On Tuesday afternoon on January 6th, at 2:48, I got a call from my children's elementary school. I remember the time because I wondered why I was getting a call from the school and thought "Did I miss pickup? Nope, it's only 2:48." I said hello and as the reception asked "Is this Mrs. Miller" I could hear the panic in her voice and I said "yes. What's wrong?"
"Kate's not breathing. An ambulance is on it's way."
My heart still kind of stops even writing it down. But I remember my voice shooting up 2 octaves and just begging her "WHAT?!!" and I managed to spew out something about me being on my way.
I'm instantly shaking, and in my head thinking WHY ISN'T KATE BREATHING?? My 100% healthy, no-known-allergies daughter not breathing? Did she fall? Was she attacked? WHY ISN'T SHE BREATHING? HOW LONG HAS SHE NOT BEEN BREATHING??!!! Why isn't she breathing.
"Wait! Do we know why she's not breathing?!" I managed to get off before she hung up the phone. I'm so grateful I was able to ask her because she was able to reply, "Oh wait, okay she's breathing now! But an ambulance is still on it's way! Come now!"
I can't imagine now how much worse it would've been if I would've had to make the 3 minute drive to the school still thinking that she CURRENTLY wasn't breathing. I had to stop at a red light at the main intersection and saw a police car with it's lights and sirens blazing, on it's way to the school, and I knew that that car was on the way to the school for my baby.
But that's getting ahead of myself. Back at home, I turned to Josi and told her to get in the car as fast as she could and that it was an emergency. Then I grabbed Lucy from her crib (who miraculously woke up totally happy) and threw her in the car. I remember Josi saying "Mom this is an emergency." and I remember trying to close my garage door as I was backing out of the driveway and I pushed the button 3 times and it still wouldn't close because my hands were shaking so bad. I raced down the street and my hands were shaking as I tried to dial Kyle's work phone. When I got his receptionist I cut her off and yelled "This is Samantha. I need to talk to Kyle right now. It's an emergency. Get him now." He was on the phone in seconds and I told him what the secretary had originally told me. I don't know what he said to me but I remember taking a deep breath, forcing myself to calm down enough to make sense and then telling him that she hadn't been breathing but she was now and to meet me at the hospital.
After I got off the phone with him, still driving, I called my girlfriend Emily Smith who lives across the street from the school. I managed to get a sentence or two off when my phone got disconnected, so I wasn't exactly sure what she had heard. She tried calling me back but my phone dropped the call and I just ditched the idea of trying to get a hold of her. I got to the school, had to jump out of the car to throw the big yellow cones (that try to keep parents out of the parking lot) out of my way and drove up to the curb. There was a firetruck, an ambulance, and a couple of police cars. I grabbed the kids and ran through the side door after the cop that had just arrived. I can see myself running with Lucy in my arms and Josi running behind me in her bare feet, constant tears streaming down my face, passing the front desk as I yelled "WHERE IS SHE?!" and the secretary, who had been waiting for me by the door, pointing and yelling "Down in her classroom!" The cop who I was running behind turned to me and asked if I was the mom and I said yes and then I remember someone else in the hallway stopping me outside the door and asking me a bunch of her medical history and being told that they think that she had a seizure. Okay, a seizure.
Then I walked into her room and all the kids were gone and Kate was on the ground surrounded by a handful of grownups, maybe 6 people, including the principal and the medical first responders. I went to her and knelt down and was petting her and talking to her. She was curled up in the fetal position, lightly shaking and covered in goosebumps and I saw that she was breathing but she wouldn't open her eyes or respond to anyone. She looked so clammy and cold and stiff, and I just kept running my hands over her head and talking to her. Then the medical people told me that this was usual behavior for a post-seizure episode. Kate had never had a seizure before in her life.
I remember looking up, and through the glass of the closed door seeing my friend Emily Smith with a worried look on her face waving at me. I waved for her to come in the room and she came right in and grabbed Lucy and Josi for me. And they both went willingly, without a peep. I had almost forgotten I was holding Lucy, she had been holding so still. Josi had been standing right next to me but she had never said a word or moved a muscle either. Like she had told me, she just understood it was an emergency and was so spectacular, Lucy too. A few minutes later I stood up at the perfect time to see out of the classroom window Emily escorting Owen along with the rest of our families out to her car, which was another blessing since I had forgotten to ask her to get Owen too. I will love that girl until the day I die for being there for me that day. It makes me cry just thinking about it.
