Last Days

Samuel lived for four days.  He never regained consciousness and never took another breath on his own.  He didn’t have any brain activity except for a small movement in his arm when the medical staff pinched his shoulder.  The doctor apologized for the growing bruise where they kept pinching, but that minuscule movement was our only evidence of brain function.  On the fourth day, it disappeared. 

The doctors declared his death on that day, but we think he was probably gone before that.  He might have been gone even before arriving at the ER.  Who knows when the soul departs from the body?  The doctor said that if emergency responders had taken 5 more minutes to arrive at the accident, he probably would have been gone at the scene.  His brain injury was that severe. 

The last day they removed the probe from his head, and allowed his body to return to a normal temperature.  Those actions were signs of defeat.  They meant there was no chance his brain could heal, but they made him look and feel more alive.  I could finally cover his legs with the blanket the neighbors made for him, and his hands felt soft and warm again. 

It sounds awful, but it was almost a relief when the PICU doctor told us that his arm movement had disappeared, and they were now ready for the series of tests needed to declare brain death.  We felt in our hearts that he had already died, and for three days we were making his empty body breathe.  His condition didn’t deteriorate quickly or crash as they had predicted, which meant we were facing choices of removing life support.  I am so thankful we were spared that choice.  So thankful.  I could not have done it.  I couldn’t have taken life away from my child, even knowing that life was already gone.  I would have second-guessed our choice all the way to my own grave.

And so he was gone.  Paperwork to sign, choices to make.  Funeral home.  Organ donation.  Floods of emails.  Our lives shattered like a precious glass ornament that falls off the Christmas tree.  All his personality, his hopes and dreams, his joys and fears and loves and imagination, gone.  Just gone.

Those few days were like being lost in a thick fog.  I was numb.  I don’t grieve well in front of others, so I stayed “strong” in public (and almost all of hospital life is public), and sobbed into a pillow every night in Jana’s room.  She was still seriously injured, so I gave her my attention.  This was survival, but I feel guilty about it now…that even in Samuel’s dying, I didn’t pay enough attention to him. 

So many wrongs, Samuel, and so many regrets.  I’ll love and miss you always.  You were a treasure, brave and amazing.  I can’t describe how deep my sorrow that you will never fully know how special you were. 

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