That Morning

by Amy Hillis
(Hillsboro, OH)

It had been a long night. Ever since he had aspirated the blood on Saturday morning, he had been having episodes of decreased oxygenation and increased levels of CO2.

His lungs were no longer working properly.

There had been talk of the oscillator, but they had tried to hold off as long as possible. By 6am, they couldn't wait any longer. There was no choice left but to put him on life support.

At that point, I knew with the utmost certainty that I would lose my Capt Snuggles.

I just didn't know it would be within the next 6 hours.

The oscillator is a horrible apparatus, it is a piston based machine that creates constant motion. It caused David's entire body to vibrate non-stop. It was a jarring presence in the peaceful atmosphere I tried so hard to hold on to.

By 8:30am he was having some drops in blood pressure and heart-rate, something he'd been doing sporadically. They needed to place an arterial line and start support meds for his heart. Everyone was very calm, business as usual.

I hadn't left to take a shower the day before, so I left to go to the RMH for a quick shower and maybe a bite to eat. I'd only gotten 2 hours of sleep - I needed a boost for the day ahead.

At 9:10, just as I was getting ready to leave the RMH, one of the nurses called and said the words I wasn't prepared for "I think you need to come back, now."

I ran.

I dodged through the people in the concourse, I swept past the guards stationed in front of the elevators - by now they no longer asked for proof that I was allowed up - and I'm sure with my wild-eyed, frantic appearance - they knew I needed to hurry through.

I tried to catch my breath in the elevator, I was scared and alone. I knew I may have to face this all by myself - my husband was an hour and a half away. I took a deep breath and walked into the throng of people that had gathered outside our room.

I knew when I saw our transplant coordinator, this was it.

She offered to call my husband and I let her, I knew I couldn't find the words to tell him he needed to be here, now.

I watched as they worked over him, the images are so firmly etched in my head that I see them whenever I close my eyes. I'd seen them bag him before, but never with the urgency I saw at that moment. The Attending doctor pulled me into the hallway to talk. Ironically this is the same Attending that admitted us, all those months ago. We hadn't seen him since.

He explained to me that there comes a time to decide. To differentiate between doing things for him and doing things to him. We were no longer doing things for him. I understood and all I could say was, My husband's not here, can we hang on until he arrives?

Then he coded.

His heart stopped. I replay the words over and over again in my head, his heart stopped and then suddenly, with an increased frenetic pace, the Attending began chest compressions. Again and again and again, I wanted to shout Enough! Enough already! Please stop! But I didn't. I let them continue, his Daddy wasn't there and I couldn't let him go by myself.

Some how, they brought him back. Not David, not really, not my Capt Snuggles. I think he took flight the minute his heart stopped. But they kick-started his heart and kept blowing air into his lungs until his Daddy arrived.

Which he did shortly, by now it was almost 11am. The doctors gathered and ushered us into a small conference room. They said everything I already knew. I looked at each one of them telling me all these things and it didn't matter.

It didn't matter that they all loved him, because I'm sure that they did. It didn't matter that they did the best they could, because I know that they tried. It didn't matter that they thought I was a good mother, because I still couldn't change the outcome. None of what they said mattered.

All I could think of was that in a few minutes I would be allowed to finally hold my son and it would be the last time, and it wouldn't be enough.

It would never be enough.

We returned to the room. They brought in a rocking chair and I held him. I held him while that awful oscillator vibrated and vibrated and vibrated and finally, I told my Hub to get the nurse - I was ready, I wanted, needed them to turn off that awful machine, just so I could hold him in peace.

They came. The drips keeping his heart pumping were stopped. That awful machine was turned off and they removed the breathing tube from his nose. I was finally able to look at my sweet boys' face without the tape and tubes.

He was finally free of it all.

And I held him.

I held him when the Attending came in to listen for his heartbeat. I held him when the Attending called out 12:15. I held him while they left us alone and I cried. I cried for all the hurt and pain that he had endured. I cried for all the lost hope and the pure senselessness of the whole situation. I cried for the boy that would never grow old and I cried for the emptiness and brokenness that would haunt me for the rest of my days.

I cried until I thought I was empty and then I cried some more, just like a cut that starts to clot, but if you bump it, it starts to bleed again.

I thought that I may never stop bleeding.

Finally, I laid David back on the bed and I covered him with his blanket. Our Chaperone came in and asked if I would like to help her bathe him.

And I did.

Before we bathed him, we took imprints of his feet and hands, both on a heart shaped mold and on paper. I trimmed a lock of his hair to keep tucked away.

Then we washed all traces of blood and tears away from Capt Snuggles. We rubbed baby lotion on his arms and legs and his sweet face, just like he was getting ready for sleep. We dressed him and wrapped him in his blanket.

I bent down and kissed his forehead, more tears than I ever thought possible, streaming down my face.

I had to leave, it was more than time. It may very well be the hardest thing I've ever had to do. To put one foot in front of the other and walk out of that hospital room. To walk out and leave my Capt Snuggles behind.

To walk out and leave my heart behind.

Comments for That Morning

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Feb 04, 2011
That Morning
by: Pam

Amy,

I cried as I read your words. There is nothing that prepares you for that day. I too, lost a child, my little angel Sharon was 7. I too had to have my husband come to the hospital, I could not even think of his phone number at work so I had to have the police go tell him to come to the hospital. And a few days later when we had to remove her from life support, I was in a trance. This was in 1988 and I wish I had been given a chance to give her a bath, paint her nails, clip a bit of her hair, but I never thought about it. I can tell you that you will never be the same, but you will go on. I still miss her and think of her daily, I am her Mom, how could I not. I joined a support group called THE COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS, and if they have one in your area I suggest you try it. I don't know that I could of survived without them. My hubby chose not to go, and to his dying day (he died 10 weeks ago today) he had such anger in him about it. What comforts me now is that they are together, waiting for me to join them. She was definitely Daddy's girl, and truly that is what is holding me together right now, the thought of them together again. I pray that you find peace, and that you have supportive people around you.
Pam

Feb 04, 2011
So Sorry............
by: Anonymous

I too am so sorry for your loss. I lost my son, also, at age 20. I would have given anything to be able to hold him, but they wouldn't even let us near where his body was. This is something no parent should EVER have to go through! My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Feb 03, 2011
I cried
by: Anonymous

I cried for you and I cried for me when I read this. My son wasn't a baby. He was 23, but he was MY baby. I also held him but I could only hold his hand and his head as his heart slowed down beat by beat by beat. I'm so sorry that mothers and fathers have to live with this pain that will never go away. I'm sorry...
Shirley

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