The next morning, my daughter underwent numerous tests, scans, and observations, each leading us to another wing of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I called off work for Monday and planned on taking Tuesday off as well. Little did I know, the prodding of my daughter would not be a few-day event, but rather a weeklong excursion from specialist to specialist with no diagnosis.
On Monday of the week following, we got our first answer. The doctors believed she may have epilepsy. However, a stroke would also account for the seizure of that intensity. So, there we had it; in just over six days, my beautiful daughter had gone from a normal eight year old child to an extreme case of illness and injury. She would forever have to be cautious of lights and flashes, her mobility may be permanently damaged if any future strokes hit as hard as before, she would certainly have scars on her tongue. My world — but more importantly, hers — were upside down. Amy cried against my shoulders for the better half of an hour after we received the news.
“Oh, Ben! Why her?”
The only bright side? No seizures that week.
We took her home on Tuesday. Her first day back was spent in bed, resting from an intense hospital visit, which led to her losing her television privileges, just as a precaution, and school was taken out of the picture for a while. Most kids hate school, but my Jessie really loved learning. It broke my heart to see her so confused and upset. Tuesday night came.
This is where the story leaves the road of sensible tragedy and turns into chaotic nonsense to me. I lived every event of the next 72 hours and I still cannot understand what happened.
I awoke Tuesday night around one-in-the-morning to the sound of our baby monitor, a recycled set we fished out of storage to listen for Jessie in her room, crackling softly. It was not just static, but more like intense rustling. I figured, in my daze of sleep, that Jessie was simply shuffling in her bed. Fresh sheets can make noise like that, right? But as the minutes grew on, she was not stopping. A steady shuffling never seemed to end on the other end of the monitor, so I rose, groggy and exhausted, and made my way to Jessie’s room.
I flicked the light switch on the wall to her room on and turned toward her bed. Nothing. My daughter slept silently in her bed, not moving. I stood at her bedside, watching her snooze peacefully. Brushing her hair aside, I turn to leave. That’s when it caught my eye. Something was amiss about her nightstand. Apart from the dim lamp which adorned the finished oak, her stand was bare. Normally, this would not alarm me. However, I KNOW my wife had sat the baby monitor on the nightstand. The fact that it was missing while my daughter was fast asleep bothered me a bit. I checked under the bed, across the floor, even in the closet to be safe, but no monitor. My wife rounded the doorless entry to the room, carrying the receiving monitor in her hand.
“I heard you breathing on here; came to see what was up,” she muttered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. My own eyes widened in disbelief. Although she had not yet noticed, someone was breathing heavily into the other end, grunting mildly. Amy finally realized what we were hearing, and jolted to my side of the room. I picked up my daughter, who was very much like me while sleeping, and pushed both my wife and daughter into the closet.