Monday, October 22, 2012

Guest Post: Amy

Today we are lucky enough to have Amy with us Guest Blogging from Saville's Backyard - she is an amazing person. Please take a moment to read her post, visit her website and feel free to leave comments in response on our Facebook page

Before I introduce my family I want to say Thank You to God’s Angel’s Gone Early for finding us and inviting me to be a guest blogger this month. I feel so honored to be a part of their blog and I’m thrilled to introduce you all to my sweet boy, Gabriel.

David and I have been married 14 years this last June. We have 5 beautiful children. Katie is 12, Madison is 10, Jenna is 9, Isaac is 6, and Gabie would be 3 if he had stayed with us longer than 17 and ½ months. Currently we live in Utah, but up until one year ago we lived in Idaho for 13 years.
2 years, 2 months, 2 weeks and 5 days ago we said goodbye to our sweet Gabie Baby. I look at those numbers often and think it’s been way too long since I could cuddle him in my arms or hear his laugh and so many other things that I greatly miss. Sometimes, though, I can look at those numbers and think I’m that much closer to holding him, hearing his laugh and all those other things I can’t wait to experience again.

Gabriel wasn’t a sick child. He was born 8lbs 2oz and as healthy as could be. At all his well-baby checkups he passed with flying colors. He was always in the 50th percentile of most things and our doctor told me at the end of every visit that he was just perfect. One Saturday evening most of our family was in the basement playing a game together while the two boys were upstairs watching a movie before bedtime. One minute we were sitting calmly enjoying each other’s company and the next everything was crazy.  As we were playing our game Isaac (4) came into the room and said “Mom, Gabie is dead” my first reaction was that Gabe must’ve fallen asleep during the movie but then I figured I better go check on him. I went up to my bedroom where the boys were watching the movie, just like they did on so many other occasions. When I saw Gabie he was laying on his tummy on top of all the blankets with his head turned sideways. Initially I thought he was asleep until I went to move him and realized he wasn’t breathing and his eyelids and lips were blue.  I picked him up and called for my husband immediately. We called 911 and checked for a swallowed object obstructing his airway. When we found nothing we started CPR.  Those few minutes of panic still make my heart ache and I remember so well how terrified I was. The ambulance arrived right away and an EMT quickly picked Gabie up and put him in the back of the ambulance. I jumped into the front and my husband started loading our other four very scared children into the van. We called family to meet us at the hospital and to help with the kids. It took the ambulance three minutes to get to the ER and I remember thinking that was the longest three minutes of my life. I followed Gabie into the ER where I was pulled away from him to be asked a barrage of questions that I felt like I didn’t have answers for and then they let me go into the room where they were frantically working on my sweet baby. I watched through my tears and sobs until David came in and then I tried to stay but I just couldn’t sit and watch all those doctors and nurses try so hard to get him back when noting seemed to be working. David stayed in the room while I went and sat in the hallway with the hospital special services guy and my sister in law until my parents arrived. Then I remember just sobbing as they kept telling me to breathe and it was going to be ok. Although I still had hope I think I knew he was probably not going to make it. Finally after 45 minutes of waiting the doctor came out and told us that he was breathing and his heart was beating again but he wasn’t responsive so they were going to do a MRI and a Cat Scan (I think) and then they would bring him up to the PICU where we could see him. It seemed to take forever for them to bring him up and we were still so very scared and praying all the scans showed that he was on his way to healing. When they finally brought him up the doctor informed us that because of the length of time that Gabie was without oxygen and blood flow his brain was massively swollen. He explained to us that our brains have lots of wrinkles in them and Gabie’s was now flat and pushing against his small skull. He told us they’d be doing some treatments to try to bring down the swelling and the next 48 to 72 hours were crucial to see if he would make it or not. On Sunday afternoon they started doing some tests for brain activity but found none so we prayed a lot and talked to him. He was never left alone even when my family sent me home for a few hours of sleep they sat by him and talked to him. On Monday they did more tests and determined that he was brain dead. We were asked in a very sensitive and compassionate way if we’d be interested in having Gabie be an organ & tissue donor. We knew by then that we weren’t going to be taking him home with us and we immediately told the doctors that if he could save another family from this great pain we’d be honored to have him be a donor. Throughout the day on Monday most of our family joined us in the PICU to say our goodbyes. We were able to hold him some and tell him that we loved him again and again. We had so much support and although it was a terrible day I’m glad we were surrounded by love. That night Intermountain Donor Services came and we stayed up until 3 am in the waiting room discussing all our questions. Afterwards we all still felt good about it and decided that we were ready for them to start the donation process on Tuesday.

