Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Scare

Helping Himself to Ice Cream, Two Years Earlier

Yesterday was a typical day at our house. Until it wasn't. 

After 4 hours of ABA therapy and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, the boys were enjoying some down time in the playroom. As I walked up the stairs to round up the boys for speech therapy, I heard Little Man crying. I assumed the boys were fighting again, as siblings do. My jaw tensed as the "how many times do I have to tell you to play nicely" expression found its way to my face. Imagine my surprise as I entered the playroom and saw Big Brother playing happily by himself. My eyes scanned the room, to find the source of Little Man's tears...and then my heart stopped. I screamed something into the phone at my sister and threw it down as I sprinted to the window.  

From the far side of the playroom, I couldn't fully process what was happening, but I knew Little Man was in trouble. He had dragged his green Stokke chair from the therapy table and appeared to be looking out the window. As I approached, I saw that the cord to the blinds was tied tightly around his neck. 

As I lifted him into the air and felt how tightly the cord was wound, I screamed to Big Brother to go get scissors. This plea for help was a longshot. It's only recently that this precious 6 year old boy has been able to follow directions to help mommy with simple, familiar tasks. Calmly requested. In the same room. Sure, he knows where the scissors are located. Downstairs. In the drawer he isn't supposed to access without help. So, off he ran. 

As my youngest screamed, I lifted him higher into the air with my left arm and created enough slack to begin untying the cord with my right. I'm pretty sure I was screaming and chastising him as I worked. Effective, I know. But I was petrified and operating on adrenaline. 

Once free, I gathered him to my chest and collapsed onto a bench. I inspected his neck and felt great relief. His skin was abraded, leaving a thick red mark around most of his neck, but the wound appeared superficial. 

Big Brother arrived with scissors in hand, pride exuding from his sweet face. I praised him and sent him on his next mission. I asked him to please get brother's water bottle, which should have been downstairs on the breakfast table. "Ay Ay, Sir!" he barked as he hustled down the stairs. (It's a familiar script from a favorite cartoon.) A few minutes later, I heard my oldest approaching. He was scripting about needing a towel. I was a bit confused, until he entered the room. Apparently Little Brother's camelback bottle was missing, so Big Brother grabbed a small open cup and filled it with water from the front of the fridge. Sounds simple enough. Except it's not a task he's ever done. He understood the urgency and rose to the occasion. Then he happily fetched a towel and cleaned up the sloshed water. This mama was so proud!

As I comforted Little Man, I began processing the event. I prayed aloud, thanking God for his grace and mercy. Both he and I were calm enough now to speak reasonably, so I explained what he inherently knew. That was dangerous and we were very, very lucky. I told him that God was with him, even as mommy was on the other side of the house. And I explained that had he died, he would have been in heaven with Jesus, but mommy wouldn't have ever seen him again on earth. And I began to bawl. I had been operating in shock, but both of the boys needed to see how sad and scared their mommy really was. 

It's difficult to know how much the boys understand about life and death and danger. They're both young and autistic, and as such, struggle mightily with impulse control. For example, they run into the street with no appreciation of the consequences. So we practice walking safely and rehash the dangers every time we go outside. And all goes well, until a bird flies by and my oldest son is gone baby gone. But more on that another day. I knew I had to seize this teachable moment about life and death, as melodramatic as it may have seemed. I'm pretty sure they got it. But I'll be further securing the curtain cords on all 24 windows anyway. 

I share this story and open my family up to scrutiny in hopes that it will save another family the heartache we experienced, or worse. We have more security measures in place than you could shake a stick at. And still, this happened. My tiny little 37" peanut pushed that heavy chair across the room, and was able to reach the loose strings far above his typical reach. It's anybody's guess what make believe scenario he was playing out at the time. Nor does it matter. If it happened to us, it could happen to anyone. Please don't let it be you.

Though my little guy appeared to be ok, I heeded my husband's advice and took him to the ER to be sure. His urging was echoed by my dad who reminded me "better safe than sorry." The pediatrician checked him out and assured me that aside from the obvious abrasion, Little Man was well. There was no indication of cervical spine, vascular, or larynx damage. Thank you, God!

I am so grateful for the friends and family members who rallied around us with prayer support and hands-on help. Our favorite caregiver left work early to stay with Big Brother, so we didn't roll up to the ER as a full 3-ring circus. And another friend met me there, so I wouldn't have to endure the wait and potential news alone. Several others were willing to drop everything to help. And countless more, located hundreds or thousands of miles away offered words of wisdom, comfort and prayer. Including my poor husband in Afghanistan, who stayed awake until well after 4:00am to hear word that his son was ok. 

But by the grace of God.

Please visit me at my new blog, www.ericaaklan.com