Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mila's Story of Survival

As a mom of a child with developmental delays, low muscle tone, and fear of independence, I expect there will be falls, bumps, bruises, and maybe even stitches.  Those are injuries that can be fixed.  However, I have never anticipated, nor could fathom the thought of losing Mila.  Last Saturday night, we lived through a hysteria that is unfathomable. Yet, it's a story that I have to share.

We took a trip to Moab, Utah with some friends for a weekend of camping, hiking, biking, campfires, and a ton of fun.  If you don't know anything about Moab- google it.  It's one of the most picturesque places in the United States.  From the beginning, the stars were not aligning in our favor for a tell-all weekend.  Cold temps and lots of rain gave us sleepless nights, rainy hikes, very few fires, and bonding indoors of a hotel (Mila could not stay outside in a cold tent for hours).  After a few days of dreariness, Saturday brought warm sunshine, clear skies, and beautiful views of Arches National Park.  Everyone's mood was instantly lifted.

The calm before the storm

We hiked for several hours before returning back to camp.  Since the day and evening had been so nice we decided to brave tent sleeping again; despite the rain forecasted.  Clouds rolled in for a few minutes, but we were spared any showers.  We got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset!

Mila hadn't slept much since the start of our trip.  She likes her elements of comfort-her bed, a dark room, with a noise fan in the background.  I knew she was exhausted.  I put her to bed before dusk so we could enjoy our dinner without interruption.  We closed all the windows of the tent so she wouldn't be distracted by our activity.  Since the evenings get cool very quickly, we equipped the tent with an "inside" buddy propane heater (it literally says "made for tents" on the box).  Her several layers of pjs and the heater set her up for a cozy nights sleep.

We had just finished dinner.  Mila was quiet as a mouse-I knew for sure she was asleep.  As we were playing a game around the fire and enjoying a few beers, these gusts of wind came so unexpectedly.  When I say gusts...they were CRAZY! They were anywhere from 20-40mph gusts.  Everyone was scrambling to gather loose tarps, camping chairs that were flying into the fire, small miscellaneous items that couldn't stay in place.  I looked over at the tent and saw it shift really hard to the left.  I thought for a second that these hard winds would probably wake her up. 

 I decided to walk to the tent to check on her.  I was only a few feet away when the tent came off the ground and shot about 30 feet in the air like a balloon.  Not kidding.  The tent was unreachable.  My only view was this flying tent and the Colorado River as its background.  I was screaming.  I was screaming and running as hard as I could.  That tent was not going to leave my sight.  I was going swimming.  I just knew we were all going swimming in that very instant.  The tent flies over the embankment. It flips several times down the hill.  I fall as I watch it flip.  Michael took one leap and was at the bottom of the embankment as the tent stopped rolling.  My recovery was instantaneous. I was there milliseconds behind him.  Our friends were at the bottom just as fast as we were.  Everything was happening so fast.  We all white knuckled the tent as the wind was blowing ferociously.  I was still screaming.  Michael and I were on the same side scrambling to find a zipper.  The tent had caved in around all the shrubs that stopped it so abruptly from rolling into the river.  We couldn't find a zipper.  I couldn't hear my baby.  Although I was screaming hysterically and the wind was so loud, all I heard was dead silence.  I knew she was dead.  I think I'm going to throw up.  I feel sick as I type the words I thought would change our lives forever.  

