With Angel’s Wings Kindle Edition
Thirteen days after the birth of her youngest, the pediatrician detects a heart murmur. That leads to just the first of multiple diagnoses for both of her daughters, sending Laura on an unexpected and emotional journey into the world of parenting medically-fragile, special needs children.
Right when Laura fears she will break under the incredible pressure, she encounters the beauty of true love, in a most unexpected and unconventional way.
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The office was quiet when she walked in, but Hannah broke the silence with one of her crying spells. She had recently begun crying that way almost anytime she was awake. Even when asleep, she looked like she was crying because tears would be streaming down the right side of her face. Laura hadn’t worried much about that, since her eye didn’t look infected, and tears, at least, suggested that Hannah was hydrated.
Hannah weighed in at 5½ pounds. She should have surpassed her birth weight by then, so they weren’t off to a great start. Next the doctor inquired about her fussing. Laura explained that Hannah’s crying never equaled an all-out wail, but lately, she had been fussing constantly. Her cries were rather quiet, as if she didn’t have the energy for anything more strenuous.
Dr. Michaels got out his stethoscope and proceeded with the exam. He listened to Hannah’s heart. “Uh-oh…” he said.
What do you mean, “Uh-oh?” There’s no “uh-oh” at this point in the exam. This is just a formality before we get down to the real problem–her stomach and why she won’t eat!
The doctor continued. “We’ve got a problem here,” he said. “I’m hearing a substantial murmur.”
Feeling somewhat like a bad parent for not thinking, Oh God, my poor baby!, or No!, or What? You must be mistaken!, Laura found herself oddly relieved. She continued feeling tense and fearful, but she was glad the doctor had an answer. Oh, so there is an explanation. See? I knew it was something. Now…what’s a murmur? I know I’ve heard the term before…
Not wanting to appear panicked (or, worse yet, ignorant), Laura remained quiet. She assumed by the doctor’s tone that the situation was serious enough to warrant a detailed explanation.
Still listening with the stethoscope, Dr. Michaels explained that Hannah probably had a hole in her heart. Instead of a “lub-dub…lub-dub,” he was hearing a “whoosh-whoosh…whoosh-whoosh.” After a few more minutes, he handed the stethoscope to Laura. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to pick up the subtle differences, but as soon she placed the stethoscope on Hannah’s chest, Laura was sure the heartbeat didn’t sound normal. Stunned and confused, she tried to focus as Dr. Michaels reassured her. Although this was a serious problem, he explained that it occurred quite often, and corrective surgery was often performed on infants this size. He also reminded her that they were lucky to live in New Hampshire.
“Children’s Hospital in Boston is right down the road,” he said, “and they have some of the best heart specialists in the world who handle problems like this–and much worse–all the time.”
Next, Dr. Michaels wanted to know about Hannah’s breathing. “How would you describe it?” he asked.
“Well…” Laura was searching for the right words. “Her breaths are…choppy.”
They took a moment to observe Hannah. After a few quick, shallow breaths, her breathing slowed, and even stopped, for a few seconds. Then she took a deep breath, followed by some rapid, shallow ones.
“Yep, you’re right.” Dr. Michaels confirmed his observations as he wrote on the chart. “They’re choppy. What about her color?”
Laura was thankful for the prompt. “Oh, yeah. I wanted to mention that. She seems to get cold easily. Her hands and feet get blue sometimes.”
“Dark blue-purple or more of a dusty gray?”
“Uh…a dark, dusty blue, I guess–oh, like that.” Laura pointed to Hannah’s foot.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. He was writing more notes on the chart.
Dr. Michaels quickly sent them next door to Littleton Regional Hospital’s Emergency Room with orders for an EKG, chest x-ray, and blood-oxygen levels. He said he’d meet them there shortly. Laura felt numb, as she and Hannah headed to the ER. This isn’t real. This isn’t how today was supposed to go!
The ER wasn’t busy, so the tests didn’t take long. The shocking results came quickly. The technician could hardly believe the EKG results, and the chest x-ray showed considerable fluid in the lungs. Plus, Hannah’s blood-oxygen saturation was in the mid 80s when it should have been 100%–or at least, in the mid-to-high 90s. The news caught Laura off guard by such an extent that she didn’t know where to direct the worry consuming her. She began obsessing about the fact that she hadn’t showered. I’m obviously going to be here for awhile today, she thought, and I’m not even showered…
Dr. Michaels soon arrived and reviewed the test results. He didn’t like what he observed, but he wasn’t surprised. While standing in the middle of the ER bay, he began stroking his beard and studying Hannah, who was half asleep on the stretcher.
“Well, I’m…I’m reasonably confident that she’ll be okay over the next hour or two…I think…” He sighed after a long pause and continued. “I don’t think we need the helicopter…I think I’ll just send for an ambulance.”
Hold on! What? Back up! Did he just say “for the next hour or two!” What happened to “This is a serious situation, but it happens all the time and can be corrected with no problem?” Laura’s mind raced, desperately trying to absorb the doctor’s words. She had pictured them making an appointment for Hannah to see a specialist the next day. She had pictured going home and having plenty of time to pack bags and so forth. Instead, things were happening too fast. She began to panic. Oh, God. What’s happening? Wait…wait…what’s…oh, God…what’s going on!
“With Angel’s Wings” is the brutally honest account of life with two handicapped children – one of them often closer to death than alive – and the resulting fight on many different fronts. Family, doctors, authorities, friends – there is no area of life unaffected.
If this was fiction, I would criticize the fact that problems are brought up in the course of the story which are not resolved satisfactorily. For example, one moment the situation with the children’s father escalates seemingly beyond repair and in the next moment his older daughter spends the weekend with him. How was the problem solved? I don’t know. But I do know that life is crazy; that other, more pressing things come up. While a fiction author has time to spend on happily resolving problems to make the story perfect, a special needs mom is simply glad she doesn’t have to worry about one thing anymore while five others hit her in the face. That’s what this book mirrors.
You do not read it to enjoy carefully composed literature. You read it because you want to know how anyone can survive such an ordeal. You want to know what a true hero looks like – and how deep the emotional pit is she has to crawl out of over and over again.
It will touch you, unless you have a heart of stone.