Actions louder than slogans

By Anita Tedaldi: CNJ columnist

My 6-year-old daughter Anna rolled on the ground screaming and clutching her stomach as my other children pulled on my arm, covered their eyes and cried. She screamed that the pain in her tummy was too much to take. I tried to touch her, she rolled away, threw up and passed out.

I called 911 and while on the phone Anna came back a little bit, but the dispatcher told me not to take her by car but wait for the ambulance.

My next thought was whether I should take my other four kids in the ambulance, and could they even ride in it?

Quick note: my neighbors aren’t quite on the deployed wife bandwagon. Whenever my husband deploys, they just tell me I need to mow my lawn more often. I tried a few other friends, but no one was around on the weekend. Finally, I sucked it up and called our $15 per hour baby-sitter, who fortunately was able to come.

When the ambulance came, they put Anna on a stretcher, and one of the EMT’s told me to ride in the front, while the other stayed with Anna in back.

As I was leaving I reassured my kids with a confident smile, and told them that most of the time people who are taken to the hospital by ambulance are just fine (really?), and that I’d call them as soon as we got there. My oldest daughter’s eyes were filled with tears and I hugged her, and whispered that Anna would be fine.

I stared at my kids watching the big ambulance go, feeling so small. I clutched my purse with my hands and turned to look at the driver thinking that maybe I should make small talk. He was looking straight ahead and when I asked him which hospital we were going to, he answered in a curt voice, signaling he didn’t want to chat.

I rummaged in my purse, unrealistically looking for strength, but found none. I was scared, and I was angry. I saw cars in my neighborhood with bumper stickers that said ‘we support our troops’ and was upset that I didn’t feel this support in the least bit. I truly wanted to talk to my deployed husband.

My thoughts cleared only when the doctor looked at Anna and said she was fine. Her blood pressure had dropped quickly and he hypothesized that her stomach may have twisted — that’s what he said — and gotten back to place on its own.

The doctor was kind, and the nurses compassionate. I wanted to get a drink of water but didn’t want to leave Anna, who was scared of the needles that hid behind every corner of the hospital, so one of the nurses gave me Gatorade out of the staff’s fridge. She squeezed my hand and told me how grateful she was for all that my husband was doing and that a Gatorade was a small gesture compared to our sacrifices.

And that made all the difference in the world to me. Whatever anger was left dissipated and my eyes welled with tears. That Grape flavored Gatorade (not even one of my favorites) meant more to me than any yellow ribbon magnet.