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Code Blue

by Summerly Rowlands

It was Saturday, July 17th, at 1:45 in the morning.

We’re on the neurology floor of Akron Children’s Hospital. Izzy is laying down in her crib asleep.

Sterling and I are trying to rest on the couch together. The couch feels like hard plastic and it’s barely big enough for 1 person let alone 2. We can’t get comfortable, but we know we should try to close our eyes.

This is hard for me because I became obsessed with constantly looking over at Izzy’s monitor to check her vitals. Tonight was no different, but she really looked peaceful, so I laid down.

Suddenly, we hear a choking sound. We’re used to Izzy’s reflux noises, but this time it’s different. It sounds… full. That’s the best way I can describe it. Immediately I throw myself to a standing position and fumble for my glasses. The haunting monitor is beeping as I fly to her bedside.

I barely pause as I yell to Sterling to hit the call button and I sprint to the door. I’m screaming into the hall, “WE NEED HELP!”

Her oxygen level is rapidly desatting.

90, 80, 70, 60, 13…

Her face is blue, almost gray.
She’s covered in her own vomit.
She isn’t breathing.

She looks lifeless.

Before we know it, our room is full – doctors, nurses, techs, surgeons, residents. One of the staff members pulls the call button out of the wall, sending an emergency alarm on repeat throughout the entire hospital:


This brought up the intensive care staff within seconds.

So many people around her, suctioning out her nose and mouth, putting her on oxygen, trying to get a response.

Sterling and I are standing in the background. Silent and staring. Numb and helpless.

We have no feeling & every feeling all at the same time.

Is she dead?

I can still feel Sterling’s hand on my shoulder and hear his voice as he tells me to sit down because there isn’t anything he or I could do. He says to me these are the best doctors and they are going to save her.

I sit, still staring blankly. In a state of shock.


Finally, Izzy’s numbers are stabilizing. She’s starting to take breaths on her own.

The PICU staff wheels her in her crib down to their floor.

I think there’s a doctor or a nurse at this point who tells us that we’re moving rooms. I can’t remember what else was said.

Sterling & I are aimlessly walking around, packing our belongings, and we make our way back to PICU.

Once we’re there, I recall one of the head male doctors giving us his apologies for what we had to go through. I think there was other staff in the room, too.

Eventually, everyone clears out besides the night nurse who will be 1-on-1 with Izzy. He’s doing his notes and documentation at his computer. Izzy is back asleep. Sterling and I now find each other on this plastic couch.

I’m clinging to her white blanket. It smells like home, like Dreft detergent, like her. Her scent at 16 days old is my favorite scent in the world. I never want to lose that smell.

For a short period of time, I thought I had.

And even though I know she’s okay, breathing and sleeping, I can’t get that picture of her aspirating out of my head. It’s permanently etched into my brain. It’s scarring.

As we’re there on the couch, Sterling tells me that I saved Izzy’s life. If I hadn’t rushed over to her or screamed for help, we might not be so lucky right now. It seems melodramatic for him to tell me I’m the reason she’s alive. But deep down, I know it’s true.

We go to lie down again. Still clinging to her blanket, I begin to feel shaking. And then I hear the sobbing. Sterling, laying behind me, has broken. A grown man crying so hard he can’t control his body motions or his sounds. I reach my arm around to be his comfort & strength in this moment since he’s been mine for all the rest.

Today, time stood still.

What happened was traumatizing. But we are together, and she is with us.

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