Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Peaceful Sorrow

The day that Ava died was one of the most beautiful days of my life. In fact, I have decided that if I were to watch a movie of my experience, I would have been much more traumatized than I actually was going through it. Now it was not pretty, and it was definitely not fun. And I hope that I never have to go through that again. But I will always be grateful that I was able to.

The day Ava died, we had a doctor's appt scheduled. She had been having labored breathing for a few days, and generally acting a little funny, and so scheduled an appt. We had just gotten Ava strapped into her car bed and were pulling out of the driveway when Ava started turning blue. I told Wade that he needed to get us there five minutes ago, and we sped as quickly as we could to the Budge Clinic.

It was obvious to us and her pediatrician that she was having real issues breathing. Dr. Visick made a quick decision, got a wheelchair for me to sit in and hold Ava, while we were wheeled into the ER. Her oxygen saturation levels were really dropping, getting into the 40s, and never getting above the low 70s, no matter what kind of oxygen mask they got on her. As we were shown into a room, I was told to put Ava down on the table, and from then on I was an observer to the chaos and drama that unfolded.

I think that during times of extreme stress the senses must be much more aware. I can remember what each person was wearing in that room, where they were standing, and what they did. There were two student nurses trying to get Ava's oxygen levels higher so that her brain would not be starved of oxygen. There was the ER doctor, the handsome sauve type that speaks with confidence with his arms folded across his chest, strutting across the room. There was the med student who quietly observed, the drug technician who was trying to calculate dosage for Ava while charting the dozens of drugs being pushed into her system. There were two respiratory therapists, both in those ugly, faded green scrubs, and two or three random people I was never introduced to, but joined when the standard crew needed help in the chaos. Our pediatrician remained there, and bless him, saved her from dying right there on the table.

Ava's oxygen levels were still dangerously low. Multitudes of labs and tests were run with contradictory results. Pneumonia, meningitis, tumors and other infections were all suspected, then ruled out. It was decided that a tube needed to be inserted into her lungs to allow a ventilator to breathe for her, becuase sick or not, her need for oxygen was urgent. The ER doctor took the oxygen mask off, and began to gently lift Ava's tongue and make way through her vocal chords for the tube. He needed to be careful to get the tube into the lungs and not the stomach, else her bowels would be pumped full of air. He got it in, and began to pump on the bag, giving her air. But no, her stomach began to expand, and it became evident that the tube was not correctly fitted.

This time our pediatrician tried. He was going to wait til she recovered from that last attempt, and her heart rate and oxygen became more stable. But she didnt recover. He decided that he had to act, and his voice became increasing more tense, and his posture more rigid. Her oxygen levels plummetted, along with her heart rate, getting into the low 20s. I could not breathe anymore either. Was I really going to watch my baby girl die right in front of me, without getting to hold her, love on her, or tell her I loved her? I wanted to leave the room, but I couldn't. I was most definitely there when she came into the world, and there was no way I wasnt going to be there for her as she left. I was sure she would die, and I was hearing Dr. Visick yelling "Ava, help me Ava. AVA, come on!" Just then I saw him triumphantly smile and give me the OK sign, and I took a long deep breath. Dr. Visick looked radiant. I have never seen someone so full of light before. Ava's oxygen levels came up and her heart rate returned to normal. I heard Charly, the male nurse, congratulate Dr. Visick, and I also heard Dr. Visick respond that he was blessed, and that it was not him that found the correct positioning.

By this time, the AirMed attendants from Primary Children's had arrived. It was time for Ava to be life flighted to SLC. Wade and I said goodbye to Ava and her amazing ER staff, and went home to pack a bag and jump in the car for SLC. We talked and cried and decompressed while packing and eating a quick lunch. We had said about ten different prayers by this point in the day, and continued to do so. By the time we got to Centerville, I again had a huge pit in my stomach; I had felt peaceful and strengthened by the Sprirt just minutes before, and now I felt sick. Just as I was telling Wade to stop driving like his grandma, my phone rang. The hospital social worker was on the line, telling me that Ava had been in cardiac arrest ever since she had been strapped into the AirMed bed. They had done chest compressions the entire trip to SLC. She was still in cardiac arrest, and the doctor warned that she could be gone any minute.

With tears in our eyes, Wade and I prayed again; this time just asking that we be able to hold her one last time.


  1. Jessee you are an inspiration to everyone that knows you. I can't even imagine the things you've been through, my heart just breaks for you. You are the most amazing person I know. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do for you. We love you and are continually thinking of you.

  2. Wow. This is so fresh. I'm sure it's hard to write, especially amid the tears. But this journaling is priceless. My heartfelt condolences for your loss and pain. It's a hard road.

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  4. Oh Jessa. Poor little Ava fought so hard. It will be so beautiful when you get to see her again and be with her forever.

    I found a blog of someone struggling similarly. If it helps: http://www.natalienortonphoto.com/

  5. I don't know if you remember me but we were friends a long time ago in Union Square and had a class together. Anyway, I just wanted to say I'm truly sorry for the loss of your beautiful little girl. You and Wade are such wonderful and strong people; we loved getting to know you. You will be in my prayers.

  6. Wade and Jess- I have been coming to your blog weekly for updates. You are an incredible woman. PLEASE write the book. I have had impressions in my life that a book as such will help me one day. You are in my prayers. I know you will see Ava again. Danielle Gates-Apken
    ps. Tell Wade I send my condolences as well

  7. Wow. I am so so sorry for your loss. That's amazing that you're writing about it so soon. I can't imagine how you're doing that but if you keep doing it from time to time I think it will help you from becoming completely emotionally numb.
    I am so sorry. I will keep you both in my prayers.