Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Some of the things I am looking forward to in the coming year are:
Taking better care of myself, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Spending more quality time with my daughters. Playing more, worrying less and being more focused.
Decluttering. Enough said.
Reading more, learning more, spending more me time.
Getting underway with more fundraising for Children's Hospital.
Spending more time outdoors.
Maybe going back to school.
This year is going to be about me. I've decided that it's time I came first in my own life and that I need to be happy as a person to be a good wife and mother. I need time for myself doing the things that I enjoy, even if it is just a few hours a week. I'm going to get back into doing some things that I love, I'll keep you posted on how that goes. I'm also going to try to worry less, relax more and get back on a regular sleep cycle. I can't tell you how lack of sleep affects me in every area of my life, insomnia is the shits. I've realized that in the last year I have done very little to take care of myself. This is going to be something new for me and something I hope will have benefits to not only my health but my mood as well. I'm actually excited for the New Year. I have hope that it will be a good year, anything has got to be better than 2009 for sure and I know many of you are feeling the same way. Hope you all have hope for a better year too. Hugs to all...and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
It was with joy in my heart that I watched our girls open their presents yesterday morning. Seeing Georgia playing with her new toys, watching Lorelei jumping up and down yelling that "This is the best Christmas ever" and knowing we had a beautiful turkey dinner to go to later on in the day brought a smile to my face and a feeling of satisfaction. Sure enough I was exhausted by about one in the afternoon and Georgia and I retired for a nap while Shane and Lorelei played with their new toys. My nap put us a bit late heading up to Shane's parents for dinner and it was to my surprise that when we got up there, there were a ton of presents to open up there as well. Shane's mom bought me my favorite chocolates and gave us a gift card for groceries which is much appreciated right now, and they spoiled the girls like crazy. Lorelei got her Aquadoodle from grandma and papa and her aunts and uncles overdid themselves buying her and Georgia gifts. Just watching the happiness on my child's face, seeing Georgia beam as she was passed from person to person, just sitting in the togetherness of the family made my Christmas so incredibly special. No, I didn't get alot this year but surpringly enough it didn't matter to me one bit. I HAVE all I need in the way of material things. What I GOT was a feeling of peace and satisfaction that this is how it is supposed to be. We were together, we had a fabulous dinner, my children were overjoyed. I thought of Calvin as Shane's dad said grace, asking God to watch over him and I just knew that Calvin was safe in the arms of God and enjoying Christmas in heaven. It's a feeling I've wanted and searched for since my son died. Knowing that Christmas had come without Calvin being here and enjoying it anyway was such a gift. It's what I wanted and I am so grateful I got it. I wondered throughout the day how the rest of you were coping. I remember all too well the emptiness of our first Christmas without our son last year and knew that some of you would be feeling that emptiness too. My wish for all of you was that you find peace in your hearts at some point over the holidays. That the terrible yearning and aching for your children didn't tear things apart for you. That the coming year brings a sense of renewed hope for your families. I am full of hope for the new year, and I pray that some of that hope finds it's way to you. Wishing you love and laughter.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
For some, their losses will be muted with new babies this Christmas. New reasons to smile and celebrate and while a new baby will never replace the ones we long for, I've heard that the pain is softened with the return of joy and the promise of tomorrow.
For all of us, whether we are mourning, celebrating a new life or spending the holidays with familiar faces, it would be my wish that each and every one is blessed with a sense of peace, love and hope as we prepare to say good-bye to the old year and usher in the new. Sending you all my love....
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It is with joy that I send my heartfelt congratulations to Lea at Nicholas' Touch for the safe, early arrival of Madison Nichole born December 17, 2009. Upon receiving Lea's announcement of Madison's birth, I found myself weeping tears of joy, relief and happiness for her and her family. It's so hard sometimes to hang onto your faith in God when you lose a child, so hard to believe things will ever go right for you again. Although I never doubted that Madison would arrive safely, I wanted with all my heart for things to be okay for Lea. I admit I was scared for her. After watching Mirne and Craig go through the pain of losing Jett I realized that sometimes even the "rainbow" can be lost. Madison's safe birth I'm sure brings a collective sigh of relief for all of us who were following Lea's pregnancy, waiting expectantly for Madison and hoping with all of our hearts that she would arrive safe and sound in good health. She is simply precious and I am so happy for my friend and her beautiful miracle.
