A story of a peanut-eating toddler and four hospitals on five Caribbean islands. Part 3.

This is part 3 of the Peanut Saga – the story of what happened when our 1.5-year-old toddler inhaled a peanut into her airways in the Caribbean. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. This part picks up from the point where little Lily had been airlifted to Martinique at midnight and we were following her with a regular flight the next morning. It also tells the story of what happened in the Fort-de-France hospital – her fourth in six days.

December 13, 2019

After barely sleeping, J-F and I woke up at 4 a.m. and headed to the Pointe-a-Pitre airport in Guadeloupe around 4.30 a.m. We got there before 5 a.m., making us the first people to line up in front of the check-in desk of Air Antilles Express. The check-in didn’t even start until shortly before 6 a.m., but we had been too anxious to stay at home any longer.

The 45-minute flight left on time and was uneventful, other than there being a bit of turbulence. Upon arrival in Martinique’s capital, Fort-de-France, we immediately looked for a taxi. We were directed to a minivan, which seemed excessive for just two people, but oh well. There was some heavy morning traffic going on and the multi-lane highways seemed quite wide compared to those of Guadeloupe. For a while I even felt like we had arrived to a real urban metropolis in Brazil or somewhere. But I am sure that is a feeling you only get when arriving from another small Caribbean island.

I had heard a lot of good stuff about the new and modern University Hospital of Martinique (CHU – Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Martinique). Thus I was quite surprised when we pulled up in front of an old-looking white-gray building with black mold lines on its exterior walls.

The inside of the hospital had seen better days too, with paint peeling here and there. It also rained shortly after our arrival and the hallways inside got wet from the water through leaking windows. I can’t say that I was that impressed with what I saw (I only found out afterward that the triangle-shaped fancy new hospital that everyone raves about was located behind this building. But this older building houses the pediatrics ward, also known as La Maison de la Femme de la Mère et de l’Enfant).

The pediatric ward functions in this building that was opened in 2008.

Anxious to find our daughter, we rushed around frantically and asked for her from a few different departments until we found our way to the right place. It was around 8.15 a.m. when we finally found Lily in a mint green iron crib in the emergency pediatric ward. The crib’s bars were very high, to make sure the kids cannot escape. It was a sad sight to see her stuck in her little “baby jail.”

When Lily spotted us, she immediately started crying. The poor thing must have been very confused with so many new faces and places. At least now she knew we had not abandoned her! I rushed over to her and picked her up from the crib and cried alongside her.

I could hear from her breathing that the peanut was still very much in there. I was relieved to have arrived before her bronchoscopy took place, but I also felt anxious that we still had no idea when it would happen.

It was also a bit alarming when a nurse came up to us and asked us if we had brought a doctor with us from Guadeloupe. Uhmm, what?! No! I didn’t know this was a “BYOD” kind of a gathering! I thought they had great doctors here in Martinique?! That is why we came here!

“Oh okay, I was just told that you would travel here with your own doctor. But I am not actually Lily’s nurse, so I’m not sure what is going on. Let me go check.” She also told us that Lily had been sleeping soundly the whole night at the ward (“What a dream child!”). I was relieved to hear this. I guess she had been totally exhausted, as she certainly wasn’t such an amazing sleeper at home. Hah.

The nurse’s questions about us bringing our doctor with us were bizarre though, and things didn’t really improve when the anesthesiologist came to greet us around 9 a.m. He was talking about Lily’s case being highly unusual, because the peanut had been in her airways for so long already.

Stuck in her little baby jail.

“We don’t usually have cases like this,” the man said. He added that we had no way of knowing how the lung would behave when the peanut was extracted – would it collapse? Would there be a huge infection? Either way, “it’s an emergency, the peanut has to come out soon for sure.” Okay, so when exactly would she go in for the operation?, I asked.

At this point the anesthesiologist admitted that he had no clue – he had no idea where the operating doctor was. “I mean, he is somewhere on the island for sure, but we are just not sure when he will arrive. But don’t worry, this is an emergency so surely the operation will happen today.”

