Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Happened To Abby?

It was the second to last day of school, and the kids and I got ready. Abby was doing just fine, as a matter of fact, she and I had a dance party and danced to her favorite song like we did every morning (mostly to annoy whichever brother was in the bad mood that day). They got on the bus, and went to school... still a normal day.
They had been at Aaron's house since Saturday, but they come home every morning before school. It was Wednesday, so I got them again until Sunday. Aaron called me to tell me that Trevor had been having trouble breathing and that I might want to see if I could get him into the doctor. I called the doctor that morning and they told me that they could see him at 12:30. I told my boss I was going to take him to the doctor and come back.
When I was leaving work, I called my oldest daughter, Calla, to let her know I was on my way to get Trevor and to let Nate and Abby know that they could go with me, but they had to be ready.
(it was a half day of school)

While I was on the phone with Calla, she told me that Abby was crying and in her bed because of a headache...she told me that she wouldn't stop crying. I told her that I would be right there and That I'd check on her. When I got home, Abby was in Calla's bed and I talked to her. She looked miserable, but it was really hot outside and she had been out playing since she got home from school. I asked her if she'd had any water and she said no, so I got her a glass of water, told her to drink it and lay down to rest. I told her I had to take Trevor to the doctor, but I'd be right back to make sure that she felt better.

At the doctor, blood tests and chest x-rays were ordered and I was supposed to have taken Trevor to the radiology department right away, but I discovered that I didn't have the insurance card. I called Aaron to see if he could meet me at my house (he was off work at this point) and get Trevor back to the doctor so I could get back to work. He agreed.
Trevor, Nate and I stopped at the store to get some snacks. They both bought a stuffed animal and picked one out for Abby (one that they never got to give her until she was in a coma). While I was getting in my car, Calla called again and said that Abby was puking and not talking to her. She said that she said "ABBY!?" and Abby answered, "hello?"

I got home about 2 minutes later to find Calla with Abby on the bathroom floor. Abby was covered in puke and wouldn't move and Calla had a wash cloth and a change of clothes trying to get her cleaned up.
I told Calla that I would take care of it and I thanked her for taking care of Abby.

Abby was in a ball on the floor, leaned up against the bathtub. I said, "Poor baby, your head still hurts, huh? I'm gonna clean you up and see how you feel after that." She said "yes." I moved her and took her shirt off and kept talking to her as I wiped her down.

She stopped responding and stopped breathing a little.. I rubbed her chest and tried to get her talking to me again. When I rubbed her chest, her breathing got deeper again, but she wasn't responding. I yelled for Calla to bring me the phone and dial 911. I was trying really hard not to panic, but I knew something was wrong... my first thought was meningitis... I wish I was right...about meningitis, that is.

I talked to the 911 operator and told her what was going on. My voice was panicked and shaky, but I was holding it together.

The ambulance got there in 2-3 minutes, but it felt like an eternity while I was trying to get her to respond to me. I was getting little responses, but nothing that was making me less terrified.

When the paramedics got there, I got out of their way. The one did a few basic checks on her and then scooped her up and ran out of the house with her... Aaron had just gotten there to meet me for Trevor and he held the door for them. He was confused and scared, I'm sure.

They put her on the stretcher and called a few codes into the radio as they put her in the back of the ambulance. They told me to get in and asked me tons of questions.

I felt so inadequate... She hadn't been with me for longer than the morning for the past few days, so I couldn't give an accurate recent history... So they had to ask Aaron.

THEN, they wanted to know what happened immediately before her headache... and, again, I hadn't been with her, so they had to ask Calla and my dad. I actually got out of the ambulance because I was useless at that point.

I had to grab my purse, make sure I had the insurance card, my phone, ask my dad to call my boss...

I got back to the ambulance and I was carrying the shirt that I never got to put on her.

By this time all of the neighbors were out on the sidewalk watching and 2 fire trucks had shown up...

I was in denial... I knew something tragic was about to happen,... I just knew it.. but I couldn't let myself believe it.

They closed the ambulance doors and we drove away.

The 2 EMTs were amazing with her and with me.

They kept asking her questions and she wasn't answering, but finally...

He asked if she could hear him and she gave a "thumbs up". I noticed it and yelled, "look at her thumb" She gave 3 more thumbs up and I told her I was right there and that I loved her so much

She never responded again...

We got to Garden City hospital and the doctor didn't give us any hope. He said, "We are giving her a ct scan, but as soon as that is done, she will be airlifted to Children's hospital and we will give them the results as soon as we get them."

She got the scan, and he told me she had a brain bleed, but they were waiting on further results, and she was no longer stable enough for an air lift.

They had to send the mobile NICU from Children's Hospital.The PandaOne (mobile NICU) got there and they loaded her in. I realized that the medics from the first ambulance ride were still there and one of them made sure I was able to ride with the PandaOne. I had to sit in the front seat. That paramedic helped me into the front seat and said he'd be praying... I was so appreciative that this man didn't leave my side for one second

On the way there...

