Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Mom's Worst Nightmare -or- Officially the Worst Day of My Life

Let me preface this by saying that had things not turned out alright, I don't think I'd be blogging. Holden seems to have no recollection of the incident (though I am replaying it on 'loop' in my brain); and he's as cheerful and content as ever.

What follows is my blurred and horrific recollection of Wed. night's trauma (literally).

The irony is that prior to 7 pm, the day was practically boring. No need to rock the boat, I thought... we're going on vacation tonight. Basically the ONLY things I really needed to accomplish tied into getting ready for our trip to Eden (Ogden Valley, aka "Upstate Utah"), and I had a baby shower for a friend and mutual (though, attendance at the latter was still being debated).

Holden had been given a bath, I even did my hair and makeup in anticipation of the shower and a kick-off to a Lake trip Danny had been looking forward to for over a month.

So on our way home from the shower, it was about 6:45, just before seven or so. I'm in the Equinox (yes, we had finally broke down and got a C-U-V so I wasn't breaking my back loading Holden in and out of the car, and so Danny and the car seat could both actually fit...) and I'm listening to the tail end of Obama's address about Health Care reform (even laughing when he makes the comments about 'I'm the president, a doctor follows me around 24-7' and another bit where he mentioned if he tried to break into the white house, he'd get shot at')... and I get this great (well, in retrospect...horrible) idea to wash the outside of the car and top off with a quarter tank of gas.

We pulled into the Sinclair on the corner of 39th and Wasatch. I had the door open, adjusting the shade on Holden’s carseat to keep the sun out of his eyes… he was taking a much needed snooze. I left the door open, listening to NPR’s take on Obama’s address and also because I just love to look at him, and who wants to be shut in a car all by themselves anyway?

I moved through the motions, swiping my AMEX and selecting the ‘Y’ button for “Carwash?” Selecting my grade and grabbing the pump…

And then, before I could blink, HORROR…

Gas was gushing out of the end of the pump with herculean force; and like a fire hose, the velocity yanked my hand sideways and before I could drop the pump, the toxic liquid had crossed the side of the open car door, covering my precious, helpless child in gasoline.

“HEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLLP ME!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I struggled to unbuckle Holden from the drenched car. He was awake and screaming too.


I was in hysterics. I was in shock.

What had happened?

What had I done?

My poor baby, my poor baby… The gasoline was slippery on my shaking hands and body; tears were flooding out of my eyes making it even more difficult to pull Holden from his car seat.

“SOMEBODY HELP ME!!!” I was trying to get Holden out, and no one was coming. They were all just standing at their cars starring at me.

“MY BABY! MY BABY!!” I screamed in sobs, wailing at the top of my lungs.

I made eye contact with a man.

“HELP ME!” I yelled again.

He looked blankly at me as worked to pull Holden from his carseat, “What’s wrong?”


The station manager had made his way outside, and (I can only assume) pushed the ‘automatic shut-off valve’ on his way to find out what was going on.

I could hardly get words out, I was in shock and both Holden and I were screaming.

“My ba-a-aby,” I sobbed. “My precious baby. Gasoline… all over my baby!” I had Holden in my arms and was running back towards the mechanics garage. I think the Attendant had told me to follow him, and he grabbed Holden from my clutch and set him in the mechanics sink pouring freezing water all over Holden and trying to flush out his eyes.

Holden was in shock too; a combination of stinging gasoline, a mother screaming, freezing cold water and a stranger he had never seen before…

“C-c-c-call my hu-u-u-u-sband. We need to call my husband…” and I shouted the number, apparently to no one in particular.

Though my sobs and screams, we somehow managed to get Holden’s clothes off and though it seemed like an eternity, it was probably just about a minute or so that he was in the water before I took him back into my arms to see if I could calm him down. (I imagine from start to this point, about 3 minutes had passed… but time works at a different pace when you’re faced with horror.)

“D-d-d-id yo-o-u u c-c-call 911!?!?” I asked… more blank stares. The attendant told one of his guys to call the paramedics, who thankfully are 200 yards away.

A woman with a pale face and black hair seemed to appear out of nowhere like a guardian angel asking if she could do anything to help.

“Did anyone get a hold of my husband?” More blank stares and muffles of ‘thought you were doing it, what’s the number again…”

I gave her Danny’s mobile number, and was getting ready to take Holden back into the restroom to see if I could wash him off more with warmer water and Burt’s Bees from my diaper bag because the attendant was looking for their industrial mechanic soap. (The mind works in odd ways in emergency situations. My child was covered in gasoline, and I somehow managed to fear ‘harsh soap’ on his skin because we try and use non-toxic products... I can’t explain it. My mind wasn’t right.)