Hmm, I wasn’t feeling too reassured. On top of it all the anesthesiologist noticed that there was a round patch of raised, puffy skin on the top part of Lily’s chest. It was like a little pouch that was full of air. Hmm, scary. He pressed on it and left the room, saying that someone would be with us shortly.

But then nothing much happened over the next few hours. There was no more news of the doctor. Lily was appearing weaker and weaker, as she still wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything. It pained me so much to not be allowed to breastfeed her, both mentally and also very much physically by this point. She had not even been hooked up to an IV drip since arriving in Martinique at 1 a.m.. I was getting more and more worried. Now she had been without a drop of any liquid for more than 10 hours.

I called for the nurses and said that they needed to at least put an IV drip on Lily. “She is a baby, she needs nutrition. She is just wasting away!” I yelled. I was also annoyed that Lily’s on-going antibiotics course had once again been forgotten – she clearly hadn’t gotten a single dose since leaving Guadeloupe.

The nurses said this was because they couldn’t attach the cannula to Lily hand, as “she has no veins”. What??!! She is a human being so clearly she has veins, I screamed. The nurses also tried to reassure me that “it’s actually better, the more dried up she is before going into the bloc for her operation.” That didn’t sound right to me. Why would it be good to go into an operation being already severely dehydrated and feeling really weak?!

By this point Lily was super exhausted.

I asked the nurses to try to attach the IV drip anyway, and a few of them did try their best. Poor Lily was screaming with all the needles poking at her hand. But unfortunately it was all for nothing – the nurses couldn’t get the cannula attached. The infection had made Lily’s veins too small for them to see.

“This is why the anesthesiologist will need to hook up the IV drip when they go into the operating room. He is the expert,” one of the nurses said before they left the room. But none of us knew how many hours away the bronchoscopy still was.

So far the famous Martinique hospital had not convinced me at all. I was even thinking that if nothing were to materialize by the evening, I would have to jump on a flight to Paris with Lily. If I could just breastfeed her, she would surely perk up at least a little bit and could maybe handle such a long flight, even with the peanut in her throat. The air bubble on her chest did make me worry about flying though, so I really hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

Thankfully at 10 a.m. a nurse came to tell us Lily’s operation would take place within an hour: the operating team was just finishing up another emergency on a newborn. I still wasn’t too hopeful about this timeframe actually being true… but then at 11.15 a.m. things did magically get kicked into gear. Another nurse came to tell us it was time to head into the bloc for the operation. Apparently bloc stands for bloc opératoire, which refers to the operating suite or operating theater.

The nurse asked us to follow her and brought us to the waiting room of the bloc that had many toys around. J-F had to stay outside the room while I went in, wearing the protective gear the hospital gave me (no mask, as this was pre-Covid days). It was at this point that the nurse asked me to double check all the details of Lily’s paperwork.

“Her middle name is spelled wrong by one letter, but that’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” I told the nurse. I just wanted Lily to be able to start her procedure as soon as possible. But the nurse insisted that the operation couldn’t start before all the details were correct. So she left the room to go print out new papers – I really worried that this would cause another long delay.

I checked Lily’s identifying ankle bracelet that she got from Guadeloupe’s CHU and sure enough, her middle name was spelled wrong there too. Ugh. As if we hadn’t spent enough time in the two hospitals for them to check the name details earlier!

I tried to entertain Lily with the toys, but she barely had any energy left to play. In about 20 minutes the nurse came back with the new paperwork. All was fine. “Okay, time to go!”, she said, and opened the door to the bloc at around 11.45 a.m. I saw a big room with a group of nurses and other staff surrounding an older man, who was clearly the doctor. They were discussing something together. I wasn’t allowed to go any further and had to give Lily to their care.