We were riding with sirens and lights and people were not stopping... I wanted to scream at them. I was bound and determined to keep my composure.

The driver asked if I was ok. I explained that all I wanted to do was jump in front of all of the medical professionals and hug her, but I knew that her only chance of survival at that point was to have me stay out of the way.
She told me how much parents like me make their job easier.
We made some small talk about how people always pull over when she is driving a Children's ambulance, but this one didn't say children's on it.

I can picture in my mind every single car that we passed... every light, every single second from the time I was on the bathroom floor with Abby until I got to Children's hospital in Detroit.

It's like a terrible movie that I can't forget... but I don't want to forget either.

From the time that they unloaded Abby at Children's and they told me that evening that surgery wasn't an option because of the location of the bleed and because they couldn't stabilize her enough to even give her an MRI and that she most likely would never wake up from a coma if she even lived... that whole part is a blur.

I can't tell you who I talked to, who was there, what they told me, how I felt or anything... It is literally a blur.

The next thing that I remember is walking up the ramp in the family waiting room to tell my family that the neurosurgeon just told me that there was nothing he could do for her.

By then... I guess all of Facebook knew of Abby and what was happening. I'm not sure what happened or why so many people cared so deeply about it, but I was so appreciative and humbled.

When I was first talking with the neurosurgeon... he said that since she had no prior symptoms of any sort of brain bleed... dizziness, slurred speech, headaches... until she got her terrible headache hours earlier, they were confident that she had an AVM rupture. they could tell from the CT scan, that the bleed was in her brain stem, in the exact spot that they could not operate. Besides the location of the bleed, she was too unstable for surgery... they couldn't even get her stable enough for an MRI to diagnose the problem with 100% certainty, but given the chain of events, he would be willing to put his credibility on the line and report the cause of death as an AVM rupture. She had never breathed on her own since the middle of the first ambulance ride.

She never responded to anything. 

They never suggested pulling her off of the life support. They gave us the "hope" of trying to stabilize her enough by the morning for tests.

I CLUNG to the words "stabilize her enough for tests"

BUT,  he also said, surgery wasn't an option, he mentioned a death certificate, and organ donation... I ignored all of that... until... those words came out of my mouth when speaking to the family... That was the first time I cried.

I stayed at the hospital Wednesday night with her... Thursday night with her... Friday night they declared her death.

We signed papers for organ donation and stayed with her body on the machines Friday night...

Saturday, I found out that they wouldn't be able to do the organ transplants until Sunday... Father's day.

I stayed with her again Saturday night. Aaron went home and came back... It was father's day and Abby was dead... The nurse and I talked him into going home to be with our other 3 children that needed and wanted him. Abby no longer needed him, but Calla, Trevor and Nathanial did.

I stayed with her until they wheeled her away to do the organ transplants.

Walking away from that hospital without Abby was the hardest thing I've ever done... and I was completely alone.

It was the darkest day of my life.

not Friday... not Wednesday... but Sunday...

Somehow, I had the comfort that although Aaron and I did not get our miracle, and that Father's day was absolutely the worst day for Aaron... There were 6 other families that got their miracle...they had the best Father's Day imaginable because of my sweet Abby.

Her organs were a PERFECT match for every person that received them... that alone is miraculous.

and her organs were PERFECT

every single organ was perfect

and her heart is beating in the chest of a 6 year old boy in Illinois.

her lungs and liver are in one little girl

her kidneys went to 2 different people

her corneas went to a 56 year old woman

her pancreas went to a little girl with diabetes

Abby was put here on earth to be a miracle for these people.

Now that Abby has been gone for 6 months, the comfort and understanding of knowing that she saved lives is diminishing.  I no longer find that comfort when I think of all of other families who were blessed by Abby's death... I feel more anger, bitterness, sadness, emptiness and instability.   I'm not sure how to work through it. There are days that I feel as if I am unraveling and and it is scary.  I don't know what else to do right now, except to write about it.   I don't think keeping my pain a secret is healthy and I'm sure I'm not really fooling anyone.

 Be patient with me, I'm not who I used to be.
The person I was on June 12, 2013 when I accompanied my youngest daughter into the hospital is a completely different person than who I was when I left hospital without her on June 16, 2013. 