The angel told me she had left a message for danny and helped me in the bathroom to wash him off more. Holden had stopped crying, just a few moments after I had picked him up (he really is the world’s best baby.)

Seconds later, the paramedics were at the door.

I was sobbing. And trying to explain what had happened:

“I would never s-s-s-tart pumping gas before it w-w-w-was in my c-c-car.” I tried to explain.

“No one thinks this is your fault,” said one of the medics. “You’re boy’s going to be fine. We’re going to take him to Primary’s,” he said. [Primary’s is local speak for Primary Children’s Hospital to my friends from outside Utah.]

They took Holden from me and loaded him into the ambulance. I somehow found enough clarity to grab my cell phone and my wallet from the gas-mobile, and left the keys in the ignition. The car was the least of my worries at this point.

“Should I bring my carseat to get him home?” I yelled to another medic.

“No,” he shook his head. “It’s covered in gasoline.”

Right, I thought. I'm such an idiot.

The ride to the hospital brought a little relief mixed with angst. Holden seemed to already be in transit to his normal disposition. While his face (especially his eyes), and arms were red, swollen and splotchy, he managed to find a grin for the attendant flushing out his eyes with saline. (The attendants and Dr. Gary Chan - a neighborhood friend an neonatalogist at primary's- said that Holden being asleep was probably best scenario for this to happen -- it seemed to have kept him from aspirating or getting it in his eyes and mouth... also, plenty of tears shed helped flushed his eyes too.)

While the medics attended to and flushed Holden's eyes and rinshed his body, I tried to make a few phone calls – calling my mother-in-love to let her know about where were headed and see if she could help track down Danny. (They were actually behind us en route to Eden, and she turned around to just go to her house to get Danny. he was in the pool for 'mutual' with the neighborhood young men.)

The medics did a great job -- although they were also kind of goofy. They'd bump into things, and correct each other, and it seemed that the driver didn't know what entrance he was going to... but they really took care of my little guy and for that, I am eternally grateful.

They took us straight to the ER and had a room for Holden. The nurses worked on him, checking vitals (Holden is NOT a fan of the pressure cuff); and eventually they bathed him again (Danny helped) and I sang songs to him and held his hand as they flushed out his eyes again.

The nurses also provided me with a change of clothes and a chance for a shower since I was also covered in gasoline -- part from the pump and and part from Holden...

Isn't that one of the worst things about gas? The stench never seems to go away.

The doctor checked out Holden, and talked to us about things to watch for. But seeing as how our little guy was smiling and content (plus no obvious signs like coughing or puking), poison control and the medical staff that worked on him, all seemed to think he was fine (minus the emotional trauma I'm convinced of... I really hope he has no short term or long term memory of the incident).

He was discharged between nine and ten; but we had no way to get him home (no car seat) so we sent Danny's parents to find us a replacement. (PS. I called the Babies R Us people from the hospital and explained the situation... their response to Danny was 'we close in 20 minutes.' I'm getting ready to write to their Director of Customer Relations. Insert 'expletive' of choice here.)

We finally got Holden home at 11 that night. I cradled him in my arms, and laid him down in our bed...tears streaming down my face, "I'm so sorry..." I whispered in sobs. "please forgive me..."

Holden only woke once that night; took a few sips on a bottle and Thursday morning greeted us with smiles and giggles.

Danny spent the morning running all over Salt Lake working on follow-up and trying to track down a car seat (we had to take the other one back because we couldn't really figure it out- and Holden's, despite 3 washes in washing machine and dishwasher, still reeked of gas).

Clothes have been thrown out, his favorite toys will need to be replaced (Ashli S his 'Barn Baby' cow and the moose from Bree S. were two of his favorites that are no longer 'fit for duty.')

We left some other pieces on the back porch to see if anything is salvageable...

As I mentioned, I keep replaying it over and over in my head.

Why did I pick that gas pump?

Why didn't I just go home?

Why couldn't it have just doused me?

Why -why-why?

Eventually, I'm sure I'll find a way to forgive myself. Thankfully, it seems that Holden has already 'forgiven and forgot'... we're just grateful that he's ok, and recognize it could've been so much worse.

I am ever so grateful for guardian angels in whatever form they take.


ashlie said...

