An Unexpected Awakening
It was Thursday June 23rd, 2016 at about 3:45AM. My dog, Topher, was sleeping down below my feet under the sheets and started to move towards Rachel. She had complained before how the dogs crowded her space at night, so when he went to her and she started to push him away, I grabbed on to him to keep him on my side of the bed. I knew she’d appreciate that.
Good boy, Topher. Let’s leave Momma alone tonight.
But, Rachel didn’t stop pushing him away even though Topher was nowhere near her.
Are you ok?
Rachel, are you ok?
I flipped on my lamp and looked over. To my horror, Rachel was shaking uncontrollably. I threw the covers off careening poor Topher head-first into the bench next to our bed. I grabbed my phone, dialing 911 as I ran to her side of the bed. I don’t know where the instinct came from, but I rolled her on to her side so she wouldn’t choke on her saliva. Phone ringing, I kept telling myself “Be calm. They can’t help you if you’re not calm.” My heart was pounding out of my chest. My best friend was convulsing, making unnatural and inhuman noises. I was so scared.
My wife is having a seizure
There was something about saying the words that shook me even more than the event unrolling before my eyes. Poor Topher knew something was wrong and was hiding under the bed. Time felt like it had come to a crawl. The 911 operator had informed me that an ambulance was on its way. Once Rachel had stopped seizing I decided it was a good idea to put on clothes, unlock the front door, and try to corral the dogs into their kennels. I got Ginger into the bathroom and shut the door, but was never able to get Topher out from under the bed while also keeping a close watch on Rachel. The whole time, my phone was pressed tightly against my ear as the operator told me to stay on the line.
The ambulance finally arrived and I directed them to our bedroom where she lay. Her breathing was forced and her eyes were rolling. The lights came on. Barking came from under the bed.
One of the paramedics asked. Rachel started to move a little. The paramedics started to pull the sheets off of her. Acting like a young child that didn’t want to get out of bed, her face scrunched up and she curled into a fetal position. She still wasn’t aware of what was happening. Topher was still barking.
I tried, hoping that a familiar voice would coax more of a response. The paramedics were performing several checks, blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, etc. Slowly, she began to become more aware of the fact that the lights were on and something was happening as she sat up and looked around, but she had the appearance of someone unusually groggy. I still had the phone pressed tightly against my ear. It was somewhere around this time that I realized that the 911 operator had hung up a long time ago and so I put the phone away while they worked.
At last, it was time to move her to the hospital. Sadly, she had decided not to wear any sort of night gown to bed that night, so I had to find something to put on her and then I had to try to put it on her. This task proved more difficult than I would have imagined. I wasn’t thinking clearly at all and I was shaking so bad myself that I tried to shove her head through the sleeve of the shirt I had picked out. She wasn’t fully cooperating either. Somehow, we got it on in a way that would cover her up if anyone saw her. I’m still not sure she was wearing the shirt the way a shirt is supposed to be worn.
They couldn’t fit a stretcher through the hallway, so they had to carry her by her legs and arms out to a stretcher in the living room. I followed the paramedics as they loaded her into the ambulance. They asked me where to take her and I told them St. Luke’s; that’s where her OB/GYN was located. I guess I have neglected to mention up until now: Rachel was 5, almost 6, months pregnant with our first child; a boy we named Peter. The ambulance drove away as the first responders remained and told me that I should try and gather some of the things she might need like clothing, hygiene products, etc. I’m glad they said that because my first and only instinct at that point was to get to the hospital to be with her. I gathered some clothes and other things, dressed slightly more appropriate (do gym shorts and a plain white t-shirt count?), got in the car and headed to the hospital.
What is going on?
It was some time after 4AM. 4:30 to 4:45 I think. While driving to the hospital, I called Rachel’s mother hoping she would be awake, but didn’t get an answer. So, I left a voicemail, something like:
Rachel had a seizure. She’s at St. Luke’s in Lee’s Summit.
Hearing my voice gave me chills as I was bawling and my voice hinted at it. I can’t describe it well, but it was a feeling as though I was losing her. I was so scared. I called my mother and left a similar message for her.
I pulled in to the Emergency Room parking lot and went inside. I talked to the desk attendant and she told me they were still in the process of getting her to an ER bed, so I needed to wait a while until I could go back with her. It felt like forever.
