We have pretty good kids. They play well together more often than not. They usually eat their veggies. They enjoy Sunday School, hiking, swimming, and pretending to be Power Rangers in the backyard.
But every day at eight o’clock bedtime rolled around. Bed time was always a chore, and it would put me in a foul mood by the time they finally passed out at ten o’clock. Bedtime was quickly approaching. It was already 7:30, when we would normally start our bedtime routine. But this particular Sunday night my oldest and my youngest were happily cohabitating in her bedroom. Wesley, after a gastrointestinal fireworks show that morning, spent a sick day downstairs in front of the TV. The house was too hot for the kids to sleep, so I told him one more show, and Bella and ‘Thaniel that they could play for a little bit more. The temperature outside had finally dropped lower than the temperature in the house and the cool pleasant breeze was flowing in through the living room windows. A few fans helped to circulate the air in our AC-less Pacific Northwest home. There are only a few weeks out of the year when it gets hot enough to be uncomfortable, this was one of them. The kids had all been going to sleep in just their underwear and when I would head to bed around eleven I would cover them with a sheet. My three year old, Nathaniel, ran out into the living room naked.
“Mama, I went peepee in the potty.”
“Good job, Buddy. Are you ready to put your bedtime diaper on?”
“Nope, I wanna be naked!” He struck a ninja Power Ranger pose and I laughed.
“Alright, Than, you and sissy have five more minutes to play, just until I finish this laundry, then no more naked time. Bedtime.”
“Ok!” He took off down the hall. Boundless energy. I could tell when he’d gotten to his sister’s room because she came back out.
“Mom, ‘Thaniel’s naked.” She said it with half an eye roll of a fifteen-year-old.
“I know, he’s fine, you guys have five more minutes to play.”
“I’m not playing, I’m reading.”
“Then you have five more minutes to read before we need to clean up the Littlest Pet Shop toys you guys were playing with earlier.” She skipped away.
There was peace in my house. Momentary peace. The kids were calm, the laundry was at least in the process of being folded. And then Bella ran back into the living room.
“’Thaniel fell out my window!”
The world seemed to pause as I sprinted down the stairs, out the front door, down the porch steps and saw my son, moments earlier full of joy and life, now lying face down, on the window screen, on the cement driveway, naked, not moving. Please God. I don’t know how I kept my voice so calm, but I needed his sister to help me.
“Bella! Get the phone, dial 911 and bring it to me.” She ran back into the house. I placed my hand on his chest and could feel his breath. “You’re okay buddy.” He still didn’t move.
My neighbor, from across the street ran from her house in Hysterics. “Oh my God, Heather! I saw him fall!”
“Call 911, he’s breathing!” I yelled back. She ran into the house and I could hear her on the phone with dispatchers as her husband, told her to calm down. Bella handed me the home phone, she hadn’t dialed it yet.
“Bella. Get me my shoes, my purse, and my cell phone.” She ran back in. I kept talking to ‘Thaniel as he lay there unconscious. I saw that the left side of his face was covered with blood from impact. His eye was hugely swollen and deep purple. There was blood in his hair. Please God, hold him in your hands.
Bella returned with my things. She was scared, but there wasn’t anything I could do to help her. “Bella, hunny, he’s breathing, and the ambulance is coming. I need you to go next door and get Miss. Johanna to watch you and Wesley while I ride with ‘Thaniel to the hospital.”
Our neighbors, still on the phone with the 911 operator, had crossed the street.
“Where’s Thomas?” her husband asked. My husband works as a Nurse Practitioner at several Emergency Rooms nearby. My brain attempted to recall his schedule for about 5 seconds before giving up and focusing all my attention on my son. “I don’t know.”
She knelt down near ‘Thaniel and me, and prayed fervently for him.
‘Thaniel whimpered, and then began to calmly cry. It was the most wonderful sound I’d ever heard. I told him Mama was there, that he was gonna be okay, and to just lay still. I knew from years of Girl Scout first aid training not to move him in case he had a spinal injury. He started to move his arms slowly. I could hear the sirens in the distance.
Bella returned with our regular babysitter, I was thankful for my daughter’s level head throughout the trauma, and thankful for Miss. Johanna being there to comfort her.
