A 12-hour drive stretched ahead. There were suitcases to load and kids to shepherd into the car. If only I could get myself moving.

I couldn’t.

I lay in bed, half dozing, wondering if my sluggishness was due to the wedding and sheva brachos, the rich fare served at the meals, the heat — maybe I was dehydrated? — or my pregnancy. At 34 weeks, the baby was relatively large and I was suddenly sapped of energy.

I closed my eyes and slipped back into sleep, vaguely aware of my husband gathering up lost items and stuffing sandwiches and snacks into a bag. I woke up just long enough to waddle to the car and strap in. My eyes closed again as soon as we hit the road.

I awoke with my throat burning and reached into the bag by my feet for a bottle of water. There were a few swallows left, and they did nothing to assuage my thirst. “I need a drink,” I told my husband.

“Mmm.”

“No. Really. Desperately.”

We pulled off at the next exit, and my husband ran inside and bought me a bottle of water. I downed it instantly and asked for more. My husband looked at me, concerned. “You okay?”

I shook my head. “I don’t feel so good.” I felt like I was running a fever. My husband went back into the store and bought a supply of drinks. But nothing I drank could take away the burning thirst at the back of my throat. We headed back onto the highway and I dozed off again.

Late afternoon, we stopped at another service station, and my husband encouraged me to get out and stretch my legs. I’d been curled up in my seat for hours. I unbuckled my seatbelt, clicked open the door with aching arms, and turned to stand up. My legs wouldn’t hold me up, I was about to collapse.

“That’s it. We’re heading to the emergency room.”

A quick Google search told us there was a small hospital just a couple of miles away. We called my mother on the way there. “Wait…” she said. We could hear the click of a keyboard. “Don’t go to some hick-town hospital. Ten miles further is a world-class hospital, with a top NICU.”

Night had fallen by the time we pulled into the hospital parking lot. My husband ran into the building and found a paramedic who brought a wheelchair to the car and then wheeled me into the emergency room. My husband stayed in the car with the kids.

They rushed me through the emergency room and straight up to Labor and Delivery. My head was lolling to the side; I was hovering in a strange, semi-conscious zone. I remember them handing me a pen and a bunch of forms. I stared at them blankly, hands limp, and from somewhere came a coherent thought: They expect me to be able to sign this?

Meanwhile, my incredible mother had been making phone calls. She found an Orthodox rav in the vicinity, figured out that we had some kind of family connection, and sent him off to our rescue. He arrived at the parking lot of the hospital and stayed with my kids, freeing up my husband to be by my side.

The staff was surprised at the arrangement: “Do you know this rabbi? Do you trust him?”

“Jews help each other,” we responded. “That’s how it’s done.”

They could have responded by calling CPS. Instead, they just said, wow, that’s amazing.

In fact, my husband stayed with this rav for the duration of my stay in hospital. Not only that, but his wife prepared me food — tailored carefully to the doctors’ instructions.

My husband arranged a place for the kids to spend the night, and called my mother and asked her to make the long drive and pick them up. I needed all his focus: the baby was in distress, my leg was blown up to double the normal size, and I had a raging fever. I’d developed severe cellulitis in my leg, the infection had penetrated the muscle, and all had become septic.

They decided to perform an emergency c-section. What should have been a straightforward procedure was anything but. Along the way I needed two blood transfusions and as soon as my baby was born — at 5 lb, he was large for his gestational age, but he had trouble breathing — they put me into a medically induced coma.

Periodically, the anesthesia would wear off and I’d drift into a semi-conscious state. Unable to speak, I’d hold up my arms together and rock them — my way of asking about the baby. Each time, my husband leaned over and said clearly: “You had a baby boy. He’s fine. Go back to sleep.”

Even when I was brought out of the coma, I was unable to see my baby. He was in the NICU, and iron-clad hospital rules dictated that babies not be removed from the NICU — my husband divided his time between the two hospital wings, begging both for some kind of solution. I was horrendously weak, but I pined for the baby.

On Thursday evening, the NICU doctor came up to see me. “Your baby is doing real well,” he told me. It was the best news I could have heard. “I understand that you haven’t seen him yet.” I nodded. Tears gathered in my eyes and my throat was thick. I knew that if I said a single word, I’d begin to weep. “The docs tell me that you can’t move.” I was hooked up to a dozen other machines besides. “But we might just be able to get Junior up here to see you. No promises, though.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 540)