I said goodbye to her once again, and gave her a tight hug. I could hear her crying just before the operating room’s door was closed. She would be administered general anesthesia soon. Strangely at this point I felt calm – no more panic or crying. It was all out of my hands now. At least something was finally happening to sort out this horrible situation. I just had to keep up hope that all would go well.

I found J-F in the corridor and we went to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat for lunch. It was the first time since Thursday’s McDonald’s lunch, 24 hours earlier, that I actually had some appetite. They had told us the operation might take two hours, so I promised myself not to get overly worried until we had passed that time.

Luckily it never got that far. About an hour later J-F received a call, saying that Lily was in the wake-up room. I felt super happy as we rushed over there.

Lily was in a little blue hospital gown and had a hairnet on as well. She seemed groggy but otherwise okay. She jumped from the bed into my arms right away. One of the nurses came to hand me a tube with the peanut piece in it – “a little souvenir,” she said. “And no more peanuts, okay!”

Phew, I agree! No more peanuts until she turns 18!

Small, but so dangerous!

After this we returned back to the room where Lily had spent the night. Lily got a funny little certificate attached to her bed that congratulated her for undergoing general anesthesia and an operation, signed by her doctors. We never got to meet these doctors in person but I was very grateful for the efficient work they had done.

I still had to wait an hour or so before I could feed Lily to make sure she would be out of her tired state and wouldn’t choke on the milk. But finally I was allowed to breastfeed, and she immediately cheered up. She also started pulling on some cords and magnetic stickers that had been attached to her back and stomach for whatever reason for some additional monitoring. She was clearly on the mend.

We all felt such relief that all had gone well. At some point we were told that the procedure had been fairly straightforward: the peanut was extracted with a rigid tube, and the lung reacted just fine to the removal. The infection in Lily’s right lung was also smaller than initially thought. Phew. But as she still had the air bubble on her chest as a result of her right lung having been overfilled with air, we wouldn’t be able to fly back to Guadeloupe until that bubble would go down. She would also need to continue another week with antibiotics. For the first few days that would be administered through a cannula that had been placed on top of her right foot.

After all the drama of the past days, I didn’t mind having to stay longer in Martinique. I wasn’t in a rush anymore. My Finnish friend Meri, who lives in Fort-de-France with her family, came to visit us in the hospital too (though she wasn’t allowed into the ward – I had to meet up with her outside while J-F stayed with Lily). We agreed that J-F would go sleep at their place for the night as only one parent was allowed to stay overnight at the hospital.

Around 6 p.m., we were moved from the pediatric ER to the children’s recovery floor where Lily got her own room. She was pushed there in her iron crib and cried hysterically – I guess she feared she would be taken for another operation again by herself. She calmed down fast though when she saw it was just her new room. There was a blue pleather lounge chair that converted into a single bed where I could sleep and we had our own bathroom too. Outside there was a common area with lots of toys and a small round table for kids. There was only one little boy in the ward with a cast on his hand, but Lily was happy for the company. She also enjoyed pushing the hospital’s doll around in a little stroller.

For dinner we ordered a pizza, of which Lily ate a little bit too, though the hospital also served her a chicken and rice meal. Then my friend Meri and her daughter came to greet us at the new ward – this time they were even allowed inside. J-F left with them soon after to go to their home to go catch some sleep. Lily and I fell asleep around 10 p.m. at the hospital as well. What a crazy day it had been!

December 14, 2019

It was my mom’s birthday and we managed to call her from the hospital despite the phone reception only working sporadically. She got the best birthday present ever – hearing that her granddaughter was recovering very well.

J-F came to see us around 9 a.m. for a few hours, but then he had to head to the airport as he was catching a flight back to Guadeloupe. We had no idea how long Lily and I would need to stay in Martinique, but we hoped it wouldn’t be that long until we could all be reunited in Gwada.

Lily kept herself busy by pushing this doll around the children’s ward.

The day went by quite slowly in the hospital. Lily played with the toys and her little hospital buddy, and the nurse came to administer her antibiotics. At some point she was also taken for an X-ray to check on the state of her lungs and the air bubble in her chest.

