The nightmare of letting go

“I will walk you through the path of fear and sorrow, holding you by your hand. I will gradually prepare you for what is inevitable, so when the day will come, your heart will stay calm, as you will watch him received the greatest gift one could get – eternal life.”

“Amm! Amm!” One of the worst things we had to cope with was a sound of Szymek begging for food and us saying “no” as he needed to be on an empty stomach.

“Amm! Amm!” From asking, to begging, to angry yelling, and finally ending with despair. “Amm! Amm!”

Seeing him falling on the bed with eyes closed, as he has no more strength to keep them open, emotions aroused in us. Emotions, you try to control, to have your mind clear. The anger mixed with helplessness, pushing you to your limits, as you would do all, just to end your child suffering. At the end, you know all you can do is just wait and watch. Wait for hours, as we needed to refrain from feeding him from midnight the previous day, to sometimes even 2 p.m. Each testing day the que of cadets waiting for their turn was long and not much we could do to speed up the process.

The reason for all that suffering was a fact, that cadets could not move during the tests, not to distort the results. Therefore those, who were too young to understand it, like Szymek, were put under sedation. And for an anesthesia to work properly, he could not eat nor drink eight hours before the test. Since nobody knew exactly what time the test will be conduct, we need to be on this horrible standby mode until Captain’s performing the test called us in. For us there was nothing worse than telling Szymon, that he can not take any food or drink. Telling our two-year-old child, who suffered enough already, that we can not do anything about his hunger or thirst.

“Ammm. Ammm.” This time with much weaker voice and tears in his eyes, while he was trying to point to the cupboard standing next to his bed, where normally he could find a sandwich, pretzel, or boxed juice. Now all was hidden from him, not torture him with the sight of the food.

“Just few more minutes. Soon we will go for a quick test and then there will be amm.” Mag tried to calm him down, which in most of the cases just made him even more angry.

“Szymek, your turn” Said the corporal entering the room. “As always please take a blanket with you, as it can be cold in the corridors.” Mag took Szymek from the bed, as he did not like to travel in it. And we walked to the elevator pushing his bed along the way.

Road to the testing room begins with a labyrinth. Leaving the elevator, we need to cross almost whole basement, constantly making right or left turns, passing by doors to either technical rooms or, lost in the depth of the basement, Captain’s clinics. Once, one of the corporal admitted to us, that after two years of working here, she still, from time to time, gets lost in this little maze. The final turn and we are at the straight, long corridor where at the end, on its left, there is glass door leading to the testing area.

Szymek never liked going through this corridor, especially when he needed to travel is his facility bed. Due to lose tiles, the beating wheels were making him nervous and he preferred to pass it in Mag’s arms where he felt safe. The look of this place was also not helping. Although on the left side there was a wall full of windows, giving a bit of natural light inside, old paint on the walls, dirty windows, and those loose tiles, were making an impression like we were in b-class horror movie.

The testing area was divided into two sections, waiting room – well known to many parents, and two cabins with the testing equipment. When we arrived there, we needed to wait for few minutes, for the previous test to be over and then they called us in.

The testing cabin is a huge room, with lots of equipment. Funny how all this new, high tech equipment was kept in the old, not renewed for years, building. They kept low temperatures inside, so that once everything will be turned on, the heat will not get to unpleasant levels. We laid Szymon on the big bed, and while holding his hand to keep give him comfort, prepared ourselves for the worse.

“Mrs. W we are ready to start the sedation. We will start with a small douse to make him sleepy and then once he will shut his eyes inject the rest. He should be sleeping for next 30 to 40 minutes, while we conduct the test.” When Captain finished explaining us shortly the procedure they started to inject the meds into his veins.

The nightmare of letting go, preparing you to your worse fear. Allowing you to get use to the thought of him flying to heaven one day. I saw it only once and this was already an image that hunted me for long, but Mag was expose constantly to it. From day one of our presence in the facility, she had to see how he passes away. And it’s not looking the same to just falling asleep, not with little scared child.

