the death zone

My mind raced as I sat still, in traffic, on Atlanta's perimeter interstate 285. I talked to my mother on the phone and she did her best to comfort me, but I had already allowed panic into my mind. I looked at Juniper in the small distorted mirror I had strapped to the back seat.

She lie there directly behind me and made no sounds.

My mind began to engineer scenarios and I walked through them. It was like my mind was having me go through disaster drills to prepare me for the worst. I reached back and yanked on Juniper's bib. 

She did not move. 

I felt vomit on my fingers. I pulled on her clothes forcefully in an attempt to shake her into movement and screamed her name at the top of my lungs. At this point I was sobbing. I can't explain why, but I thought that I was losing her. I pulled over on the shoulder of the highway. I felt a buzzing sensation in my hands as my heart rate escalated. I took Juniper out of her car seat and stripped her down naked. I sat in the van, hitting her feet violently and screaming her name. 

She was unresponsive. 

Her breathing was slow and shallow. I envisioned myself sitting in the van and holding her dead body, rocking back and forth and squeezing her tightly. I called 9-1-1. I was so devastated that I could not tell the operator where I was. She talked to me like I was a child and eventually we made progress. I met the ambulance at a nearby gas station and they put Juniper on a full sized gourney, in her car seat. 

My father is a paramedic. I would have trusted him with Juniper, but for some reason I worried that these paramedics were not equipped to handle the needs of an infant. One of them used scissors to cut the EKG leads into smaller circles for Junipers tiny chest. I recognized the scissors as those paramedics use to cut the clothes off of patients. My father had once shown me that they can be used to cut through a penny. 

The Death Zone is the name used by mountain climbers for high altitude where there is not enough oxygen for humans to breathe. I felt like I was in the Death Zone. My heart rushed to supply oxygen to my brain. My brain rushed to build its defenses. 

I followed the ambulance to the hospital, running red lights and passing other cars as their drivers returned home from a normal day at work. I passed by sports cars and mini vans with carpools and kids. I screamed at them to let me pass. I felt like a prisoner held in a small sound proof room, screaming to be let free. They could not hear me and most would never understand what I was experiencing.

We arrived at the hospital and I collected myself. A feeling of relief came over me. I had delivered Juniper to the most capable hands that I knew of. I had done my job as her father. 

This was the first of many times that I would need to be there for her.