This is where it all began. November 14, 2014. Sarah had a cold and had slowly been building a mountain of tissues next to the bed all night. I decided I would be better off sleeping downstairs, which is a common place to find me when she’s sick. I’m a bit crazy about germs, I know. But this night, when I told her I was headed downstairs to sleep, she asked me to stay. I grumpily agreed, fully planning to blame any runny nose or sore throat on her the next morning. Little did we know God was already preparing to take care of her.
A few hours later, after we had both fallen asleep Sarah rolled into me, hard enough to wake me up. We’re cuddlers, so I instinctively wrapped my arm around her. Seconds later she rolled away from me, but this wasn’t a normal roll. With my arm still around her she began slipping off of our bed. Somehow we both ended up on the floor in a heap of pillows, blankets, and tissues. I began saying her name, but she wasn’t waking. So I began to gently rub her shoulders. As soon as I touched her I knew something was wrong. She was rigid, her eyes closed, muscles clenched, and her breathing was labored. My gentle rubbing quickly became anxious shaking. She was entirely unresponsive.
When the 911 operator asked me what my emergency was, I wasn’t certain. “I think my wife is having a seizure”, I said. The ambulance couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes to arrive, but it felt like ten hours. Do I try to wake her up? Is she still breathing? Should I roll her on her side? She can’t be having a seizure. Am I doing enough? Did the fall wake Gideon? When will help be here? Eventually five paramedics made their way up our stairs and into our bedroom, somehow managing to not wake our one-year old son in the process. As they began entering our room and asking questions, Sarah was regaining consciousness. She was disoriented though, knowing only that she was in her bedroom and that I was her husband. She didn’t know the year, the state we lived in, or why the medics were in our bedroom. She simply wanted to go back to sleep and she tried to do so, each time uncertain as to why we wouldn’t let her. The medics recommended that she be transported to a local ER for an evaluation and moments later she was on a gurney frightened and confused. As she was being rolled out of the front door she frantically looked for me amidst what must have felt like a sea of unfamiliar faces. Once she found my eyes she said, “don’t leave me, please don’t leave me.” But, I had to let her leave. Our son was still sleeping, and she needed to go the hospital. In that moment, I had to somehow quiet my overwhelming need to act as her husband, so that I could also be a father. As a father, my next step was to find someone to stay with our son so that I could go to the hospital and be a husband. This posed a problem. Having only lived in South Bend for four months the list of people we knew was slim, the list of people I could call at 3:00 am even slimmer, and the list of people we knew, could call at 3:00am, and trusted to watch Gideon was nearly nonexistent. I called the one person who met those criteria; thankfully she answered.
When I arrived at the emergency room, Sarah was awake, alert, and oriented. She shared with me that her first memories were of being in the ambulance. She was unsure why she was in the hospital, but a nurse told her she had a seizure. At this point a CT scan had already been completed. We waited for the results, nervously joking about her fall from bed and her clumsiness while assuring ourselves that she was fine. The ER doctor returned, and the worst case scenario became a reality. He said “Nine out of ten times we order a CT scan following a seizure and we don’t find anything. This time we found something: a brain tumor about the size of a golf ball.” I’m sure at this point he continued speaking and may have even said something worthwhile, but I can’t remember. His mouth was moving, my eyes were locked on his, but nothing was registering. He walked out. We sat. We stared. We held each other. We cried. This was only the beginning.