It is also with a feeling of joy in my heart that I share this next picture with you. It's Calvin's name, lovingly written in the stars by Amanda
I thought it was simply beautiful and gave me the most wonderful feeling of peace when I saw it. Amanda's daughter Ireland was the first name I saw written and was overwhelmed with the beauty of it. I can't get over how wonderful the mama's are in what they do to provide comfort and love to those of us missing our beautiful babies. Thank you so much Amanda.
On another note, I received my "Stolen Moments" wrap from Karen at Busy Hands and it is everybit as beautiful as I thought it would be. When my camera battery is charged, I will take a picture and post it here for all to see. Thank you so much Karen, your talent is amazing. Thank you also to Jenny and Karen for their offers to assist me in locating my friend J's will, I will be contacting you later today or early tomorrow. As much as we have all suffered and been hurt by the loss of our children, the love and support we get from each other works miracles in our healing. God Bless each and every one of you this holiday season. May you all find your reasons to feel joy, peace and acceptance in your hearts this Christmas. I love you all....
Friday, December 18, 2009
As the days and weeks became months, and I heard nothing more of the man, I got caught up in life and my own dramas and day to day doings. He started to fade from my memory. Then Calvin died and his death was all I could focus on. The drugs I was taking to numb the pain affected my thought processes and my memory. When I got the call regarding the man, I brushed it off. The person on the other end told me that I had been left property in a will. The person on the phone knew my full legal name. Still, I was convinced it wasn't meant for me and told him so. All these months later, it has come back. And not just wisps of memory...all of it. I remember the man's eyes, his name, what he looked like. I remember our talks, helping him to find a hotel and places to eat. I remember thinking how sad it was that he had no family to help him while he was dying. I remember the odd feeling as we said good-bye that he was going to be leaving me something in his will. I don't know how I knew, I just did. My stomach has been in knots since realizing that I have possibly thrown away my inheritance. I have been anxious and upset wondering how "J" would feel, knowing that I did not remember him when I was called by his estate lawyer. I feel an immense amount of regret not writing the number of the lawyer down. These past couple of weeks have been spent backtracking, trying to hunt down the location of the will, making calls to the city where the property had been left to me, talking to it's lawyers, notaries, city officials and real estate agents. I'm getting nowhere. My next step will be a legal will search but don't expect to get results. One lawyer I consulted advised that ninety percent of clients don't register their wills. In the meantime, I will be calling every lawyer in my province one by one and there are thousands of them. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Not only do I feel the need to honour my friend J. by hunting down the will, accepting what has been left for me and finding out more about his life, but at this point in our lives, this could be something life changing for us, a chance to restart somewhere else. I'm saddened my friend has died. I'm saddened that I was so preoccupied in my own grief over losing Calvin that I didn't even recognize his name. I'm worried that someone else will have stepped forward and claimed what J left for me "because he would never forget my kindness....", because I had pushed thoughts of him out of my mind. An old man with no family who thought enough of me to do something for me. I've made a huge mistake....
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Georgia has also been teething which has been contributing to my lack of sleep. Her molars are coming in, in fact she is cutting two molars and two front teeth right now. Her little face is so red and rashy that I haven't bothered to get our Christmas portraits done this year. She is fiercely attached to me, wanting mommy when she's uncomfortable in the night. We've spent a few nights this past week snuggling on the couch, both of us trying to get comfortable with the other one long enough to catch a couple of zzz's but it doesn't seem to work. For all her sweet snuggling, Georgia is still biting me at least once or twice a day most days, usually when she's tired or frustrated. It hurts and my saying ouch or reprimanding her seems to make her giggle and do it more. Lately when she sinks her teeth into me, I just get up and put her down either in her exersaucer or in her playpen which is particularly upsetting for her if she wants me to hold her. She cries, I cry, we both get no sleep. Lorelei seems to be especially misbehaved lately as well as if the pressure of being "nice" for Santa is too much for her. My lack of sleep makes me lose my patience more quickly these days too so our house hasn't exactly been terribly happy lately.