Some time around 5AM my mother showed up and shortly after, we were finally able to go into the ER. Rachel was back to her old self at this point, all smiles, saying how she can’t believe she had a seizure. This gave me a little bit of relief. My adrenaline was slowly starting to drop back down to safer levels. Doctors and nurses came and went. Questions were asked. Hypotheses were made. I don’t remember much of the details except that the words “eclampsia” and “pre-eclampsia” were used a lot. I didn’t really care because all I wanted to do was look at her and hold her hand and be there with her and for her.
The ER doctors were ready to release her at this point as it seemed like a typical seizure case from their view. Enter: Valiant Valerie, the wonderful nurse that took care of us. She was from the OB’s office. It was funny to see her get all up tight about how the ER doctors were ready to release Rachel even though she was pregnant which obviously doesn’t seem right for a patient who has never had a seizure before.
Even though Rachel wasn’t exhibiting the classic hallmark symptom for eclampsia, high blood pressure, they decided to treat her as if she was experiencing eclampsia by administering magnesium. Poor Rachel. It was administered by IV and caused her to feel incredibly warm. Thankfully, they gave us a tub full of ice water and cloths that I could use to put on her neck and forehead to try and cool her down.
Rachel’s family arrived in the ER and came to visit. They had brought breakfast which I was so thankful for as it was probably around 6:30AM and my stomach had started to rumble. I went out into the ER waiting room while a couple of her sisters went back to visit with her. One thing that was told to me about eclampsia is that the only known “cure” is delivery. This idea seemed to bring excitement to everyone since “the baby could be coming!”. Everyone except me; it’s only been 25 weeks.
Rachel was later transferred to the maternity ward. The beds were much nicer and the room was large enough to house all our family. Doctors, nurses, and people came and went. They had her hooked up to a contraction monitor. Basically a seismograph for pregnancy. The seizure had caused her to start contracting and they were trying to make sure the contractions weren’t getting worse. To help with her blood flow and the contractions, they had a pillow propped under one side of her back which caused her back to start hurting. I spent the majority of the time just staring at her. What if it happens again? I don’t know what I’d do without her. I don’t want to think of what I’d do without her…
The doctors were still not sure of what caused the seizure, so they ordered an EEG to monitor her brain waves while they gave her some epilepsy tests. They did noticed some abnormal activity, but also said it’s possible that it’s residual activity from the seizure. Nothing necessarily concrete to be considered epilepsy. They told us they would continue to monitor her blood pressure and urine protein content for any indication of eclampsia.
About 3 or 4 in the afternoon we were told that the protein count in her urine had increased enough to make the assumption that she had eclampsia. Delivery is the only cure. The problem was that Rachel was only 25 weeks pregnant. The St. Luke’s facility in Lee’s Summit didn’t have the appropriate NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to properly care for a 25-week gestation premature child. So, we packed up our stuff in order to move to the St. Luke’s in downtown KC. There they had the proper equipment to handle newborns as young as ours.
Before we departed, I received a phone call from Rachel’s OB/GYN. She was unable to be with us that day, but she called in order to stay in touch. She was a very kind and caring doctor and definitely cared about Rachel and her well-being. On the phone, she tried to prepare me for what was ahead. She said that once we arrived at the other hospital, we would meet with the neonatologist who would explain to us the seriousness of the situation. I remember asking her how young the premature babies were that the NICU had handled in the past. She didn’t know the figure, but from the sound of her voice, I knew that the odds were not in our favor.
We arrived at St. Luke’s in downtown KC between 5 and 6 in the afternoon. We got to take a ride in the ambulance to get there. There, we met the new OB that would be taking over the case at St. Luke’s KC. After waiting for a room to become available, Rachel was finally taken to her new maternity room. More vital checking, more urine samples, and more contraction monitoring. Eventually, they told us that they would try to induce labor by using some chemically laced strip of paper strategically placed. Hopefully, within 48 hours Rachel would give birth naturally. If not, they were going to have to perform a C-section.
Nurses and guests came and went. Every now and then I would visit with people in the waiting room. My brother was in Paris, so he was not able to come, but my sister-in-law made it and gave me a hug for him. Every time I had to explain the situation to someone new the reality of it caused me to choke up and break down. I can’t believe this is happening.
