This the first sermon in the series for our Back to the Basics series entitled “Becoming a Trauma-Informed Community.
I’m going to tell you the story about the worst and best day of my life. A year and a half ago, Patrick got sick and didn’t get better. He began losing weight; he had headaches that wouldn’t go away. We went to the doctor three times, made one visit to the ER… and I can’t remember how many times I called the Kaiser advice nurse. And then, at 3 o’clock in the morning on Dec. 5th — Jerome’s birthday — I awoke to find Patrick having a seizure beside me in bed. Words can’t describe the panic that ripped through my body. He was calm as we rode in the ambulance to the hospital, but in the emergency room, with several doctors crowded around his bedside, he became incredibly agitated, trying to pull the IVs out of his arm and crying out in a way I had never heard before. I couldn’t bear to be in the room with him. I was too frightened, panicked. In order not to completely freak out, I had to leave, go into a quiet room and text the prayer warriors in my life to ask them to pray for Patrick. I calmed down and went back to Patrick. But then, I would find the panic overtaking me again, and I would go back to the room to breathe or drink the cool orange juice that the nurses had left for me. Jerome was my rock, as he always is. He alone stayed with Patrick throughout that whole three-hour ordeal in the ER at Children’s Hospital, calming his own fears enough to be steadfastly present.
In trauma terms, my nervous system was hyper-aroused. Or, put another way, I was extremely neurologically dysregulated. Leaving the room, calling in support, breathing all helped to bring that arousal, that dysregulation, down to a place where I could function. Sort of. Jerome was able to maintain a more steady neurological state than me. Though he, too, was frightened, he was able to stay in what trauma experts call the “resilient zone” or the “window of tolerance.” Thank God one of us was.