Breanne posted an update early this morning with the full details of our ordeal over the last few weeks. If you haven’t read it, head over there now and take it in. It’s a good read and I’m glad she has decided to start blogging again. My perspective is a little different than hers, being as I experienced things differently than she did. Below are the thoughts, struggles, and experiences I had from July 7, 2011 through July 11, 2011. I have more posts planned for the future, but this is the story of my son, Jackson Blanchard, and his short time on this earth.
I have the great privilege of being able to work from home two days a week and Thursday, July 11, 2011 happened to be one of those days (Thank God). I begin my day at 7:00AM, in the office (my garage), usually checking up on email and website content that needs to be updated. This day started out unlike any other; Malachi came out to say hi around 8:30AM, played games on my iPhone for a bit, then asked me for breakfast.
Our normal Tuesday / Thursday routine.
Breanne woke up around 10:30ish and told me she was having some cramping, but it seemed normal and not too intense. We had been to the Lancaster Women’s and Infants Pavilion (WIP) the week before because we thought her water had broken, so we knew to wait an hour and see if the cramps / contractions went away. If that didn’t work, they told her to lay on her left side for an hour. If THAT didn’t work, they told us to come in. We waited for the two hours, things weren’t getting any better or worse, so at my prompting, I said we should go in. We took the kids to Breanne’s mom’s house, and headed over to the WIP.
When we arrived, we checked in as normal, commenting on the fact that the staff at the WIP seemed like a night and day difference from the staff that was there a year previous, when our daughter, Presley, was born. At that time, we had nothing but problems with security, nurses, etc. It was a nightmare. This time, everything was smooth sailing. We walked straight through security and got checked in no problem. What happened next was completely unexpected. I was ready to hear them say she was dehydrated (as they had said the week before), or she was dilating and Jackson would be here soon. In a matter of about 5 minutes, our whole world came crashing down.
The nurse couldn’t find a heartbeat for Jackson. When they finally did find one at 80BPM, they couldn’t be sure if it was Breanne or Jackson. My thought is it was Jackson, ’cause I’m pretty sure Breanne’s heart would have been racing at this point. They cleared out the whole place and raced us down a hallway into the operating room.
This is when it started to suck.
“Sir, you’ll have to wait out here”, the nurse turned to me and said. What?!? That’s the crap they say to people in movies before someone dies. “What the heck is going on?” I thought. It was going to be an emergency surgery. The nurse took me into the recovery room, gave me some scrubs to wear and said they would come update me as soon as they could. This is the same recovery room, even the exact same chair I had waited in while they prepped Breanne for Presley to be born a year ago. This time, it felt completely different. Once I saw nurses running around, I knew it was VERY serious.
After a few minutes, a nurse came in and told me they had to put Breanne under for the surgery. PUT HER UNDER?!? I thought? That is one of her worst nightmares. I kept thinking of my wife and how scared she must be. I’ve been there twice before, with both our other kids. Holding her hand, telling her it would be ok. Who are they to tell me I can’t be in there? That is my wife for crying out loud! She needs me! I need to be in there! I couldn’t be. So, I waited. I started to pray. I also started to cry. Everything was already overwhelming, and it had only just begun.
After what seemed like hours, another nurse came in and told me Jackson was out and the doctor would be in to speak to me shortly. Then she walked out.
“What the F$%^ does that even mean”, I thought? My son is dead? If he wasn’t, why wouldn’t they tell me he was ok? I’m still sitting here in this stupid recovery room, waiting for something. HOW IS MY WIFE DOING?! HOW IS MY SON DOING?!
I closed my eyes. My thoughts went to heaven.
“You can’t take my wife, Lord.”
It was more of a command than a prayer.
“Please, don’t let my son go now. Our family cannot go through this. We will not make it.” I prayed like I haven’t prayed in years. Finally, after what seemed like more hours of waiting, the nurse came back.
Your child was born with no heartbeat.
We are trying to resuscitate him.
We’ll update you as soon as we can.
Finally, they let me going into the hallway and wait. At least I could see into the operating room from there. It seemed there was a team of 20 people in the room. I learned later Breanne’s doctor had made it in time to perform the C-Section, and it took 14 minutes from start to finish. Jackson was down for over 10 minutes with no heartbeat. Breanne had suffered a placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus. Her uterus was full of bright red blood when they opened her up. 5 minutes later, and not only would we have lost Jackson, we would have lost Breanne as well.
Still, no heartbeat. They were about to call it when I heard someone inside the room say, “Heartbeat? Yes! We have a heartbeat!” I could feel the energy increase in the room. All together, this was less than 30 minutes of time, but it had felt like an eternity. After a few more minutes, the team brought Jackson out and rushed him to the NICU.
I am the only one in my family who saw him at this point, and I am glad no one else did.
He looked dead. Completely, utterly dead. His skin was a dark purple and he was completely limp. As a father, this was hearbreaking. What could I do for this little guy? I just had to sit and wait while they got him hooked up to machines which would hopefully save his life.
They transferred me to another waiting room, inside the NICU. I sat there for what again seemed like hours, waiting to hear what was going on. What would they do? How was he? Would he survive? They told me it would be a while before they had him ready for me to come and see him. I decided to go to the outer waiting room, as I knew my parents and kids were there.
I got to the main waiting room and completely broke down in tears. Our entire family was there. Not just my parents and Breanne’s parents, but my two children, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends. The love I feel from those people is the only thing that has gotten me through this.
I brought my Mom back to the NICU waiting room with me, where we waited until we were able to go in and see my son. All this time, Breanne is still asleep from the surgery. I’m worried about her, but they told me she was fine.
