There are some things that I believe will always stay with you throughout your life, certain memories that will never fade. Sure, you may not think about them every day, but they are always there in the back of your mind and the simplest thing can bring you right back to a place and time that you thought you had left behind.
I have a memory like that. People always say that smell is the sense that is most closely linked to memory, but for me it is sound, one specific sound in particular. This is a sound that you likely wouldn’t recognize if you had never previously had the displeasure to understand what it meant.
It’s a cross between a beep and a dong, there is truly no better way to describe this simple little tone. It’s a tone that means nothing good, it means the exact opposite. It is the sound that alarms when somebody’s oxygen saturation level drops to an unsafe level. I will never forget the terror that runs through your body when you hear that alarm ring and then realize that the machine that it is attached to is also hooked up to your ten-day-old child.
When my youngest was ten days old, he had a fever. Nothing major I thought. But just to be sure, I took him to the Emergency Room. Within five minutes of our arrival I heard that noise for the first time, up to that moment I was blissfully ignorant of its meaning.
Over the next 11 days, I would become oddly accustomed to that sound. It just became part of the regular notes I would hear as we encased ourselves in those hospital rooms surrounded by white linens, tubes, and wired machines.
There were days where I wouldn’t hear it much at all; there were days when it went off hourly because he was taking a turn for the worse. There were emergency ambulance trips to the children’s hospital when he became too ill to stay in our small hospital.
The sound followed us wherever we went over those eleven days. It continues to follow me to this day. My son pulled through his illness, and has recovered. I have yet to recover fully from what I saw and heard in those 11 days.
The sound of that alarm follows me around to this day. When I hear that beep/dong I go right back to that moment, three years ago when I first realized what it meant. I wish I was able to go back to a time when I didn’t understand its meaning.