It's Okay to be Afraid, It Might Save Your Life

When I tell my story, people don’t believe it could happen. But it did, and now we need to protect ourselves. 

When I tell my story, people almost don’t believe it could happen. But it did. And telling it might save one life or many.

Two decades ago, my son, Garrett, died suddenly during the Type A Flu epidemic. The doctor misdiagnosed him as having the flu, and 24 hours later he died in his bed at home, sometime in the early morning hours.

I found him. But the odd thing is, I knew something was wrong the moment I woke up. I ran down the stairs toward his bedroom and screamed before I ever reached his door. I just knew.

I frantically jumped on top of him performing CPR, screaming his name, breathing my breath into his, but with no response. I wrapped my arms around his body and could feel he was still warm, but his lips were cold.

My husband and my three young children stood watching in horror, paralyzed by what was happening.

I kept trying to revive him with every bit of my breath and last ounce of strength until the paramedics arrived. They lifted me off him, put him on the gurney and took him away. He was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.

My son didn’t have the flu at all. It was a deadly and rare form of bacterial meningitis that can take a person from life to death in less than 24 hours.

And it did.

But it masquerades as the flu.

So you might say I have some pretty strong feelings that have come up with the Coronavirus, COVID-19 epidemic. I’m researching and listening to everything so that I stay informed in how I handle these next several weeks, months… whatever it is.

I will do whatever it takes to protect myself and my family.

And how do I not feel afraid every minute until this is over?

I wish, then, that the doctor had taken my son’s symptoms more seriously. I wish I hadn’t just brought him home and believed without question that Tylenol and Advil would cure his fever and take his pain away. I wish I’d asked the doctor to test him further instead of just assuming his high temperature meant the flu.

The doctor didn’t ask Garrett if he had a stiff neck, or suggest we do additional tests. He even remarked that one of Garrett’s friends had been in for the same flu the day before.

Apparently, the bacteria that caused the meningitis was so aggressive that it took him from life to death in 24 hours.

Mothers, speak up to your doctors if you have a sense that something is more wrong than they are telling you.

Honor your gift of a mother’s intuition; it’s helped you raise your child.

What I know now is that I survived his loss, and I’ve learned so much about what’s important in life and what isn’t. I’ve learned what to fight for and how to find peace in acceptance.

I’ve discovered that my faith carried me through something that I thought was not survivable. I thank God I had my son for 16 years, 3 months, and 10 days, and that the last thing I said to him when I tucked him into bed that night was, “I love you.”

And I now know that every day is a gift that I’ll never take for granted. I will always fight hard for my children to live their best life, and sometimes it means sacrifice, and sometimes it means letting them figure it out.

There’s also a difference between blind faith and common sense.

Negative thinking sometimes is a call to action and protects us by preparing for things that could very well happen. (I’m still not sure about the toilet paper issue though…)

I believe that it is essential we take this virus seriously. I also think we don’t just assume it’s the virus if we have a fever. Thank goodness for the tests that will be critical to determine the course of action. I pray they are widely available to all very soon.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of time to revisit my thoughts on how my son died, and if I could have made a difference in his survival if I’d done something differently. But the truth is, we do the best we can with what we know at the time.

How remarkable that we have so much information available to us now if we just listen and pay attention. It also means sifting through the experts’ opinions and data to find the truth for you.

I am now happily holed up in my home. My husband is stuck in our Arizona home for our business there, but he’s minding the same precautions.

One of my sons is with me, and my other two children are in Los Angeles with their spouses. We talk or text daily.

My son-in-law is a Los Angeles County Firefighter Paramedic, so I have to say I’ve worried the most about him. Funny though, he sent out specific orders for me as to what I was allowed to do and not allowed.

I’m following his orders.

I baked peanut butter cookies yesterday. I find such peace in doing the things I did when my children were young.

I’ve got plenty of meals in the freezer. My cupboards (and wine rack) are well-stocked. I pride myself on being ready at a moment’s notice if someone stops by or needs dinner delivered.

I’ve got Vitamin C on the counter, and face masks ready for duty. We’ve been washing our hands frequently and made our own hand sanitizer yesterday. I’ve got a tank full of gas, ready if necessary.

Luckily, much of my work can be done from home, so I will make an effort to rarely go out of the house, except for a long walk with my son this morning.

And what a beautiful walk it was on this rainy day in Southern California. It’s a day of feeling grateful I am healthy, my children are healthy, and I have time to sit and reflect… And write this.

It’s these times when I can remember my son clearly. There’s a photo of him across from my desk in his red and white football uniform. Number 86.

As I look at it now, I see a young man so strong, handsome, and confident.

That’s what I remember about him. He was at the top of his game when he died. As his mother, that he achieved all that I hoped for… such a blessing.

Normally I write about creativity, productivity, and self-improvement, but this one was personal. Thank you for reading.

 

**Originally posted on The Ascent on Medium

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