Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Daughter Almost Died

[Mini was supposed to be sleeping over best friend Lee's house Tuesday night. Instead, Mini, Lee, and Lee's boyfriend, Kid, cross the river into KY and Kid's got some land by the river and they get some Mike's Hard and vodka and, well...]

9:15 Lee's mom got a call. 9:20 Lee called me. 9:25 I called Lee's mom and told her I'd take lead on this since it was my daughter being the drunken mess - and bring both of their asses home. And thank God I did.

I had texted MS after work about calling her to no response, so whatever, texted her again "Running to KY to pick up our drunk daughter."

Thank goodness for GPS, but to hell with country backroads. I was on the phone with Lee for ten minutes back-and-forthing and if she hadn't come to the road proper with her flashlight, I never would've found it. Lee hopped in the car and said "Let's get your daughter." I drove into weeds with gravel to show me the way (down the sharp decline, over the railroad tracks, past the gravel mound and the scary trailer). There were no lights but mine, and I lit on Kid's truck under the high-tension power line tower, my daughter in the passenger seat, door open.

I handed Lee a bottle of water and said "makes sure she drinks half of this," and started getting out of the car. As I walked towards Kid's truck, I confirmed she was sitting in the passenger side with the door open. Lee waved me over. "C'mon, she doesn't believe you're here."

I was not prepared for what I walked into. Mini was manic, paranoid, delusional. She sat barefoot in her bathing suit, a loose shirt over the top. She coddled the bottle she'd been given and looked right through me until I was right in front of her, until I put my hand on hers and she saw me. Her pupils were more dialated than should be for dark, but that might have been my headlights beaming at her from behind me. And aside from my reassurances that she was okay and we were going home to the apartment, her non-stop ramble came out something like:

I love you Daddy, I love you so much. Can we go home? I want to go home. Can we go to the house? No, not the apartment, the house. Why not? No, Daddy, the house, please please come back to the house. I hate that you and Mom live in different places. Please come back to the house, just tonight. I hate that you're not together and I want you back together and I hate that you live in different places. Please come back and be with Mom. Just come back to the house, just tonight. I'll sleep on the couch and you can sleep in my bed. Why not? Okay, let's get in the car. Will you hold me over to it? When we get in will you hold my hand all the way home, Daddy? Will you? Promise?

One of the most vivid images I have is my arm around Ariel, helping her walk, barefoot, towards the car, watching her feet hit gravel again and again and hoping there was no glass, hoping she wouldn’t cut up her feet.

And then it got bad. Once we got out of the Death Party Palace (past the gravel mound, over the tracks, up the incline), Mini still on about going back to the house and holding my hand, she quickly changed from chattering to complaining about it being cold and then a full-blown, animated, blackout drunk panic attack. She started swerving in her seat, saying "Oh no, no, no." I tried to hand her a bag in case she needed to get sick, asked her if she needed some of the water she was holding and she was kind of bobbing in her seat and said "Remember that time I was allergic to vicodin? Remember that time I was allergic to vicodin? God, it's like that, it's like that!"

--and then SNAP, she flat-backed into her seat and was comatose. She wouldn't answer me or Lee yelling, would not respond to my grasping her hand or Lee's pulling her hair or hitting her in the shoulder. Nothing. She was breathing, though backwoods KY driving I had nowhere to pull over to take a proper pulse and Lee didn't know how to and even if we found something wrong, neither of us were professionals. The only thing I could do was keep driving, keep squeezing Mini's hand, keep loudly pronouncing her name. And keep driving.

She's never had vicodin.

The hospital was off the highway about twelve minutes away, though time in that place felt like six hours. I parked in front and finding a safe haven, let myself weep a little as I unbuckled Mini and wandered into the emergency room. Lee couldn't get her to respond besides a few random blinks and was not getting any traction getting her to move, let alone walk. I asked the check-in lady - over someone else checking in - if there were paramedics or nurses to help. I sure I yelled. God damn it why does everything take so long?! Again it was probably less than a minute, but when you daughter's sitting unresponsive in a vehicle and help is right damn there, argh!

They got her in a wheelchair and took her back while I played musical check-in ladies and cringed deeply as I uttered the word: uninsured. I called MS 5 times and she didn't pick up.

It was about twenty minutes later when they called me back to the room, and it was as bad as it looked. They'd cath'ed her, she was on a fluid drip, and while her eyes and mouth were partially open, she could only respond with the slightest of nods or shakes. She couldn't hold up either arm or leg for more than a second or two, and the hand squeeze was barely detectable. She could comprehend, she could answer yes/no with her head, but my beautiful chatterbox could not speak. Could not speak, her tongue limp in her mouth. They ordered up a CAT scan.

