Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broken Record

A day like today makes me question what I am doing in this job. This is all still so very raw, still so very close to the surface, and everything else sometimes just seems so infinitesimal and unimportant and ridiculous that it all feels like a grand charade that I want to get out of.

I guess I’ve really been struggling for several days, with just a few breaks over the past weekend. But today I had my first closed-door, multiple-Kleenex, stuffy-nosed, red-eyed, full-throttle cry in the office. Two of them actually. One in the morning and one in the afternoon (20 minutes before a meeting—lovely). The afternoon one was set off by a conversation I had with a co-worker who injured her back this weekend. She mentioned that she was going to go to the ER this evening to get something for the pain. Red lights were flashing in my head: “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!” But seeing no way out of the conversation, I kept talking politely. “Yes, the wait at the ER is always so long.” “Yes, it’s even worse when you are sitting there in pain” (or holding your barely conscious child). Then she told me about a time she’d broken her ankle, went to the ER and had to wait too long, so she went back home, set her alarm for 2:00AM and went to the ER then. There were only two people in front of her in line then.

I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” And all I could think was this: Well, why didn’t I think of that? Why, at 4AM, when the fever spiked up again only an hour after a dose of Tylenol, when Hudson was so lethargic (or just very sleepy in my mind—after all, it was 4AM and she had been fighting this fever for a whole day), when she was crying out when I touched her little legs, why didn’t it occur to me that it would probably be a good time to go to the ER? Not too crowded, we’d get in and out quickly, make sure everything was OK. Why didn’t that nice practical reason FORCE ME TO PUT HUDSON IN THE CAR AND GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM?

I was dazed for a few moments. I tried to wrap up the conversation. I went to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. I took breaths. I went back to my desk. I called Ed and said, “I just needed to hear your voice.” And then I lost it. Big time. Sobbed for almost ten whole minutes. I don’t know when I will let go of this, but I clearly still haven’t. There’s just not a bone in my body, not a molecule in my brain, not a space in heart, that isn’t still begging, pleading, groveling for chance to go back in time and do that morning over on the chance that it would mean that Hudson would be alive right now, running around the kitchen while I get her dinner together. Everything we know about meningitis in kids that age says that a course of IV antibiotics should have cured her, that the day after she was admitted, she should have been moved to a general ward for a few weeks of more antibiotics and recovery time. I just can’t get it out of my head that if we’d just found a way to get her diagnosed sooner, get those drugs in her sooner, then she would still be with us and none of the kind strangers who visit here would even know who we are. The ER is a magical place in my head—even though the doctors have told me they think it would have been unlikely that the ER docs would have done a spinal tap at that point (and it’s not even certain that she had meningitis at that point—we just don’t know), the fairy tale in my head that begins with a 4AM trip to the ER (instead of a 8AM trip to the pediatrician and a 1PM trip to the ER for IV fluids) ends with my beautiful, happy, 22-month-old Hudson talking up a storm and getting ready for Halloween right now.

Why didn’t that happen? Why did this happen to us? Why is Hudson not here anymore? Why can’t I have her back? Why are our lives changed in the worst way, forever?

I said last week that I had nothing new to say. Looks like that is true. This is a record that is going to keep playing in my head for who knows how long. I wish I could take it out and smash it against the wall into a thousand pieces. But even then, it would not matter, because Hudson is not here.


  1. Mandy,

    My heart hurts for you. I understand that guilt you feel. It is awful and it pulls you into the deepest pits. I wish there was a reason for all this. Or maybe I don't because maybe having a reason would make things worse. I don't know.

    Medicine should have helped your daughter. It should have helped my son. But it didn't and we are left to wonder why and what if. That is so hard to accept and I can only imagine that it will take a lot of time before letting go of that guilt is even possible.

    Wishing Hudson was still there with you too.

  2. Mandy - I ask myself each day like a "broken record" why Hudson is not here with us, but know that as often as I repeat that in my head I have never once said - well what if Mandy took her to the ER earlier? I know, and your community knows, that you did everything right. With love, Alex K

  3. Oh sweet Mandy- thank you for your comments today. I am right here with you.
    On glow there is a post about guilt and fear. All I could do was keep typing WHAT IF..
    I am a very honest person so I am not going to tell you that I am 100% certain there will ever come a day when you don't ask this of yourself.
    Personally I have said that the what-if's around Cullen's death will haunt me until the day I draw my last breath. It will be with me for a lifetime.
    My only hope is that in between the hissing of the snakes there will be moments of peace with it. Moments where I can live with it better than I do today. I hope that for all of us who live with the guilt and the grief and the insurmountable what-if's.
    You know how much I hate the new life- if anything I hate the loss and the way I view the world around me right now.
    But I am so very grateful to walk this path with people like you who completely understand. Fellow Medusa's who are trying to share some light in a very dark place.
    You are a wonderful mother. You did everything you could for Hudson. I know that doesn't make it any better but I hope that someday in the future you will look back and see it- and see how much she loves you and is guiding you.
    Listen for her voice... hold her in your heart.. and love her like you never thought you could.

    With grace and love- Leslie

  4. There is a book I bought on Amazon recommended by a fellow bereaved called 'Finding Hope when A Child Dies:what other cultures can teach us' by Sukie Miller. You can read about it in Janis' blog under "books". It is worth buying. Even though I am only on the 2nd chapter the words resonate with me- I just wanted to share it as a suggestion...