Night came and the neonatologist came to our room to try and prepare us for the road ahead. She explained that there was a 60-65% chance of survival for someone at 25 weeks. There might be complications. For example, if his lungs hadn’t developed enough, he could literally suffocate to death and there would be nothing that they could do. She outlined the plan. He would be born and immediately taken to the NICU. There they would hook him up to a respirator and place him in a humidity and temperature controlled container to try and simulate some of the moisture and temperature of the womb. If his lungs weren’t elastic enough, they would administer surfactant. They would start by providing him nutrients via IV, but would eventually install a PICC line for long-term nourishment. She explained that at the time of birth she would need my signature in order to install the PICC line. All of that was just at the time of birth. She explained that his blood vessel’s would be extremely fragile and that they would have to be very careful when moving him. Moving his head slightly could cause severe problems. There was a great risk for brain damage. His eyes would most likely not be normal and he may be blinded. He would most likely have a harder life than normal. I asked her the same question: What was the youngest premature child that they had cared for?
That gave us some hope, but 28 weeks increased the chance of survival to beyond 75%.
The nurse that was with us during the night gave me a severe warning that I had better eat something because she didn’t want me fainting when I was needed to make important decisions. So, I had a cheeseburger for supper. It was 11PM and I was exhausted. Rachel’s sisters had brought all of their belongings and set up camp (quite literally) in the waiting room and had planned to stay the night there taking turns watching her in the middle of the night in case she had another seizure.
I laid down on a cot that the hospital had brought in for me hearing Mark Schultz’s lyrics for “He’s My Son” playing over and over in my head. With tears falling down my cheeks, I eventually drifted off to sleep.
Not again… June 24th, 2016
Her sister had cried, somewhat waking me up.
She’s having another seizure!
I immediately awoke and was on my feet. I rushed to Rachel, again rotating her to her side and holding her there while I told her sister to go find a nurse. Minutes later, nurses came in right at the end of her seizure. It was about 3:45AM, almost 24 hours since the last seizure. Stepping back, I tried to calm myself down again. I wished I hadn’t eaten that cheeseburger before falling asleep because it was just sitting there in my stomach, full of churning acid. I became sick to my stomach and ran into the bathroom while the nurses attended to Rachel. After a few minutes my stomach calmed down and I was able to return to her side. She was starting to move about, but she still didn’t recognize where she was and was fighting the nurses. I tried to calm her down, but nothing seemed to help.
They informed me that they needed to perform an emergency C-section as they wheeled her from the room. I was still week-kneed and my stomach was still unpleasant as I found some chair to sit in while I waited.
I can’t believe this is happening
All of a sudden, a blood-curdling scream came from somewhere down the hall and I specifically remember thinking that someone was having a bad day. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that the person screaming was Rachel. It was the kind of scream someone would have in either severe pain or intense fear. It was as if someone had taken her away from me and threatened to kill her if I didn’t comply with their every wish and I had failed. I can still hear that scream and I hope I never have to hear it again.
After what felt like an eternity, a nurse came and got me. As we were walking she told me that Rachel was doing well as was our son. He was born 4:21AM June 24th, 2016, Peter James Boman. She said he had tried to cry when they brought him out, but he was unable to. He wasn’t supposed to be able to cry yet. I was taken to the NICU where I had to meet with the doctors to provide permission for treatment. After signing several papers, I was finally able to see my son for the first time. I was in pure awe. Partly because it was my son, a child that was made in the image of both his mother and father, but also because of his size. He was 1 pound 11 ounces and only 13 inches long. Barely larger than my shoe. I only spent a minute or two watching him because all I could think about was getting back to my wife. All I could think of was that I made a vow to her and her alone and I wanted to make sure she was alright.
They brought me to her in the ICU where she was laying on a stretcher bed. She was starting to come out of the anesthesia. Grimacing from the pain and contorting her face, she quietly exclaimed,
I looked at the attending nurse who said they were in the process of trying to get her pain medication.
Ooooow. It hurts. It hurts so bad.
I know, Rachel. I’m so sorry.
She kept her eyes closed and was still out of it, but at the same time she was aware enough to notice the pain. I tried to caress her head as it was the only thing I could think of to try and ease the pain. Her face seemed to calm some. I continued to caress her head and hold her hand, telling her she was doing an amazing job. Every time my hand would stop too long, she would again grimace.
I know, Rachel. They’re getting medicine.