Food-wise we had quite slim pickings: the breakfast was a piece of white bread with butter and some powder for hot chocolate. For lunch we luckily had some pizza leftovers to finish, as for some reason we weren’t given anything from the hospital and we couldn’t go out to the cafeteria to buy stuff since Lily wasn’t allowed to leave the ward.

In the afternoon we received some great news: since Lily was doing so well, we could leave the hospital for 24 hours and go stay with my friend Meri that night. Yessss! I was so happy to get out for a bit. Meri picked us up around 7 p.m. and took us to her place that wasn’t far from the hospital. Lily was excited to play with her two kids and I enjoyed eating a proper meal for a change.

Being out of the hospital meant that Lily could take her cannula out and she was switched over to oral antibiotics. She hated the taste of the powder, so getting her to take the meds three times a day for the next week proved to be a real struggle. But somehow I made it work – it was a pretty small challenge after everything we had already been through.

A cute little certificate. She did it!

You can read Part 4 here to learn more about Lily’s recovery and the costs of this whole ordeal.

A story of a peanut-eating toddler and four hospitals on five Caribbean islands. Part 2.

This is part 2 of the Peanut Saga – the story of what happened when our 1.5-year-old toddler inhaled a peanut into her airways in the Caribbean. Out of all the stressful times we had during this ordeal, this day described below was probably the worst to deal with mentally. You can read Part 1 here that explains what happened before this anxiety-filled day that even included an emergency helicopter ride to another island.

December 12, 2019

After a week spent in Anguilla (where Lily’s peanut inhalation actually happened) and St. Barthelemy, we were back home in Guadeloupe again, after flying in the night before from St. Martin. On our first full day back we managed to get a last-minute appointment for Lily at our regular medical clinic for around 11.30 a.m.

The doctor we saw there was a new one for us. At first he wasn’t phased about Lily’s strange breathing: He told us that as the girl was already on antibiotics and steroids due to the pneumonia, we could just wait it out until the end of the course to see if she would heal well. I mentioned my worries that maybe the was still a piece of a peanut stuck in her lungs, causing the infection – the doctor said that even if there was, it would just “decompose and disappear” on its own. FYI: No. That’s not how things work in the lungs… There is no stomach acid there that would break food down.

After listening to the toddler’s breathing for a while longer, the doctor changed his mind: He said the breathing did sound a bit unusual, so it would be best to check it out. He told us to go to the ER of the pediatrics ward at the local hospital CHU, i.e. Centre Hospital Universitaire Pointe-a-Pitre.

Knowing that CHU visits tend to take hours, I passed by the McDonald’s drive-thru lane before driving to the hospital. J-F went to work to wrap stuff up, and said he would meet us at CHU in an hour or two.

On the way to the hospital Lily was still a happy camper.

So Lily and I arrived at the hospital and registered with the secretary, explaining the situation. We then sat in the waiting room surrounded by other kids and their parents, eating our lunch. Around 1 p.m. a staff member noticed that we were eating fries and told me not to feed Lily anything – they wanted to keep her stomach empty for any tests they might run. Breastfeeding was also not allowed, which was a major bummer since that always comforted her in times of stress.

Around 2 p.m. we got invited into a preliminary interview. The nurse then asked us to move into the waiting room inside the ward. From there we eventually got moved into our own room that had one hospital bed and a few chairs. At this point Lily started crying and getting cranky, as it was nap time. Some nurses came to tell me they actually wanted her to fall asleep so they could run a CT scan on her throat and lungs easier.

But Lily was too anxious to sleep under the bright lights of the hospital. I walked with my screaming toddler back and forth to the general waiting room every five minutes to check if J-F had arrived as I had no phone service. I was getting pretty frustrated that it was him taking so long. The other people in the waiting room also got very tired of me yelling out, “J-F, are you there??” They always responded, “No!” But after a while a nurse came to hook Lily up to an IV drip with a cannula through the back of her hand and then put some wires on her big toe, so we could no longer move away from the bed at all.

