baby loss · Grief · Infant Loss · life after loss · rsv

Liam vs. RSV

I just lost it over a bottle of hand sanitizer. I was cleaning the bathroom and moved the bottle aside so I could scrub the sink. I bought the sanitizer back in December. Because I would be delivering a brand new baby during flu season. I was so careful to make sure he stayed healthy. Everyone who touched him washed their hands first. I kept his carrier covered when we were in public. I was constantly nagging his big brother to keep his hands off his face. I was so careful. I tried so hard to protect him.

When Liam tested positive for RSV, a knot formed in my throat. But the PA at the hospital said it so nonchalantly. He didn’t have a fever yet. His oxygen levels were okay. So we were sent home. We saw his pediatrician multiple times over the next few days. I watched him 24/7. I didn’t sleep. He was uncomfortable and developed a slight fever. He was breathing fine, but still I watched him. He started to improve on day 5. His chest sounded clear. His nose stopped running. His color looked good and his little personality was shining through. We went to bed that night and he still couldn’t get comfortable, so he slept in my arms again. I got an hour of sleep before I woke to loud grunting sounds from my tiny boy. His skin was hot and he was struggling to breathe. I took his temperature while his daddy called the hospital. I tossed things in a bag and rushed out the door. The 20 minute drive was so nerve-wracking. I turned the radio off so I could hear him. So I could make sure he kept breathing. I was a big ball of nerves, but I still never imagined that night would’ve led us here. I was so scared, but I still didn’t picture my life without him. There was one moment, sitting on an emergency room bed…. he was given an oxygen tube and he fell asleep. I felt a crushing pain in my chest as I watched him. That tube reminded me so much of his big brother. It brought back memories of holding my precious firstborn with tubes taped to his face. But it never crossed my mind that Liam would wind up with many more of them over the next day. Tubes that kept him alive. Tubes we eventually had to give the okay to remove.

When we met him at the children’s hospital, we had no idea what had happened. We went to the NICU and asked for bed 30. The receptionist called back to find out if we could go in, and then told us we had to wait…he was about to have a procedure. My heart dropped into my stomach and my words tumbled over each other as I tried to get her to explain. A nurse popped her head out to quickly say that they were doing a lot with him, that he was on a ventilator, and that a doctor would talk to us soon. We found out that his blood pressure dropped when the helicopter landed and that he needed resuscitation. We briefly heard that his body was in shock and ECMO was his only option. And a very dangerous one. And then we sat in a tiny waiting room for hours before we knew much else. Various doctors, nurses, and surgeons came out to tell us the same information, but worded differently. We heard what was happening, only partly understanding it. But we knew the looks on their faces. So many of them told us, “We’re doing everything we can for him.” We somehow knew it wouldn’t be enough. I heard those words 4 years before when Lincoln was dying. We knew it wasn’t enough. We felt defeated. We cried throughout the ECMO procedure. We had no hope. For the next 24 hours, nurses surrounded him at every moment. He was never unmonitored. But bad news kept coming. He needed more blood. His kidneys weren’t working right. He needed dialysis. His blood tested positive for strep and he needed antibiotics. We signed release after release. They brought in more machines. One of these machines monitored his brain activity, but it wasn’t picking anything up. They turned down his sedatives. Still, nothing. A huge group of nurses assembled around Liam and all of his machines, to walk him across the hospital for a CT scan.

I was disheartened. I knew it wasn’t good. But losing hope and losing heart still could not prepare me for a conference table and a picture of my baby’s inactive brain. It couldn’t prepare me to hear that all of the machines had been for nothing. That 90% of his brain had died when he coded on his helicopter ride the previous day. It couldn’t help me decide when it was time to take off all of the tubes and watch him gasp for his final few breaths.

I tried so hard. I wish I could’ve saved him. Sometimes you can do absolutely everything right, and it still isn’t enough. We washed our hands. We used sanitizer. We didn’t kiss our own baby on his lips. We did everything right. And they did everything they could. But he’s not here. Life can be so unfair. Everything can go wrong, even when you deserve for everything to go right. So enjoy every moment of the time you have. Soak in every look and tender touch. I wouldn’t trade the good memories for anything.

Liam, just 8 hours before rushing to the emergency room

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