I kept caressing her. It’s the most pain I’ve ever seen her in and it hurt me to see her like that and to be completely powerless to help her. I began to become irritated at how long it took to get her some pain medication, but it finally arrived. They gave her a button that would allow her to get a shot of pain medication if she needed it every 15 minutes. This seemed to help with the pain immensely. As time passed, she had drifted in and out of consciousness. Once I saw that the pain medication helped relieve her, I asked the nurse if it was alright for me to go back to the NICU. Since Rachel hadn’t seen Peter yet, I wanted to try and take a few pictures for her.
For anyone who has never tried to enter a NICU, it’s like Fort Knox. The nurses had given me two access cards that contained special information in order to allow us in. One for me and one for Rachel. In order to get to the NICU, you had to buzz into the hallway to the NICU using the information on the cards.
I’m here to see Peter Boman
That got me into the hallway. Then, I had to perform the same security measures at the doors to the NICU itself. Once inside, I had to be sterilized. I had to place my phone in a zip-lock bag and I removed my watch because I had to wash my arms all the way up to my elbows. I washed the crud out of my arms quite literally. They told me that I only needed to wash once and then again only if I ever left the building. I didn’t care: I was going to wash every single time. In my mind, my son’s life was at stake and I didn’t want to take any chances.
My heart was calm at this point. There was no longer any fear or despair. Only pure awe. There was a small whiteboard in his room that someone creative had written in big bright red font
1lb. 11 oz.
June 24th, 2016
They had the tiniest respirator tube in his mouth. There was a gold metallic heart-shaped sensor on his side. The nurses there told me that it measured his body temperature. If his temperature started to drop, the isolation container that he was in would increase in temperature. It was around 95 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% humidity. By the way, the nurses in the NICU are just incredible. They’re kind and compassionate. They love their jobs and were excellent at it and they loved informing me of everything. One of the nurses told me that in a week or two we’d be able to hold him. I was astounded. There were two holes on each side of the container that allowed the hands of the nurses through. She asked me if I wanted to touch him.
Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to break him.
She laughed and assured me that I wouldn’t break him. They told me that his skin was super sensitive, though, so if I wanted to interact with him, I would have to “hold” him and resist the urge to pet him. I declined the chance to hold him at that time and just continued to stare.
At the time I remember thinking, “I missed it. I missed that special moment where I realize I’m a father.” Looking back on it now, I didn’t miss it at all. I did absolutely everything that a father could do and I knew this little guy was special; more special than anyone or anything I’d ever seen before.
I stared at him, thinking of how one day I’d tell him just how small and helpless he was, holding out my hands to show him. This tiny thing just lying there sleeping. The respirator pumping; he had a strong heartbeat. He must have gotten that from his mother.
I took a few pictures and recorded a short video clip so that Rachel could see him alive and well and then eventually left to go show her. Back in the ICU, Rachel was much more aware of her surroundings. I was able to carry on conversations with her. I showed her Peter for the first time.
Ooooooooooh, he’s soooo cute.
I sent the picture to her phone so that she would have the pleasure of introducing him to everyone. She was so happy at that moment.
After a time, the nurses informed us that Rachel could be moved from the ICU back into her maternity room. Before returning to her room, however, we stopped by the NICU, allowing Rachel to see Peter with her own eyes for the first time. They rolled her stretcher up as close as they could get her to his container.
Ooooo my gosh.
He’s so cute.
She stuck her hand through one of the openings and held on to his right foot. His tiny foot in between her fingers and against her palm. I will tell you, she was an absolute mess at this point after all that she’d gone through, but the look on her face let everyone in the room know what was important to her at that moment. She had a beauty that only a loving mother could have. She fixed her gaze on him with a big smile. It was at that moment that I realized all three of us, as a family, were together.
Rachel was moved back to her room. Most likely due to exhaustion, I can’t remember exactly what happened at this point, but I do know that Rachel’s sisters were a huge help. All of our family and friends were. They’d bring us food, provide us water, and, because it was our anniversary and first child, I asked them to go out of the hospital to get Rachel gifts for me. Parents and guests came and went as did doctors and nurses. Rachel was given a breast pump in order to attempt to collect milk for Peter. A mother’s milk is about the only defense a newborn child has, so I took this step seriously. They told us to try and collect as much as we could and to send it to the NICU where they would freeze it until they could administer it once he was able to eat. He was still receiving nutrients via IV. They told us that they would wait a couple of days to make sure he was stable before inserting the tube.