The doctors asked my permission to take Kate to the hospital and they loaded her on a gurney. She still hadn't opened her eyes at this point. We start to leave the classroom and her teacher, Mrs. Baker, was standing by the door. I vaguely remembered seeing her pacing in the front of the room while I was laying next to Kate on the ground. I turned to her and gave her a big hug and she was SOBBING and I was sobbing and she kept saying how sorry she was and I kept telling her how sorry I was for her and how she did a good job. When she released me I told her I'd keep her updated and then I ran down the hall to catch up with the gurney.
By this time it was 3:10, which means school was letting out. The lobby was filled with a few parents standing along the wall quietly watching and outside there was a ton of people watching as we rolled Kate out. I could just see so many parent's faces, and it was like each set of eyes were love beams shining at me. I know that sounds weird to say, but its's basically every parent's worst nightmare to have your kid put in an ambulance at school and I could just feel the empathy and concern and love coming from these strangers. I also saw that Emily and my crew were just past the ambulance as they were walking to their car and I saw Owen and Josi turn and see Kate getting put in the ambulance.
I quickly moved my car from the bus curb to a parking space and jumped in the back of the ambulance with Kate and 2 other medical personnel. It was in the ambulance that she finally, FINALLY opened her eyes. I kept talking to her and rubbing her legs and trying to make jokes to get a reaction from her, but she was just staring at nothing. I would get her to look at me but there was nobody there. Her face was so blank, no response, no life, and I kept thinking "wait, how long wasn't she breathing?!" The ambulance person asked her when her birthday was and she just kept staring. Staring. So I asked her a few times and she finally said "March 25th." Which is correct and a relief. But still. Even her answer was so hollow.
I had been updated by the medical personnel just fragments of the story they'd been told. At this point I knew that she had been healthy all day, and then during crafts someone said "Kate are you okay?!" and then her arms and legs were stiff and her lips and face were blue and she was bent back stiff in her chair horizontal to the ground.
When we got to the hospital, they opened the back doors of the ambulance and Kyle was standing right there. I was so relieved to see him and went straight into his arms and cried. We went into the hospital and they got her in a gown and hooked her up to everything. They took her temperature and it was 103 degrees.
In the end, the doctor said they think she had a febrile seizure. According to Kate's discharge papers, "A febrile seizure is a seizure that occurs in a child with normal development between 6 months and 6 years of age. They are common. Seizure is usually triggered by your child being sick and having a fever. Many children will have the seizure first and then develop the fever soon afterwards." Kate is outside of that age range at almost 8, but he said the fact that she came in with such a high fever when she was fine only hours before, suggests that her temperature just spiked so quickly that it caused this febrile seizure. He said there weren't any great tests to run and if it was that, we can expect for it to probably NOT happen again (or it does. That wouldn't be great.) If she had come in with a seizure and NO temperature, it could've meant something a lot more serious, like epilepsy or worse.
The doctor said there wasn't really any great tests they could run, so they just held us there for 2 hours so they could observe her. At first she was still just... not there. Like a lifeless robot or something. Kyle and I kept talking to her, trying to get a reaction from her. Kyle asked her about if during her seizure she saw a light and she just shook her head no. I jokingly asked her if she saw Jesus, (I don't know why I jokingly asked her that, as we definitely DO believe in Jesus. I was just trying to get a small smile) and she turned her head to me and looked at me with a straight face and just said "Yes." Kyle and I looked at each other with big eyes and I whispered to her "what did He say?" and with no expression she just looked at me and said "feel better." (She doesn't remember any of this. Or the ride in the ambulance.)
One thing I want to note. Owen and Josi had had a mild 2 day flu, that included a fever, and one vomit, a few days prior. Kate hadn't gotten sick yet, so I guess that was her getting sick.
By 5:00, 2 hours later, she finally started coming back to her normal self. How can I express how relieved and grateful I felt? We left the hospital and Kyle took Kate home while I went to pick up the kids. When I picked up Owen, he seemed pretty happy and normal. I pulled him aside later and asked him how he was. He said he had seen her laying straight on the ground with her eyes closed and blue lips. He said that he had been scared, so at Emily's house he went into the kitchen and said a prayer, and then he felt better. However, later in the evening he kept coming up to me and saying "Mom, I can't stop thinking about Kate on the ground. I thought she was going to die." I told him that he should say a prayer to tell Heavenly Father how grateful we are that she's okay. We smiled and agreed. Other than that he's been okay. Josi was pretty cute the rest of the night. She kept telling Kyle, "Kate wants to watch a show and we are going to let Kate do whatever she wants today." Or "Kate wants _____ and we are going to let Kate have whatever she wants today." She was really trying to take care of Kate.
