Making Deadline With A Transplant
Sunday, August 13, 2006
It was night in the intensive-care unit when she finally gave in and let the sobs take her. Her belly had been split wide open; dozens of stitches formed an angry upside-down Y across her abdomen.
It had taken a few days, but Catherine Herridge had managed to stand, to struggle a few steps to a wheelchair. As a reward, the medical staff let her go see her baby.
Her baby, terribly sick for all five months of his life. Her baby, now with a piece of her own liver resting inside him.
He was on a ventilator, she remembers, with tubes and wires everywhere. Heavily sedated. She just sat there and talked to him.
"You're a really strong kid, and I know that you're going to be fine," she told little Peter.
And, for the first time, she believed it.
"It's upsetting to even think about it now," she said this past Thursday, more than two months later. "I just had a feeling in my gut that it's going to be okay. I felt that in him ."
So when the tears came, later, in the darkness of the ICU, it wasn't about pain or fear or worry. She'd held on to the tears through all of that. She'd saved them for relief.
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Herridge, 42, is the small-boned, pixielike woman from Fox News Channel with the kind of short, tousled hair that's convenient for reporting from places where using a blow dryer can't be a priority. She covered the ethnic wars in the former Yugoslavia; she was in New York when the towers fell. Her specialties of late have been homeland security and terrorism.
She's learned to go with her instincts, so when she initially sensed that something might be wrong last winter during her second pregnancy, it gave her a start. "Toward the end, I just had this sense that the baby was sick," she says, sitting in the living room of her Southwest Washington townhouse with Peter gurgling on her lap. Out in the garden, her other son, 23-month-old Jamie, is playing ball with his grandfather.
"I kept telling the doctor," she recalls, "but all the tests, the sonograms, were normal."