I Willed my Death Once
Perhaps "willed" is the wrong word.
It was more like a barter, a plea
an exchange, a prayer, a begging
It was when we lived on East Blake
in between the drug dealers
and the kid that hit Katie
in the head with a rock through the window
and killed ants with a hammer
in the back yard
I nearly willed this kids death, right then
and there, but that is another story.
Katie, again, had managed to get the change
sitting carelessly on the end table
into her mouth, even after I told them,
Katie and Soraya, not to touch it.
I was lazy and stupid, as if the command was golden,
as if the order was enough prevention instead of an
opportunity, with Katie had chosen to take.
They were playing, my wife at work and I was watching
television, watching them, but not close enough.
I heard Katie cough, I looked and then she gagged.
She was laying on her back beneath the coffee table
I pulled her out, she was gagging, noises barely escaping
from her throat, I knew instantly what had happened.
My daughter is choking, I thought. She is not breathing.
My mind ran back through the years to my EMS training
and to my health classes. "Don't Panic." "Lean her forward,
sharp blows to the back, not too hard if a child."
I listened to myself to no avail. She was still not breathing.
Soraya stood and spoke as best a three year old could.
"Daddee, is Katie sick?"
"Yes," I was shouting, "Did she put those coins in her mouth?"
I screamed as I got on my knees and attempted the Heimlich manuever.
"Yes daddee, she was just playing. Dont be angry."
"I'm not angry," I tried not scream, but the gurgling coming from
'my two year olds throat was becoming a whisper, her face bright red
I am helpless, none of what I was taught is working.
My baby is dying, in my arms and all my fault.
I dialed 911 in a panic, it rang maybe five times.
"YOU FUCKERS< ANSWER!!!!!!" I screamed, they did.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"My daughter is choking, she can't breathe, I can't help her."
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE
I gave my address and hung up. I turned her upside down and shook her violently
running towards the door, throwing it open to get down the porch stairs
less distance for the paramedics to get to her.
Katie was motionless, but still gagging silently.
I found God of course, at this moment.
"Please God, I am so sorry, dont let my baby die.
Take me, it is my fault, not hers, dont take my baby
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE"
I sat helpless, hating myself, hating this fucking world
cradling my second born, the one we almost lost at birth.
Katie came a month early, she was a blue baby, bad APGAR scores.
Her first night of life out of the womb was in an incubator
with oxygen, patches over her eyes and an IV sticking out
of her tiny head. I prayed then, but the doctor's said she
would be fine, that it was just a precaution.
I sat on the concrete buttress on the porch, cradling my baby
hearing sirens in the distance. I begged to be taken, to be
smote, I will die, god, take me in a viscious way, just let my baby live.
The sirens grew closer and Katie stirred, gagged and
her body convulsed and she coughed loudly and began crying.
She had swallowed the coins, she was breathing, holding on to me
as three different squads pulled up, large men in yellow raincoats
fell from the fire engine as blue jump-suited men bounded up the stairs
towards us, Soraya standing the doorway, katie still in my arms,
now just quietly sobbing against my chest.
the first blue man approached with a kit in his hand.
"Is this the one choking?" he asked, as if I would have left
my child laying on the living room floor. But I was so happy
to see them and I supposed for a flash, that maybe some parents
would have left their child there, afraid or stupid to touch her.
"Yes, I think she swallowed the coins, she didn't breathe for maybe
two or three minutes I think," I said. Was it that long or only seconds?
In medical terms only, does time matter when one is faced with death.
"She's breathing now though," I said.
Several other men were on our porch now, standing and looking.
Soraya ran over and held onto me, afraid of all the lights and strange men.
"Can I take a look at her?" the blue man asked.
I slowly released Katie, who stopped crying by now and said
"This man is a doctor, he wants to make sure you are okay. Okay Katie?"
She shook her head yes and allowed the man to look into her eyes and down her throat.
"Are you okay," he asked, very gently."
Katie shook her head yes even gentler and reached out to climb back within my arms.
She has forgiven my stupidity, I thought. God has redeemed my status as a father.
I started crying.
Two of the crews just stood there and the blue man said
"What a pretty little girl you are! Did you put some coins in your mouth?"
Katie shook her head yes. I felt a judgement coming, what they must think of me,
putting my own children in danger of death. I braced, knowing I was deserved of
whatever was to come.
Instead, the blue man poked Katie gently in the stomach which made her giggle
and asked "Are they in your tummy now?"
Katie giggled again, shook her head and said "yes."
She buried her face in my chest, giggling, shy and flirting and the blue man
looked at me and said "I think she's okay. She's breathing normally."
He looked back at Katie and said "What's you name sweetheart?"
Katie giggled again and dug her face deeper into my chest and I think I breathed
breathed for the first time in a long time and said "her name is Katie."
"What a pretty name," said the blue man. He turned to Soraya and asked her name.
"Sriya" said Soraya, all of three and intrigued at this point.
The blue man then said "Katie and Soraya, putting anything in your mouth other
than food is *very* dangerous. You see what can happen now?"
They both shook their heads.
"I think she's okay," the blue man said turning to me and then the other crews that were already packing up. The Fire engine squad shortly pulled away. "I would take her to the emergency room for x-rays, just to be sure," He said.
I stood and thanked him and started crying again, Katie turning her head towards him and smiled.
"I didn't do anything," he said and smiled. "You have two very beautiful daughters, I'm glad Katie is okay." It was genuine. This man has seen enough death I thought.
I thanked him and the others again and waved as they pulled away in their squads and took mychildren back into the house, shutting the door and thanked God once again.
It struck me then, that I was still breathing. As I dressed Katie and Soraya to take them to the emergency room, I thought about my barter and wondered if there was a God and he/she was listening and watching, was there intervention or would this have happened at all?
As I buckled them into their car seats and stepped into my Plymouth Horizon and started the engine, one more question came into my mind.
Samantha, Katie and Soraya; Dec. 1996