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December 4, 2021

My Son almost Died—& it makes me Wonder, “Is there Life after Death?”

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*Potential trigger warning* 

 

Nothing can prepare you to see your child dead in a hospital bed.

My wife and I took our first and only child to our local children’s hospital after noting some irregularities in his breathing. This event took place just 10 days into his life in October of 2020.

The pandemic was in full swing and COVID-19 guidelines prohibited more than one parent from accompanying the child in the emergency department. Since my wife had given birth just 10 days prior, we opted for me to go as this would require juggling the baby, the car seat, the diaper bag, milk, and paperwork.

Although this provided my wife with physical relief, I knew the anxiety of waiting in the car would cause an equivalent amount of strain.

After we checked in and waited in the lobby for a short while, we were called to make our way to a room.

Once in the room, it did not take long for things to escalate. Doctors and nurses began to introduce themselves and ask for consent for treatment. Initially, the questions I was asked were easy to comprehend, but they quickly became complex, and suddenly, I felt as if I were a character in the TV series, “House.”

The first suspected diagnosis was meningitis, which required a blood test to confirm. I did my best to relay information to my wife as soon as I received it, and we exchanged hopes that it was a viral infection identified early enough to be treatable with antibiotics.

As quickly as meningitis was suspected, it was dismissed and no longer a plausible option for the medical staff. At this point, I began to sense that things were not right.

The staff proceeded to ask questions about my wife’s and my medical history and if we took any medications. I informed them that we do not have any major health issues. In fact, we are fairly boring people in regards to our medical history.

As I was speaking to one doctor, another doctor—senior to the one I had been speaking to—entered the room and assured me they would figure out what was going on. In the time it took to speak these words, my son had been placed in the medical bed and equipment had been hooked to him at a blinding pace.

As more people ushered in and gathered information from me as their sole source, I struggled to keep up as I was hit with questions from doctors and nurses standing above me and squatting at eye level, standing to my left and my right. I became dizzy trying to keep it all straight.

As all of this was happening, I did my best to tell my son that everything is okay, I am with him, and that I love him.

As I said that I love him, alarms began to sound. One by one, they joined in as if a concert was taking place in this tiny, glass-surround room. The staff swarmed his bed, and I found myself being displaced out of the room by the sheer number of people.

I became an onlooker from the outside. At that moment, I told a hospital staff member that I need my wife by my side and she needs to be present for this. They regurgitated the covid-19 policy…I say I don’t care. “Please ask.” The staff member spoke to their supervisor and agreed to allow my wife in.

At this point, my worst fears were validated: when people are willing to break policy, they are doing so for a reason.

The doors to my son’s room slid open, and from inside came urgent calls for the remaining nurses on the floor to support. I caught small glimpses of my son’s motionless body amidst the panic and saw that the monitor on the wall is no longer displaying a heart rate. My son clinically died and they had begun attempts to resuscitate him.

I was still outside of his room, amongst the chaos, but the silence of his body was the loudest noise. I turned to see my wife coming down the hallway—pure terror paints her face.

Her eyes were holding back an ocean of tears as she asked me what is happening to our son. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and she embraced me. I told her that he is going to be alright, but she pushed me to answer her directly. I said something is wrong and they are trying to figure it out.

As we stood there helpless, I noticed that a nurse had been in and out of the room several times. When I saw her again, I caught that she has two vials in her hands, one vial in each.

The presence of people in the hallway becomes insurmountable as people begin to linger. Finally, one person introduced themselves and began acting as a narrator of the events. She translated the medical jargon into layman’s terms and ended every sentence with a positive affirmation.

Shortly thereafter, the hospital chaplain arrived and stated that he is there to offer support. With the Chaplin looming, I knew this was about to be the final goodbye for my son.

Another call came from the room requesting “more epi!” and the nurse I saw carrying two vials just a few moments prior now has three. I found this count of three vials odd in the moment, but I did not know what it meant. What I did know was that it was my time to ask the spirit realm for intervention, if it were meant to be.

My mother died less than a year prior, in November 2019, of ovarian cancer at the age of 52. When she died, I knew her physical body was no more, but her spirit was alive and well. I asked the spirit realm, if it were meant to be, to have my mother come and save my child.

As I held my wife and did everything I could to stay strong for her, for my son, and for myself, the doors to the small glass room opened. The moment of truth was about to be proclaimed.

The lead doctor said to my wife and me,

“We have him—he is stable.”

After what seemed like an eternity, our son was alive.

Once we moved to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), we learned that our son was without a stable heartbeat for 20 minutes, and it took 11 epinephrine pens and multiple CPR teams to bring him back.

Upon admission into the emergency department due to his oxygen levels, they decided (with my consent) to intubate him. During this attempt, he went into cardiac arrest, the result of an undiagnosed heart condition.

While still in the womb, babies have an extra valve in their heart that supports the aorta in circulating blood to the extremities. After the child is born, that extra valve begins closing off, leaving the aorta to do all of the work. Unfortunately, our son’s aorta had a narrowing, so when this extra valve in his heart closed, his aorta was unable to efficiently pump blood and it began backing up into his lungs, which resulted in the abnormal breathing my wife and I had witnessed.

This condition is typically identified during adolescence, but our son’s condition was severe. Despite the severity, his anatomy scan in the womb showed adequate blood flow between heart chambers, thanks to the extra valve.

Due to the length of time without a heartbeat, and subsequently, without oxygen being supplied to his brain, our son obtained brain damage from the event. The MRI showed the damage in his thalamus—the controller of how your brain receives information and the controller of how that information is processed back out to the body.

The doctors were surprised that we were able to detect the irregular breathing.

Newborns have unusual breathing patterns at times as they adjust to life outside of the womb, so this was something that could have easily been missed. In actuality, we brought him in “early,” but had we not brought him in that night, he probably would have been dead by morning. They congratulated us, but I am not sure what for.

Since the event, he has been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy of unknown severity. The doctors say his abilities will remain a question mark for the next three to four years. Only then can we start to grasp the true impact of this event. I now spend my days dedicated to his therapies in an effort to give him the best quality of life possible.

My mind can’t erase the fact that my son lost his life. In a lot of ways, death would have been simpler— more definitive. I struggle to process that I have to live the rest of my life as if my child did not die because he is still here with us now.

Although he is alive, we are reminded of this event every day as we shuffle from one therapy to the next, and one specialist to the next.

And it just makes me wonder, “Is there life after death?”

 

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