I think the weather has also contributed to my lack of well being this last while, it's been so damn cold out I haven't wanted to venture out. Today because it warmed up substantially, I decided that I would go run a few errands. Because of the slush and melting snow and ice, it took me four tries to get out of the driveway today. Thankfully I was in the truck, otherwise I would have never gotten out in the van. Driving in the snow is intimidating for me since cracking up my car a couple of years back. I hate the feeling of imprisonment that winter brings, that I don't feel free to just venture out and live a normal life. On the flip side, I've watched a couple of excellent movies the last couple of days, something I haven't had time to do in awhile. It's been nice, I just wish I could fall asleep after. It's agonizing to lay down and not be able to shut off my head long enough to go to sleep at night, and I hate just laying there. Usually within twenty minutes of not sleeping, I am up and out of bed, either watching tv or reading blogs hoping to exhaust myself enough to get some quality rest before Lorelei is up and at it for the day. Tonight after supper I fell asleep on the couch so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that tonight is my night.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
One year ago today, we buried our son. When Calvin passed away November 16, 2008, I went into shock. After we held our son in the ICU and he took his last breath in my arms, we returned to my hospital room upstairs. I developed a severe headache. I threw up and started shaking uncontrollably. During the hours following our son's death, I developed a medical emergency. My bladder stopped working. I was still making urine but I was unable to release. By the time the doctor decided to take action and give me a Foley catheter, I had retained almost a litre of urine and my bladder was in danger of bursting. Once the catheter was inserted, the bag filled immediately and had to be dumped, I was crying and numb and in shock. I spiked a fever and was told that I would not be released from hospital until my bladder was working properly again. The goal was to keep the Foley in for twenty-four hours and then remove it to see if I could pee on my own. When it was removed, I was still unable to urinate and was retaining almost 800ml by the time it was reinserted. The doctors were puzzled. They told me sometimes the bladder undergoes trama during a c-section and becomes paralyzed but this was seven days later. I had also experienced a worsening of my pelvic pain and was requiring more medication to keep the pain under control. This too was puzzling the doctors. They told me I should no longer be requiring narcotic pain relief. At that point, I just wanted to be discharged.
From my hospital bed, I called my friend Carrie who was working at a funeral home here in my home town. We arranged for her boss to make the five hour drive down to Vancouver to pick up Calvin's body and bring it home for us. We would make the funeral arrangements when we moved home. Finally, three days after Calvin's death, I was discharged with strict orders to check in with MFM the following day. My doctor was afraid of letting me travel if I continued to have trouble with my bladder but I assured him that things would be fine and that I needed to go home to bury my son. Shane's mom and dad and his sister Susan were at the house in Vancouver helping us pack and looking after Lorelei. The goal was to be packed up and ready to leave Saturday morning, one week after Calvin had died. I think being around Shane and I in our grief was too much for his parents to handle, so after loading Shane's truck with some of our belongings, they set out for home on Friday, leaving Shane and I to finish packing up for the trip home Saturday.
I remember feeling detached on the drive home, wishing that we had chosen to bring Calvin's body back ourselves. Shane couldn't do it. I had suggested that I could hold Calvin for the drive back but he just couldn't bring himself to have our dead son in the van with us for the entire drive back, even though the hospital social worker had told us that several families chose to do it that way. As we pulled into our driveway upon returning home, everything felt hollow. I didn't want to be there without Calvin. I hated that we were coming home without our son.
The next week we met with the funeral home and made Calvin's arrangements. We had numerous family members who wished to come to the service from out of province so we chose to have the funeral on the Saturday of that week, thirteen days following Calvin's death. Truthfully, I don't remember much of the service. I was in extreme emotional pain and was suffering physically. During a follow up doctors appointment when we returned home, it was discovered that I was suffering from a massive e.coli infection in my uterus and bladder. I had probably taken four or five percocet the morning of the funeral. I was terrified that I would start howling great sobs during the service and that I would be unable to control myself. I don't even remember who came. All I do remember is that the chapel was full of our friends, and Shane's family. My family never came. It hurts me to this day that not one member of my family bothered to come.
Calvin's service was beautifully performed by a retired minister who is also a twin. Shane carried our son's casket out to the car to be transported to the cemetery and then carried Calvin from the car to his tiny grave. It broke my heart to watch my husband carrying our boy's casket, knowing that this would be our last good-bye. After a small graveside prayer, we returned to the funeral home. I couldn't bear to watch my son's body be lowered into the ground so we asked the minister to stay with Calvin until he was buried and we went back for refreshments.
That night I developed severe anxiety that Calvin hadn't been buried, that the minister had left him there on top of the ground. I was worried about animals or people defiling my son's body and couldn't sleep until I made Shane go back to the cemetery to make sure Calvin's body had indeed been buried. It gave me nightmares for weeks. Even though Shane assured me that everything was fine, I was still horribly worried that something would happen to him, that worry reinforced everytime I heard the coyotes howling in the night.
