Written By: Mary Gabriel, her daughter Allissa has the Cystic Fibrosis mutation DDF508, and her Facebook Page is Allissa’s Fight
This is Elly.
She is an elephant.
Allissa’s elephant to be exact.
Elly wears twelve years of love & tears. She is a symbol of where we have been & what we have survived… She has been everywhere with Allissa. Every hospitalization, every surgery, every vacation and every bed time. She has survived the toddler years and princess days. She has been a canvas and a bandaid. From going missing for days during what we have deemed the “teddy-bear-parade incident” to being left behind at innumerable parks and play places; Elly has survived it all. I have lost count of all the hospital linen bins that I’ve had to dig through, (yes, ewww) to resurrect this elephant. She has made many disappearances only to reappear when she’s needed most.
Last week when Allissa was nearly admitted, she cried because Elly was missing. Allissa had left her in our Morgan Hill Residence Inn room, during a family trip with her MiMi.
Today, after a long couple of weeks of illness and exhaustion, Allissa returned to school. As I sat, reflecting on our journey and the choices ahead, our doorbell rang. It was the FedEx guy with a box containing our raggedy purple elephant. Elly had reappeared again. The housekeeper at our hotel had so kindly given her to the manager, who sent her home.
Elly is our token of hope.
Elly started off at the gift shop of Children’s Hospital Orange County. Allissa was being transferred there; it was New Year’s Eve, 2004. Allissa was 2 months old, a tiny and very sick 3 1/2 pounds of fire and love. When I laid Elly next to Allissa, they were about the same size. The elephant was plump in comparison to my small baby girl.
I remember the ride there, following behind the ambulance that carried my future. I was 72 into days being Allissa’s mom, 67 days into our CF journey. My body was numb with the pain of an unhealed cesarean. My mind was paralyzed with too much information and not enough answers. I wept the entire drive.
From one hospital to another, it was a desperate Hail Mary. With my instinct guiding each action, I knew that CHOC would save her. They had to.
She had lived nearly 2 months without eating, without the comfort of my breast or the nourishment it provided. She was slowly disappearing. Cystic Fibrosis had “plugged” her pancreas with mucus. Every time she ate, it would attempt to release enzymes that digest and break down food. With the mucus blocked ducts in the pancreas, the enzymes “digested” the organ. It became inflamed, enlarged and eventually turned fibrotic, or like a rock.
While this was happening, Allissa had caught RSV. While it is a very dangerous virus to any infant, it can be lethal to one with CF. Additionally, the TPN (man made, broken down nutrients) that they were giving her through IV, were becoming toxic. Her organs began to suffer. Every tiny breath was causing pain. She was dying. I was fighting.
So there, behind the ambulance, I drove. To a new hospital. New specialists. Hope.
Walking into the hospital, I passed the closed gift shop. It was nearly midnight. I stopped, looking into the window of the shop. It was colorful inside, even in the dark. Then I saw her. She was atop a blue wired display that held a zoo of stuffed animals. She was looking at me with dark, shiny eyes. Her tusks were regal and her deep pink and purple fuzz looked like silk. She looked strong.
I bought her the next morning.
I remember reaching for her and feeling her soft fabric. As I lifted her from her showcase, I realized that she was filled with weighted beans, she was perfect for my little girl. I smiled as I thought of Allissa, mighty and soft like this elephant. I could see it next to her, the soft fuzz would comfort her tiny body, its weight would be just enough to let her know it was there. This was Allissa’s elephant. I cried as I held the small elephant to my face. I’m sure the clerk thought I was nuts, but then again, maybe she understood.
Every hospitalization, every surgery and every bad day since; Elly has been there. It’s evidenced in the layers of aged, unremovable, hospital tape that has been lovingly embedded in her fur. She is no longer plump. She has no more fluff and her vibrant color has dimmed to a solid shade of pink-ish. Her tusks no longer stand regal and her eyes aren’t quite as sparkly. However worn, this elephant is one of the most beautiful and cherished items in my home.
So, today my gratitude comes from a FedEx box. I am thankful for every source of hope in my life. Some days it’s a doctor that brings you hope. At times it’s the clerk who smiles politely or the friend that reaches out. Most days it’s the joy of my children. Today it is a housekeeper hundreds of miles away, a FedEx delivery guy and a little purple elephant.
If you’d like to have your family featured in the “It takes a village” series please message me at our Facebook page. For the Love of Khaos