It was after Rachel had given birth that she started to have “episodes”. They seemed like deja vu or other familiar experiences. Other times, it was more like a dream while she was awake. At one point, Rachel said that she dreamt or saw: me, her, Tarzan, and “Meriwether” laying in our bed at home. For obvious reasons this concerned us and we had a doctor from neurology come visit with us. Based on my description alone he immediately declared that she was having partial seizures and immediately wanted to get her on seizure medication. This was right after telling us that seizures are no more harmful than having a glass of alcohol, if that. The only harm comes from falls or the physical reactions. I am no doctor, but the longer I was at the hospital the more I learned that no one knows how the human body works and I wasn’t about to quickly allow medication that affects the electrical impulses in the brain. You kind of need your brain to live, so let’s act cautiously with it, right? The other danger with anticonvulsants is that your brain ends up adjusting to the medication in order to achieve “normality”. If you forget to take your medication for some time (a day or two?), it’s like removing the insulation of the wiring in your house: your brain can short circuit/overload and you can experience a seizure more easily. In my mind, I needed conclusive evidence that she needed the medication before we blindly give it to her. In his mind, she didn’t have eclampsia and simply had epilepsy. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced the syndrome of using a hammer long enough to the point that everything looks like a nail and it felt like the same case here. I rejected treatment for now. If she seized again, then sure, but for now, no. At this, the doctor left.
Due to my desire of wanting more tests run to see if she had epilepsy, Rachel was eventually moved from the maternity ward (which had amazingly large rooms, comfortable beds, and water stations were readily available) to the neurology ward (tiny rooms, not-so-comfortable beds, and water stations were behind locked doors). She had to be moved to this ward because it was the only place that had cameras built-in along with the EEG machine. They wanted to record her physical activity while simultaneously monitoring her brain activity. She was given a button that would place a marker in the recordings when pressed. If she had another “episode”, then she was supposed to press the button. Unlike the first EEG that she was hooked up to with temporary nodes, this time the nodes were cemented on to her head for a more permanent fix. It required a mineral spirit-like liquid in order to remove them. Rachel kind of looked like the robot from Superman 3 when all was said and done. Because she was wired up like this, she wasn’t free to leave the room.
As guests came and went, I would take them down to the NICU to see Peter. Every time I went, the phrase “I could just stare at him forever” kept popping out of my mouth and I would tell everyone to let me know when they got bored. On one occasion, I went down by myself to see how he was doing. And, for some reason, I had enough courage to hold him. I can still remember how it felt. I had to sanitize my hands one more time before sticking them into the chamber. Once inside, my hands immediately began sweating due to the warmth and high humidity. Per the nurses instructions, I cradled my left hand around his tiny head and my right hand around his feet. I could feel the tiny little hairs on his head in my palm. On my other hand, his toes started to curl around my palm as if his foot was trying to understand the thing touching it.
Rachel and I would carpool to work and every morning on the way to work, he’d wake up and begin kicking.
Good morning, Peter.
she’d always say. I hoped he could recognize my voice.
On another occasion, I took Rachel’s dad down to see him. We went close to 7PM. I can remember that easily because the NICU would have a shift change from 6:30PM to 7:30PM and during that time, no one but staff was allowed to enter or leave the NICU. Around 7:30PM, we were allowed to enter. Normally, close to bed time, when Rachel would start to wind down, he would start kicking. It was the funniest thing. He was dancing, kicking his feet. His little legs would fly up in the air, the skin around his knees got all scrunched up. We tried to get a video of it, but once we got our phones ready, he decided he’d had enough dancing. When I first met him, the nurses had told me that “everything was there. He’s just small and needs to grow. He doesn’t have any fat.” Because of that, he looked very muscular. I told Rachel that he looked like the Incredible Hulk; just muscle everywhere.
Sunday June 26th, 2016
It was somewhat of a gloomy day. I hadn’t been outside much since all of this started as I spent most of the time with Rachel, but I do remember that the light coming in through the window in our room was cloudy. We had movies on the TV throughout the day to pass the time. Rachel was still on the magnesium drip at this point. In case it was eclampsia, the treatment was to remain on the magnesium IV until a couple of days after birth. It wasn’t as heavy of a drip as initially, so she wasn’t as warm with it, but it was still enough that Rachel wasn’t completely like herself. It was like her mind was cloudy. In fact, to me, she looked depressed. I had decided to borrow one of her sisters’ camera to go down and take pictures of Peter. With the plastic bags around the phones, the pictures weren’t as clear as they could be. A camera didn’t require a bag, so I hoped I could get better pictures of Peter in order to, hopefully, cheer her up.
