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Liz Stokes

There’s so much that happened that evening of February 3, 2018. Once our family arrived and talked with Carter, we called the team in to start transferring him into Daddy’s arms. Sadly there’s nothing I miss more than sitting in that super uncomfortable rocking chair and rocking my recovering baby to sleep, holding him nonstop for hours on end, and yes spoiling him like no other can. These moments are precious. These moments are raw. These moments are graphic. I’m not going to shield them from you. You clicked on this link out of curiosity. I have never held back my words or my emotions. I will continue not to do so.

There are images below that are considered graphic. You have been warned.

We flipped on Moana and three people carefully transferred my baby’s cords, chest tubes, ventilator, VAD, catheter, drain, IVs, and lines over a bed and into my husband’s arms however not before giving him a heavy dose of Morphine and Versaid. It’s been over three weeks since we held him last. With the Vad and ventilator it was just far too dangerous. Rob’s arms were aching, my arms were aching. I wanted him cuddled and snuggled more than anything.

I witnessed nothing short of pure love radiating off of my husband to his child. Rob prayed over Carter, talked to him, rocked him, sang to him, took in all he could but there was no response. Carter was so drugged up to prevent him from feeling any pain that I feel I took for granted my last moments with him the week before; before they tried to place the VAD. I missed my baby. I missed his bright eyes and his beautiful smile. He just laid there unresponsive in Rob’s arms. If it weren’t for the monitor I could’ve sworn he was already gone. I wanted my Momma kisses back…


Rob decided he was done about two hours in. That chair was not comfortable and holding Carter was really difficult. So with a team of five we transferred Carter into my arms. It was so uncomfortable but there was some light, Carter opened his eyes for a good ten seconds when they placed him in my arms. I saw him lucid before they stole it away with more morphine from his pump. They kept him on a pretty stiff pillow to limit movement and the possibility of pinching or pulling cords. I was so uncomfortable. It wasn’t the same. I just sat there with essentially a board on my lap and my baby not really there. I talked to Carter. I prayed to God that this can’t be it. We couldn’t have come so far and been so dedicated to his adventure to have it end so abruptly but as I prayed I was told it was done. It was time. After about an hour I could barely hold him anymore. My mind, body, and spirit were screaming. I couldn’t hold my emotion anymore. I would think about what was to come, cry, then recompose myself. It was a cycle. It was horrible. Finally I was able to look across Carter’s bed and tell Rob it was time.

We had been explained before what the procedure would be but that still didn’t make me understand what was about to happen. I didn’t know what was going to happen exactly so I didn’t really have the right questions to ask before it happened.

Here’s what the team was going to do. They would come in and essentially pump Carter full of morphine. I think I was told 10 times in the sweetest way possible that Carter would feel no pain as he passed. Next they would turn off the ventilator and remove the tubes and tape from his face. We would get a minute or two to enjoy our little boy’s face without anything on it. Then the surgeon would come in and turn off the VAD. Once the VAD was off he would disconnect the tubing and clamp them off. From then on we would wait for the blood to stop circulating (remember his heart was only working with the machine) and they would declare time of death.

Here is was from my point of view. In came the nurse with two LARGE vials of Morphine. She began like clock work and I saw and heard over my shoulder each and every time the nurse would look at the cardiologist and I would hear a whisper of “now”. I saw another nurse charting each dose going into my baby’s body. It felt like every five to ten minutes. The tears were just streaming down my face. How do you let go? You know with every fiber in your being that this is the end and there’s nothing absolutely nothing left to do but let go.

I was constantly whispering to my son that I loved him, he was loved, and will always be loved. I told him how sorry I was that we weren’t able to do more for him. The Cardiologist called the respiratory therapist over. She so sweetly and gently removed the ventilator tape from Carter’s face, even though he couldn’t comprehend what she was saying she talked him through the steps and explained to him what she was going to do to him before she did it. She removed the tube. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. Carter was breathing independently for the first time in his life. All on his own.  I could feel it. I could see his chest rise and fall. More Morphine.

The surgeon stepped in without saying a word. It was so peaceful and respectful in those moments. There was no rush. There was no need of urgency. Just a steady flow of cutting tubes, draining and reattaching them to the incorrect tube. If I could draw a picture I would. I might actually have a picture but that was it. The Dr. was done all was done.

My Carter was completely detached from all machines and forms of life support. More Morphine. I pulled my baby to my chest a just started talking to him. Whispering to him. Nothing anyone else needed to hear or needs to know. My mother-in-law started singing. The room was so silent. Then I heard it. Carter gasped for air. More Morphine.

I continued to let the tears fall and let my emotions take over. I felt a large hand on my shoulder and the tightest squeeze. For the life of me, I can’t remember the words but I remember the love and sincerity behind them. Carter gasped for air again. Every time taking my own breath away. I was silently praying it was all a mistake and God magically healed him in a instant with no surgical intervention. His heart just worked, he was healed, we were going to leave the hospital with our baby alive and in his car seat. Yea. Life has a funny way of not working out the way you want it to.

I looked up and saw the nurse wiping away tears and trying to stifle a sniffle while injecting the next dose of more Morphine. Carter took maybe five or six deep breathes about 30-40 seconds in between them and then silence. The last words I know he heard were from me, softly in his ear, “I love you. It’s ok to go now.”

The Cardiologist came over with her stethoscope and said softly. “His heart stopped beating” and I let the hurt out in one large exhale and sob. That did it. My heart was done. It broke. It shattered. I hurt.

6:43p on February 3, 2018. All parts of me hurt but I continued to hold my baby for another thirty or so minutes. I knew he was gone. He looked so different. His face was so swollen from the fluid retention. His lips weren’t the same. A few weeks after Carter died I read an article about death and how your brain keeps working for about ten minutes after you die. I don’t remember the specifics but I remember that piece of it. So looking back I have the confidence that Carter was never alone even when his neurons were still firing, declared legally dead by all means, I have the satisfaction of knowing that my little boy was in my arms, I was still talking to him, kissing him fiercely, and whispering sweet nothings of love and admiration into his ear.

To Be Continued.

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