MS called a little later, having trouble with the GPS, wandering around Newport and, well, she had decided to give up smoking about 24 hours earlier, so the conversation wasn't nice. I had Lee run out to get the address so MS could get the coordinates.

MS had just arrived when they were taking her up for the CAT scan, and at this point Mini was showing emotion in line with constant weeping. And MS wanted to go, one parent could go, and Mini's bloodshot, tear-sopped eyes locked on me in such a haunting way, something that I still can't shake. Somehow she wanted me to go instead. But MS had just gotten there, so I hung back and gave the nurse some information and she came up with a "High CO2" hypothesis based on the hyperventilating panic attack bit that gave me a little solace. Not much, but a little.

When they returned, the doc wanted to see if he could ply words out of Mini sans parents, so we took our leave and put together the story, or at least the story as it was put together for us (amended for later information):

Mini outright lied to us that she was sleeping at Lee's, and apparently lied to Lee and said it was okay with us. Kid is Lee's boyfriend. Sometime between 4:30 and 6, they started drinking with two shots of vodka and some Mike's Hard. After a couple Mike's Hard, Lee and Kid eased off but Mini kept at the vodka. This is where Mini was having a conversation with a friend on the phone, and the last she remembers. Some time between 7:30 and 8:30, Mini was visibly really drunk, and passed out. She peed herself. Waking up, she took off her pants and underwear because they were wet. Passed out again. Waking up again, she removed the rest of her clothes and passed out again. Much vomiting was involved, and since Lee can't deal with that, Kid was the one tending to her, making sure she was on her side, and they were able to get her into a bathing suit before making the call.

9:15 Lee's mom got a call. 9:20 Lee called me. 9:25 I called Lee's mom and told her I'd take lead on this ...

An hour after MS's arrival, Mini was two bags of fluid in, sleeping, and they had to transfer to a local Children's hospital for observation. BAC was only .140%, and even with an inexperienced drinker, that's not enough to explain the lack of muscle control and ability to speak. Waiting for the ambulance crew mostly, but all that night I don't think I've touched my daughter's hair more in the last thirteen years I've known her. I kept wondering how the hell I let this happen, and hoping I'd have a whole person to bring home.

Finally, the ambulance crew arrived. They moved her over to the cart, all the while nurses and the medics trying to coax a few words out of her. Nothing. Barely awake, and what was was zoned out.

And in the twenty minute ride from hospital to hospital, while we followed in our cars (no one could ride next to her, we'd have to sit up front, so we just followed), something changed. She came out of the ambulance dazed, but her eyes wider than we've seen, a recognition of something happening about her face. I wanted to weep. It was small, but so damn big.

Once they got her into the standby room and started transfer to an observation room, MS pressed "You going to tell us a little about what's going on?" and DAMN YES that was important, but I hadn't heard her speak a word in hours. I leaned in, "More importantly right now - can you speak?" She nodded her head. Smart ass. "Can you say 'yes?'"


And in the next two hours, we went from sputtering a few words to full-on chatterbox to crying and being pissed at me because I told her there would be consequences. That's "back" enough for me. After the wait that is hospital everything, we left with our fully-intact Mini, though a little worse for wear (and holy hell the shitstorm to come).

We racked up two emergency rooms linked with an ambulance ride and an observation room endcap sprinkled with three fluid drips, two blood screens, one urine drug test, and a catheter to round it all out! - without a drop of insurance.

This is going to hurt. But if it had been worse initially, or Lee didn't have a signal or the warewithall to call, or her mother didn't tell her to get off the phone with her and call me, or if they'd all been blackout wasted, well I'd sign up for ten thousand times that price to go back in time - because I wouldn't be writing this little bit about how everything went really shitty; I'd be planning a funeral. But tonight I get to know my daughter is safely sleeping in her own bed, and she is very very alive.


  1. A high price, financially and more importantly psychologically, for perspective.

  2. Oh, holy moley. I feel so bad for you -- and for her.

    My friend Mary drank herself all the way to alcohol poisoning and a stomach pump at 15. Sometimes it happens that early.

    Consequences -- and love -- and inadvertently, for both of you.

    You sound like a wonderful father. Big hug, my friend.


  3. I'm glad everything turned out well and I hoped Mini learned not to do that again. Too scary for everyone involved.