On Tuesday I met some family that couldn’t come on Monday to say their goodbyes. I stayed until around 1 o’clock or so and then I said goodbye one more time before I left to go plan my babies’ funeral services. The organ harvest (by the way I hate that terminology it just sounds so cold & cruel) was to be done at 1AM on Wednesday. I was asked if I wanted to stay until they took him into surgery and I decided I just couldn’t be there when he was taken off of life support and watch them take him away to have his organs taken. So I put him in the hands of our very loving nurses and trusted them to watch over his precious body and l informed the funeral home to let me know as soon as they received him.

The next few days really are a blur. I remember picking flowers, burial clothing, a casket, funeral programs and all those things that have to be put together. I was determined he’d have the very best and I wanted everything planned perfectly. My nights were spent in my husband’s arms sobbing until I eventually cried so much I fell asleep. The funeral was beautiful and we had so much support once again.

For weeks & months after his passing we had a lot of people checking on us and seeing if we needed anything and although there was nothing they could do for us I greatly appreciated all their sweet gifts and willingness to be there for us. Some of the things that helped me personally were books that I was given on losing children and how to deal with grief, jewelry that had Gabie’s name or picture on it, a wax light made with flowers from Gabe’s funeral in it, pictures from friends of Gabe at random play dates and some good friends came and planted flowers in my front flowerbed thinking that they might cheer me up. Honestly nothing cheered me up for a very long time I wondered if I’d ever feel cheerful again and every time I felt somewhat happy the feeling of guilt quickly followed, because how could I ever feel happiness again after my son had died. I understand now why I felt that way and I also understand now that he wants me to be happy and it’s ok to be happy. It will never change how much I love & miss him.

Those of you wondering about what he actually died of I’m sorry to say you’ll just have to wonder like we do. They did an autopsy and the coroner said the cause of death was unknown. His heart stopped and he never woke up but there was nothing “wrong” with him. His heart was actually perfect; even though it stopped in his chest to this day it beats strongly in a little boy’s chest who received this gift of life when he was only 6 months old. We feel lucky to have had the chance to get to know this family via Facebook and emails. They are so thankful for our Gabriel’s gift to them and we are so glad that we were able to save them from the heartache we’ve lived with.  

Losing a child is not an easy thing to live with and it certainly doesn’t go away, but I feel that the pain does lessen. I still have some really hard days and every day I think about my sweet Gabie Baby. I miss him greatly and sometimes it hits me all over again that I lost my son and my family on earth remains incomplete, but then I get on my knees and pray for comfort and strength and I know my Gabie visits me and helps me to make it through that day.

In order to remember our son we too started a charity program that we hope to make into a non-profit organization. We collect donated gently used and new books from the week before Thanksgiving until January 26th (Gabriel’s Birthday). Then we sanitize the books split them up and donate them to the pediatric floors of as many hospitals as we can. Last year was our 2nd year and we had 2700 books donated and we delivered those to 8 different hospitals. These books are meant to be given to children who are at the hospital whether they are waiting for a sibling or they themselves are ill.  I received many letters of thanks from parents and nurses who have received a “Book From Gabriel” and it has helped them in their stay at the hospital. We are so glad that on Gabriel’s Birthday every year we are able to do an act of service in his name instead of mourning him alone. We love to share our story in the hope that it will reach another family who may be going through a similar experience and needs to know that they are not alone.

Thank You again to Gods Angel’s Gone Early for allowing me to introduce my son to all of you. I pray that you all may find comfort in your grief and know that your loved one is watching over you.

Amy (Gabriel’s Mom)