I couldn’t quite process what I was seeing. My 3-year-old was sitting on the floor by the stairwell. She was trying to spit something out of her mouth.
Then I saw the yellow encasing for the medicine capsule. She had bitten into (and eaten) my dog’s arthritis medicine. I’m certain this image of my daughter sitting on the floor with the bright yellow pill on the floor in front of her will never leave my memory.
What followed was a flurry of events.
I used my sleeve to wipe the medicine off of my daughter’s tongue, then I had her stand over the garbage and told her to spit into it. I told my oldest daughter to get her coat on. I called my in-laws while shoving the bottle of my dog’s medication into my purse, then directed my youngest daughter to put her boots on. I drove my oldest daughter to my in-laws house and then went directly to the hospital.
Those few minutes were the longest of my life. However, I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t doubt my actions… I was on mommy auto-pilot.
Upon checking my daughter into the emergency I began to replay the events in my mind.
My dog has been on Tramadol for a few years. Sometimes he will hold the pill in his mouth and then spit it out later or he will eat all of his food but leave the pill in his bowl. My daughter had obviously found one of his rejected capsules….
My sweet, precocious, little three-year-old sat on my lap in the emergency room. She was talking coherently, she seemed her usual, energetic, self and her only complaint was that her tongue hurt (which wasn’t a surprise considering I wiped it with the sleeve of my shirt). As we waited to be seen by the doctor I took it upon myself to Google the medication:
Do not crush, chew, or dissolve extended-release tablets or capsules. Doing so can release all of the drug at once, increasing the risk of side effects or overdose. (Source: Web MD)
My stomach flipped, my heart thudded, and it was then that I burst into tears.
My mind spiraled out of control. Why did this happen? If only I had walked into the room a few seconds earlier. What if I had walked into the room a few seconds later?
I felt sickened, grieved, and fearful.
Even though my mind raced, this was one of those rare parenting moments in which I didn’t revert to self-condemnation. This was a straight-up accident. I couldn’t have known my dog would spit up this teeny, tiny pill. I couldn’t have expected that my daughter would find it and eat it.
Regardless, the tears flowed freely as I held my daughter on my lap. I never prayed so much in my entire life. I was not going to lose my daughter. Not on this day… not in this way.
Even though she’s a preschooler I couldn’t help but see her as the helpless newborn I met in the delivery room of that very hospital just 3 1/2 years earlier.
Holding that infant I made the promise that so many mothers make. I would love her. I would protect her. I would do anything for her; my beautiful baby girl….
A couple of hours later, after being assessed by a resident and then the doctor, my daughter was found well enough to be discharged from the hospital.
We went home and things felt surreal as we went through the motions of “normal” everyday life. You would’ve never guessed we had an accidental poisoning just a few hours prior.
That night as we ate dinner, I looked at my daughter and thanked God that I wasn’t looking at an empty chair at our kitchen table. I had moments when I looked at her and tears filled my eyes. I had moments when I hugged her a bit tighter and held her a bit longer.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child. This was the closest I’ve ever come to it.
Sleepless nights, sibling fights, yelling, hitting, and temper tantrums… parenting is far from easy. However, I would rather navigate those challenging moments than face the grief of an empty chair at the kitchen table.