My life is amazing. It is full of people who love and care about me, I’ve been married twenty-five years this month, I have two beautiful grown daughters–almost 19 and 24–who brighten my days, my parents are still married and support me in many ways, we own our home, two furbabies drive me crazy but make my days more enjoyable, we aren’t hurting for anything, save our son who died in 2003 at the age of five. This is the trigger that sets everything in motion.
A parent should never have to see their children die. Simply put, it just isn’t fair.
A parent’s mourning never ends and I wish I could say it gets easier, but for me, it hasn’t. Memories plague my mind. They also warm my soul.
Depression has always been a part of my adult life, even before the death of our son. However, the trauma and tragedy of his passing triggered an entirely different set of symptoms. My ability to continue on with life stopped. A year later I lost a great job, one I loved with all my heart and soul. Yes, I went on to get an even better job, but eventually, I lost that one too. This would become a cycle until the day I couldn’t fathom walking outside of my house and into a workplace.
The day DJ, my son, left this earth to meet his Maker I was taking a final exam for my Community Nursing course. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. We were presenting projects for our exam and the class ran late. Three of my best friends and I jumped into my car and headed for home. My husband called and told me I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible and provided very little information other than something was deathly wrong with our son. Without thinking, I turned on my hazard lights and stepped on the gas pedal.
Any police officers could follow me to the hospital and give me a ticket there.
We shot past cars, only stopping at a red light to let one of my friends out so she could jump in the car with her mom. She was heading out of town in just a few hours.
Even as I think about it now, my heart races and my stomach fills with pterodactyl sized butterflies. Horror washed over me as we entered the emergency room and were escorted to a private family room–reserved for the worst cases. My son had stopped breathing while taking a nap. The paramedics were able to restart his pulse but he had to be put on a ventilator.
Things you should know about my son:
- He was born 15 weeks early, weighing 1 lb 5 oz.
- His first home was the NICU unit at the trauma hospital. He lived there for three months.
- His lungs were not fully matured and he spent about six weeks on the ventilator.
- One of the ventilators vibrated fiercely to keep his lungs expanded.
- This caused him to have a bleed in his brain.
- At age 3 he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (actually, we knew this much earlier but, at the time, cerebral palsy could not be diagnosed until age 3.)
- His fine motor skills were the most affected. He rolled, crawled, pulled himself up on anything he could reach, he even climbed. He talked, laughed, and cried. He smiled and made friends with anyone he came into contact with, except his physical therapist. She made him work and he loved being babied.
- With the brain bleed came many surgeries: the insertion of a VP shunt into his head to relieve any extra pressure, a permanent feeding tube, a fundoplication–a type of hiatal hernia operation–two more surgeries to replace the initial shunt and another to add a second shunt.
- He had seizures. He had headaches. He projectile vomited for the first three years of his life.
- Even with all of these issues, he loved fiercely and unconditionally. He taught us all many lessons about life. And today, as I write this, I am smiling at the memories.
My son always had an experienced caretaker near. If my husband or I weren’t home, he had grandparents. He also had, at the age of three, a personal assistant. I roll my eyes thinking how he twisted the two girls around his finger. One of the PAs had put him down for a nap ten minutes previous to my husband coming home and found him only minutes later.
To shorten this lead-in to the tumultuous times ahead, he walked into God’s arms that night in the spring of 2003. Our hearts shattered, our family shattered, my daughters suffered more grief than any child should.
To be continued…