It's been awhile since the last entry, but let me be frank: We're struggling here.
Holidays. Birthdays. Traditions. Those, we manage. We can plan our escapes, or we can choose to go head first through them and count the minutes until midnight. Which, literally, we do.
But it's those unforeseen things, the 'little' things, that pop up here and there just as we feel we're gaining a good momentum, that are debilitating. A good friend lends me a movie, hoping to help me take my mind off things and knowing I adore Reese Witherspoon, and in the first ten minutes of the flick, the older of two brothers dies in a tragic accident. He, tall and thin and about ten years old, had chided and guided his younger, tanned, chunky little brother with love and protection until the out-of-the-blue table saw accident occurred. No foreboding music, no dark scenes to warn me. And then, at his bedside, the younger brother watched as the older took his last breath, screaming to the adults, "Do something!' It's all too familiar.
The AED that we've been working for months on getting for our family was due last week. After prepping myself for what I thought might be a bit of an emotionally tough moment, and that moment not arriving, I tried to get back to the numb state of 'fine' for a few days. Today, as I'm on an upward climb out of my dark self, as the sun is shining and the temps are warmer than they've been in weeks and I'm feeling good about finally exercising, the Fed-Ex truck shows up. I'm thankful, I'm feeling security, and at the same time, my heart squeezes itself into a knot the size of an avocado pit all over again. If. Only. This one, dumb little machine could've shared a shelf with our kitchen fire extinguisher without giving up so much as a couple of boxes of Cheez-Its in our pantry closet.
I don't mean dumb dumb. The little contraption is actually smarter than the smartest doctors in reading the rhythmic waves of a heart's electrical system. It even knows when to not fire a signal if it's accidentally administered. I just mean dumb as in the stupid irony of it all, I guess.
The kicker-- a woman I met recently who heard about Aidan said to me, "How did you get through that? I just can't imagine..." How did we get through it? Are we supposed to be done getting through it by this point? Is that what the expectation is?
There was a big thing this past month, too, that Steve and I had agreed to, had prepared for, and had actually acknowledged was something we needed to do, but what's blindsided us has been the aftermath, the return to reality. The annual Parent Heart Watch convention was held on MLK weekend in New Orleans this year, and for the first time, we went. We met people there just like us-- normal, smiling with their mouths but not so much with their eyes, sometimes even standing next to their surviving children, most of whom are active in their communities in creating awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, conducting heart screenings, and trying to change policy and raise funds to have more AEDs installed in public places. Steve and I were very, very inspired. Aidan's picture was on a poster and was one of about sixty children and young adults whose posters were placed in a circle all around the conference room. Each time we glanced at his bright, sweet face, a pang of pain would punch our hearts. But as the weekend wore on and we got to know the other families and through them, their amazing kids (and I mean amazing; story after story about how each was unusually kind, helpful, and considerate of others) became part of our new "family," as we realized that Aidan is now part of this group of lost children. And as we left that Sunday, walking by his picture one last time, we felt a sense of peace, glad to know that he has buddies in this group, and that they, too, are great, great kids just like him. I like to imagine him playing a pick-up game of baseball with the boys (many of them are older) and acting goofy around the girls (all of them are beautiful) to try and win their affections.
And Steve and I each connected with that one "someone" who we'd hoped for as our "reason" for going to this thing, and it was as emotionally satiated as either of us has felt in months and months. These people are absolutely, beyond any doubt, unbelievably amazing people. You'll likely be hearing a lot about Eric and Louis and their parents in this blog, as we'll link you to the incredible work that is being done by their families to prevent SCA from claiming another child.
But none of us should have been there. And after the many stories in which a child collapsed in Sudden Cardiac Arrest and either: 1) No AED was onsite, and CPR couldn't sustain the child until the EMTs arrived, or 2) AEDs were onsite, but they were locked up in the building while the child lay on the field, or 3) AEDs were onsite, but no one thought to use them because they didn't recognize the signs of SCA and thought the child was having a seizure (this happened at a lifeguard training, mind you). Other stories about AEDs that had dead batteries or bystanders being afraid of being sued and not helping the victim added to our collective sense of loss and frustration. It's just so senseless. We're trained in elementary school First Aid classes how to splint a broken bone with a folded magazine and a ripped t-shirt; why aren't we all trained in how to save a heart in cardiac arrest? You have to go looking for a magazine. Our fists, the machines that administer the most basic life-saving care and can significantly increase a victim's chance of survival while help arrives, are attached to our bodies.
Aidan's death has never made sense to us. But what's more senseless is that we (as a country) have the technology (AED and EKG machines), we have the ability to conduct mass trainings and education, we have the evidence that SCA claims the lives of 16 kids a day, and we're not implementing this knowledge or these instruments. It just doesn't add up. How much more quickly would we move forward in changing policies and accessibility regarding AED and EKG accessibility and implementation if every parent in our country really thought about the very real possibility that SCA could strike his or her child?
Coming home from the debauchery of Bourbon Street (which we just weren't in the mood to join in) was tough. We even left the conference early, flew first class, and had that Monday off to recover, but having to hit the road running again has been tough. I think that, in getting to see how some families are managing, and some are not, it's shifted my perspective on this whole "gotta get up in the morning...Quentin and Devin keep us going...being busy will help us get through" thing. I do have a choice, I'm realizing. I don't have to be as brave. I'm considering it. I just fear the consequences.
So now, with the short days, the gray skies, and the busy tag-team schedules that winter always brings to the Silva household, it's been hard for us to re-acclimate. It feels like we've been knocked off our axis a bit these past few weeks, and undoubtedly, our orbit is forever changed, even if just a little bit. But we all remember from our eighth grade Science lessons how a slight change in the elliptical patterns of spinning, drifting planetary bodies can have monumental impact by one day causing a sudden, unpredicted, catastrophic event.
Huh. We studied 'irony' in eighth grade, too. Now I get it, Mrs. Cunningham. Now, I get it.