Friday, April 10, 2009

Loved to the end

They had told us it wouldn't take long. She might breathe on her own for 20 minutes. We had made the impossible decision. It really was the only choice we could make. Every other option was to leave her to a long and painful death. She was already in so much pain.

They could hold her for us, they said. Children's Healthcare never lets a baby pass without someone cuddling her. I tried to understand what kind of emotional detachment a parent would have for not taking every last opportunity to let their baby know how much they loved her. I would not allow myself to linger upon the thought that it was cowardly and cold.

Can it ever be easy to hold your child as she struggles for her last breath? No. Never. But we would do that most difficult thing. We would hand her over into the loving arms of her Heavenly Father ourselves.

Waking up that morning was so hard. I didn't want the day to begin, because I knew it would be the last day of our sweet Abigail's life. I still prayed, believing for her healing. But I knew in my heart that God was going to take her home.

I didn't want to go to the hospital. I didn't want to go to her room. I was worried that they would rush us, and I wanted to savor every painful and heartrending moment of our precious little time left together. I guess those kind people caring so beautifully for our baby knew and understood all of that. We had told them the night before that today would be the day. But when we arrived, they did not mention it. They were so wonderful.

We spent most of the day with her, letting all the family have a chance to hold her. We read to her, talked to her, sang. When it came time to remove the tube, we finally gave the nurse, Judy, the go-ahead to extubate. They might as well have removed mine too. It was so hard to breathe. I felt her pain as my own. Soon everyone but Loren and me left. It was a private time.

Loren and I held her. We read to her from Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go and from the Bible. We told her everything you could imagine a parent would want their child to know about life and our family and our loving Creator who had created her for a purpose. She would meet Him soon. We sang to her one of our favorite songs to sing with our other children: "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." Our voices choked up as we sang it, but we pressed on.

Minutes turned into hours, and she still was with us. Judy came in to make some notes and stuff (she mostly just left us alone, telling us to call her if we wanted her for anything). She could read in our eyes the question. Why was Abigail still with us? I wanted to believe maybe she was gonna keep on breathing, just like I had prayed. Judy explained to us that babies whose parents hold them and love them take longer to pass. They hold on harder. They fight harder. They know we don't want them to go. But they do eventually lose the fight.

When Judy left, we held Abigail tighter and told her that it was ok for her to let go. But she held on still. And so did we.

Meanwhile, my dad had gone to the store to buy me some ibuprofen because someone had stolen my pain pills out of my purse when I left it in Abigail's room. I couldn't believe how calloused someone would be to steal medicine from a woman whose baby was dying. The only people with access to the room were the nurses and the janitorial staff. When Daddy called to tell me he had my medicine, he wanted me to meet him out in the lobby because he couldn't bear to see his granddaughter dying.

When I tore myself away from Abigail's room, her heart rate had been a steady 140 bpm. I went and fetched the medicine, indulged in a long embrace from my daddy, and headed back to my daughter and her daddy.

I walked into the room and was surprised to see a look on Loren's face that I cannot even describe. There were tears in his eyes as he said, "I didn't think you were going to make it back in time." I looked frantically at the monitor. Her heart rate was now 40 bpm. She was going, and fast. We watched helplessly as her labored breaths became farther and farther apart, and then finally ceased altogether. Incredibly, the monitor still registered 40 bpm. Her lips were blue, and she was growing colder in our arms. We looked at each other and at Abigail, wondering what was going on. After a few moments, Judy came in and said she had been watching the monitor and wanted to listen for a heartbeat. She could not find one. She explained that the monitor could still pick up residual electrical impulses and interpret them as a heartbeat.

Abigail's doctor had just gone home for the night, and they had to call her back so she could call time of death. It was finished.


Sheila said...

Ooooh Shelly I am so sorry...I sit hear and tears just stream as I read about Abigail. There is nothing I can say, only the pain your husband and you must have felt. I am so sorry she was given and then taken home.

My heart and hugs out to you both and your family.


Shelley said...

Sheila, I can feel your love. Thank you.

takemetomaui said...

I stumbled upon your blog somehow, somewhere...and am so touched by your story. Thank you for sharing your love for your daughter and the love of the Lord that has brought you through such a heartwrenching loss. May God continue to bless you with peace and bring good things to and through you because of this journey.

In Him,