In February, my beautiful baby girl was in an accident. I will never forget hearing the crash and the piercing echo that followed, hearing something so loud but being blind to what happened. I don’t know what’s worse: Seeing it happen or hearing it happen without knowing.
You never think that this will happen to you. It’s something that happens to the unlucky, to other people. Until it does happen to you and you realize that you aren’t special or protected.
A 50-pound mirror fell on my daughter’s head. Fifty pounds — on her tiny little body, on her beautiful head. “I am a terrible mother. I am a horrible person. I am not a mom anymore.” Those were the words that I kept telling myself over and over again as I saw my husband come down the stairs with my beautiful baby girl in his arms. She was purple, blood coming out of her nose, lifeless, my beautiful baby girl.
All I can remember is screaming and asking myself: Why did I decide to take voice lessons on Saturday mornings? I should have been home because maybe we would have gone for a walk or been reading books on the couch instead.
For someone who had dreamed about being a mother her whole life, I never believed I would be un-imagining motherhood. I spent so much time dreaming of the kind of mother I would be, the kind of person my daughter would be. Who would she look like? Whose eyes would she have? Whose personality would be have? Would she be a singer like me? Or fearless like her dad? Nothing ever prepares you for the moment when you have to unimagine those things, how it feels to not be a mom anymore.
As I dialed 911, I kept telling them that I didn’t think she was alive. This charismatic, lively girl who just the day before had been dancing and laughing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was limp on the floor as her father did CPR on her.
I remember running into the street and waving down the EMTs, as if that were going to make them arrive faster. When I got back inside, my daughter was crying on and off, a testament to the guidance of the 911 dispatcher who took my husband Diego through the steps to infant CPR. We arrived at the Harborview Medical Center trauma unit some time later. It was only about 10 miles away but felt transatlantic.
The EMTs were superheroes. They saved my baby, and they saved me. I don’t remember their names or even what they looked like, but I will never forget them. I will never forget how they walked into our home: nonjudgmental, calm, and seeming to know exactly what to do, as though they had been in this exact situation before. I will never forget the EMT driving the ambulance who talked to me the whole ride, telling me the story of his son falling down the stairs and how scared he was but honestly telling me he couldn’t imagine how I felt. Because he couldn’t. And somehow that felt good. It felt honest and gave me hope.
We spent the next five days in the hospital with medical staff (EMTs, doctors, nurses, medical students, social workers, psychologists). My wonderful mom and dad were at the hospital with us everyday. These are the magnificent people whom I will feel indebted to for the rest of my life. It is thanks to them that I am telling this story and not a different story. It is thanks to them that I am still a mom.
They rushed the ambulance when we arrived. All of a sudden the shows on TV that we glamorize didn’t feel so glamorous or entertaining because they looked like my life. They took my daughter into a shared emergency room behind a curtain.
My heroes (the EMTs) stayed behind for longer than I expected. They sat with me and talked to me while my husband was with Luciana behind the curtain. I am ashamed that I couldn’t go back there. I couldn’t listen to the doctors and nurses shouting out terms I didn’t understand, leaving me to interpret what they might mean because all interpretations would have led back to the worst-case scenario. Internal bleeding, hemorrhage, irreversible damage that I couldn’t fathom. So I stayed back, and let the doctors work, and I prayed. I had never prayed before, but I prayed.
A CT scan and an MRI later, they were able to rule out any life-threatening damage. She had a skull fracture from the middle-back of her head down to the right ear. They found a small contusion on her cerebellum which meant she’d need physical therapy for a while to help regain her ability to walk. After the first few days, they were able to rule out what they initially thought was a blood clot, which meant we wouldn’t have to give her a shot of anticoagulants twice a day for six months.
I will never forget the moment the pediatric ER doctor told us, “One day you will look back at this as a horrible thing that happened to you once and feel lucky and indescribably grateful.” There were so many other stories in the pediatric ICU that week that weren’t bound for such happy endings, from the boy who was beaten and would die, to the infant burned when a crock-pot fell on his head, to the two toddlers who were in a car accident and facing life-threatening injuries. Their two other siblings had died at the scene. Each is a reminder that while what happened to Luciana is the worst thing that could have happened, the outcome of the accident wasn’t the worst outcome that could have happened.