Today when I think of that day, I feel sad. I feel sad for all that we went through at that time, all that we've been through since. It's such a lonely, empty feeling to attend the funeral of your own child. It's something I hope to never have to do again God willing. It's something no parent should have to do. Today I remember my son one year after that sad day without the anguish, only a quiet whisper of sadness at the memories.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Another thing I have noticed as of late is that I am turning off the sappy music, changing the channel from sad shows that used to leave me paralyzed in tears as I watched someone else's tragedy unfold. I WANT to feel better. And I don't feel bad about wanting to either. I'm actually kind of surprised that I am okay with this. In the beginning, I desperately searched out anything that held meaning. Books, music, blogs, movies, anything I could relate to my pain. I was seeking some form of enlightenment that would give me answers, put my fears to rest and reassure me that I would see my son again in Heaven. The more I searched, the more focused I became on Calvin's loss and the pain became insurmountable. I doubted I would ever enjoy my life again. I expected to feel empty forever.
As of late, there has been a subtle shift in my feelings, a hint of light shining through. I'm not sure why, perhaps it has come merely through the passing of time, the softening of loss. Maybe it's because I have acknowledged that I am tired of feeling sad all the time and realize that only I can find the joy within again. Maybe it's the Christmas spirit that has filled my heart with hope for my life and my family. I'd like to think it's a gift from my son who perhaps whispered in my ear as I lay sleeping, "Time to smile again Mom...you need to start feeling better." Wherever this change came from, I appreciate the respite. Grief is exhausting, sucking the life right out of you. Yes, my son is dead and I miss him so very much, miss all the possibility for his life and the dreams I held for him. However, despite the fact that I miss Calvin, I can still love him. I can still imagine his beautiful eyes and curly blonde hair and I can remember how he felt in my arms, how his cheeks felt under my kiss. The remembering him and his life makes my heart shine with joy and love for my only son. And with it brings a feeling of serenity, that although my son has flown away, my love for him lives on and will never die despite the passage of time. I think I'm done searching for peace, and instead will embrace it when it comes to me.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I guess it's almost a creepy feeling, like being the Wal-Mart greeter for the Dead Baby Club. I hate this club. I hate "welcoming" new members. I hate that once you're in it, there's no way out. I should be passing out sad face stickers at the door with the message that "Now that you're here, your life will never be the same again..." And it's true. Once you've had a child die, say good-bye to normal. Say good-bye to life as you've known it because it will never be the same again. Oddly enough, Lea at Nicholas' Touch blogged about this today. About how she fought against the idea that her life had changed forever when she lost Nicholas. Oh how I could relate to her post. I have hated every stinking second of being a babylost mother. I have railed in anger over the loss of my "before" life. It plain old sucks. It's been over a year for us now and I still hate it every day. I still think about my son everyday, I still miss him, still love him, still ache inside when I see things I would have liked to have bought for him. I don't know if those feelings ever go away. I know that Calvin's loss has softened a bit, instead of being a knife ripping through my heart and soul, it's become more of a dull ache in my chest, an ever present "awareness" of his absence.
I am saddened for Ben and Sara, knowing that they are soon to face the most painful Christmas of their lives without their precious Olivia. Shane and I were only 39 days past Calvin's death for our first Christmas post loss and it was an empty, hollow time for us. Not only did we have to fake it for our girls, but we were very much isolated with much of the family "giving us our privacy". I do understand that our grief at this most joyous time of the year probably made them uncomfortable, but privacy was the last thing we needed in those early days. What I have needed has changed over the course of this dark journey varying from needing acknowledgement of Calvin's life, to needing space and time to heal. Although I will never be or feel "perfect" in my grief, I have come to accept that because my feelings ebb and flow, that things will not always be okay with me emotionally and that I shouldn't expect them to. All I can hope for is a sense of peace, a coming to terms with this being my "now" life and not fighting for my yesterdays anymore. Not only have I had to learn with letting go of my son and the hopes and dreams I had for his life, but I've also had to learn to let go of my life as it was and that has been the hardest part since we said good-bye.
It would be my hope that my friends here will take a moment to visit A Dragonfly's Embrace to show support for this newly bereaved couple. God Bless....
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
I was so completely out of tune with the season last year in fact that it was the end of January before I realized the wrapping paper was still on the floor from Christmas morning and that my tree was so dead I would have to snap the branches off to retrieve my ornaments. I didn't send a card or mail a gift. The only reason Christmas came to our house at all was for Lorelei and Georgia. I don't think I could have put together Christmas dinner if I had tried, in fact I did not resume cooking anything until Calvin had been gone about six months.
