I have spent a decent amount of my life in cars, trucks, and vans over the years. I like driving, not quiet as much these days as I used to, but I still do to a certain extent. I enjoy the feel of the road, the feel of the vehicle, and the feel of the music. I find driving a car is one place in which musical integration into a life is not only okay, but expected. And I love music, I love how it makes me feel, and how I feel the music. I spend a lot of time listening to music, driving, and thinking. In fact, on the road is where I do a lot of my thinking. Partly because the road is also a somewhat solitary place to be, even with passengers, the car has a tendency to turn into its own little bubble. Very shortly into our drive to Cooks from the first hospital in Bedford, I started thinking about everything. I started processing what all of it meant, especially what it meant for Micah. Even if all the surgeries went well and everything was as best as it could be, Micah would be limited in what he could physically do. No competitive sports, no hard physical activity. Maybe he wouldn’t even be able to do sports at all. Maybe he would never be able to run with me and his Mom and Maria. And what about long term, nothing but uncertainty there, people talk about transplants into adulthood, but transplants are risky and often don’t last long. How old was Micah going to live? Would I outlive him? Dear God please don’t let that happen, and not because I die anytime soon. And what if things don’t go so well? Does my son have a long term future? COOL-AID MAN!
My wife was on the phone with her mother. When the Cool-Aid Man struck I didn’t fight him. I cried, pretty hard for me. Not hard enough to stop me from being able to drive but hard enough that I felt my wife’s hand go to my arm and her loving voice say “Are you okay?” It was rhetorical, she knew I was not okay, but we both needed her to say something. I shook my head and let the tears come. It was what I needed to do at that time. If I had fought the years and tried to keep a smile on then what was coming out then would only get bunched up and come out later, maybe in a bad way, maybe in a hurtful way. Crying when you need to, letting yourself feel the emotion despite the potential negative societal implications is the strong thing to do. A man is not a rock, God did not build us to be that way. We are supposed to be compassionate, kind, and sympathetic. Sometimes that means we might cry. I did. A couple times on the way to the hospital. Honestly I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Too many what ifs. No ability to plan for any of it. All centered around a little guy who had only been alive for nine months, and had only been breathing for one and a half days.
Eventually the tide subsided. I mopped up the tears that were still streaked on my face and got back to driving. The route we took would become all to familiar over the coming weeks and months. Since the original hospital in Bedford was fairly close to my wife’s parent’s house the drive from there to Cook Children’s was almost the same as the drive from Cooks to her parents. And that was where our two and half year old daughter was when all of this happened. At her grandparents. Waiting for her mom and dad to come home with her baby brother, who she had met the day before. Who she had sung a song to and tried to give a piece of a grape to. I cried a little more later down the road.
I don’t remember much else from the drive. We arrived in Fort Worth, just south of I-30 and west of I-35 to a massive conglomeration of hospital buildings. Little did we know at the time that Cook Children’s was centered in the middle of other hospitals and a wide range of hospital support buildings. There is a Texas Health Methodist hospital there, a Baylor hospital there, Kindred hospital. Hospitals all over the place. We followed the GPS as best we could and eventually found a Cooks parking garage. We parked, grabbed our bags and headed into the stairwell. Immediately we realized we had no idea where exactly we were going. We knew Cooks and we knew surgery and we knew NICU, but we didn’t know how any of that related to where we were, or really where our son was. Luckily for us we happened by an employee who quickly explained to us that we had parked in the Emergency parking garage and that unless our kiddo was in the emergency room then we needed to park in the Patient and Guest parking garage. Back to the car, back down the ramps. “No, we parked in the wrong garage.” Back onto the street and then to the right garage.
And thank goodness we didn’t try and walk it, the portions of the hospital Micah was in is not near the Emergency room at all. Completely opposite sides of the complex, in fact. After fumbling around the building we eventually found the NICU, but we weren’t sure it was the NICU. There was a small sign, and a reception desk, but the desk was unmanned and the only people we saw were through a small glass window that was marked with the words NICU Milk Bank. We asked someone for help. “He was brought here from another hospital, he’s supposed to go for heart surgery.” That caused us to end up at the Cardiac ICU (CICU). The lady went inside to ask about him and determined that he was actually in the NICU, so back we went to the same area. This time we were directed to try the button on the wall next to the big unmarked double doors.
They let us in and we registered at the reception desk in the NICU, which was personed, and then taken to our son. There were a lot of people in his room, at least five or six, they all were doing something, and I needed to sit down.