  5. Mandy, There will always be triggers, but hopefully they will become fewer and less painful. Your coworker was clearly not thinking about your ER experience when she went on and on about hers. I am not a physician, and neither are you. Your gut told you that something was wrong and you arrived at the pediatrician's office as soon as it opened on Monday morning. She is the one expertly trained to diagnose and treat children. You have talked about Hudson's fever not responding to meds and her crying when you touched her legs. If the doctor had admitted her, never mind the ER, and ordered a spinal tap maybe the outcome would have been different. Your heart is broken enough with the loss of your child...you should not be blaming yourself for not seeking medical attention. We have what we have, and reconfiguring our lives after the death of a child is surely the hardest thing we will ever do. My wish for you is peace and brighter days. I am grieving with you. Love, Helen

  6. Mandy,

    You will never "let go of this." You will just find ways to deal with it. Sending you love and big HUGS.


  7. I'm so sorry, Mandy. Sorry that Hudson isn't here, and sorry that you have to go on carrying all these "what ifs". I'm hurting for you, and with you, tonight.

  8. I know that nothing I can say will make you stop second-guessing yourself. That is so painful, Mandy. I'm so sorry this is your "right now." You will never stop missing her or mourning her, but the next "right now" might hold that rainbow. I feel so sad for you. I send my hopes for just a little relief.

  9. Hi.. Barbara from St. Ann's here..we are getting ready for construction and cleaning and I have Hudson's emergencey back pack and some of her clothes..we just look at them and have decided to donate them to the children of St. Ann's ..I hope you are ok with that and God be with you..it is so hard we miss her so much and we talk about her every day..we have never had anything like this happen to us before and she is a special angel who will always be with us... as I have said before I see her in my door smiling at me..be strong and know you can come to see us and we will embrace you and hold you up..

  10. Just sending you big hugs tonight.

  11. Oh, Mandy...it doesn't matter if you sound like a broken record ~ what matters is the record! This blog is your record of the intensely painful journey that you are on, and a record of the amazing job you are doing of baring your heart & soul in the hopes of processing this unthinkable tragedy.

    Play that record as much as you want to ~ we're all here to listen.

  12. This record will never break. It lumes in the background for all of us. Someday a new record of joy will play, but we will never forget this song. We grieve with you and miss Hudson so very much.

    xoxoxo Renee

  13. There are varying degrees of guilt. You have the worst kind right now because it is still so fresh and because you are second guessing a decision that may have made a difference in whether your precious daughter lived or died.

    The bad news is that you will never know whether taking her to the ER sooner would have changed her outcome. Lots of reasons to think not: they might not have done a spinal tap, maybe the meningitis wasn't there yet, maybe the meds wouldn't have worked even then. But that little chance that a trip to the ER in the early morning would have changed the outcome will haunt you for the rest of your life. Was your decision to wait reasonable? Absolutely. Did you do more sooner than many of the readers of this blog would have done? Yes. But who cares about all that when what's at stake is the life of your precious daughter! Just because your actions are reasonable and more responsible than most parents doesn't make it haunt you any less.

    The only thing I can say is that although you will probably second guess this decision for the rest of your life (not thinking about the what if's is probably about as difficult as turning off your love for Hudson), hopefully over lots of time and tears and anger and saying the same things over and over again, you will slowly come to terms with your decision. You were not negligent. You were on top of things. But she died anyway. Hopefully over time those facts will carry more weight in your brain and heart than they do now, and your feelings of guilt and frustration over what, in hindsight, looks like a very easy decision will lessen. Like someone else said, the guilt will probably never go away, but you will eventually learn how to come to terms with it.

    As for your job and dealing with the mundane rituals of getting ready for work, small talking with your co-workers and pretending that you care about someone's plans for the weekend or anger over a parking ticket, and, of course, actually doing your job when you could be at home thinking about and grieving for Hudson all day. Of course those things aren't as important as Hudson. But I know something that is as important as Hudson. You are well aware of the complicated chain of events that could lead to someone's death. Just think that by you doing your job you could be indirectly preventing the death of a child just like Hudson. Pro bono attorneys work to keep people in their homes and off the streets. Pro bono attorneys represent abused children, victims of domestic violence, the elderly, and others who need help the most and are least able to access it. What if you inspire a student or more than one student and get them doing this type of work? Whose lives will be saved and impacted? You don't know the people, but their lives are just as precious as sweet Hudson's and they deserve a chance. You can't save Hudson's life, but maybe you can save someone else's. So even though going to work and working through your grief everyday is so hard, look at all the good things that could come of it. You are actively living Hudson's legacy and what could be a better tribute to her?

    Keep writing. Say the things you need to say as many times as you need to say them. Whatever keeps you breathing and putting one foot in front of the other is exactly what you should be doing. My hope for you is peace and love.

  14. Sweet Mandy. I wish I could take this feeling away from you. This guilt that has no truth. All I can say is you keep sharing, keep playing that broken record as long and as loud as you need to.....and we will keep listening.

  15. Oh, Mandy, I'm so so sorry. I am crying with you reading this post - your pain is so palpable. I of course can't understand what you're feeling, but just know that I care and I hope you'll find some relief from these feelings.

  16. Mandy -- give it time. The What If's will fade. They have for me over the past 15 months, particularly over the past month. And I never thought that would happen -- it's a tremendous relief. So I am confident that you too will eventually have some peace. In the meantime, remember, you made the most reasonable decisions you could with the information you had at the time.