Luckily when Lily’s dad finally arrived to the waiting room around 2.45 p.m., people immediately yelled out, “J-F!!” From this enthusiastic response, he knew to come look for us inside the ward. He found us in our room, with Lily crying hysterically and me getting more desperate by the minute as I was trying to calm her down without much success. She was furious at having been tied down to the bed and was attempting to rip off the cords. But after about a half an hour she did fall asleep.

Unfortunately Lily’s nap was a very short one.

Some 10 minutes later the nurses came to push Lily’s bed into the CT scan room. She was lifted up and placed inside the scanner tube. Unfortunately all the commotion was a bit too much and she woke up just as she was about to have her scan. Ahhh. Needless to say, this lead to a major crying fit. In fact the kiddo was so upset hat I didn’t think the scan would work out at all. She screamed and resisted big time. But somehow we managed to get her to stay still for a brief moment and got the scan done. Phew. We moved back into our hospital room to wait for the results.

It was around 4.30 p.m. when a nurse came into the room to tell us the results of the CT scan. Sure enough, the scan had shown there was a peanut in Lily’s trachea, i.e. the wind pipe! Ahhh, why was I not surprised at all?! “Le cacahuete est bien logee,” the nurse said. I took this to mean that the peanut was properly stuck in there. She smiled a bit and looked at Lily and said that little children like her should not be eating peanuts. (Yeah, we had missed the memo on peanuts not being recommended for kids under 5.)

Based on the nurses somewhat lighthearted behavior, I didn’t think that our child’s case was anything too challenging or out of the ordinary. Thus I was very surprised when two doctors came into the room afterward and they looked very, very serious.

Speaking pretty good English, the two women explained that the situation was quite complex. The peanut piece was blocking the entry to Lily’s right lung, meaning that she had only been breathing with her left lung for the past 5.5 days.

The CT scan finally showed the peanut that was stuck in her trachea.

Taking it out in a bronchoscopy would be difficult, they said, as there was a risk it could cut off her airways altogether. “But we cannot leave it there either,” they said, as that would lead to the lung perishing away and Lily’s health deteriorating further.

I started to panic. So what were they suggesting to do?! Neither of these sounded like good options. I couldn’t believe that we were in this super crappy situation without an obvious, clear solution. Tears started running down my face as I hugged my little daughter as tight as I could.

After a brief pause the two doctors said that due to the severity of the situation, they were considering sending Lily to Martinique with a helicopter. Apparently the hospital on this other French island had a better pediatrics’ ward with more specialists on site. That way, should complications arise during the bronchoscopy, the doctors there would be better equipped to deal with them.

If in fact this plan was to be chosen, the doctors said, one of us could go in the helicopter with Lily. We quickly decided it would be me, and J-F would follow us on a regular commercial flight the next morning.

“Sounds like a plan, so let’s go! What are we waiting for?”, I thought. Apparently I wouldn’t even need a passport to fly there with the hospital helicopter. J-F could bring our passports with him the next day, as well as some clothes.

The doctors left our room and said someone would come back to us with an answer soon as to what we would do. I was relieved that we at least had some hope in the horizon for solving the situation. But unfortunately soon after this is when things took a more chaotic turn, with plans changing left and right over the next several hours.

Lily was not happy anymore after many hours spent at CHU.

First off, in about a half an hour, someone came in to tell us that indeed Martinique it was. Lily and I would be taking off later that night.

Then an hour later, around 6 p.m., another doctor came to tell us that in fact the hospital thought it would be best to fly there only the next morning instead of that night since it was already dark. Lily and I could stay overnight in another room at the Guadeloupe hospital so that Lily’s health could be monitored. Okay, fine, I thought.