But this year feels different. This year I want to feel the joy. I want to spend the month of December happily wrapping presents, decorating and baking. I want to spend evenings curled up on the couch in my pyjamas with our girls watching Christmas specials on television. I want to feel at peace. Truthfully I am excited about the holidays and the hope that the new year will bring a positive change with it's arrival. I don't expect everything to be sunshine, roses and lollipops however, I know there are still some difficult times ahead for us. The recession and Calvin's death ground Shane's business to a halt and times are tight financially. But it's the hope and promise of a new year that keeps me looking forward in anticipation. It's the first time in over a year that I have anticipated anything without a feeling of dread in my heart. Yes, I will miss our son dearly on Christmas morning as the girls rip into their packages and gifts and I'm sure there will be moments in the day itself that bring a feeling of melancholy. I expect it. I also know that I have lived through the worst Christmas of my life and that it is behind me and I survived. That in itself is reason to celebrate. So for now, I embrace the coming holidays in all their Hallmark glory with hope for joy and change and acceptance in the year to come. Hugs to all....
Thursday, November 19, 2009
After lunch, I printed off Kahlil Gibran's Joy and Sorrow and On Death to read at Calvin's grave and then went over to Mary's blog and stole her post "I Resolve" to also read. It was all I had. The weather was miserable, the wind blowing so hard I had to practically shout as I read the poems. The flowers Shane's parents brought we didn't end up putting down for fear they'd blow away and so after my quick words, and a small speech by Shane's dad we wrapped it up and came back home. I was just as relieved not to have had a big emotional scene, I didn't think I had it in me to cry in front of everyone.
The tears came later that night, as Shane and I sat alone on the porch talking about our son. I miss him. There's really not much more that can be said about it all. I'm weary and angry and sad and tired and not wanting to feel like this anymore. I want this year to be better and even though my son won't come back, I think I'm going to try and find a way to put some joy back into my life. I'm not sure how at this point, all I know is that I'm tired of feeling sad all the time. I need to find that spark inside and let some light burn through all this darkness. I need to start living again. I think I'm ready. Maybe.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Calvin remained unstable throughout the night. Dr. C had called a couple of times to let us know that Calvin was having problems with his oxygen saturation, a one point it was down in the 40 percentile. The doctors were fighting to get Calvin oxygenated and just as his sats began to rise, his blood pressure started to drop. On through the night it went like that, sats up, pressure down, pressure up, sats down. Finally at ten o'clock in the morning, Dr. C called to say Calvin was stable and we could come down to see him. No sooner had Shane and I arrived in the ICU than Calvin's pressure started to drop very quickly. I was horrified when I saw my baby. He was blue, his saturation levels only in the upper 60's, and his little mouth and tongue were swollen. Dr. C asked us to leave again, saying that he had to run some tests and that he would call us.
Back in the room we paced. When it had been over an hour and we hadn't heard anything yet, Shane decided to run to McDonalds for some food because he hadn't eaten in a few days. He was gone maybe ten minutes when the phone in my room rang. It was Dr. C saying he needed to see us right away and that it wasn't very good news. I explained Shane was out but that I would call him and get him to come back right away. I called Shane and he had just pulled out of the drive thru and was on his way back. I called Dr. C and told him I'd see him in about fifteen minutes.
When Shane returned, we brought Georgia to the nurses' station and we walked down to the ICU. We were holding hands and I was scared. Shane told me not to worry, that he probably just needed to go back into surgery. When we walked into the ICU, we were immediately ushered into a small room. Dr. C, Dr. S and the pediatrician on call were all in there. They asked us to sit down and I started shaking. Dr. C explained that he suspected Calvin's falling blood pressure had to do with him bleeding somewhere but that when he checked his chest, it was fine. At that point, he had decided to do an ultrasound of Calvin's head and they discovered that Calvin had suffered a Grade Three bi-lateral brain bleed. I already knew that Grade Four was the most severe, so I knew right away our boy was in trouble. I looked directly at Dr. C and said, "So what does that MEAN?" The pediatrician on call leaned forward and started to explain that Calvin would most likely develop cerebral palsy, that he would be deaf, probably blind and profoundly retarded. I was crying hysterically by now and so was Shane. We asked if they could operate to relieve some of the pressure in his head and they replied yes, but that he probably wouldn't survive surgery. Suddenly, I realized what they were saying and knew they were asking us to let Calvin go. I blurted out, "OH MY GOD, ARE YOU ASKING US TO...Then Dr. C shhh'd me. He had not been able to look at either Shane or I the entire time we were in there and I realized he had tears in his eyes. Shane was shaking his head and crying as the doctors explained that Calvin would continue to bleed into his brain because of the heparin in the ECMO machine and that his heart couldn't function without it. "Please, my husband begged, Please save my boy." At that time I reached over and took Shane's hand and told him quietly, "Honey, they can't." We were both sobbing our hearts out as Dr. S passed me the paper to sign to remove Calvin from life support.
