Death

Over the years my children have seen a lot of death, have been to one too many funerals, spoken at one too many funerals, and now again, someone close to them is dying.

We were extremely close to my mother’s side of the family. There was my grandmother’s sister, my Aunt Teddie, we watched her die in hospital from breast cancer. I would visit her daily and read to her, I brought my kids to see her frequently, the hospital setting never scared them because she was there.  Next was the little girl in grade six, she died unexpectedly during an operation, all my children were friends with her. The teenage boy, who was very young at the time, wasn’t sure if he wanted to walk up to the casket in the funeral home. I told him that was quite okay because she would know he was there with his prayers. As it turned out, all my kids went up to the open casket to say a few words, I found it hard watching them. My mother then became ill, undiagnosed stage 4 heart disease, they gave her a year to live. Mom was in and out of hospital, in a coma for months, resuscitated, sepsis, meningitis, were all the various things she dealt with while in coma. At one point, my grandmother mistakenly told us my mother had died.

I found my eldest hiding in her room crying – she would never cry at a funeral again, she was twelve at the time and exceptionally close to my mother.  Mom came out of the hospital and was with us for another nine months or so. The last time she went into hospital was very difficult, I was the last one to hear her speak and those words haunt me – she would not see her first-born grandchild, my eldest, walk down the aisle. Mom died just before the eldest graduated from grade eight.  A year later, my grandmother, who I loved far more than words could ever express left us. I cried, cried, and cried. I didn’t know there were so many tears in me. Ten months later, I had been trying all day to reach my uncle, my mother’s brother who we had always spent Thanksgiving with, but that year we were going camping, only to find out he had passed away unexpectedly. There, at a rest stop, all five of us, my husband, three kids, and I cried. We continued to the campsite, not knowing what else to do. That night, while standing around the campfire, instead of waiting for Thanksgiving day to arrive, we ate the two pumpkin pies I had made. We went home early, another funeral to go to.  Not much later, my father became ill, liver cancer. He lived out the last six months of his life with us. The eldest was now in grade twelve, dad missed her graduation. All three kids, the eldest, middle child in grade ten, and the teenage boy in grade nine were able to say goodbye to their grandfather at the hospital, he died the next day. Two years ago, my dad’s mom passed away, she was ninety-six, she had had a long life.

Present day, another loved one is terminally ill, and to be honest I don’t know if my kids can handle another death. Even though they are older, death is not easy and they have seen a lot of death.

Our daughter survived Meningococcal Disease

Middle child was nine months old when she got sick, I had taken her to the on-call physician since ours was off that Wednesday afternoon.  I knew something was wrong with her, she had a temperature, and was lethargic which was completely unlike her. The doctor said a few different things could be wrong, and he mentioned meningitis (this was nineteen years ago and I had never heard of meningitis so I really didn’t panic at that time). He asked me to get a urine sample and take it to the lab immediately. Now getting a urine sample from a baby is no easy task. Basically, the doctor taped a bag on the appropriate place and said just leave it until there is a sample. Well, by the time I returned to my mom’s house (mom was watching middle child’s older sister, since dad was at work) there was a sample. As gently as I could I removed the tape but middle child cried a lot. I gave the sample to my sister who rushed it over to the lab. I gathered up my girls and went to pick up their dad from work.

A few hours went by and middle child was not any better, she was much worse. She was burning up, would not let go of her dad who was holding her, had developed a weird rash, and then all of a sudden had sent a projectile of vomit across the room. I immediately called the doctor (a different on-call physician), who basically said that I should take her to emergency especially if I felt in my heart she was very sick. He said, a mother just knows. If only he knew how right he would turn out to be. I phoned my sister to come watch our eldest and we quickly drove to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, I relayed the information given to me by the doctors, and that they thought she might have meningitis. We were not kept long in the waiting area, when middle child was seen by a doctor. Blood tests were ordered, she was monitored, and we waited, and waited. We had arrived at the hospital somewhere around 7 p.m. Wednesday evening and it was at 4 a.m. Thursday morning that we were told she was gravely ill. She was put on a broad spectrum antibiotic while they figured out why she was ill. They weren’t sure if it was meningitis because the rash was not the normal type of rash associated with it. Middle child was put in isolation, and we had to wear gowns and masks when we were with her. We did not leave her crib, and by Friday night, the doctors were now saying she had Meningococcal disease and they would have to do a spinal tap, take out fluid to determine if it was full-blown Meningococcal Meningitis. They took middle child away for the test, and I cried, a lot. The test did not take long, but again waiting for the results were tortuous. Luckily the meningococcal disease had not reached her brain but she was still gravely ill; she was put on the correct antibiotics to fight this.

It was late Friday night, that I finally left the hospital, we had decided that dad would get a cot and sleep beside middle child’s crib. I went to my mother’s to see my three-year old and tried to explain to her how sick her sister was but that she was now on the right medicine to make her better. We took a bath, and then the two of us spent the night at my mom’s. For the next five nights, I slept at the hospital while hubby worked night shift (luckily at the same hospital). After work, he would go home and sleep for about four hours before relieving me at he hospital. Our eldest stayed at my mom’s, my sister took time off school to watch her. Middle child was in the hospital for nine days, isolation for five of those days. Middle child

On the eighth day, whilst I was sleeping at the hospital, my sister called me to say that eldest was having an asthma attack. I told her to bring her down to emergency and I would meet her there; I called hubby who was working, so he could come up from the broiler room and also meet us in emergency. Eldest was given asthma medicine by mask, and it was another long night. I explained to the physician looking after her eldest that she would usually have asthma attacks just before coming down with tonsillitis plus she had been staying at my mother’s and as it turned out she was allergic to cats, and grandma had a cat. Hours later she was finally discharged, and I took her to our family physician. Eldest had tonsillitis and was put on antibiotics. Middle child was finally well enough to come home on the ninth day with another course of oral antibiotics. Eldest was also on the mend. Dad & middle child

We never found out how middle child contracted meningococcal disease, she had been vaccinated but as we learned, there were many types of the disease. I was just happy that I had followed my instincts and we had gotten her to the hospital on time, because the doctors said if we had waited until the morning, it would have been too late.

The three of us.

Middle child was later diagnosed with a learning disability, is this due to the Meningococcal Disease? It would seem so.