My instinct takes me to the family room where she is sitting. Her red face has a voice of its own. The one thing I am dreading the most sends my heart beating out of my chest and a rush of heat to my face. My 12-year-old daughter has just swallowed a large number of pills. Her depressive state has been apparent for over two years. Feeling weaker by the day, she is no longer able to get on with her life. Burdened by extreme anxiety and fatigue, this is another attempt to end her suffering. The system, it appears, doesn’t know what to do. The lights are turned off.
It takes me seconds to drag her out into the cold air of the winter without a coat. My memory skips over to the line-up at the emergency room. Ironically, the parents are standing calmly with their children and that bothers me – my heart is racing. As I rush to the front of the line, feeling like I am going to explode, the young woman at the triage ignores our presence. It doesn’t matter that I am begging for help and that the man standing before her with his child moves aside in response to my agony. Finally, without looking up, the woman tells me to wait as some people have arrived before us and I reply: “But you have to understand, there is a window…” The situation is a nightmare. Seconds later, I am yelling out of despair, feeling totally helpless. My body is fighting to jump out of its own skin and I am literally going out of my mind. I walk to a chair in the adjoining corridor, leaving my daughter standing there on her own among the quiet parents and their children. Sitting, I hold my head in my hands and weep out loud like a little child with a badly scratched knee. A caring stranger puts his hand on my shoulder and, standing in a demeanor that feels like that of the husband I do not have, tells me not to worry, that she is going to be OK.
The words cause me to stand and gather myself. My daughter is out of sight. I ask where my child is but the young woman brushes me off again, mumbling that someone has taken her. As I finally enter the treatment room, the scene before me is paralyzing. With the innate and accurate perspective of everything that transpires from my progeny, I see her lying there in a little yellow gown, her porcelain skin more transparent than ever, her big blue eyes empty of her own self, and her long dark hair making her tiny body appear even smaller. My child is void of expression – like she has to keep quiet, feeling misunderstood, unhappy, and threatened by the system. She holds back from crying with every painful intervention – like she deserves to hurt. The ER doctor asks me how many pills and my answer causes her to reply “that is exaggerated”. But once the truth is exposed, she tells me that if my daughter makes it, she will most likely be on dialysis for the rest of her life. Her words are harsh, she doesn’t understand. Void of apology, she goes on pretending she never said the cruel words. Now, I am on the outside, standing as a stranger, secretly hoping for God to take my sweet child and release her from the pain that no one is able to manage. Still she lies there, fighting, her eyes watery with circles growing dark underneath, her insides crawling out of her from the effect of the overdose, her little fingernails black from the charcoal and still I am standing on the outside, watching like a stranger. The loads of linen on the large shelves are continuously being replaced, without a word employees slowly enter, exit, and repeat the task. No one says anything. Only the two-hour window will tell.
When the deadline is reached, my daughter’s time isn’t up. It feels like a miracle. but it still hurts. The scars serve as a reminder that any child’s desperate call for help should never be taken lightly. The lights need to be kept on at all times.