He was only a few weeks old when he was rushed to the hospital. Now, his memories of watching from above comfort them all.
Posted in , Nov 25, 2020
It was a sunny October day. My husband, Anthony, and I sat with our three kids—Ella, seven; Luca, five; and Zoe, two—as they drew with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. The whole family was enjoying the last bit of nice weather before the winter. Everything felt warm and peaceful.
“Look, Mama! I’m drawing Mario!” said Luca, scribbling with red chalk.
Of course. Luca was obsessed with the Nintendo video game character. “Very cool,” I said.
Luca clutched the red chalk in his little hand. “Red is a nice, hot color,” he went on. “Fire is red. Mama, do you remember when I was in the hospital and I was on fire?”
I froze. Goosebumps rose on my arms. Anthony and I caught eyes, and I could tell both of us were wondering the same thing: How could he possibly know?
All the memories from that traumatic time, the ones I tried to forget, came flooding back. Luca was born on September 20, 2007—a perfectly healthy 10-pound baby. But three weeks later, he woke up in the middle of the night, screaming in pain, with a fever that wouldn’t go away. We rushed to the hospital. They gave him medicine and hurried to hook him up to a bunch of wires and machines. The doctor said Luca needed to stay for a while so they could run some tests and find a diagnosis.
The next couple days were a blur. Anthony and I set up camp in Luca’s hospital room. My mother drove up to watch Ella. Luca’s fever wouldn’t go down. No one could figure out what was wrong.
Two days into Luca’s hospital stay, my mother brought Ella to visit. I was holding Luca’s tiny hand and singing softly when an alarm on one of the machines sounded. Doctors and nurses swarmed into the room, pushing me from Luca’s bedside. Ella started to cry. My mother ushered her out of the room.
Nothing felt real. I couldn’t see my son through the medical team surrounding him. Over the noise, I heard someone say Luca’s fever had spiked to 104 degrees and that he wasn’t breathing. Someone else shouted that they needed to intubate. I felt sick. A nurse tried to move me away, but I refused to leave. We stood next to the window. The nurse held my hand as I broke into sobs. Anthony pulled me into his arms.
“Please, God,” I prayed. “Let him pull through.”
I don’t know how long the chaos lasted. Eventually, things calmed down. Luca had a silver tube down his throat and was hooked up to a ventilator, but he was stabilized.
Thankfully, that day was a turning point. Luca began to improve. Doctors believed he’d made it through the worst of it. His fever broke. Color returned to his cheeks. He was able to breathe on his own again. Instead of wailing in pain, he was cooing. A happy baby once more. After a week in the hospital, Luca finally cleared his last series of tests and we were able to take him home.
The doctors never did find out what had made Luca so sick. We continued to monitor his health closely. Thankfully, there were no lasting effects, and nothing like it ever happened again. We hadn’t discussed Luca’s hospitalization since. Not with each other and not with Luca. It wasn’t a secret. It just wasn’t something we wanted to revisit. Now, five years later, Anthony and I stared at each other in disbelief as our son brought it up out of nowhere.
“What else do you remember, bud?” asked Anthony cautiously.
“I was in a bed,” said Luca. “But I was in the sky too, looking down on you guys. And all these doctors and nurses were standing around me in the bed, and I was on fire. There was a silver tube in my throat.”
From when they intubated him, I thought. There’s no way he could remember all this, is there?
“What happened next?” I asked.
“Everybody was so loud,” said Luca. “You and Daddy were hugging by the window. A nurse was holding your hand, Mama. You were crying so much. And Mimi was crying too, outside my room, with Ella.” Mimi was what the kids called my mother. “The nurses were wearing green suits,” said Luca matter-of-factly.
Then he went back to his chalk drawing as if nothing had happened, leaving Anthony and me stunned.
Luca has mentioned his experience a few times since then, and it never ceases to amaze us. We can’t explain what happened, let alone how he remembers it, but it has changed the way I feel about that day at the hospital. It’s no longer a painful memory but an affirmation that there’s something more beyond this life.
Just ask Luca.
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