droves to check on “The screaming woman’s daughter”. I think about the lengths my mother went through to get me adequate care for my asthma even begging a pulmonologist who only saw adults to see me when every pediatrician I’d seen had thrown up their hands. Then I think, here I am, a living breathing miracle over 22 years after my second birth not only alive and well, but thriving in ways I could never have imagined. Today I give thanks to my praying grandmother and a mother that refused to give up on her sickly little wheezer even during times it seemed the world had. I love you Ma!