Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doctor’s Office

On Monday, we took Jackson to the pediatrician for his one-month appointment. This was the third time we’d taken him there, all for well visits—once at a few days old, once at almost 2 weeks old, and then Monday. We are taking him back to the same doctor Hudson had. We always loved the office and both doctors there and really never considered going anywhere else this time around.

But it is still hard. I went to see one of the doctors in the office back in March, under the guise that I had questions that I wanted to ask about Jackson, sort of like a prenatal visit. This was true, but I really wanted to go just so that I would be alone during the first time back in that office since that fateful morning when we took Hudson in after a frightening early morning fever. I didn’t want the first time to be with Jackson in my arms. Because I knew it would be bad, and I was right. I cried practically the entire time, from the minute I stepped into the waiting room and off and on through the entire meeting with the doctor, which lasted about 45 minutes. But I was glad to have gotten that first visit out of the way.

I managed fairly well for the first two visits with Jackson. This time, not so much. Maybe it’s because we had to wait longer in the waiting room to be seen (usually we get put into an exam room right away). Maybe it’s because the waiting room was totally empty. Maybe it’s because we were put into the same exam room where we were the last time with Hudson, with its little blue dinosaur coin collector. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard a little baby crying, hard. Probably getting some shots. But as I sat there, all I could think about was that Monday morning last May, how after I cried in the exam room when the doctor said we should go home and keep giving Hudson Tylenol, after I insisted that they do some more tests, Hudson didn’t even flinch when they put a catheter in her to check her urine for a UTI or bladder infection. She should have cried. She should have screamed. But she was limp. She was my child—I knew her better than anyone else—I should have known that something really terrible was wrong and that we should have been at the hospital and not the doctor’s office. How did I not know?

And when we left this past Monday morning, we had to pass by the long frosted glass windows that separate the lab area from the office building’s corridor. And again, all I could think about was how Hudson didn’t even flinch when they stuck her to draw her blood. Why didn’t I march right back upstairs right then and get them to send us to the hospital? Or better yet, why didn’t I just go on to the hospital myself? It was just across the parking lot from where we were. How did I not know?

And whenever we park on the second level there, I can only remember leaving the office last May 10, after waiting forever to get her blood drawn and a chest x-ray. I remember almost exactly where we were parked. I remember opening the van door and putting her into her car seat and saying to Ed, “I bet somebody is going to go right to sleep,” all the while laboring under the impression that Hudson’s lethargy, her limpness, was just pure exhaustion from fighting a fever and being up several times for the past two nights. How did I not know?

And I’ll probably never stand at the checkout window there again without remembering telling Hudson to say bye-bye to the nurses when we left that day. She obliged, looking miserable as she did, waving listlessly and saying, “Bye-bye.” Little did I know that those would be the last words I’d hear her say, with the exception of her telling me “No” whenever I asked her if she would drink something later that day.

It is still hard. It will probably never not be hard on some level. It remains so difficult to let go of the idea that if we’d just caught it sooner, she would be alive today—my brain still wants so desperately to create a new ending. I suppose it is possible that one of the reasons I wanted to go back there with Jackson is because I take some bizarre comfort in the fact that even the doctors had no idea how very sick Hudson was, like we all share some blame for not taking more immediate action first thing that morning, so I don’t have to carry it all myself. But it doesn’t change the fact that she was MY child—if anyone should have known that something was terribly wrong with her, it was me.

As you can see, I still wrestle with this nasty monster. It is much quieter than before. It doesn’t beat its steady beat inside my head all day every day anymore. But it is stealthy. All it takes is the right trigger, like hearing that little baby cry at the pediatrician’s office, and I am locked in a grudge match with it again. I don’t know that I’ll ever be fully rid of it.

All I can do is hope that it will continue to grow weaker with each passing day.


  1. Mandy, I cannot imagine the face of that monster. I know all the reassurance in the world from a complete stranger cannot change it, but good grief, dear girl, I'm SO SORRY you feel the weight of such guilt. You DID know something was wrong, and you did the very best you knew how, with the information you had. Nobody is to blame, and it's just so unfair the way it went.
    I can see and hear in your writing, that although the pain is still searing, the joy of Jackson is filling some holes burned by the flames of anguish. Your heart will continue to expand to hold all the love you have, never pushing Hudson aside.
    I wish I could turn back the hands of time and erase it all. It's just wrong. She should be with you physically, as well as in your heart.

  2. Mandy-I can't not cry reading these thoughts each time you write them. I can hear your pain and can't imagine how u feel. I'm so glad that while these thoughts do come, they don't stay as long as before. Hang in there.

  3. Oh goodness Mandy. This is so hard to read. Wish I knew the right thing to say, and I really wish this had never happened to you. Go easy on yourself, and know that others think of you often. Lots of love to you all. Kell

  4. Like everyone who cares about you, I am here to witness your struggle and your reflections, to reiterate what an amazing mother you are, and to send you love and Light. I am so sorry. And, I am grateful that the nasty monster grows weaker.
    Rachel C.

  5. Oh Mandy, it's heartbreaking. If it's any kind of small consolation, I plan on using your experience to be a more observant nurse (I am in school). I will never forget Hudson even though I didn't know her. I am just so sorry.

  6. No getting around it, hard stuff. I can remember the first visit back "after." It will get easier over time. They put a "major problem" sheet in the front of my surviving daughter's and then my son's chart explaining that their sibling had "expired" due to meningitis. Guess that alerted all staff that I'd need some extra TLC. Good luck.

  7. Kerry in SeattleJuly 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    Mandy, I am so sorry that you have to experience all of this. It is so brave to be so brutally honest with yourself and those of us who read your blog. it was a horrible tragedy what happened with Hudson. please know that we are all supporting you in your journey. Hang on Sister.

  8. Mandy, the guilt will continue to get better. There will be fewer and fewer triggers. I know it's so hard though. I still wrestle with it occasionally, but it's not even close to as bad as it was in the beginning. Olivia
    p.s. and of course, it is not your fault and how COULD you have known???

  9. This life sentence you did not deserve, no one does. I'm so so sorry everyday for Hudson's loss. Loving you 4...Renee P.