Muse Cage Match: Born into Battle (excerpt)

 Earlier today I was happily tweeting away about Metallica when things took a sharp right turn into a parallel dimension. The result? My muse and one other, that of Wendy (a.k.a Sparrowbug), are locked into a cage match. Two muses enter … one leaves …

The challenge? Post around 500 words of our current works in progress (WIP) written within the last week.

Wendy’s entry – a YA that might end up being horror – can be found here.

(…. and as a last minute challenge, Pauline a.k.a. @aspiringmama is going to enter the fray ….)

My WIP is a narrative nonfiction survival guide for parents, caregivers and supporters of ill or special needs kids currently titled Born into Battle: Surviving and Thriving Amidst a Child’s Complex Medical Situation.

The WIP traces our family’s journey from the NICU to playpen, from birthday parties to the PICU, where we unexpectedly lost our son at 18 months old, and chronicles difficult lessons we learned along the way about the need to acknowledge the pain but allow the love to work its’ magic. Practical advice on how to cope with medical personnel from multiple disciplines, a child’s first (or third) surgery, competing diagnoses and the emotional upheaval that families face along the way are an integral part of this hybrid work.  This WIP is currently at 28,000 words.

This scene occurs at the tail end of a two-month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after our son was born. Haris, which means strength in Arabic, endured a heart surgery, being stuck on a ventilator for weeks and a host of mini-medical crises before his release.


Walking from the little instruction room over to where Haris and the nurse were waiting left me consciously considering every step and forcing myself to move forward. I don’t think there has ever been anything, any event, in my life I looked forward to less. It was traumatizing enough to watch White Coats do “terrible” things to your child, but to do them yourself? At that moment, I would’ve rather sawed off my pinky finger with a rusty handsaw and no anesthesia.

            “You see the little numbers on the tube? Take the end of the tube and put it at the tip of his nose, stretch the rest of the tubing across the cheek to the ear and then down to about two fingers below his ribs,” she explained. “Take a look at the number. That’s how far down you need to push the tube through his nose. Now he’ll probably cry or fuss when you do this, it’s uncomfortable but it doesn’t really hurt him.”

            “You want me to do it once first so you can see?” the nurse asked as she studied my face for a reaction.

            “No, that’s okay. Just let me try.” Truth be told, having her do it first while I observed probably wasn’t a bad idea, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of having to put Haris through more multiple tube-in, tube-out exercises than was absolutely necessary.

            I took the tube from her outstretched hand, stepped up to face my son and let out a very loud sigh. “I’m sorry baby, but I have to,” I whispered into Haris’ ear and gave him a kiss on the forehead.

            I pushed my emotions aside and began the process. Haris began to cry as I set about taking the measurements.

           “Ok baby, we’re almost done,” I told him as I began to feed the tube through his nostril. I shoved the tube down to the designated number as quickly as I could, and jumped back from the crib-side as soon as it was in. The nurse reached over to grab the tube and make sure Haris didn’t yank it right back out.

            “You did great!” the nurse exclaimed as I stood there gulping in breaths. I wasn’t 100 percent sure but it seemed as though I had not taken a single breath during the 40 seconds or so it took me to complete the insertion. My fists were clenched at my sides – mostly to hide how bad my hands were shaking, but also to keep me from punching anyone. I forced myself to swallow – once, twice, a third time, to keep from unleashing the building roar of heartbreak sitting in my chest.

            “I’m not going to make you do it again because that first effort looked like you’ve been doing this for years,” the nurse said beckoning me back to Haris’ side, “but we’re not actually done quite yet.”

            We had to make sure that the tube was in the proper place. The nurse handed me a stethoscope and a small syringe. “Pull the plunger back about two centimeters, place the stethoscope chestpiece three fingers below the ribs where the stomach is, and push the air through the tube,” she said. “If you can hear a ‘swish’ of air, then the tube is in correctly. Try it.”

            “Yes, yes I hear it,” I told her and said a quick silent prayer of thanks.

            “Then that’s it,” she said as she reached out to put a hand on my shoulder. “As soon as all the basic paperwork and car-seat test are done, Haris can go home. Congratulations.”

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