Around noon, I went down to the NICU. The nurses were dressed differently. They had yellow garments tied around their normal smocks that covered their entire bodies. It was then that they told me that Peter’s white blood cell count was higher than normal which possibly meant infection, so they were taking extra precautions when handling him. They told me I could hold him again, but I also had to adorn one those body-length yellow garments for his protection. I decided I’d rather not take a chance. They had his head wrapped in a bandage due to the blue light they were shining on him. It’s common for newborns to have excessive bilirubin which causes them to turn yellow. Most newborns will eventually filter it out through their livers, but for premature babies whose livers are not fully functioning, they would shine a blue light on them that would help break up the bilirubin so that it could be passed through their urine. Because of this, I wasn’t able to take any photos. My intent was to cheer Rachel up, not depress her, so I returned back to her room.
I couldn’t help but continue to think of how distraught Rachel looked and was trying to think of ways to cheer her up. And that’s when I had the idea to write her a letter.
Dear Rachel, …
I started out. I went on to tell her how much I loved her and how much she meant to me and how I needed her and how Peter needed her. I distinctly remember using the phrase
Peter and I both need you now more than ever.
And that’s when the phone rang.
This is the neonatologist down in the NICU. Peter’s white blood cell count has spiked and he is fighting off an infection.
Do I need to do anything?
You should probably come down here.
I closed my laptop and started to head out the door. My heart started to pound out of my chest; much like it is right now as I’m writing this.
Peter’s not doing well.
I barely sobbed out. Letting everyone in the room know.
Try to get Rachel down there as quick as you can. I’m going to go down there.
I walked with haste. So many thoughts were flooding my mind.
This can’t be happening
I was wearing my Engineering Club T-shirt. I pulled out my phone and sent my dad a text:
Peter’s not doing well. Please pray.
I got to the exterior hallway and buzzed the phone.
I’m here to see Peter.
The door immediately unlocked. They didn’t even ask for the code.
This is serious…
I ran down to the NICU doors where the nurses were waiting for me. They escorted me to his room where they had me put on one of those yellow garments. They had the lid of his container off. Nurses and doctors running around like mad, quickly working on him.
He has an infection in his lungs.
At one point I saw his legs kick. Was he in pain? The neonatologist was explaining to me what they were trying to do. I don’t know when, but Rachel was wheeled in with a wheelchair at my side.
His oxygen levels started to drop.
Come on, Peter!
I tried to cheer on, hoping for a miraculous will-to-live change.
His heart rate started to slow. Tears were just flowing from our eyes. We know what’s happening and what’s about happen. The last blip flashed on the cardiograph; his heart had stopped. He had blood coming out of his mouth and nose from his lungs. The nurses continued to work on him.
He’s been without oxygen for more than 4 minutes. We could try to use epinephrine to help jump start his heart again, but there is significant damage to his lungs and he has most likely sustained brain damage. Do you want us to try?
Time stopped. Everything seemed quiet. Hoarsely, I barely got the word out while shaking my head.
She nodded, acknowledging my decision.
Would you like to hold him?
All of the knowledge that I have, all of the abilities and gifts that I have and yet I was completely and utterly powerless to do anything to save him. I literally watched my son die and no one could do anything to stop it.
Completely and absolutely helpless. I thought of my parents when I had a blood disorder as a child.
They prepared a warm blanket to wrap around him. Most of the nurses left the room, while a few remained to unhook him from all of the machines. They wheeled Rachel over near him. They placed him in her arms so that she could hold him tightly to her chest. He was so tiny. Some blood started to come out of his nose, so I grabbed a tissue and cleaned it up. Some of it got on Rachel’s hospital gown. Her family was already there at the hospital and they were allowed to come back to be with us. We were all there together. We were all grieving, together.
Don’t try to hide it. Don’t be afraid to cry.
Rachel’s dad told me. It tears me up inside when I see a dad cry.
The room was quiet, save for some sniffles and the machine of the baby that shared the room with Peter.
Would you like to hold him?
