May 20th wasn’t a normal day in the Evans household. Mandy woke up not feeling well and kept getting worse. I was able to squeeze in a few hours of work that morning but by late morning it became apparent that I needed to get Mandy in to see a doctor somewhere.
We started out by calling Mandy’s Allergist because she was having trouble breathing. They refused to see her because she was pregnant. Our next call was to her OB but they refused to see her because she was running a fever. We wanted to avoid the emergency room if at all possible because we had a high-deductible insurance plan (more on that later) and knew that we’d be paying everything out of pocket.
We decided to give the Minute Clinic. The NP on duty was extremely kind but admitted quickly that she was in over her head due to the fact that Mandy was 7-months pregnant, had severe allergies and asthma, and was running a fever. She suggested that we try a walk-in urgent care center on the other side of Cool Springs that was staffed by an MD.
I got Mandy checked in and walked next door with the boys to get some lunch and to keep them out of Mandy’s hair. After about an hour we walked back to the urgent care center to find that Mandy hadn’t been seen yet. After almost another hour she was finally taken back to see the doctor and after her initial evaluation I went back as well trailing Carter and Seth.
While kind to Mandy, the doctor wasn’t willing to do anything for her due to her conditions (see above). I finally asked that he do a rapid flu test and, when it came back negative, asked if he would at least be willing to write a prescription for a cough suppressant to at least help Mandy manage her symptoms. The doctor finally agreed and we went home, stopping at our pharmacy on the way.
By this point I knew that there was a good change Mandy wasn’t going to be well enough the next day to take care of the boys so I called my mother-in-law who agreed to meet me in Bowling Green, Kentucky to take the boys for a couple of days so Mandy could recover and I could get caught up on work. I set about quickly packing what I could so that I could get out the door.
Carter and Seth love spending time with their Nana and Papa but they could sense that something was amiss and they were both crying for Mommy when we were walking in to the garage to get in the van. Mandy told me later that she cried for quite a while in bed after we left because it was so difficult to hear them crying and not be able to get up to comfort them. This is reason 10,638 that I deeply love her.
After a quick 3-hour round-trip to drop the boys off and trade cars I arrived back home to find Mandy where I left her and to start the process of getting caught up on work. I finally went to bed sometime after 1:00 AM and quickly fell in to a deep sleep. I truly don’t remember what happened next but I trust that Mandy’s version of the events is accurate.
Mandy woke me up about 2:00 AM to tell me that she was having contractions regularly and that they were about 12 minutes apart. My response was, and I quote: Wake me up when they’re 10. I immediately fell back asleep and Mandy sat stewing in bed for about 15 minutes when he woke me up again to tell me that they were now 10 minutes apart–regardless of the fact that they weren’t that close yet.
We decided to call our Doula (even though we don’t practice natural childbirth, Beulah, our Doula, has been with us at all three of the son’s births). She told us to go ahead and go in to Baptist and that they’d probably monitor Mandy and the baby for a while administering IV fluids (she suspected Mandy was dehydrated, which was causing the contractions) and maybe do a breathing treatment for her asthma.
There aren’t a lot of cars on the interstate before 3:00 AM so we made good time on the close to 20-mile commute in to downtown Nashville. The OB triage nurse did pretty much exactly what Beulah told us she would do and we settled down in to our room to wait for Mandy to feel better. I should point out that our nurseâ€”who was phenomenalâ€”was 9-months pregnant herself.
I stepped out in the hallway to call my father-in-law to tell him where we were since none of our family knew what was going on at that point. He doesn’t remember much about the conversation but does remember getting the phone call. It’s when I went back in to Mandy’s room that things started to happen really fast.
While the nurse was trying to start Mandy’s IV she passed out. Fortunately, the nurse (remember, she’s 9-months pregnant herself) was able to lay her back in the bed and call for additional help. At this point, for the first time, I noticed that our son’s vital signs were starting to go down as well. This can sometimes be caused by a monitor that has slipped but once they got them back in to place the vitals didn’t improve. Our nurse started talking about calling our OB to find out what she wanted to do.
I went back in to the hall to call my in-laws again to update them on what was happening as best as I could. I was on the phone when the door to Mandy’s room opened up quickly and I saw Mandy, now fully reclining on the bed, being wheeled out in to the hallway. The nurse pointed to me and said, “Dad, you’re coming with us.” I quickly hung up the phone and started trotting down the hallway to where I didn’t know.
I noticed an adjoining hallway to my right and say a doctor running down it towards us. He joined up with our caravan and while we were turning right down another hallway told me that they needed to take Mandy in to surgery and that they were going to have to deliver my third son via emergency C-Section. Another nurse met me and told me to stand to the side while I watched two of the most precious people in my life disappear behind doors left swinging in their wake.
I didn’t even get a chance to tell Mandy how much I loved her.
The two nurses left in the hallway with me started helping me get in to surgical scrubs when someone came out of the OR and told me that the situation was critical enough that I wasn’t going to be able to be in the room with Mandy. I sunk down in to the only chair available to me–an old metal folding chair–and start to cry uncontrollably. One of the nurses kindly brought me over a box of tissues and put a calm hand on my shoulder trying to comfort me.
For the first (and hopefully only) time in my life I keenly understood how God must have felt when Jesus hung on the cross. Jesus–God’s one-and-only beloved son–had to go somewhere his Father couldn’t go. Jesus had to travel into the depths of hell, carrying all of our sins on His shoulders to defeat death once and for all. My wife and son, similarly, had been taken to a place where I couldn’t follow. I’ve never felt so alone in my life.
I took out my phone for the third time that night and called my Dad. It was a bit past 5:00 AM in the morning. Later he told me that he couldn’t understand much but was able to decipher “Baptist” and “surgery”. They would be on the road to the hospital within a few minutes.
I’m not sure how many minutes went by before our original nurse (I can’t begin to tell you how much respect I now have for nurses and the amazing job they do) came through the swinging doors that separated me from the love of my life and gestured me over to the doors to her my son crying. My knees were extremely wobbly but got much stronger when I was told that Mandy was doing OK, too, but that I wouldn’t be able to see her for a while.
I went back to my folding chair and was able to see my son for the first time through the plastic walls of an isolette in that hallway deep within Baptist. Ethan (the name Mandy had favored over the two we had narrowed our search down to) was to be his name and he looked remarkably healthy for being born at 32 weeks. I was invited to come with the doctors down to the NICU where Ethan would spend the first seventeen days of his life.
It would be almost two days before Mandy was able to hold Ethan for the first time. Not only was he unable to leave the NICU, Mandy had been diagnosed with pneumonia and ended up spending five days in the hospital herself. What most, including us, thought was nothing more than a bad asthma attack late in a pregnancy turned out to be much, much more. Thankfully she–and Ethan–got better quickly and everyone was able to come home without suffering long-lasting side effects.
As Ethan celebrates his second birthday I’m reminded how close I came to losing both Mandy and him. While we had experienced an incredibly frustrating day on the 20th trying to get Mandy in to see a doctor had we ended up almost anywhere other than Baptist that night there’s no telling what would have happened.
If Mandy had passed out at home, if Ethan’s vitas and dropped just a couple of hours earlier, if we had been stuck in traffic while trying to get to the hospital, one or both of them could have died. Neither of them did. It’s only through the grace of God that I’m able to hold both of them in my arms today and tell them how much I love them. I will never cease to be thankful to Him for that blessing nor will I ever take it for granted.