I signed the papers knowing Shane couldn't do it and then I asked the Doctors if we could bring Georgia down, because we didn't have any pictures of our twins together. They said yes, if her pediatrician would clear her to come down. We asked if we could hold him and they said yes and then I asked Dr. C if he would please sew up my baby's chest once it was over. With tears in his eyes, he nodded yes. We asked if we could donate any of Calvin's organs, only to be told no. No transplant team would take them because his chest had been open and exposed to infection. No one could have them because of the heparin. We asked them to call the chaplain and that we would go upstairs to get Georgia and Dr. C agreed to call the MFM doctor to get me some Ativan. They told us they would call when everything was arranged and they were ready.
Back in my room, I told Shane that I wanted to keep Calvin's death private. Just us and Georgia and that we would phone and let his mom know afterwards. Greg, Trisha and Shane's dad were on their way back to the Okanagan to get back to work so they would have to be called later.
When the pediatrician cleared Georgia to go down to the ICU and when Dr. C called us, we headed down. Val, my maternity nurse was upset I was leaving just as I was supposed to be getting my daily checkup and when I explained that we were going to remove our son from life support, I don't think she understood that he was going to die. She snottily asked me how long it would take and was horrified when I answered back, "However long it takes my son to die." Crying, we walked hand in hand to the ICU, both of us taking a deep breath before we entered.
It started to feel like a dream as we walked over to Calvin's bedside and sat down in the rocking chairs beside his bed. They had curtained off his bed from view and as Shane held Georgia, they started to remove Calvin from all the tubes and wires that were keeping him alive and placed him in my arms. I was crying as he was handed to me. My handsome son was so blue and still. Unconscious, the only thing they left him on was the morphine drip so that he wasn't in any pain. Instinctively, Georgia reached back towards Calvin and the nurse, seeing her reaching for her twin, had Shane move closer and then joined their hands. My husband and I cried as our babies held hands and were together again for the first time since they were born. I was oblivious of the camera flashing, all I could see was my son, all I could feel was the pain. All too soon, I passed Calvin over to Shane and my husband said his good-byes. In all the years we had been together, I had hardly seen him cry. I saw him cry, I felt his heart breaking along with mine as we held our son, knowing he would soon die.
Spiritual care came and performed a benediction. We then had the heart within a heart ceremony, the chaplain tying a small heart around Calvin's wrist and then placing the larger heart around my neck. She explained that Calvin would always have a piece of my heart, and that the empty space in the centre of mine would signify the piece of my heart that had gone with him when he passed away. As I rocked our son, various people involved in Calvin's care came to say good-bye and to place a hand on Shane and I's shoulders. Many of the staff were crying with us. After checking Calvin's heart several times and knowing that our son was still alive, the doctors decided to move us to a quieter room, away from the hub of the ICU. As I carried Calvin down the hallway through the ICU, I felt the eyes of many parents on me, felt their pain and their fear as they sat beside their children's bedsides. I couldn't meet their eyes. Shane couldn't bring himself to hold him anymore, he was absolutely grief stricken so I sat with Calvin in the rocking chair in the private room. The lights had been dimmed but even in the low light, I could his face turning black from the lack of oxygen and I knew it wouldn't be long.
About an hour after Calvin had been removed from life support, he passed away quietly in my arms. As we sat there alone, Shane suddenly looked at me and said, "I think he's gone now, I don't feel him anymore." Wanting desperately for him not to be gone, I said, "I don't think so, I think he's still here..." Minutes later, the pediatrician came in and confirmed what Shane already knew, that Calvin had died. I cried and cried and cried, it was like a dam breaking, I knew it was over and that he wouldn't be coming back. Once my heaving sobs were under control, Shane and I left so that Dr. C could sew up Calvin's chest and so the nurses could give him a bath. They asked us we would like his hand and foot casts done in plaster to which we answered yes. They also asked if we had an outfit we would like to put on him when they called us back and I said yes, that Shane would go home and get something for him. He had to go tell his mother anyways and didn't want to do it on the phone.
Walking out of the ICU and leaving Calvin there alone in that room was the hardest thing in the world. I felt dazed, like my head was detached from my body, like I was outside myself. As we stepped out the doors of the ICU and into the hall, my head started to throb and within seconds I had the worst headache I'd ever had. By the time we reached my room I was shaking all over and as my nurse Val walked in to tell me how sorry she was, I threw up all over myself and the floor. I started crying like a child, I wanted my mother so badly. I just wanted to crawl into my mom's lap and have her hold me and rock me and tell me everything would be okay like she used to when I was younger. Val helped clean me up and helped me back into bed. Shane left to go tell Lorelei and his mom that our son had died and to pick him up a sleeper, we only had so much time. I lay down and cried great heaving sobs into my pillow as I watched the nurses tape a sign to my door, letting visitors and staff know to check at the front desk before entering my room.