But then at 8 p.m. we got some alarming news: the docs had decided that it was urgent for Lily to be flown to Martinique that same night after all. Unfortunately there would be no space in the helicopter for me to join for the one-hour flight, as a regular doctor, an emergency doctor and a nurse would need to fit in too. Lily would need to travel alone, and stay in the Martinique hospital overnight by herself. She would undergo the bronchoscopy either immediately after arrival or the next morning, depending on her condition.

We, her parents, would need to purchase our own flight tickets for the next day if we wanted to join her in Martinique.

“What??! No way! I am not letting my baby travel alone. She’s only 1.5 years old! She can’t. That is not an option!”, I screamed.

“You have no choice. It’s an emergency,” said the doctor, the same woman who had just told us we would fly in the morning because it was safer to fly in daylight. Now she had a different tone altogether. She explained that while the peanut was currently blocking the entry to just one of the lungs, “it could shift at any point and block the other one too.” That’s why it was crucial for Lily to be transferred to Martinique tonight already, she said, and the helicopter would be full. The doctor left us alone shortly after delivering this disturbing news.

These sad times were some of the longest hours of my life.

The evening hours at the hospital were a blur – and there ended up being many of them, as we all stayed around until midnight despite the helicopter transfer being classed as “an emergency”. That is Guadeloupe and the Caribbean for you – everything takes ages.

I cried a lot, sometimes yelling out loud in anger and then sobbing quietly. I held my baby even more tightly than before. She cried non-stop too, until she ran out of strength to do so and finally fell asleep. I also felt like the worst mother for having to keep her from breastfeeding despite all her cries. She just looked so sad and couldn’t figure out why I was doing this to her.

At some point another doctor came in to introduce herself – she would be one of the people flying to Martinique with Lily. She showed a few toys that she planned to bring along for the flight, which was nice of her. I also asked her about Lily’s antibiotic treatment that she was supposed to be on – could I give that to her now so that her course wouldn’t get disrupted? (I had asked about this already hours ago from other staff but had not gotten an answer. Now Lily was already hours behind the schedule.) The doctor gave me kudos for knowing the importance of finishing the antibiotic treatments you are given – “not everyone knows about that” – and she said would get back to me. After some time a nurse came to administer Lily her antibiotics via the cannula as she still wasn’t allowed to eat or drink.

I also insisted on Lily getting an identifying bracelet around her ankle, as she still had nothing on her with her name on it. “Oh, that must have fallen off,” said one of the staff members. Uhm nope, she just never received anything in the first place. After me asking about it a few more times, she finally got her bracelet. It was quite alarming that I had to stay on top of so many things that really should have been the hospital’s responsibility.

This was after things were finally kicked into gear, after hours of waiting.

At some point, around maybe 10 p.m., J-F called Guadeloupe’s air traffic control tower (where he knows people due to his work). He asked them to contact the pilot of the hospital helicopter to ask if the helicopter really was slated to be full.

Randomly the pilot said there would definitely be space for me to join them, even with all the other people coming. He said he would be happy to take me onboard. That gave me some hope – maybe I would be able to travel with Lily after all. That thought kept me somewhat sane throughout the rest of the evening.

We also found out from the air traffic controllers that it might still be a while until Lily’s flight – the helicopter was apparently busy tending to patients in the rainforest of Basse Terre. I actually didn’t mind the delay too much. I figured that the longer it took, the less hours of separation we would have from our daughter (in case I wasn’t able to join on the flight and would need to fly to Martinique the next morning). And since the peanut had stayed stable for five days already, I didn’t worry too much about it suddenly shifting places.

Finally around 11 p.m. one of the doctors showed up in our room again (the one who had said that this was an emergency and that I had no choice). She said it was time for Lily to go. She was surprised when we told her that the helicopter pilot had invited me to come on the flight, too. “Oh? You know him? Well, that’s good. It’s true that Lily is so young that it’s better if one of the parents can go with her.” Yes, I agree!

