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Sunday, May 18, 2008. A beautiful Spring day in Park City, UT. I clearly remember standing in front of my jewelry box picking out the perfect accessories for my outfit. A deep turquoise silk top and short pleated black skirt with a dainty blue quartz necklace. I was proud, I remember, for having earlier prepared snacks for my almost two-year old daughter Lucy, which I had placed in my purse. Animal crackers, and perfectly sliced apples cut with the knife my mom had recently purchased for me. I was prepared. I was ready. And I wasn't even late. A novelty.
As I entered the church meeting house, it was packed-- the only empty row near the front. Lucy was thrilled to be sitting in front of her 4 yr. old friend, Joey. Hesitantly, I helped her move to the pew behind us so she could sit with Joey, keeping a close eye on her. My heart melted when I saw her fold her arms during the prayer and sneek a glance up at me. She smiled that knowing smile, the one she dazzled us time and time again starting at three months old. She had a way of connecting with people. She knew. Her spirit was wise. She knew she was loved and enjoyed the attention her infectious smile, and laughing blond curls garnered her. I tried not to laugh as I watched her watching me.
She came back to sit with us and minutes later the fussiness began. I had to take her out to the foyer. Nothing seemed to satisfy or distract her. I even tried the swings in the church yard. She was distraught, upset, impatient, inconsolable. Vic joined forces with me but nothing seemed to be working. Fine, let's just go. The meeting is almost over anyhow. Looking back, I want to say that Lucy knew it was her time to go...and she was sad to leave us. She didn't want to say goodbye but she knew it was coming. She kept looking at the parking lot and then laying her head on daddy's shoulder. After my little girl was buckled into her car seat, I gave a last ditch effort to comfort her by offering the sliced apples. She accepted and took one slice in each hand. As I turned the key to start the engine I heard her choking. Immediately I ran to the back seat and unbuckled her. While hitting her on the back to dislodge the apple I yelled for Vic. He calmly told me everything would be fine and took her from me to try the Heimlich again. She faced me while Vic worked on her and her eyes locked with mine. Panic. Confusion.
Vic immediately could see that his efforts weren't working. I yelled for him to run around the fence to the fire station adjacent to the church parking lot. Lagging behind him I fell to the ground in a panic. A green Subaru pulled into the church parking lot and I screamed, "My daughter is choking! Help!” I watched as Lucy's head flopped in Vic's arms and then saw her body go limp. Vic pounded on the fire station door. It was locked. No one was there. His hand would be sore for weeks to come. I made my way to the fire station while my heart beat out of my chest. Suddenly, people started flooding out from the church building. A nurse, a search and rescue worker, a doctor... as I went into shock three women attended to me. One holding my head and two on either side of me. I could hear what was going on but didn't have the strength to look or stand. I heard someone ask if anyone had a pocketknife to do a trach. This isn't happening. Not my Lucy.
Within minutes the fire truck arrived and paramedics went to work. Moments later a life-flight helicopter landed on the road in front of the fire station. I was carried by two men to a friend's car and we drove the 20 + miles to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake. Surgery was done to remove the apple from her lung. When the surgeon brought it out in a small plastic jar to show us, I thought for certain she would survive. It was the size of a pea. She aspirated it and it was lodged at the bottom of her breathing tube, just before it splits into the two lungs. We had done everything right. Barely able to walk, eat, or sleep, I battled my way through the next 4 and a half days while Lucy struggled on life support. My little firecracker would fight this. And she would win. We would see a miracle.
But Lucy had other plans. Thursday, May 22nd at 9 p.m. we saw a very different kind of miracle. Holding her in my arms, the organ donation team wheeled us down the hallway to the "yellow line" where we would say our goodbyes to our sweet daughter. Our world.
Lucy's kidneys went to a 35 yr. old father of four and her liver to a 6-month-old baby girl. I never thought I would feel joy after that day. I have. That is the miracle. Everyday is a struggle. Everyday I learn. Everyday Lucy is with me.