Shane was back within about an hour with my bottle of Ativan and a diaper bag full of sleepers for Calvin. Together we walked back down to the ICU to dress our son and to say good-bye again. As I walked into the private room I saw Calvin lying on the table. It was like a miracle had taken place. He was no longer black, his colour had returned to normal and my son looked like he was sleeping peacefully. The ICU nurse Gabrielle had already started to dress Calvin and as we arrived with his sleepers she told me, "Go ahead and dress him, hold him all you want, but you need to know that he's starting to get a little stiff." Rigor mortis was already setting into Calvin's body but I didn't care. My son looked so beautiful and at peace. He was clean from his bath, Dr. C had sewn up his chest and every tube and wire had been removed. He was my baby and I wanted to hold him again more than anything. I carefully dressed Calvin and then picked him up. I rocked him and kissed him and told him how much I loved him and how my heart had broken when he died. I couldn't get enough of holding him. Shane couldn't bring himself to hold Calvin because of the rigor and he hadn't wanted to bring the camera down to take pictures of him. I wished with all my heart he had because Calvin looked so incredibly beautiful at that point, so pretty and at peace. All too soon, we left to return to my room, leaving our son behind in the ICU, leaving our hearts and hopes with him.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Meanwhile, Shane had gone to visit our son in the ICU and came back elated. Calvin was awake and looking around. He didn't appear to be in any discomfort and had responded to his dad's voice. We both took this as a hopeful sign that our son wouldn't need to go back on ECMO, that perhaps his heart had healed enough to beat suffiently on it's own.
All too soon, Calvin was taken back into surgery. We had been told to expect two to three hours before we'd hear anything. By the five hour mark, at eight-thirty pm, I told Shane that something was wrong, it was taking too long. Shane went down to the ICU to see what was going on only to be told there was no news. Maybe another two hours went by before Dr. C called to say that when they had removed Calvin from ECMO, his heart still wasn't healed enough to beat on it's own so they had put him on the light version of ECMO. Unfortunately, Calvin's body started to react to the new machine, producing lactates and histamines that Dr. C said was Calvin's body's way of saying it was very "unhappy" with the new form of life support and that he needed to unfortunately put him back on the original machine. Shane and I were devastated. We knew that Calvin's odds of survival had just dropped to thirty-five percent and that this second round was more likely to bring on complications. However, it was once again our son's only chance so giving the go ahead to have Calvin put back on ECMO, Shane once again signed the papers and Dr. C went back to the OR with Calvin.
Around midnight, Dr. C called to say that Calvin was having difficulty with his blood pressure and oxygen saturation and for us not to come down to the ICU. He said he would be monitoring Calvin through the night and that he would call periodically to give us updates. Worried, Shane headed home to sleep on the couch and I settled in for a restless night with Georgia.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It was sometime that afternoon, Calvin still bleeding copious amounts that two things happened. A decision was made to lower the dose of heparin in the ECMO machine to try and control some of Calvin's bleeding and our son suffered not one, but two massive overdoses of antibiotics. About two o'clock that afternoon, Shane came upstairs with a grim look on his face. "I have something to tell you and please don't freak out, " he said. He then proceeded to tell me that the pediatrician on call in the ICU, who had been on duty for thirty-six hours straight, in his fatigue had accidentally overdosed Calvin not once, but twice on massive amounts of antibiotics. The doctor, after realizing his mistake, tearfully approached my husband and told him what had happened and that Calvin would need to be put on dialysis to clean the drug out of his system. We were now risking organ damage due to the overdose of drugs he had been given. It was a tense eight hours. Calvin was placed on dialysis and amazingly enough his own body had already started the process of getting rid of the drugs. He responded very well and within eight hours was out of danger. I, on the other hand was furious. I kept thinking, How? How could this happen to our boy when he's already facing so much? How could they let a doctor stay on duty for that many hours straight? Why Calvin? I was so sad for our son, for all he had been through already in his short life.
