It was 1989, I was with some friends on a white water rafting trip down the Rio Grande River in New Mexico. During our 3 day trip, there were periods of fast-moving white water and times where we floated calmly along with the gentle current. The friend who organized the trip was celebrating her birthday. During a calm time, I asked what her life’s greatest fear. She told her story and the question went to the next friend. When all had answered, they turned to me and ask me the question. Then it was my turn. I was surprised at the answer that came into my awareness. My greatest fear was the time my son Siri died. (It has a happy ending.)
I picked Siri up from the daycare in the afternoon. His teacher said he seemed tired and weak. At home, he just wanted to lay down. My wife came home a short time later and we called the doctor. We described the situation and she said to come to her office first thing in the morning. At the doctor’s office in the morning she looked at Siri and said in a calm voice, “I want to examine him in the emergency room. I will follow you.”
About 10 minutes later at the emergency room, Siri was put on the examination table. The doctor began the examination. A few minutes after we had arrived, Siri’s heart stops. To see this small 10-month-old laying on the examination table and the heart monitor just goes flat. It was all so unreal. Quickly the doctor begins pumping his heart. Nurses and aids began a frantic dance to save his life. At some point, one of the nurses tells me I must leave the room. I refused. It was clear to her I was not going. She tells me to stay out of the way. While standing in that busy room I went inside myself to a place of trust. From that inner perspective, I started chanting. I opened myself to divine guidance for my son and the medical personnel to do the best they could to revive my son.
They prepared the defibrillator to shock his heart back to life. After a few tries still nothing. My chanting takes on an importance that is bigger than life. Then they prepare a needle to inject directly into his heart. After more than 2 minutes of effort, his heart started beating again. It seemed the immediate danger was over. Still chanting my wife and I went to the waiting room. About a minute later a priest from the hospital slowly walks up to us. He looked very sad. I thought he was going to tell us our son died. Turned out he was called to offer his support. I was quite angry at the confusion.
I was young and did not know at the time, but Siri still had some hurdles to cross until he was healthy again. It turned out that he had spinal meningitis, probably from the bite of a horsefly. Although alive, he was now in a coma. The traditional next step would have need the ICU (intensive care unit), but at that moment it was full. So they decided to set up a room in an unused ward with 24-hour nurses. This was most unusual but a great blessing as we could sleep on the floor of his room and be there all day.
It was very hard to see this tiny being connected to life-saving tubes. Even in his coma, his body reacted to the tubes and tried to pull them out. Sometimes succeeding. The saline solution and the drugs were needed to cure the infection in his spinal fluid. To prevent this they tied his arms and hands to the bed. It was hard to see this, yet it was clear that it was needed for him to get better. I did not understand at the time how dangerous the situation was. After a few days, I began to notice the concern on the faces of the nurses. My wife and I took turns staying in the room with him. After 10 days he came out of the coma. The nurses were very excited by the change. Later I understood why. Ten days is a long time and it could have gone another way. After a few days, we could leave the hospital.
It was not quite done. There was the possibility of brain damage having not breathed on his own for so long. This can be measured through the hearing, but we had to wait until he was 2 years old. At the testing center, they determined his hearing was fine and there was no permanent damage. We were very grateful.
With less detail, this was the story I told my friends in that raft while floating down the Rio Grande river when they asked me what was my greatest fear.
I dedicate this story to my son Siri on his birthday. Today he turns 39. I have always been proud of him and wish him always the best. I know him to be a kind, helpful, talented human being who makes an impact in the world in his own way. My life has been more joyous by his presence. God bless you Siri on this day and for all those to follow.
Siri pictured with his younger sister.