This one time, when I was present during the sedation, he was holding Mag hand, calling her constantly to make sure that she will not leave him. Looking with his scared eyes and hoping that she will end this. Take him far away from this horrible place and will not allow for any test to be performed.

“Mum! Mum!” Szymek was trying to call her when it happened. He started to lose his voice, it sounded like his lungs would fill up with water. Sound that was giving an impression, that he was drowning. Like he could not catch a breath. “Muuummm! MMMMMmmmm…”

He started to mumble, slowly closed the eye,  and soon silence is the only thing you could hear from him. Firm shake became loose, as his body begins to be flaccid. Our hearts started to pound and fear paralyzed the body. Is this it? Has he flown to heaven? We were nervously looking for any sight of life. His hands were still warm, and soon we could see chest moving. He still breaths! What is so obvious to a side observer, for us, for some reason was covered with dark cloth. We knew, that he was just asleep, but for those few seconds, those few seconds, which lasted a life time, we wanted to scream, yell for help, as it looks like we just lost him. We lost our beloved child.

For those few seconds, you can not force yourself to think rationally, you don’t think at all. Just allow panic to take over whole your body. As to all, after a couple of sedation, Mag slowly got used it. The routine and knowledge what to expect next, help her to cope with it somehow. But fear never went fully away. It was just hiding behind the glass door and waited for a good occasion to come back.

“We are good to go, you can release his head and hand and proceed to the waiting room, we start the test soon.” Few words coming from anesthesiologist, reassuring us that all went fine and Szymek just fallen into deep sleep. They hooked Szymon to respirator, to assist him during the test to hold his breath for couple of seconds. This was also part of the procedure. This was the image you see when you leave the room.

“I lead you through the dark times. Guide you, so you will not get lost on the way. As you are blind now, but someday I will show you the plan, I will make you see.”

The doors opened and captain came out of the room. “We are done. See, nothing to worry about.” Said a Captain with a bit of a smile on her face. “Please stay here for couple of minutes until he fully wakes up.”

So innocent and vulnerable sleeping on his bed, like all those things that just happened were just a bad dream…just a bad dream…from which you can not wake up.

“AMMMMMM! AMMMMMM!”

Captain’s helping hand

 ”Come quick! We need to talk” Captain Alexandra nervously whispered to me and pulled me out of the room. “There is not much time.”

“What’s going on?”  I asked, confused about this whole situation. We entered small room, next to the command center, where we could talk in private. This was the room when we heard all those bad news, room where we could have a bit of intimacy, when you could not stop your tears from falling. This time I was about to hear something different.

“I tried my best to sabotage your mission” She started.” But I got caught by the Major and they removed me from training your Son. Once the briefing will be over, you will be informed by Major that Captain M aka Blind will take you over. She is very ambitious and will do all she can to shorten your Son’s training.”

 After hearing those words I was even more puzzled, as the last person I would expect to get some help from would be the captain. It would explain this strange feeling I had when we first met. When she was telling us about the test results and the fact that we are qualified, I sensed sadness in her eyes. Like there was a part of her sympathizing with us.

“Why did you do it? Why did you try to help us?” I was curious to know.

“Do you believe in coincidences?” She asked with much calmer voice.

“Not, really. In those discussions I am more on the destiny side.”

“Well, I am not really fan of those destiny stories, but when I saw, that your son was born on the same day as my child, and fact that you lived in the same apartment as me when I was a kid, but couple of floors below, it seemed very strange to me. I took it as a sign. A sign telling me “take this case and help them”. Everybody knows, that even though heaven is a place to be, flight should happen much later in your life. When you are old and lived a life, but not when you are young. Not when you just entered this world and did not really had a chance to taste it. Not when you are a gift to your parents, most precious thing they ever received, love of their life, and you are about to leave them. Fly off without even giving them a chance to enjoy time spent together. No child should be allowed to fly! That said, problem is different. With each year spent here on Earth it is getting harder and harder to get to heaven. You must put more effort to fly there and at the end there is no guarantee you will make it. This is why they list children, here is no doubt that the flight will be successful, hence reason why your son was picked. Coming back to your Son. Unfortunately I was not careful enough in sabotaging his flight and got caught. Due to that I am being moved to day care for some time to ensure I will not jeopardize it anymore.” She passed for a second and the only thing I could say was. “Thank you.”

