December 25, 2013

You Give Whatcha Got

The day has been full of gifts.  The past few months have been full of thoughts about gifts.  What would they like?  Did I find the perfect one?  Does everyone have enough?  Did I buy too much?  Who did I forget?
 In my moments of flurry, it feels like too much.  When I sit and contemplate how blessed I am, it doesn't feel like enough.  Then comes the feeling that I have more gifts to give.  Not gifts that are in the form of tissue-stuffed gift bags, or thin little envelopes of gift cards, and gifts that are not necessarily given at Christmas time.
Rewind to a couple months ago that opened my eyes to the most beautiful form of giving.
Our not-so-little family excitedly piled into our not-so-little van for our annual beach vacation.  We go to our same favorite spot each year.  The beach is tricky with Bridger -- sun, sand and water make for some extra challenges for a child with special needs.  But when we master those challenges then we have the recipe for the best family vacation ever - because EVERYONE loves the beach, especially Bridger.  We push him out in his beach wheelchair (favorite piece of equipment that we own!) but the sensory overload of the sights, smells and texture of the sand hit him hard and he knows he has to "shut down" after an hour and regroup.  So I prop him in my arms and do our routine that he expects of covering his eyes with a moist towel and I rock and hum.  If I stop humming he will give me a little shout to know to keep humming.  He then falls asleep and wakes up in an hour, recollected and ready to play.  So with my big babe in my arms I sit in the sand and hum as I watch my other 4 babes and husband play in the surf.  I have hummed the same song over and over for the past several years.  Can you guess what it is?  Louis Armstrong's, What a Wonderful World.  I get choked up every time. Because in those humming moments I realize I have everything I need right there.
This past time, I had Bridger in my arms for his morning oceanfront "shut down".  Then he shut down in a different way.  He felt too heavy in my arms.  I looked at his face and his mouth was twitching, his eyes were only partially shut.  He was going into a full blown tonic clonic seizure.  Bridger has several types of seizures, but this type for him is extra scary because he doesn't come out of them without significant medical intervention.  I waited out the two or so minutes in the beginning, hoping this time would be different.  I looked around and hollered to a woman under a neighboring umbrella for help and asked her to go and notify my husband who was in the water with the others.  He ran up to us and I turned my head just in time to see [divine coincidence] a life guard going by on an atv.  "Catch him!" I said to Alan.  Bridger's breathing was starting to fade at this point.  The lifeguard, who [divine coincidence] also happened to be a volunteer paramedic, pulled the oxygen tank out of his atv, called for backup and carried Bridger's seizing body up to the sandy grass by the condo parking lot. 

Backup arrived in the form of two fire trucks, two ambulances, a rescue truck, police and beach patrol/lifeguard supervisor.  They laid Bridger's little body down and began to work on him as he continued to lay there convulsively seizing for more than 35 minutes.  A life flight helicopter was also called in.
I was calm but sick.  Watching his little body in the grass with 10 paramedics hovering over top was surreal.  I looked around and said a silent plea in my heart, "Not here."  Please don't let our family's favorite vacation spot be the place we lose him, I thought.  I was helpless.
The moments that followed created the most beautiful scene that I have ever witnessed.  Even with the underlying sickening fear I was feeling, God showed me what giving truly means.
A bartender ran over to those attending Bridger and said, "Here is some ice and water.  What else do you need?"
A family ran up to us from the beach and said, "We have gathered all of your stuff, where would you like us to put it?"
Another woman came up to me as I stood holding the IV bag above my head in the hot sun and took it from me saying, "I've got this."
A couple of others volunteered to go clear the adjacent parking lot for the helicopter landing.
Two women ran up to the paramedics and said, "We are nurses, what can we help you with?"
A couple came up to us to reassure us with the report that Lance (such a heroic big brother) had done exactly what he was told, which was to gather his sisters and take them back to the room out of sight of the trauma.
A woman ran out from the condo building with her cell phone number and told us that she would be a liaison for communications from the hospital to our condo room for Alan and the kids, which did not have cell phone service.
A random stranger gave me a water bottle.
Trying to take it all in, I told myself (perhaps trying to prepare my mind) "this is the moment that we lose Bridger."  As I thought that, I looked around and saw others standing on the sidelines, gaping at us with their towels hung around their neck.   How odd and uncomfortable, I thought, that this moment in my life was open to spectators.

The helicopter was not arriving in time and we departed via ambulance (which makes for a very wild and bumpy high speed drive on a little beach road!)  Fast forward to the end of the story, Bridger was ok.

To Alan, myself, and my children, that memory will always be associated with the most beautiful lesson in giving that God has ever presented to me.  In a situation that may have seemed helpless to others - perhaps because it was not their specialty, or they didn't know what to do, or they didn't think that they had anything of worth that they could possibly give, we received the most beautiful gifts.  A bartender had water, someone else had an arm to hold something, someone had a phone number, someone picked up a towel. . . simple giving of something they had the power to give.  When we think of what saved Bridger's life that day, in addition to an amazing medical team, we credit those collective gifts.
Since that experience I have come to view giving opportunities differently.  Opportunities are around me more than I ever knew -- critical opportunities that I was blind to before.  Why didn't I see them?  Why doesn't anyone see them?  Perhaps we don't have time, or we don't have the money, or maybe we don't have either.  We don't have inclination or desire, or perhaps we lack the desire to have desire.  Maybe we don't have expertise or experience, or perceive it is someone else's stewardship.
I remember how sickened I felt watching the row of spectators watch me and I learned at that moment that we all have something to give.  It probably isn't novel or unique, pricey or profound.  But you can give what you got.
After all of these presents are now opened and I look around at what now remains of Christmas, I am reminded of all those gifts I received this summer and of all the gifts I have yet to give others.  I vow to not be the spectator.