December 19, 2009

Remembering

Anne Marie died on a Saturday. Four weeks ago tonight. Each Saturday I find myself thinking about the events of that day. I think about the fact that as we were driving to the hospital that Saturday morning we had no idea she would be gone that night. I remember how that day went, and how everything seemed to happen so fast.

When we first got to the hospital on Saturday, November 21, the nurse told us that Anne Marie had had a hard night. I was surprised because I had called at about 1:00 a.m. and she had been fine. But in the early morning hours Anne Marie's blood pressure had started to drop. I remember that while I was waiting for the doctors to do rounds that Saturday morning I had talked to Ginger on the phone. She had asked about Anne Marie and I told her that she wasn't really showing much improvement, but that she wasn't getting worse either. I didn't know then how fast things could change. Dr. Morris came in later that morning to explain just how hard Anne Marie's night had been, and I could tell she was very concerned. She talked about Anne Marie's high dosage of blood-pressure medication and how it didn't seem to be helping like it had before. She explained that the ventilator was still set at a very high level and that they hadn't been able to turn it down much. She mentioned that Anne Marie might have a pneumothorax and was going to get an X-ray. And then she mentioned the dreaded DNR. I remember that our surgeon, Dr. Fuchs, had also come in that morning to check Anne Marie's dressing. Looking back, I'm glad Dr. Fuchs came so we were able to see her one more time. I remember that, even after talking to Dr. Morris, I was still hopeful; I recalled how far God had brought Anne Marie, how many miracles we had already seen. It wasn't until later when Dr. Thompson came in to check on Anne Marie that I began to think we might really lose her.

Dr. Thompson had been the attending doctor the night Anne Marie was born. She had never given up on Anne Marie. She always had one more thing to try, one more encouraging word or positive thing to say. She was always so hopeful. But when Dr. Thompson came in Anne Marie's room that Saturday I could tell things were different. She looked sad and didn't have any more tricks up her sleeve, so to speak. And she asked me, "Do you want to hold her?" I knew things must be bad if I was going to be able to hold her. And so in the early evening on November 21, I held our daughter for the first time. Two doctors, several nurses, and the respiratory therapist helped moved Anne Marie and her many tubes to my arms. I held her for the first time and felt the glorious weight of a newborn baby in my arms. I stroked her head and rubbed as much of her little body as I could.

I think about that Saturday and can still remember what it felt like to hold her. How good it felt to have her so close to me for the first time. After that the time seemed to go so fast. Brandon and I later went into a conference room to wait for the doctor to come and talk to us again, but she came in and said we should come back to Anne Marie's room instead because her blood pressure was dropping. We came back and I was able to hold Anne Marie again (pictured here). She was calm and peaceful and so beautiful. I remember rocking her and talking to her, and Brandon and I telling her how much we loved her. We were able to hold her and talk to her for a long time. We couldn't see any monitors but the nurses and doctors out in the hall could; about and hour and a half later, Dr. McCurnin (Anne Marie's neonatologist), Dr. Thompson, and Dr. Morris came in and Dr. McCurnin listened to her heart with his stethoscope. I remember his voice shaking as he told us Anne Marie was gone and how sorry he was. And I remember him saying, "She is beautiful. She looks like an angel." And she did. Then Anne Marie's vent was turned off and all her tapes and tubes were removed and we were able to see all of her beautiful face for the first time.

That day was one of the hardest days of our lives. Yet I hope I never forget the details of that day. How it felt to hold Anne Marie, how good she felt in my arms, how kind and gentle the nurses and doctors were, and how peaceful Anne Marie was. I imagine that for a long time I will count time in weeks, months, and years from Saturday, November 21, 2009. I imagine that for a long time as I glance at the clock on a Saturday evening I will think, "Right now I was holding Anne Marie."

And I try to look past my own sadness and remember that four weeks ago today Anne Marie entered the presence of Christ, whole and healed. Four weeks ago today Jesus welcomed Anne Marie into his arms.

And I look towards the future, when one day I will look back on this chapter in our lives and be able to testify to the healing God is bringing to our family.