I was already feeling great relief, but then it all came crashing down when the hospital helicopter staff appeared. It was the friendly female doctor from earlier, a new woman nurse and a new man, who was apparently the emergency doctor. The man got very upset hearing that I wanted to join the flight. “I am not taking any tourists on this flight,” he said with a snark, speaking unusually good English by French standards. He then went on to say that he wouldn’t be able to do his job – “to keep your daughter safe during the flight”- if I was there taking up his working space in the cramped helicopter. “If you want to come, fine. In that case I will just go home to watch TV. That is what I would rather do anyway. Up to you.”

This type of attitude was the last thing I needed after 11 draining hours spent at the hospital. Ugh! I was so angry at his tourist reference – I wanted to be there to hold my child’s hand and to help keep her calm, not to bother anyone. Grrr! But finally I had to accept my fate.

Little Lily being wheeled inside the ambulance.

I figured there was no point in fighting further and making the guy even more upset. Then he would certainly not be motivated to do a good job with Lily, should she need help during the flight. I realized I truly had no choice but to stay behind, as heart wrenching as that was.

Both J-F and I cried when Lily was moved to a narrow upright hospital bed and the nurses started wheeling her along the hospital corridor towards the door. It was such a sad moment: she was really leaving us to go alone to a whole other island 190 km away (118 miles), at the crazy young age of 19 months. Lily herself luckily seemed more intrigued than distraught – she could clearly sense that something different was finally happening after way too many hours spent in that boring hospital room. Plus she was clearly quite sleepy.

The friendly doctor who was going on the flight was nice enough to invite us to tag along for the ambulance ride to the helicopter launch pad. So we got to spend another 15 minutes with our child and to at least help her stay chill during the ambulance ride through the dark streets. The doctor also asked us what shows Lily liked watching on YouTube – I said she preferred Peppa Pig in Finnish. The doctor looked up “Pipsa Possu” on her phone so that Lily could watch it during the flight.

When we arrived at the helipad, the engine of the red and yellow helicopter was already switched on. It was very loud outside and pitch black dark. Lily was wheeled off from the ambulance with her hospital bed and moved towards the helicopter door. We hugged her goodbye a few times and told her we loved her and we would see her very soon. It was helpful to see that Lily wasn’t scared – she was ready for an adventure. Luckily she had always been very comfortable on planes, as she took her first flight with a small rental Cessna when she was just a month old.

“Bye, bye! Au revoir,” the brave little girl said, waving to everyone when her bed was pushed inside the helicopter. It was only after the staff had climbed in and the door was almost shut that I heard her saying in an alarmed tone, “äiti??” (mother in Finnish). I guess she realized at that point that I wasn’t joining her. That broke my heart.

Here she is being pushed inside the helicopter.

J-F and I climbed back into the ambulance and looked out of its window for a few minutes while the helicopter was preparing to take off. I started crying somewhat hysterically when it finally did, just before midnight. Seeing the chopper disappear into the dark night with my baby onboard felt like someone was literally ripping my heart into pieces. It was the worst, also because we had no idea under which conditions we would see our child again.

After arriving back at the hospital with the ambulance, we walked to our car and drove the 15-minute trip home in silence. It was exactly 1 a.m. when we finished booking our airline tickets to Martinique’s Fort-de-France, with our departure planned for 6.45 a.m. Thankfully even such last minute tickets were not that expensive, at 128 euros one-way.

Shortly after this the friendly doctor called J-F and let us know they had arrived to Martinique safely. Lily had been calm and had slept most of the flight. Since she was in good health, the bronchoscopy wouldn’t take place until the next day. So there was even a chance that we would get to Martinique before that.

We quickly packed some stuff for ourselves and for Lily, and tried to sleep for a couple of hours before it was time to head to the airport. Needless to say, this being my first night ever separated from my baby, I did not get much rest at all. I couldn’t help but wonder how she was handling being all by herself in strange settings on another island (one that I had never been to – so Lily even got to Martinique before I ever did).

The helicopter that took my baby away. 😦

The story continues here with Part 3.