Today we are lucky enough to have James with us Guest Blogging. Please take a moment to read his post and to leave comments in response in the comments below or on our Facebook Page.
September 7, 1999 was a day I will never forget. That was the day my first son was born unto the Lord. As I write this I am sitting in Afghanistan, away from my wife, there by compounding the hurt inside.
After finding out we were to have a baby in the early months of 1999, his story - and ours - begins in May. Traveling from Chicago, we drove to Detroit down I-94 to spend Mother’s Day with my older sister. A chain reaction of events that, for a young, husband, son, and soon to be father, was a little embarrassing. I drove through a stop light the van in front of me stopped suddenly because of the car in front of them. I was not able to react fast enough and ran into the back of the van, which had been occupied by my Mother and both Grandmothers. When you include my pregnant wife who was with me, the only person I had missed was my Mother-in-Law. The police and ambulance showed up, nobody was seriously injured and we continued on our way.
Months later, while at work, I received a phone call from my wife who was extremely upset, I dropped everything and rushed home. When I got there the news she gave me had both of us very nervous, little did I know, it was only going to get worse. The doctor at the OBGYN clinic was trying to get a hold of us and we sat by the phone with our hearts rapidly beating awaiting the phone called that seemed would never come. Finally, I called back and demanded we speak to the doctor. The nurse tracked him down and put him on the phone where he preceded to tell my wife the results of her blood work which came back positive for HIV.
After we collected ourselves, we called our family and let them know we had information to share with them but couldn’t do it over the phone. We asked my family to meet at my parent’s house when we get there in about 4-5 hours. We arrived that night very late to a room filled with people very concerned about what it was we had to tell them. As expected, there was an unbelievable amount of love and support as well as a lot of confusion and questions. The next day we traveled another hour to tell my In-Laws. As we showed up, their pastor was also at the house with his wife. Once we shared the dreadful news, everyone gathered around us, put a small amount of oil on us and prayed for us. I can still feel the warm sensation that come over me as the pastor prayed, I later found out, I was not the only one who had that same feeling. Everyone had their own belief of what had happened that evening but with the ordinary oil that was used, in my opinion, there is only one explanation.
Skipping ahead a few days, we had gotten a call from the phlebotomists who had the HIV results. He found something he didn’t feel comfortable with and asked us to come back to have the tests done again. Hopeful, we traveled back to Chicago and days later, the results came back. This time the news was both good and bad. We found that the original sample had gotten mixed up and the positive result for HIV was correct, just not for my wife. A sense of relief came over the two of us then suddenly, a rush of sorrow because that mean someone else who had been just as hopeful as us, was not getting the same news that the results were incorrect and found they were HIV positive.
Moving forwarded to September 6th 1999. My wife is again very concerned because our little Alexander had not moved in a long time. We called a friend of ours from back home as well as talked to our “new” doctor. It was suggested that she eat ice cream to get some sugar into her system there by feeding Alex some as well. That, along with all the other “tricks” to get him moving didn’t seem to do anything. We went to the hospital and they began to set up the ultrasound machine. The nurse moved the handle around searching for something, applied some more gel and tried again. She then excused herself and came back with a doctor. As luck would have it, the doctor happened to be the same doctor who gave my wife the miss diagnoses over the phone that she was HIV positive. Filled with rage, I decided the best reaction for me was to grab the railing attached to the bed and focus on not punching him square in face. I was so focused on not hitting him that I don’t remember exactually what he said, but I do remember someone saying that there was no heart beat. Not fully understanding what was going on, I was told again (probably numerous times) that there was no heart beat and they would have to induce labor. To my horror and disbelief, Alex was dead.
Up until now you have been reading the story about what happened. This has been and will always be a difficult story to tell, the part that for me gets even more difficult is yet to come – my feelings. As I have grown up I learned to bottled my feelings inside, put on them on a shelf for my review when I am alone, keeping them there so that I can do what it is that I do - be supportive to others. I have always felt it was my duty, my job, to be there for my wife, my family and friends who are family just not by blood. To comfort them, take care of them, and make sure they are ok. Personal feelings, in my opinion, were secondary. About a year ago, I had connected with a very good friend from high school through Facebook who had also lost her son. My heart ached for her and her husband. I knew the pain she was going through and presumed the pain he too was going through. Understanding how difficult it is for me to share my pain, I tried to help her understand how he may be feeling and how much he cares even though he may not show it outwardly. Since that day, I have revisited my personal feelings as well as the discussions with my dear friend. I have come to the conclusion that, as strong as I may feel, the pain is still real and has the possibility to cause more pain for my wife because of my seemingly lack of outwardly personal emotion. This in itself I have found to be counterproductive to the end goal so I decided to post this story to not only help myself, those around me, but also those who resemble me.
I am a proud man who has been playing ice hockey for 33 years now and have always had a firm belief that I am stronger and can take on more than most. That being said, I can’t tell you how many times I had, and continue to, cry over the hours and days that were to come on that fateful night – most of which have been in secret and alone. That night and since, I have found many corners where I could hide my pain, hide my sorrow, hide my tears. I think of the moment on 7 September 1999 when our little Alex was being born unto God. I remember that moment when the doctor handed him to the nurse as I waited for him to cry, but he never did. I remember waiting for a joyous nurse bring him over and say “take a look at your beautiful little boy,” but that too never came. Then all the sudden, as if I were facing my own death –his life flashed before my eyes. Hs life that was never to come.
I felt that my wife and I were on an island, stranded, alone, and helpless. My heart had been violently ripped out of my chest. The pain was deeper than any ocean and starched further than the farthest star in the sky - I couldn’t see or imagine it’s beginning or it’s end. Our family had come to provide support, support that they didn’t seem to know how to give and I didn’t know how to receive. I can still walk through the halls of the hospital, walking past the rooms of new parents longing for the joy of holding our son, smiling from ear to ear, passing him to everyone in the room, filled with pride - but on this day, that joy hadn’t come and the hole in my chest ripped more, growing larger and larger. I walked past the nursery where all the new born babies were being held and the hole in my chest grew even more, consuming my thoughts, taking over me. As I returned to our room, a black card with a purple flower, placed outside the room was on the wall. The nurse told us that it’s there to let everyone else know our tears are not tears of joy. As she told us this, sorrow flooded in like a tsunami of pain and the hole grew even bigger. In my moments alone, I reflected of the previous months and the years to come, why did this happen to Alex? Why did it happen to us? Most importantly, how did this happen. Alex’s umbilical cord was at one point was unwound more than twice the normal size it should be. Is that because of the trauma caused by the car accident? Was it the stress cause by an incompetent doctor? Was there something else that I did, that caused his life to end? I often think about how his life would be. What his personality would reflect. Would he be strong, would he be a good student in school, would he play sports? Then I go back to the moment when his life flashed before my eyes, the day he was born unto the Lord and I see him in my mind. I feel an extreme amount of sorrow and sadness as I fight back the tears.
To this day, we will never know what the real cause of his death was but in the end, there have been at least 4 people that we know of who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Because of our story countless people have been touched through of the difficult times we were faced with. I don’t think I will ever be able to say that I am healed, or that sharing is easy for me; I can say that I take each day as they come and pray that one day my wife and I will reunited with Alex. There is a Bible verse that I keep near to my heart, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” - Philippians 4:13
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