I kept Kate by my side for days. We've spoken softly to each other. When I had to return her to school on Friday, I pulled over on the side of the road. We were a little early and I didn't want her to have to sit in the gym and be bombarded before class. My hands shook still and my chest was tight and I felt like I couldn't breath. I knew she was okay but my body was physically reacting to dropping her off. I made her come sit on my lap in the car so I could just hold her for a few minutes.
One thing I'd like to mention is how much support we felt so quickly from everyone. I was getting a bunch of texts from ladies in my ward during all this (there are a bunch of kids from church in her class). My girlfriend Karma, whose kids don't even go to Hucrest, was one of the first people calling to find out how she could help. She was in the waiting room waiting to see if I needed help with anything, and without being asked, had already driven to my house and, through my open garage, picked up diapers and took them to Emily Smith so she could have my kids for as long as necessary. (Days later when I asked Karma how in the world she had found out so quickly, she told me that a friend from Hucrest had called Karma and said "Aren't you really close with Sam? Kate just got hauled off in an ambulance!) A little boy from our ward actually came to the hospital and brought Kate flowers that he had used his own money to buy. It was pretty sweet. Later, several other moms told me that their children had gone home that day and had snuggled their parents all night and cried as well, and Kate received notes and gifts from kids at school who wanted to do SOMETHING. Another little boy in our ward kept getting things from his room and telling his mom he wanted to give them to Kate so she finally took him to the store to buy Kate a gift and dropped it off at our house.
Most importantly, it turns out that while I was being disconnected from Emily on the phone earlier on my initial, frantic drive to the school, I accidentally and unknowingly face-timed my sister Allie, so we ended up texting each other (as she thought she had missed a call from me) and I told her what was happening and she contacted the rest of my family. We felt a lot of love.
I took Kate to dance last night (a week later) and I was able to sit and talk with Khara Holborrow, who is another 2nd grade teacher at Hucrest and also the mother of Kate's best friend, Maelin. She told me her side of events as she saw it.
So this is what I was able to KIND of piece together: They were in the middle of craft time, and Mrs. Baker was reading to the class. I think it was Chase Smith (Emily's son) who was sitting next to Kate that asked "Kate are you okay?" and then (according to Emily after speaking with Chase) she went limp in her chair and he raised his hand shouting "Mrs. Baker! Mrs. Baker! Something's wrong with Kate!" Mrs. Baker ran back to Kate. Khara told me that Mrs. Baker told Chase to run next door and get Mrs. Holborrow and she ran over from the classroom next door. She said Mrs. Baker was kind of screaming and holding a student who was in their seat but their head was on the ground, and because of the weird angle and lifelessness of the body, she thought the student was stuck in the back of the chair. Then she ran up and saw that it was Kate (whom she loves), and Kate's face was gray and her lips were blue and she thought she was stuck in the chair and in her panic she couldn't feel a pulse and RAN out of the classroom SCREAMING down the hallway for them to call 911 and ran and got the principal too. They had all the kids go next door to Khara's room and she stayed with them while Mrs. Baker stayed with Kate. I'm so grateful for these ladies that had to witness and respond to this. It was horrifying from my point of view and I can imagine how scary it was for them. She was crying just telling me about it.
As far as Kyle goes, he was finishing three crowns on a patient when I called. He asked Tim to finish his patient and he told Claudia to reschedule the rest of his day. Sutherlin is about 15 minutes away and before he was able to get on the freeway, he got stuck behind our Stake patriarch AND a school bus that kept making stops. I think he kind of had his talk with God as he was deciding whether to abide the law or not, and he said he felt a peace come over him. He thought "Well, that probably means that she's either going to die and it will just have to be okay, or it means that she'll live and it will be okay." So he didn't pass the bus. But you better believe he sped like crazy once he hit the freeway. And he made it to the hospital before us. We had exchanged a few phone calls as I kept giving him updates so he was able to stay pretty calm, just like he always is. Thank goodness.
Overall, I felt a little changed when all was said and done. I remember during the crisis driving to the school thinking, "Okay. This is happening. This is it." And I'm just so grateful that is "wasn't it." I know how much life can change from one minute to the next, and I'm so grateful we were spared that loss. We feel so much love for each other. We also felt so much love from the people around us. I know that many of my family instantly gathered their kids around them and prayed for Kate. Kate even said to me the next day, "Mom, this is the first time I've ever had so many people pray for me and worry about me." And I told her "that's right Kate. There are a lot of people that really love you and care about you." So thank you for loving and caring about us, and for all of the prayers on our behalf. We feel blessed beyond measure.