Rachel asked me. I took him from her and held him out so that I could see him. He had Rachel’s nose and chin. He had my hair and hands. No doubt he had the same brown eyes that I have. I don’t know, I never saw them. Brown is a fairly dominant trait, though. Tears flooded my eyes so that I had to keep blinking and wiping them away to see.
It’s like I was holding a part of myself.
I only got to cheer for my son once in his life. And so, I felt that I needed to tell him:
You did your best, buddy. I am so proud of you. You did your best.
I stroked his head very gently. He was so tiny.
My family arrived. My mom and dad came in. I looked at my dad with tears down my face and he started to cry. Dad’s don’t cry. But, when they do, you know it’s serious and it always tears me up inside when they do.
Peter had passed somewhere around 4:30PM on Sunday June 26th, 2016. He was only alive for two days. They would later tell us that it was B. Cereus bacteria that had caused the infection and they had no idea where it came from. It’s possible that Rachel could have already had it; we had been eating a lot of rice and chicken. It’s possible that he got it from the blood they were transfusing into him.
When he was first born, I only cared about Rachel and her well-being. But something happened in those two days that got me so attached to the little guy, though we never exchanged words. We were both just there together. We both shared a lifetime together.
At some point, the nurse that was in charge of Rachel was concerned that she was away from her room for too long and was concerned that if she had an episode now, they wouldn’t be able to track it. I should have stopped them. Does it really matter, now? It wasn’t the nurse’s fault. She was doing her job. They took her to her room while I stayed with Peter.
Somehow, it was around 7PM already. Somehow hours went by even though it only felt like minutes. The shift exchange was taking place and the NICU was on lockdown. While we were waiting to leave, the nurses were preparing a bassinet for Peter. Somehow they found a onesie small enough for him to fit in. It was still too big, but it worked. Before they put it on him, one of the nurses had me help give him a bath. Aside from when he was born, it was his first and last bath. He was so tiny. I was so scared I was going to break him.
We got him dressed up in the onesie and placed him in the bassinet. He was covered up for transport to Rachel’s room so as to allow her to spend as much time as she needed with him before they would take him away. I escorted the nurses with Peter to her room. There was a sign on the door that said “under no circumstances should anyone be let into the room” and a card that expressed sympathies. All of our family was in the room and it was quiet as he was slowly rolled in and then removed from the bassinet and handed to Rachel in her bed. I went to her side and held him with her. We stared at him. Everyone else in the room stared at us. We wept.
The time had eventually come for us to say goodbye. We gave Peter away to our nurse. Everyone left the room. Rachel and I were alone. We broke down and cried.
I love you, so much.
I told her.
I love you, too.
We embraced and just cried. And cried. And cried. The “three of us” had once again become the “two of us” and it hurt. It was as if our family tree had grown another branch and then someone came and ripped it off. Every bit of it hurt.
Once our crying had stopped, I went and retrieved our family and told them they could come back in. I’m not sure what happened after that.
The next few days were a blur. So many people were there for us. So many people donated money to us. So many people donated their time to us. So many people were praying for us. The response from people that I didn’t even know was enough to overwhelm us. Preparations were made to have a funeral for Peter. I had decided that I couldn’t bear to look at him lifeless, so I didn’t want to have him embalmed for an open casket. It was going to cost an extra $500 for that anyway. My dad had asked if someone would be able to see him before the burial to not only ensure that we were burying something, but that we were burying the correct baby and the funeral director agreed.
On the day of the funeral, someone, I think it was my parents, had volunteered to go look at him to make sure it was him. To my surprise, Rachel wanted to go with them. I started to feel guilty about allowing her to go without me, so I followed behind her. I prepared myself. Since he wasn’t embalmed, I didn’t know what to expect and prepared for the worst. To my shock, he didn’t look bad at all. The funeral director had told us that if we wanted, we could still have an open casket when the visitors had arrived. It had only been a few days since I’d seen him, but I had already forgotten just how tiny he was. Just his size alone was enough to shake me. It was then that I changed my mind and decided that I wanted everyone to see him. To see what a 25-week old baby looked like and to hopefully give them a glimpse of what we were feeling.
The funeral director later told my dad that they had embalmed him, at no cost. No wonder Peter looked so good.
Before the guests had arrived, Rachel and I stood at the front of the funeral home with Peter. It was just the three of us again. For some reason, I had an ornery streak flare up for just a minute.