“Good luck and I hope you will succeed in taking back your son.” We left the room as it got noisier on the corridor and we knew that captain’s round is coming.

Throughout the whole training there were many moments where I felt it would be easier for me to hit bull’s eye with closed eyes standing in the middle of the forest, rather than have all of those factors meet and succeed. But for some strange reason this is what happened. I always like to think that these are those small signs telling us that we are not alone in this battle. That someone is looking over us, making sure that at the end everything will be fine. The point is that I don’t know what His plans are and I am left with nothing else but trust.

Trust no one

 In those kind of moment you learn what true friendship means. Very quickly we verified people. Those who we thought are close to us disappeared, and we cannot really even say why. Weather they thought this is contagious, and they can also be classified for that flight too, overwhelmed and did not know how to behave, or simply we did not fit to their image of perfect hedonistic life, where you keep close to yourself only those who makes your world look perfect. On the other hand people, who we never expected to get any empathy from would call us, write, suddenly appear in our life, and without even asking started to help. They knew, that they are far from understanding us, and I would never wish them too, but they fought back the thought of it, and were always with us when needed.  I am not saying that we were completely left out by our old friends, just that number of them shrank. Thanks to that experience we now know who we can really depend on.

 And there was a third group, other parents. People who shared your experience, suffering, and could really quickly find themselves in your shoes. Understand well what you are currently going thorough, your frustration, sorrow, crises, as this was also in their hearts. They might have already experienced what you are currently facing and moved to the next stage or you shared your tears with them as they were also just informed about qualification.

 We stayed in the room where there was at least one more cadet and alongside of him, his parent, in most cases it was his mother. Laying on cheap mattress or touristic bed, comforting him, and trying to lower his pain and suffering as much as she could. Rooms where tiny, which lead to the situations where there was no other way but to open your mouth and start to talk to each other. Especially that during those night where your cades could not sleep because of pain, and you often needed to change either his diapers or bed sheets, you could count on the other parents to look over your child.

 Spending sometimes days or weeks with the same parents created this strange connection. The bondage of common goal, do all in your power to get your kid off the training course. And you know that on the other side of the barricade are captains doing all to make sure your child will perform well. Of course there were cases when frustration was so high that created some tension between parents but those were very rare occasions. In general everybody tried to help each other as much as they could, knowing that someday it could be his turn to ask.

“Don’t trust anybody.” Mag started. “Look at each drug they are giving to your child, check the label, check the name and make sure they did not mix anything.” She lowered her voice a bit. “I already witnessed a case where they had two cadets with similar names and they massed up the drugs. Giving the wrong one to the wrong cadet. Luckily they quickly realized so no harm done but you can imagine what could have potentially happen.  I am not sure if this is done on purpose, like the other day they tried to force faster training, not fit for the cadets, hoping he will make the flight sooner than normally. I don’t think these are just strange coincidental mistakes.” Mag paused for a second. “But like I have said. Don’t trust anybody and double check everything.”

 We were already full of fear and this just enhanced it. I started to take picture of the drugs, check the names in the internet. I tried to see if this chemo will really improve his performance or on the contrary – rash the hole process and fly him to heaven sooner than initially said.

 Luckily we had also moments when we talk about other things, not related to the training, which gave us a bit of relief from that constant standby mode. Amelia was full of energy and watching her play was also uplifting. Szymon was also in much better state, which started to fill us with optimism. Maybe it doesn’t have to be like captains say. Maybe he will not make the cut.