Dr. C came back to the ICU later that evening, upset by what had happened to our son while he had been gone. He checked Calvin's output and miraculously, Calvin's bleeding had slowed down. He had been through fourteen units of blood by this point, enough to entirely replace all of his own blood almost four times over. For all that our son had been through, the slowing of the bleeding was encouraging and Dr. C was optimistic. It was good news. I felt relieved for the first time since Calvin's surgery and I dared hope that things would be okay. Shane and I kept going down to check on and off throughout the night, only to be told that Calvin was holding his own, that our son was improving. We were so relieved.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Eyes wide open, this time with Calvin was so memorable because he was awake almost the whole time.
Happy snuggles with our boy.
About seven o'clock that night, we got a message to come to the ICU together to meet the surgeon, Dr. C. We left Georgia in care of the nurses in Fir, the locked down ward for drug addicted mothers, the only ward with a fulltime nursery. They knew of our situation and were quite willing to watch Georgia whenever we had to go down to visit Calvin. As we walked into the ICU, we were greeted by Dr. C who led us to a small private room. I was a bit taken back looking at him, for some reason, I had expected Dr. C to be older. He looked to be about my age, like someone I could have gone to high school with and had the most charming smile and demeanor. Instantly, I felt comfortable with him. He explained what Calvin's surgery would entail, fixing the hole in his heart, connecting a bovine artery to one of the valves and putting in a plastic conduit from the heart to the lungs. Dr. C explained that the Truncus operation was one of his "favorites" because of it's complexity. He explained Calvin would be put on ice, to lower his body temperature and give them more time to work with his heart stopped. He told us to expect that Calvin's chest would be left open to prevent the heart from hitting the ribs during swelling and that he would have basically a clear bandage over his open wound. When it was all over, they would restart his heart. At that point I asked what happened if his heart didn't restart and Dr. C said, "Well then we go to ECMO which is a form of life support that we don't like to use much, it reduces his odds of surviving if he needs to be placed on it, but basically it's the last hope." He also told us that the surgery would take about eight hours and that Calvin would need alot of blood products. "Truncus patients bleed, and not just from their chests, from everywhere," he said. Suddenly I was terrified. It was nine o'clock at night and my baby was having surgery at seven o'clock the next morning. As we got up to go, Dr. C walked over to Calvin's bed with us and looked down at him and said, "He sure is cute". I looked at Dr. C and said, "Take good care of him please." I had tears in my eyes as he said, "I will, I promise." I looked back at him and said, "I trust you." Dr. C then told us he would see us in the morning and bid us a goodnight.
Suddenly I felt the urge to pray. I'm not an overly religious person but at this particular moment, I needed to pray and I needed the whole family to pray with me. I asked the ICU nurse to call the hospital chaplain and ask him to come and pray for my son. When she called, he was at home an hour away and he asked if he could come down in the morning and do it. I answered no, because Calvin's surgery was starting at seven and the family wouldn't be at the hospital at that time. The chaplain agreed to come and within the hour, Shane, Lorelei, Greg, Trisha, and Shane's parents, Karen and Garry were down in the ICU at Calvin's bedside. We all held hands in a circle as I held Calvin in my arms and the chaplain prayed for Calvin to have a safe surgery. It was an extremely powerful moment and I could feel the love in the room for my son. Shortly after the prayer ended, Shane's parents left to take Lorelei back to the house to go to bed. Shane wanted to spend some more time with Calvin, so he asked Greg to stay with me and Georgia in the room. That way, I too could come down and see Calvin knowing that Greg and Trisha were looking after Georgia.
Shane came back to the room around three am to have a little nap. I had dozed on and off with Greg there keeping me company (Trisha had eventually left around one am), and after feeding and changing Georgia, I decided to go down to the ICU to spend some more time with my son before his surgery. Somehow, I managed to wheel myself downstairs and I spent the next hour and a half just rocking my son and telling him how scared I was and how much I loved him. As I was getting ready to go upstairs, tears streaming down my cheeks, I again told him to fight, to be strong, that I needed him to get better. Calvin was looking at me with his big blue eyes and suddenly he winked at me. It was like he understood what I had just said to him. With one last kiss before I went back upstairs, I told him again and again how much I loved him and that I would see him before his surgery.
Shane was awake and very subdued when I got back into the room. He said he needed to be with his son and that he would be back for me before the surgery time so that we could walk Calvin to the operating room. With a kiss I watched him go and as I lay down to get another hour of sleep or so before it was time to go back again, I started to cry. I was so scared. I had never been this scared in my life.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Having been removed from CPAP, taken on Shane's Blackberry.
Calvin with his soother in the ICU.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Shane and I spending precious moments with Calvin before he is taken to the NICU.
Georgia Leigh Mayer born November 10, 2008. Pictures from Georgia's first year.