Everyday talented men and women are working hard to keep our families safe and heal our loved ones who fall ill. Unfortunately, for every success story there are also moments of great sadness that come with the tragic loss of a child.
All of the training, knowledge, skills, experience, processes, tools and faith can only begin to prepare these health care providers for days that end in the indescribable. The days that have them eye to eye, with frightened, broken and devastated parents as they must relay the news that their precious child is not going to make it.
I have only been on the receiving end of this news and don’t pretend to understand what that must feel like or what type of lasting impacts such moments can have on an individual.
I know everyone’s situation is very different. I am sorry for some of you or your loved ones who didn’t receive the type of support and care needed in the most difficult of times. For us, the two short weeks of Marshall’s life, at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, saw a heroic effort from medical teams across our city and beyond. “Team Marshall” was a beautiful thing that extended beyond family and friends, to the team of professionals working on our son.
I remember thinking at some point they were going to just give up, tell us it was too difficult or too expensive, too hard, etc. I would ask some of the doctors in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) all of these and so many other questions to which they responded “they were not giving up on Marshall until there was absolutely nothing in their power they could do” or “they would let us know if and when that time had come”. They worked with truth but helped us keep our faith. They allowed us to participate in rounds, ask questions, and break down when we needed to.
During the trauma of these experiences there are so many different moments that left an imprint on my heart and mind. The nurse that “heard a bit of a murmur” moments before we were to be leaving the hospital. The first doctor to tell us “ mama your son is not going to be coming home”. The team of professionals that gathered with our family around a boardroom table while they pulled up images and spoke to us about all the challenges ahead. The nurse that encouraged me to come help her sponge bath Marshall when I was afraid of all the tubes and cords. An experience I will never forget. The respiratory therapist that shed tears and laughs with us in some of our darkest hours. The talented techs who gave the most gentle and thorough exams. The two clinicians working tirelessly over our son while their own bodies were in the final stages of growing of their first children. How difficult that must have been on so many levels. The compassion and expertise often left me speechless and at awe.
I smile when I recall the interventional radiologist changing his scrubs after a risky but successful procedure because “he knew I might be wanting a hug”. He was right! I remember sharing some of our baked goodies and huge Crave cupcakes with the team on shift one afternoon. They were all so excited. I was so happy to be able to do something nice for them. Or in the late, dark hours of the night discussing a Beyonce concert on TV, helping me feel normal for a few moments standing by his bedside.
I will never forget you stating this was “our burden to bear, that we would not do it alone”. I needed to hear that when I was so terrified. I had no idea how we would get through it, I guess some days I still don’t. None of us do. I remember being touched by the stories shared of the impact our son and family were having on some of the staff working with us. I felt blessed that they got to know him as so many of our family and friends would never see him smile or touch his skin. Some of the same staff that attended his funeral weeks later and shared their condolences in many ways.
In the final hours, the calm and graceful staff that walked the most difficult road with us, by our side the whole way but giving us our space to say goodbye. Making it as comfortable as possible for our family, for our son, supporting us and working their magic to ensure we left with the smallest but greatest tokens of his life in tiny footprints, clay hand prints and a little memory box.
I am grateful for these people. Some more compassionate or connected than others, but all showing up, making a difference in the lives of others. I am grateful for these memories of hope, compassion and resiliency. I am thankful for the talent and skill they share. I hope that they know how they have impacted our life and the lives of so many others. I hope that they receive the same kindness and care along their path. I carry their kindness and memories with me.