The first thing I remember is how blue and gray my son’s face was.
It didn’t look natural or alright, and after the color didn’t go away, Vinny went to the Children’s Hospital clinic. I was at a work function and waited for the call. As parents, you are programmed to think about the worst and hope for the best. The text message and phone call I got fell directly into the worst category.
Vinny was being rushed to the hospital via the ambulance. The color in his face wasn’t good at all and something was wrong with his heart. For some reason, his heart rate was doing a raw impersonation of Jackie Joyner Kersee. It was reaching 300 beats per minute, which is very bad.
Right away, my adrenaline spiked. A friend of mine, Eric Moore, drove me back to the warehouse, and then I drove to Children’s Hospital off Kingshighway. I honestly can’t tell you if I obeyed traffic laws or even thought about other cars, or the possibility of the police. I just got there, like I was driving the Delorean.
Before we knew it, my wife and I were in the smallest hospital room of all time with what seemed to be 40 people standing over my son. You see, in the hospital, they have to worry about hundreds of Vinnys, so you can’t take it personal, but you do at the moment, because that’s your son goddamnit!
Attending physicians stepped in and peered over at my son like an experiment was taking place. I started to get angry. They were trying to insert an IV and get him hooked up, but due to him being less than a month old, he wasn’t happy about it. I was holding my wife in a chair as if we were suspended in space. As parents, you are powerless, and it sucks. When you see the parents in a hospital television show and they look distraught and half-dead, trust me when I tell you that it’s much worse.
Then, shit went south.
Vinny’s heart rate spiked so bad that it was weakening his body and they were losing him. His organs were shutting down and suddenly, I could see the shit hitting the fan up close and personal.
I remember my wife pacing back and forth trying not to crumble. I was already drafting a speech to my parents-both hospital employees-who hadn’t arrived yet. It was like watching a nuclear bomb hit your heart in slow motion.
I couldn’t see Vinny. He was so fucking tiny on the table and the defibrillators were so large that I couldn’t make him out. I just know that he came back and there was some hope. Stable wasn’t a word I would fit into the peg of catastrophe from that day, but the doctors tried to calm our nerves, which were bordering on severed terms.
Those days were the darkest of my life, because a happy ending was fleeting for so long. The doctors had to find the right dosage of medicine to steady Vinny’s heart rate, so they could begin the healing and get him back on track.
I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s-who was a seasoned nurse at the time-as Vinny’s heart rate spiked back to 271 as she held him in her arms. It was like the disease, known as Wollf-Parkinson-White, didn’t care about feelings or sentiment. It was causing an extra electronic pathway to Vinny’s heart, rapidly speeding the heart rate. Imagine a crowded intersection causing one car to fracture and sprint in place. That was my son’s chest.
Eventually, they would find the right dose for my son and he got better. The color in his face returned. He was a normal kid crying for milk and attention. Family members came and helped. We watched the Cardinals win the World Series at home and not in a hospital, like applying a suture to a deep cut.
We’d be back in the hospital the next month due to a more common ailment, pyloric stenosis, which attacked the intestines. After surgery and more heart wrenching hours, Vinny would kick its ass and leave the hospital.
My son learned to fight at an early age-and he also learned how to win. He fought two incredible conditions, and made it out alive. No additional surgeries or problems. These days, he’s a six year old tank with endless energy and a personality gaining data every day.
There’s a reason why Sylvester Stallone’s speech in Rocky Balboa, the six film in the still running series, resonates so deeply with me. The one where he told his grown son about taking the hits while moving forward, no matter the pain. That’s what my son did at a very young age. And that’s what Rachel and I did with him. We took the hits, kept our feet planted, and moved forward. That’s how winning is done, and the Buffas proved it.
It’s an old lesson, but life is anything but a given. And the truth is none of us are making it out alive. So live it the fuck up. You never know when the hospital, and fate, will come calling.
Every time I look at the pictures of Vinny in the hospital or right before or after, I am ferociously humbled. Every time.
Thanks for reading.