Don’t ever tell anybody I said this, but he kinda looks like he’s from Planet of the Apes. He must be related to me.
That made Rachel laugh. He had so much hair on his head.
I don’t remember everything that was said, during the service but I do remember hearing Peter’s name said aloud:
Peter James Boman
I can still hear it in my mind.
After the ceremony, Peter’s casket was sealed. I carried him to the hearse and went to the front seat. We drove just down the road to the cemetery at which point I retrieved him from the hearse and carried him over to his grave. He was so tiny. The casket barely weighed anything, but it was a burden so heavy. Peter was gone. He felt no pain and he certainly couldn’t feel me holding him, but I was as gentle as I could be as I laid him to rest. Laying him in the ground, I thought of the crib we had bought for him.
They slowly filled his grave with dirt as Rachel and I watched the final act of our son’s life.
I’ve always heard people talk about how they thought of someone or some thing every day of their life and I always wondered how that was even possible. My thoughts linger on things for a while, but eventually, my thoughts move on.
It’s only been a year and not a day has gone by that I don’t think of Peter.
I walk by a man’s office at work. His name is Peter. I drive by the cemetery every day after work. I hear his name at church. I watch television shows and I see a credit to Peter. There are products with his name on them. I see the photo of him in the living room.
Not a day has gone by, that I don’t think of Peter.
It’s been a year since this all happened, but I wrote all of this from memory. Some day, my memory of it all may fade. As much as it hurts, I don’t ever want to forget it. It has made such an impact on my life; a ripple that will forever define who I am and I don’t want to ever forget the origin. Rachel doesn’t remember much of what happened without me fueling some of the events; seizures, especially eclamptic seizures, aren’t friendly on the memory. And she was so drugged up from the magnesium IV that much of it is a blur without my memories as a catalyst. I wanted to be able to provide her those memories in a way that she could read whenever she needed to. I also wanted to be able to share my experience with others so that they know what happened, so they can possibly share in some of our grief and help us through it, so that they can possibly help others who have suffered the same thing, so that others who are going through it know that they are not alone and so that I can offer hope to those that are hurting:
With Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I have been redeemed and justified by His sacrifice. I have been relieved of the burden of sin and I will be able to share all eternity with my savior. Even more, I will be able to be reunited with my lost son. Through Christ’s strength, I can continue to live each day with joy, with a foretaste of His divine glory. And it is the peace of God, that passes and surpasses all understanding, that allows me to continue on without being tormented by the loss of my son every day. When I think of Peter, I no longer mourn over his death, but I have joy because he’s in a much better place than I am and, one day, we will be reunited.
Why am I writing this? So that, maybe, I can preserve the only memory of my son. It’s only been a year, but we’ve moved on with our lives. It’s like we’ve gone back to the way things were and, at times, it feels as though Peter never happened. Until writing this, going to the cemetery was the only real reminder that I have a son. Hopefully, by writing down his story, I can have a reminder of who he was and exactly how real he was. It’s taken me a week or so to write this post and writing it all has allowed me to remember and even re-live everything and it allowed me to once again cradle that little boy in my hands and to remember just how much he touched and changed our lives.
Why am I writing this? So that I can remember all of the people that opened up their hearts and poured out their love on my family. Even though they didn’t directly know us, the kind people at the First Baptist Church in Grain Valley prayed for us, provided food for us, and provided for us financially. I want to remember how our family and friends took care of us physically and emotionally while we tried to heal. The support we received was overwhelming.
Why am I writing this? I believe that the God of the Universe (and beyond) has a purpose for every one and every thing and that He is completely sovereign and allows bad things to happen. Nothing is just coincidence and everything happens for a reason (although, that reason may never be known). In every aspect of my life, I want my God to receive the glory and I believe that my God will use this moment in my life to bring Him glory. God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son in order to pay the ransom for our lives. He did this because He loves us all so much. Not only did God give His Son, but Jesus, the Son, gave His life so that we might live. I can’t even begin to imagine freely giving my son away and this only gives me a glimpse of the love that God has for us.
Why am I writing this? Most importantly, I want to remember that I still have my wife. She means the world to me and I don’t want to live a day without her. Today marks our 5 year anniversary. On this day, one year ago, I thought I was going to lose her and it was on this day, one year ago, that my love for her grew so much more than I could have imagined.
Happy Anniversary, Rachel. I love you more than you will ever know.