Nathaniel tried to stand up. “It’s okay, buddy, just stay still, you’re gonna be okay. God loves you and we all love you.” He tried to climb into my lap, so I held him. I used my arm to stabilize his neck as much as possible. He passed in and out of consciousness in my arms. The sirens got closer. Dee got Wesley, 5, from the house and offered to take both the kids for as long as we needed her to. I told the big kids to give ‘Thaniel a kiss, and tell him they love him.
I didn’t want them to say goodbye. I didn’t want it to be goodbye.
Wesley kissed his brother’s shoulder, not really understanding what had happened “I love you ‘Thaniel”. The ambulance pulled onto our street and Dee waved to them as they pulled up.
“Bella, give your brother a kiss, and tell him you love him.” She slowly approached, knowing full well that he could just as easily be dead in an hour as alive, kissed his arm and whispered “I love you.”
I carried him onto the Ambulance.
They put him in a C-collar and strapped him to a backboard and started an IV.
My husband still had no idea what had happened. I tried to send a text but couldn’t get service from inside the Ambulance. I managed to leave a message on his cell, but unsure if he’d get it I called my Father-in-Law to track him down. I then recounted how I found my little boy in the driveway for the first of many times. I could hear my voice, flat, factual. I didn’t want to leave anything out.
My husband saw that he’d missed a call, and that I left a message. He started to walk away, intending to check the message after seeing a few more patients, but as he was leaving the reception area changed his mind and heard “Thaniel fell out of Bella’s window; we’re on our way to Mary Bridge.” My husband, who has prayed audibly less than five times in his life, spent the drive from one hospital to another asking God to keep his son safe, to make him thankful and appreciative for the time He’d given us with our joyful boy thus far in life. He prayed that Thaniel was still alive.
The ambulance ride seemed endless. The EMTs continued to wake my son as he slipped in and out of consciousness. When his body would go limp I would take solace in the constant levels displayed on the heart rate and oxygen monitors. Then thank God when he’d give the faintest whimper, not realizing more often than not I’d been holding my breath. We drove quickly and steadily save for one moment when two cars made left turns in front of the ambulance, causing us to stop, sirens still blaring. Seriously, my son is dying! It was the only time I allowed a negative thought to enter my mind. I quickly pushed it away.
His eye was so swollen I thought it would burst, I was sure he’d be blind in one eye at the very least, but at that moment his sight didn’t matter, his life did. In that moment I knew I’d be thrilled with any amount of damage if it meant my son would live through this.
They wheeled him through the ER, and directly into a large trauma room. I stayed just outside the doorway in the hall. I wasn’t who he needed right then. The room flooded with nurses, technicians, doctors, and specialists. Each focused on their personal aspect of his care, but all working in perfect harmony. He cried softly. Just keep crying. You’re gonna be ok. Complex machinery chirped unintelligible information in a symphony of beeps and blips. I watched his tiny helpless body go limp and lifeless again. People swarmed, I couldn’t see past them. There wasn’t room for me amid the bustle of activity.
The ER social worker brought me a chair, as I sunk into it my legs felt weak and the room got orange and slow for a minute, don’t pass out, I took a few deep breaths to clear my head. She handed me a cup of water. I just held it. Didn’t know what else to do with it. ‘Thaniel’s room looked like a hornet’s nest that had been struck. The Social Worker told me it was okay to cry, like my silence meant I wasn’t feeling anything. But she was wrong. If he woke back up, I didn’t want my son to hear me crying. He needed to know that I wasn’t worried. He needed to see that Mommy was calm. So I didn’t cry. I didn’t move. I barely breathed.
Thomas hurried down the hall just as they wheeled Nathaniel to get a head CT. I told him what happened, my hands beginning to shake. He took the cup of water from me and wrapped me in his arms.
“This is not your fault.” he whispered. Most of me believed him.
I posted a request for prayer on Facebook, called my Pastor, my parents, and then we waited.
Thaniel’s heart rate seemed a little high and he was moaning. A nurse gave a dose of morphine for the pain. Immediately his heart rate and respiration lowered and he slept. At least my husband understood what all the machines meant. He assured me that ‘Thaniel’s vitals looked good.
Chest, neck and spinal X-rays had come back clean. The doctor was concerned that he may have some damage, some bruising to his brain just behind the skull fracture, and put out a call to an expert surgeon to get a second opinion. We would have to wait for the specialist to read the results of the scan before we’d know for sure. There was a chance he’d need surgery and the surgeon at Mary Bridge didn’t feel comfortable doing it.