Michael was calm but I could see the fear in his face.  We just kept scrambling for the zipper we couldn't find.  I'm yelling, "Your knife! Cut the tent open!  Cut the f*cking tent open!"  What seemed like an eternity, was only seconds before he cut into it.  He couldn't see anything inside.  It was dark.  All I hear is silence through my screaming.  I fell to the ground.  I couldn't stand anymore.  "Where is our baby? Please get our baby out of there!"  This gentleman at a nearby campsite appeared beside us with a lantern and flashlights.  Michael dives back into the tent while he holds the light.  "Is she breathing?  Please tell me if she's breathing!"  I couldn't stop screaming.  My body wouldn't let me.  He comes out of the tent off his knees, with our baby in his arms.  Mila looks around as if she had only woken ups seconds before (she was wedged in a corner of the tent wrapped in our sleeping bags.)  I grab her right away.  "Are you okay?" as I brush her hair back, squeezing her arms, looking her up and down..."Are you okay?"  Thats all I could say to her.  I was certain she would respond with just a "Yes, mom!"  I've never wanted her to talk as much as I did that very second.  I couldn't move.  All I could do was keep her pressed against me.  I couldn't stand up.  Our friends had to practically carry both of us back up the hill.  I wasn't going to let her go.  They walked us to the truck to sit down.  I was in shock.  I was numb.  I kept brushing her head with my hands; analyzing her little limbs.  Our friend, Sam, who is an Emergency Room doctor, strongly encouraged me to undress her and check her out from head to toe.  Check for lacerations, puncture wounds, broken bones, etc.  Check throughout her hair and behind her ears.  I put Finding Nemo in to play while she sat in my lap.  Within the first few seconds of the movie, Mila was laughing and bopping her head.  I knew at that very second she was okay.  I quickly looked her over.  Not a single scratch, bump, or bruise.  No signs of injury.  I immediately lost it.  I couldn't stop crying uncontrollably.  As I sob, she's still smiling and laughing.  Michael and our friend, Kerri had come to hug me at separate times.  No one could believe what just happened.  No one could wrap their heads around it.  We were all in complete shock.  

What are the odds of that happening?  You hear about freak accidents, but what are the odds of a tent coming out of the ground- flying high in the air- flipping several times- landing over 40 feet from where it once was staked into the ground?  1 in 100,000? 1 in 1 million?  Michael had even replaced all the original stakes with heavy duty metal ones.  He had placed extra on the side that came out of the ground first.  We think because it had rained so much, the ground was too soggy to sustain those gail force winds.

My girl went on the ride of her life and survived without injury!  There is no other explanation than the fact that God had his arms wrapped around her the entire time.  From the first flip in the air to the tumbles on the ground; she was protected.  Throughout my recent journey of discovering my faith, I have never felt his presence stronger than I did at the very moment Michael pulled her out of the tent.

Needless to say, we didn't stay at the campsite that night.  We took up residence at the hotel we had previously stayed.  I was couldn't let her out of my sight.  I didn't want to.  I watched her sleep all night.  It's difficult to avoid thinking "what could have happened."  The hours following I had realized there was an indoor propane heater on in the tent with Mila.  How did it not catch on fire?  Apparently, the product advertisement says there is a "shut-off" mechanism if the tank becomes unsteady.  Thank God.  How did she not roll into the river?  The water was right where the tent had stopped.  Or so we thought.  Michael went back to early the next morning to gather whatever we couldn't salvage the night before.  He took pictures of the site and what was left of the tent.  He went back down the embankment where the tent had stopped.  Apparently she had not rolled to the edge of the river.  The tent landed at the edge of a cliff that had a 8-10 foot drop- into the river!  Whaaaaaat!  We and no idea at the time.  As we discussed the events with our friends, we learned that Sam had gained access to the tent on the opposite side before Michael cut it open.  Her pack-n-play was visible but turned over.  He couldn't move it, so he punched a hole in it and ripped it open-ninja style.  She wasn't there and it was too dark to see past it.  I know he would have ripped through the earth to find her if he had too.  

Everyone was so quick to respond.  I will forever be grateful to our friends for their immediate assistance and quick thinking; their compassion and love.  I had an immediate flashback of a comment I made when our weekend started...."Well if anything catastrophic happens, we have the whole medical team with us- Doctor, Physician Assistant, two Nurse Practitioners, and my rusty Nurse skills."  Although it wasn't catastrophic, it was by far, the most horrific, terrifying experience of our lives.  The years of caring for very sick children; some of whom survived and some who didn't; never prepared me for that moment.  I was not prepared to bury my baby.  I was not prepared to live without her.  I won't ever be.  I am so grateful for His love and mercy; for Him allowing us to have more time on this earth with Mila.  She is a beautiful soul, with a purpose in this life that I will never be able to define or understand.  Only He knows.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart" Isaiah 40:11