11 Seconds

My son died, and all I could do was watch.

I watched the cardiologist pump shock after electric shock into his fragile, two-pound body.  I watched the pulmonologist force oxygen into his cellophane-thin lungs, and I watched the expressions of the high-risk OB/GYN team turn further grim with each failed attempt at a steady pulse.

And then, the monitor chimed, and a constant stream of beeps signaled life; the room erupted into a frenzy of shared joy. That was twelve years ago, but each vivid detail is locked in the forefront of my mind as if it were yesterday. Here’s an excerpt from our hospital discharge five months later.

Doc: “Mrs. Elliott, I gave your son a 20% chance of survival – I’m rarely wrong.”

Me: “Well, somebody’s wearing his cocky pants today.” (Egos make me snippy.)

Doc: (Chuckle) “What I’m trying to say is he’s a miraculous little boy, but he will have significant limitations.”

Me: “Such as?”

Doc: “Oxygen deprivation at birth and subsequent apnea (fancy term for forgetting to breathe 50 or so times per day) puts your son is at high risk for Cerebral Palsy, physical and developmental delays, vision impairment, and significant breathing difficulty. His lung capacity is at best, 50%. He’ll never compete in sports like other children his age.”

Sports? Who gave a rat’s patoot about sports? My husband and I walked out of the hospital with a healthy, albeit oxygen & heart monitor tethered little boy. We were grateful, blessed, and whatever came down the road, we were ready. Sports were the least of our concerns.

Fast forward to our twelve-year old dynamo, he needs glasses and packs an asthma inhaler like a six-gun, but that’s where the dire predictions stop. (Take that Doctor Dismal! Kidding, we love him.) The problem was as time progressed my baby grew into a boy and wanted a sport to call his own – he dove into swimming.

It was love at first splash.

But….here’s the problem with Jello muscles and Swiss cheese lungs – you’re not the fast fish in the pond, and that puts a significant dent in a kid’s confidence. However, if you’re lucky, really lucky, someone comes along and makes all the difference, someone hears your story, sees the heart of a champion beating beneath the surgery scars and makes the effort to go beyond the confines of coaching and inspires you to push harder, work smarter, and believe anything is possible.

And this, my blog following friends, brings me to the reason for today’s post. There is a remarkable man we want to thank for fostering our son’s love of all things aquatic, a man whose contagious enthusiasm and positive reinforcement broke through physical and emotional barriers of an unfortunate birth and lifted an otherwise frail child to feats of extraordinary strength.  

Coach Trevor, we love you, we miss you, and we want you to know the impact you had on Brendan cannot be measured by an evaluation, will not be rolled over by a squeaky wheel, and above all, has our forever gratitude.  You may not be on the pool deck, but your lessons echo in our hearts.

Oh – the title. Wondering about the 11 seconds? I’ll break it down:

Brendan + A Coach + 1 Year Practice = 51 second, 50 yard freestyle.

Brendan + Coach Trevor + 1 Month of Encouragement = 39.8 second (and dropping), 50 yard freestyle.

You do the math.






7 comments on “11 Seconds

  1. Tremendous story…thanks for sharing…as I will too!

    Hope all is well my Cape Cod friend! Kathleen Mangiafico 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    OK, UNCLE….. as the tears roll down my face and gillian asks me, Mom? do you have allergies again tonight? Magnificent writing as always Mrs. Elliott. As you know, I am also a mother of a trauma baby. You gotta love a preemie fighter. Go baby Go!! XO

  3. Jane Sadek says:

    That’s great! I found your post extremely poignant, since I experienced medical advice of the same sort last weekend, but at the other end of the age scale. My Mom had congestive heart failure and the emergency room decided to intubate her without anyone’s permission. Problem was, Mom didn’t want to be intubated. After a miserable night, she insisted (around the tube) that she wanted it out. I had medical personnel dragging me to the side giving me dire numbers and warnings. We gathered the family and said our possible goodbyes, but once the tube came out, Mom started breathing on her own and has shown marked improvement. So much for practicing medicine.

    • Jane I am so sorry your mother had to endure that – what a violation of basic human rights. She’s lucky to have you, a true advocate, fighting in her corner. Stand your ground and stay strong! Too bad you are not closer, I know a fabulous elder care attorney! Keep fighting the good fight.

      • Jane Sadek says:

        That night in the icu was pure hell, but I truly do believe that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called after His purposes.” Had they not intubated her, we probably would have lost her and I’m glad to have her for a little while longer. But I’m also glad that I stood up to all the medical specialist who were twisting my arm to keep her on the respirator. It helped that Mom and I had already discussed all these possibilities and I was well aware of what she wanted. That’s the trick. Know what your loved ones want and then don’t waver.

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