Things began to slow down. We were moved to a private room in the ER to wait. Our parents came and went.
Thomas took my spot at his bedside. I wanted to update friends and family about Thaniel’s prognosis. When I saw the response to my request I was astonished. There were people I’d never met praying for our son, sharing his story. Hundreds of strangers appealing to God on his behalf. We were hopeful.
Thomas stepped out of the room for a moment and I stayed with ‘Thaniel. He opened his eye.
“Hey buddy,” I smiled as I gave his hand a gentle squeeze.
“Hi.” His voice was small and rough.
“I Love you.”
“I love you too.” His words flooded me with certainty. I knew he would be ok.
“We’re at the hospital and the nice doctors are gonna help you feel better.”
Thomas walked into the room.
“Hey Buddy, Daddy’s here.” I moved aside for Thomas.
“Hey ‘Thaniel. You’re such a tough guy. Are you the Green Ranger?”
“No. I’m just ‘Thaniel.”
“Okay buddy, you’re just ‘Thaniel. It’s good to talk to you.”
“Yeah.” he fell back asleep.
I tried, desperately to swallow the sobs welling in my throat, but it was so heavy it was choking me. Hearing my son tell me he loves me. Hearing my son. I believed I would, but I didn’t know if I’d ever hear his voice again. My chest was unbearably tight. ‘Thaniel was asleep. It was just me and Thomas, I lay my head on his shoulder and finally cried.
It was just after midnight when we got news that he’d be admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and remain at Mary Bridge. His skull fractures would not need surgery and the specialist did not see any brain bruising on the CT films! My parents brought Bella and Wesley to see him. We were concerned his injuries would bother them but his sister had begged to come. Bella looked at him, silent and motionless, eye swollen and in a C-collar. She hugged me as I held her and then whispered in my ear with a small voice “Is he dead?” We told her her again that he was just sleeping and that the doctors had given him medicine so that he wouldn’t hurt but she was not convinced.
After arriving upstairs we met with an opthamoligist who was able to pry back ‘Thaniel’s swollen lids. To do this they needed to sedate my son, which bothered me. He’d been so close to death hours earlier. I couldn’t imagine lowering his vitals intentionally, but we needed to do it. she was able to see that his eye looked perfect, not even red. No nerve damage. Although it would be weeks before the swelling would go down and we could see how his vision was affected by the fall, we had every reason to hope for no damage to his eyesight!
Things began to look better the following morning. He still wasn’t smiling, and he was sleeping a lot, which the doctors said was normal so the brain could heal. We were waiting for urine tests to come back, letting us know if there was any damage to the internal organs. Monday morning we were able to remove the C-Collar. Thomas handed him the small stuffed walrus that he’d gotten from the EMTs and he grabbed it with his right had, then immediately dropped it and said his arm hurt. They hadn’t done X-rays of any of his extremities upon arrival, just the chest, neck spine and a CT of the head. Doc did a physical exam of the rest of him and his only complaint was the right forearm just above the wrist. Sure enough, after X-rays we found a buckle fracture. We put a splint on his arm and took this video to send to his big brother and sister.
People continued to pray for Nathaniel. I was the most impressed with new friends and coworkers who, like me, were Brand Partners with Nerium International. Colleagues from across the country I’d never met were posting prayers for my son every hour. When late night west coasters would go to bed early morning east coast Brand Partners woke up. There was not an hour that went by our entire hospital stay that didn’t have a comment of prayer, and those were just the ones I saw. I was so blessed by their outpouring of support. I believe this company fell in my lap when it did (3 months earlier) so these prayer warriors would be in our lives when we needed them.
We were shocked to hear how often children fall from windows. This happens especially in the summer time when many families cool their homes, like we did, by opening a window. Ours wasn’t low to the ground. In fact Nathaniel had to climb over the foot board of his sister’s bed, and shimmy across the window sill to get to the screen in order to push on in ever so slightly. It takes less than five pounds of pressure to knock out a window screen. They’re meant to keep the bugs out, not the toddlers in. Click here For more information on how to prevent falls from windows. Please, put window locks on your windows (we installed these! for less than a dollar a window). Tell the people who care for your children about window locks. Ask other parents about their window security if your kids have play dates at their home. We almost lost our little boy. Please, let our story save yours! God Bless.