…Abby had had a cold before we left Denver, and she was also teething. On Christmas morning, when she began to have more volatile spit-up than from milk alone, we grew concerned, but not overly. Cary and I had relied on a great pediatric practice in Denver, but to contact the “on call” doctor from such a distance on Christmas seemed unfairly burdensome to him or her. My parents and siblings were there with us, and my younger sister, whose family lived with my folks, suggested we contact her pediatrician, as they had a good one in the area. We called him, and he prescribed something for her congestion, as well as her stomach. He stated that if she wasn’t “markedly better” within 6 hours of starting the medication, we should bring her to the Vail Valley Medical Center Emergency Room. He didn’t want us to come in that morning, as there were a number of patients with a severe gastrointestinal illness which he didn’t want to have Abby exposed to while waiting to be seen.
We were experienced parents, on holiday, with a kid who didn’t seem that sick, and we weren’t worried. My dad had arranged a family sleigh ride as a fun diversion, and shortly after noon, everyone headed out except Abby and I. We stayed behind so she could nap and stay warm. They would get the medicine at the pharmacy after the ride, and bring it back by 3pm. After they returned, Cary and I gave her the first dose of both prescriptions and continued on with our family holiday.
Mom had fixed a big dinner, and Cary gave the kids each a bath after dinner. Abby was the last to get hers, with the other children having been sent to bed. While putting on her pajamas in the living area, Cary and my sister both remarked that Abby still looked pale and not “markedly better.” It was around 9pm, and so we agreed to get bundled up and take her to the ER just to make sure she was properly seen by a doctor. Dad, thankfully, interjected that he would drive us in his 4-wheel drive Suburban. We got in, buckled up, and I for some reason held Abby on my lap, not putting her in a car seat as we always did with our kids. This was probably because she had fallen fast asleep on the way out the door and I didn’t want to wake her by buckling the seat. God’s providence, again.
My parents’ house in east Vail was at the end of the valley that goes uphill. About five minutes into our downhill drive, I felt Abby stop breathing! I screamed to Cary and my dad, and he headed to the market store two blocks away that had a pay phone. This was in 1995, before the days of everyone having cell phones. Cary grabbed Abby and started CPR. I hopped out and ran to the pay phone, only to discover it was shut off! Back in the car, Dad frantically turned the Suburban around on the icy parking lot, then headed to the fire station a block away.
Pounding on the doors at 9:30pm, we woke up the firemen, screaming out the emergency. One called for an ambulance, while others began CPR. It seemed an eternity when the emergency vehicle finally arrived 25 minutes later. Immediately, Abby and Cary were in the ambulance, roaring down I-70 to the hospital. Dad and I followed close behind, over the speed limit I’m sure, praying and sobbing as we went….