Wow! I am so sorry this had to happen to you and Holden! I am balling as I am reading your story! I hope all is well and everybody has recovered!:)

naptime nostalgia said...


I can't believe no one offered to help except for that lady! How scary! Every mom has those scary moments where all you can do is say a prayer and hope for the best.

One time I was in church by myself with my two kids(sitting in the back in the gym) and my daughter slipped through the back of the chair and fell right on her head. She started throwing up and I couldn't get her to stop. It was so scary, and no one would help me. And I was at church!! Since she wouldn't stop throwing up(which is a sign of a concushion when you hit your head) I was just freaking out. Finally someone said they would take my son home for me, and I rushed her off to primarys.

Luckily she ended up being just fine but you can't help but think "What if". What if I'd just not put her on that chair? What if I'd not put her in such a slippery dress? It's hard not to blame yourself, but the truth is, bad things happen. All the time. Even when you are being as cautious as possible.

I'm so glad Holden is okay. It could have been alot worse. And don't worry about him remembering this, cause he won't.

And while you are making your rounds of letters and calls (babies r us, etc) you should call the owner of Sinclair and have them cover the costs the ambulance ride, new carseat and any damage to your car.

So sorry this happened to you! You did exactly what you should have. Holden is lucky to have such an awesome mom.

Hang in there!

Melanie said...

Being a Mom comes with sooo much love it is CRAZY!! I am sorry you had to experience that trauma. There are 2 times so far that I have thought my baby was gonna die and it is THE WORST. I think it makes me even more paranoid. I had to get a blessing before I could even sleep cause I would replay it in my mind over and you said. I could only just sit there and cry!

Darth Spencer said...

The paramedics took him to Primary Children's Hospital? They should have taken him to child protective services.

Cicely said...

I'm concerned that you created this story to boost your analytics numbers.


Shauntel said...

Oh boss. I'm so sorry this happened to you, and I'm so grateful everyone is okay. Thank goodness for these babies' angels taking care of them.

I know you'll replay this one hundred times in your mind, but I know Holden won't. Their minds and bodies are wonderfully adaptable. And they only know how to love those who love them. He knows his mommy takes care of him and loves him. Pretty sure the fuel incident is a distant memory to him.

After my shower, when I was finally allowed, I sat and bawled. I had fallen down the stairs, holding my baby. She seemed to be fine, but what if? I was terrified to hold her for a few hours after. It took an "I need my mommy" cry for me to snap out of it and realize that she was fine and that she didn't hold it against me.

Being a mommy is hard work, but you do a wonderful job. Your sweet (big) baby boy is proof of that.

swensen squeeze said...

suite - I am sorry that this happened to you! I can't believe nobody helped you until that lady! I am glad that this has a happy ending!!

dynamike said...

Oh Sabrena, sweetie! Maybe it's because I so recently went through my own horrible experience where I thought Jonah had broken his nose, but I honestly started crying when I read this.
I empathize so much with the feelings of horror, disbelief and guilt that you described and my heart just goes out to you. I am SO relieved that he's okay. Now it will just take a little time until you're okay.

I swear, these babies come the way they do for a purpose. I'm sure Heavenly Father knew we'd be new at this parenting thing and it's as much for the mom as it is for the baby that they have short memories and are so surprisingly resilient and tough. It eases my mind knowing that Jonah won't remember a lot of the injuries, moments I've lost my patience, close calls, etc. that we've already gone through in his short little life. Please don't agonize over the what if's. You'll go crazy. Heavenly Father has control over the what if's and your experience is proof of that. Holden is healthy and well, you received help along the way, and you grew a little wiser/more empathetic as a result. You did exactly the right thing (I'm impressed with your presence of mind, seriously. I don't know what I would have done!) and Holden is blessed to have such an incredible mommy. You are one of the most devoted I've ever seen.

Love you and am thinking of you! Please let's talk soon!

WIKKY said...

Sabrena.... that really is a horror story and one that I am sorry you had to go through. What a trooper you are. And Holden, he is an angel baby! I am so glad that everything worked out in the positive! I can't believe it took people THAT long to help. I mean, c'mon! If I were there, you know I would have been your angel! You are an amazing mom!!!!!

Lisanne said...

Oh my goodness! What an awful experience. I am glad he is ok!

Staci said...

you are truly brave. I can't even imagine what my mind would be going through. You have to remember you are only human and every mother has and WILL do stuff they don't mean to do! Don't blame yourself it was an accident. You are such a wonderful mother and I admire all the things you do for Holden!

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