My first glimpse of hope came when we saw Jackson in the NICU for the first time. His color looked like a normal person. I could see him moving his arms / fingers a tiny bit, and, even with the machines helping him breath, I could see gasps for air here and there. They told me a helicopter from UCLA was on its way and he would be airlifted there for an experimental “brain-cooling” treatment. This involves cooling the body down about 4 degrees to help with swelling and let your body “come-online” a bit slower to aid in brain recovery. Whatever it takes, I thought. UCLA is his best chance, they told me. Let’s do it.
I will do anything for my family. I don’t know why they asked me, as if staying at AV Hospital was even an option. If brain cooling is the best chance, the answer is YES.
We waited with him for a while until the helicopter arrived and he was airlifted out. My brother drove me to UCLA and we made it there in 45 minutes. Almost beat the helicopter down there.
I rushed in and went up to the NICU. They were working on setting him up and told me they would come and get me shortly. After about an hour, he was ready to go and I met with the team who would oversee his care. They were very nice and went over everything that was involved with the cooling process. It was a lot to take in, and considering the circumstances, I only remember parts of the conversation. After that was done, I got to go in and see where my little boy would be for the remaining days of his life.
My parents arrived a few hours later and we spent the entire rest of the day and the whole night in the waiting room just outside the NICU doors. We would go in and check on him every few hours and I didn’t get much sleep. Mostly due to the fact the waiting room had very little as far as long term comfort, but was a nice big room we had all to ourselves most of the time.
Friday rolls around and it seems like everything is ok. Up until 4:00PM when I met with the neurologist. He told me the brain scans were showing very little brain activity and at this point, 24 hours in, they should have seen some signs of improvement.
I walked out to the waiting room and broke down in tears again. Why was this happening? How could a perfect pregnancy like this turn so horrible in just a few short hours? We were due to have our C-Section on Monday morning and our child was 9.6 ounces. Big and healthy if the placenta hadn’t detached. What had caused this? Why us? So many thoughts going through my brain. My dad had gone in to see the little guy and rushed out a few moments later. He grabbed me and said they needed me in there immediately.
Jackson had coded and they were performing chest compressions and had bagged him for oxygen. They wanted to know if they should continue.
IF they should continue, I thought? What kind of question is that? OF COURSE you should continue. That is my SON lying there! You do whatever you have to do! He is barely 24 hours old. I’m not ready to make a decision like that. Breanne isn’t even here. I can’t tell them to stop without her being here. I can’t do that to her.
After a few minutes, they revived him and he came back to a stable state rather quickly. My mom called Breanne to give her the update. I couldn’t talk at that point. All that would come out was tears. Breanne told the WIP she was leaving and needed to be released. She got there a few hours later and together we got to spend some time with our boy.
The next two days were a whirlwind of ups and downs. We’d get positive news, but it would be followed by negative news. We didn’t know which way it was going to go, but we held out hope that our son would get better and we would be able to take him home. All his stuff was ready to go at our house. All three kids have come early, but Jackson was the only one we’d been prepared for in advance. We figured if the first two were early, he definitely would be. His crib was set up. His clothes washed. His car seat ready to go. But, it was looking more and more grim as the days went on.
Sunday was really hard. His body began building up fluid as his organs began to shut down. His blood pressure medication was at the maximum it could go. His heart and lungs were ok, but how long would that last? We’d spent so much time praying, and not just us. Our friends and family had spread this story to everyone they knew. People all over the world were praying for my little boy. We kept praying. Hoping for the miracle.
About 10PM on Sunday night, as our friends and family went back to their respective places of sleep, some close, some far away, Breanne and I went to see our little boy and get another update on his condition. It was so hard to see him like that. His ears and hands were swollen up. Fluid was beginning to leak out of the IV injection points. His color was worsening. We had really wanted to wait until Tuesday, at the end of the cooling process, to see if he would pull through, but at this point, it was pretty clear he would not. We went back into the waiting room, and through lots of prayer and many tears, decided it was time to let him go.
We called our family and friends, and they all came back. UCLA closed off the waiting room just outside the NICU and at 1:30AM, with my wife, our children and our family just outside the NICU, I pulled the breathing tube out and got to hold my son for the first time.
Many people, including my wife, have wondered why I would want to pull the breathing tube out. If you are not a father, you probably won’t understand. Don’t think this hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my 30 years on this earth. I don’t know that anything I’ll go through will top the pain and sorrow and anger I felt through those four days. That said, as Jackson’s father, the one who was able to give him life, the one who had so many hopes and dreams for him, I couldn’t let anyone else be the one to let him go. If it was time, if he was going to pass from this life into heaven, I needed to be the one to say I did that for him. As his protector, I had to be the one to stop protecting him. I couldn’t give that to anyone else. With all the love in the world; all the love I had, and still have for him, I took the tube out. God gave him to us, even if it was for four very short days. I was able to give him back.
I walked him, in my arms, out to the waiting room, now filled with our family and friends and we got to share the most amazing, beautiful time with my son, just before he took his last few breaths and went home to be with his heavenly father. We were able to spend all the time we needed with him, and while he only lasted about 10 minutes or so, we were there for over an hour, holding this precious gift that had come in the form of my son.
I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with Jackson. I am so grateful for our family and friends who came to our side during the hardest experience of my life. I’m also grateful for the outpouring of love we have received from people across the globe as we have gone through this. The response from family, friends, friends of friends and even complete strangers has been overwhelming. We could not have walked down this road without the love and support we have received from everyone.
It will seem like an eternity until I get to see my son again, but having our faith and knowing I will see him again was the only way we were able to let go and give him back to our Lord.
Thank you for taking the time to pray, love, laugh, cry and hurt with us. We love you all.