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Liz Stokes

Saying Goodbye to More than a Family

Saying goodbye was such a blur. I really don’t know where to start so I’ll just pick a random place. I talked with Rob for a while in that little conference room after Dr. Bryant stepped out. We were reassured and told many times we could take as long as we needed to say goodbye. On the other hand it was made clear and evident that Carter was starting to suffer and things would only get worse, Rob and I made the decision that it would be sometime that Saturday night. As much as we wanted to be selfish and keep him for a few days more we knew things were going to get worse as if they weren’t bad already. Carter’s right hand was gone, already dead, his left hand was starting to die off as well, his belly was rock hard no give at all, his entire body was swollen, the drain wasn’t working to remove the excess fluid, he was actively bleeding into his abdomen, his body temperature wasn’t maintaining, his VAD lines were clotting off. I could go on and on. It. Was. Time.

I finally choked out that I wanted to be the one to hold him as he died. I don’t know why, I don’t know where it came from. I just did and I knew I could do it. I had been thinking about it for quite some time, Carter never would be alone as long as he was alive– at least as far as Rob and I would know. Rob would hold Carter first then when he was ready we would switch. I would cuddle, and kiss, and tell him sweet nothings and when it was time he would get our nurse and she would assemble the team. First they would make him as comfortable as possible by use of excessive Morphine, I was guaranteed more than once that Carter would feel no pain.

Backing up a bit, we did call Birthmom well we asked the adoption agency to call Birthmom. She was able to find a ride and come down for a visit to say goodbye on Thursday. (I think it was Thursday.) We weren’t sure at the time if it was goodbye or not. He had had such a good day and was showing some pretty drastic improvements. Birthmom arrived and we hugged and sobbed. Some how I told her what was going on, what the outcome potentially would be, and what he needed to do to get there. I encouraged her to touch him, hold his hand, to talk to him. He was her’s. She stayed for about thirty or so minutes and soaked up the moments with him.

Back to Saturday. We had to wait for family to arrive first because just transferring him into our arms was very risky. A cord could be pulled or something could be disconnected and he could die. While we waited, we invited staff to come in and pay their respects to Carter while he was still with us. It was the least we could do, give them some closure. They were just as much his family and caregivers, they deserved the right to say goodbye. A few nurses came in from the CICU, A6 Central, many doctors, respiratory therapists, and general staff.

I was in shock at the impact Carter made without a second thought so many of them openly kissed him on the nose and forehead, they all gave their expressions of love and gratitude, they said goodbye. They told him he fought a tremendous fight. There were open prayers to God. So much strength and so much vulnerability. I wasn’t expecting any of it; the tears nor their open expressions of grieving. I was expecting them to come in as professionals and maintain their emotions. They didn’t and I love them ever more for that.

I really don’t know how the staff does this on a weekly basis. Yes you read that right. They deal with a lot of death in the CICU and sadly nearly all are children and babies. We were at the hospital for 6 months and so many people were involved in Carter’s life. So much I was prepared for yet not ready to pursue or do. Looking back I’m so thankful there were tears, kisses, love, and hugs. It means he wasn’t just a patient to them. He was a baby boy whom they considered their own.

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