  1. Julie,
    Your Journey is so very interesting to me! Being a mom of 2 girls and knowing a little about your sons and Abby, makes me inquisitive of what you are going through and how you are dealing...
    You are Remarkable! Your story and this entire experience is not wished on ANY parent/mother!!! I cannot imagine. I will never want to deal with what you and your family was given to deal with!!
    Prayers and Faith give Hope and Comfort I am sure, but the loss is TREMENDOUS and UNIMAGINABLE!!!!!
    Blessings to you and your family now and through the New Year <3
    I hardly know you and began contact with you because of What has happened. That is interesting to me.
    God Bless.
    Do the things you love to do and be with the people you love to be with!! You deserve this!
    Take care, Emily Good

  2. Julie,
    I have followed your posts and continue to pray for you and your family. Please know that just because the days go on............our heart felt prayers and thoughts for all that you are going through remain constant. You are loved! We lift you and the kids up on a daily basis believing God to provide comfort, strength and provision for your every need.
    Much Love,
    Kelly Astwood (Price)

  3. Love you and still praying for you. Those are the only words I have. <3<3

  4. Sending love and prayers your way.

    This is my first time reading one of your posts but my prayers are with you and your family.

  5. Abbys Army forever. We are always here for you. xxoo. so much love

  6. My heart aches for you and I do not even know you personally.. The pain you have went through and continue to go through each day is unimaginable to me and I pray for your pain to be released into the white light of the holy spirit. Thank you for sharing your story and I know you must not feel brave, but to me you are. To open up and speak of your nightmare shows so much courage. I believe in my heart you will get past this stage and be able to love your babies the way they deserve. Do what must be done to honor your lost child & the family that still needs your guidance.

  7. I can't fathom what you're going through. I am just so so so sorry and it hurts my heart that this happened. I wish you any peace and comfort possible. Blessings to you and your family.

  8. Julie...I'm a friend of Alicia's and Brenda's. I was their PartyLite consultant and have known them for years. I was at Abby's funeral, sitting by myself, grieving with you all. I don't know what it's like to loose a child, and I don't ever want to find out. I do have friends that have lost them. To illness, to suicide, still born etc.
    I lost my mother when I was 19 to suicide. I lost my grandpa when I was 16 and he was so special to me. Grandma, Aunts, Uncles and friends. But it seems that a child would be unbearable. Expect for the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ "I am with you always even until the end of the age". Although you did not ask for my advice I have thought of you and your family, and sent prayer to our loving Lord on your behalf. Allow yourself to grieve. Just don't grieve like those who have no hope. There are so many stages of grief. I just got through mine of being angry with my mom about 6 years ago, and she died in 1969. "To EVERYTHING there is a season". Every "first" will be like reliving the whole thing over and over. With each passing day, month and year, it will not hurt as much. I'm not saying it won't hurt. There will be an ache in your heart forever. And I have found that men and women grieve so differently. It will come in waves. Just when you think you are handling something, a song, a movie, something someone says will come crashing in like a hurricane. It will get easier with time. But it will never be easy. Don't try to deal with this without support and help. And I give you credit for being honest in your blog. Let those that love you and are closest to you know how you are feeling. And possibly do something in honor and celebration of Abby's young life. When I feel like I can't possibly go on, I get down on my knees and surrender to my Lord Jesus Christ. Even though He knows you can't handle it, He still wants to hear from us. I'm not sure if this will help you at all, but I met a lady today that lost her son when he was 11, to some rare disease that was diagnosed with when he was 4 1/2. She said that it isn't any easier knowing that you are going to loose them eventually or having something that you are preparing for. Just wanted to let you know that you and your entire family are in my prayers. May the God of the risen Lord, hold you in the palm of His Almighty Hands and bring you some kind of peace during this most joyous and blessed season. He is the SEASON and we are the REASON.

  9. I am deeply sorry for your loss. Thank you for choosing organ donation and helping all those families while still dealing with your own saddness and pain.

  10. My heart aches because truly, there is nothing worse than what you and your family have been through. Be angry, be bitter, be mad. Let it out. None of this was fair and it certainly was a shitty deck of cards. But then, when those feelings have dissipated, be willing to open your heart to a little bit of light... you parented a magnificent child. Such a wonderful, small, perfect person that has indeed given a great gift to many - including me. Because now, I will go back and forget about the insignificant things that trouble me and focus on what I do have. Sending you compassion, understanding and endless love.

  11. I spent a week at Children's Hospital with my infant daughter. We had a happier outcome but reading your story brought it all back. I will pray for you and your family. No parent should ever outlive their child. Your daughter truly made a remarkable impact on the lives of many in her short time on the planet. I hope that knowing that and the passage of time make your load a bit lighter. God bless you.

  12. Julie I cant even imagine going through all you did...you are a trooper. I cant stop balling my eyes out. Its ok to be bitter and sad and the emptiness will always be there. Just know that that is what makes you normal!!! God Bless you and your family.

  13. As I sit here in childrens hospital at this moment reading this I am in tears.We were airlifted 56 days ago with a brain aneurysm that ruptured and a blood clot. My Collin was in a coma and still hasn't talked. I am so sorry Julie, but Abby helped saved lives. It is OK to be bitter and grieve. God bless you and you are forever in my prayers.

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