2 years ago today started off just like any other day. Mark, Maddie, Ollie and I woke up, had breakfast, unwound from the holiday rush, went shopping at the Galleria, Mark and Ollie shared an Auntie Anne's pretzel, and Ollie did not want to sit in his stroller, only wanted to be held. But that evening he woke up from his nap very fussy and congested, so, as we often do with heart kids when they're sick, I rushed him up to the ER to make sure he was okay. Mark was at work. In the ER, I lay in the bed, Maddie in one arm... She kept trying to wriggle out of my arms and onto the floor to straighten hers, Ollie's and my shoes into a straight line, but I keep telling her to stop because the floor is dirty. I was frustrated. Ollie is in the other arm hooked up to the monitor, with a high fever, low OSATs, grunting, freaking out, I'm catching his vomit in a little tub I found in the room, all while balancing the DVD player on my legs, playing Ollie's favorite show, "Yo Gabba Gabba". I'm singing him songs, anything I can think of to calm him down. They run tests... No RSV... Yay! we cheered... Flu-B... Damn! But he had his flu shot!? At some point my Mom comes to get Maddie and my Aunt Chrissy comes to help me with Ollie and to lend her medical knowledge (she always met me at the hospital when I had to take Ollie in or helped with recovery at home ❤️ ).They admit us, we get into our step-down room and Ollie makes this huge turnaround... he's smiling, playing with his toys, seemingly happy as can be. By this time, Mark was at the hospital. We're thrilled that Ollie is doing better, but can't wait for him to go to sleep! After 6 hours in the ER holding a busy 3 year old and a crying, uncomfortable, vomiting 1 year old in a twin size bed, I was ready to sit down... alone. The nurse brings a bottle and his meds. He chugs down both and falls asleep. Ah, finally some peace and quiet! But soon, he wakes up coughing, he vomits, and turns pale white. I call for a doctor... A resident comes and doesn't know what to do. I tell her to call the PICU attending. She comes. Ollie aspirated, he was in respiratory distress as a result, and he needed to be rushed to the PICU for emergency intubation. I had no idea what lie ahead in the next week that we'd spend at the hospital. If I'd known when I woke up that day that it would be the last time I hold Ollie while he's "all there" (before the brain damage incurred the following morning in the picu), I would have held him close and tight ALL day long, showering him with as many kisses as possible, soaking up his sounds and laughter, been more patient, loved him as deeply as I could. I'm not saying I have regrets... That would be way too heavy to carry with me for the rest of my life! But In the midst of my painful loss, I have learned a beautiful lesson: to love more deeply, more openly, more intentionally. To be more patient. To say I love you, to show people I love them, to give hugs, to sprinkle love anywhere I can. Do I mess up... Yes. But I get back up and strive to live this lesson that Ollie taught me. None of us or our loved ones are guaranteed to see tomorrow... car accidents, sickness, natural disasters, violence... they're all out of our control. Yes, Ollie had a heart defect, but he wasn't supposed to die... his surgeon said our biggest long-term obstacle would be that Ollie couldn't play active sports. And he didn't die from his heart defect, but from brain damage from too many sedatives during intubation. My point is not that we should live in fear of our loved ones dying, but that we should strive to love them as though it's the last time we'll see them. The focus is not death, it's love, love, love, love, LOVE! Now, I'd do anything to have Ollie in my arms again, anyway I could have him ❤️
On January 3, 2013, my 1 yr old son, Ollie, passed away. That's where my life "before Ollie" ends and my grief journey begins... My new normal, my path toward healing, my life "after Ollie". I'm a grieving mother who believes in hope. This is my story.