Saturday, December 31, 2016
Miracle #10: Rowan goes to Heaven!
On this New Year's Eve, as we move from one year to the next...here is the story of Rowan moving from this world to the next. Again, this post is a little late, and obviously out of order...and as
difficult as it is to relive (as I have in my head a hundred times or more), it still deserves to be told.
Rowan's last 24 hours on Earth...
After his sudden cardiac arrest and then Rowan being successfully placed on ECMO (heart-lung bypass) in that emergency surgery on the evening of December 13th, it felt like the world was standing still. All of my memories in those next moments are more like snapshots...isolated images that I was able to comprehend...one at a time, not all together. Here are some of those memories:
I remember walking back in to his ICU room as the surgeons left. To just look at his body, you would have thought he was already gone. The ECMO machine was forcing blood through his body, doing the work of the heart and oxygenating the blood, doing the work of the lungs. But see, your chest doesn't rise and fall the same when the machine is doing all that work for you via ECMO. There is no way to prepare yourself for that. I had to just hold his hand, kiss his lips, look at the monitors every once in a while, and trust that he was indeed still alive.
The next thing I remember was watching as the nurses got down on their hands and knees to clean up all the blood from the floor. All I could think of was how selfless they were. They had work to catch up on, charting to do, they hadn't had a break in hours...but they didn't want me to have to look down and see all the blood on the floor. They did this for me. I cried as I watched them.
The next 12 hours or so, I either held his hand while crying and praying next to his bed, or climbed into his bed and cried and prayed over his tired body. A dear friend from high school back in Ohio, who now lives in the Seattle area, left work to come up to the hospital to be with me, so I wouldn't be alone. Thank you Dave. It must have been awful, standing in that room, watching Rowan and I. I'm not sure we spoke more than a dozen words the entire 8 hours or so that you stayed with me. You simply hugged me, handed me my tea whenever I needed a drink, rubbed my back when I cried, and just stood silently nearby when you didn't know what else to do. I can't thank you enough for your presence. Truly. I cannot think of a worse situation, but you handled it with such dignity and compassion.
Throughout the day, it became evident that Rowan was not going to pull through. These details and the photos explaining how and why we knew...I am not ready to share. At least not yet. But once the doctors told me, I asked them to please keep Rowan going until Brian, Zoe and Ian arrived, which would be sometime after midnight. They graciously and respectfully did so.
After that meeting, I told the nurse to please notify both floors of the Cancer Care Unit as well as the rest of the ICU nurses and staff, and let everyone know that the family would be arriving after midnight, but until then, they were all welcome to come say goodbye to Rowan in his room. It was like a beautiful funeral procession or visitation service. For hours on end, one by one, or 2 by 2, nurses and doctors from all the floors Rowan had stayed in the previous 5 1/2 months, came in to say goodbye to Rowan, tell me how much he meant to them, hug me, pray with me, play music for him, share their favorite memory of Rowan, laugh with me a little, and cry with me a lot. It was surreal, but so special. Again and again, I heard them say that they had never been so touched or so changed by one patient. They said that the entire hospital was different because of him, and you could literally feel that. These nurses and doctors had been Rowan and I's family for nearly 6 months straight...they treated him like their own son...not just while caring for him... but also while losing him.
While we waited for the Brian and the kids to arrive, some very special nurses helped me clean Rowan up. We played worship music on Rowan's IPad. They bathed him. I put lotion on him, new socks, his favorite pink Calvin Klein underwear, gave him his favorite green frog wubby, his angel friend's stuffed animals, and covered him with new blankets. These photos remind me of the woman washing Jesus feet, or Jesus washing the disciples feet. I will never forget the way they cared for him. It was so sacred, so tender. It meant the world to me. It always will. Thank you Raina, Kate and Larry.
*Raina, I hope and pray you and Camy specifically, know the difference you made on our journey. We did way more laughing than crying with you two while Rowan was in ICU. You may have bathed him in your tears here, but I will also never forget the moments of hilarity we all shared together. You two became true friends. Not just to Rowan, but to me. I miss those nights, and will cherish those memories always.*
One of them was not even on duty. He came up on his night off when he heard Rowan wasn't going to pull through. He stayed with me for the next 8 hours or more, until after the family arrived and he could be there to hug Brian and the kids and pray with us all. 'Above and beyond the call of duty' does not begin to describe his selfless act. His presence in that room, saved my sanity. His prayers...saved our entire family's. Thank you Larry.
*Larry, Thank you, not only for being a great nurse, but more so for what you bring to the families going through these unbelievably tough circumstances. Your bravery and honesty did more for our family's souls than any modern medicine could ever do for Rowan's body. We are better for having met you, even if it had to be under these circumstances.*
The next 2 hours was just our family saying goodbye. Each of us spent time whispering in Rowan's ear. We held each other up when one of us was about to fall. We cried, oh how we cried. I have never experienced such a heavy sadness in my life, and I don't think I ever will again. But when I look at these photos, I also see more love than can be described in words.
The nurses helped us create the final keepsakes. Child Life, had done a few earlier in the day. The tender, loving care with which this staff operates under such unbelievably tough circumstances, is to be commended. They were honorable, respectful, thoughtful, and reverant about it all. The difference that makes, is hard to describe, but so appreciated. In the darkest of moments, we have some sweet memories, because of this staff.
When the time came, the doctors reentered the room and started removing Rowan from all life saving equipment. We climbed in to bed with him. Within seconds, he was gone. 2:11 am, December 15th, 2016. Words cannot describe those final moments, so I will not try. I only leave you with this photo...
...and the promise, that we all knew without a shadow of a doubt, Rowan was instantly at peace. He trusted God with all his heart. He was never scared. He ran willingly into Jesus' arms. He was healed. He was whole. Yes he was gone (from us)...but he was finally home (with Jesus).
We know that this was Rowan's Miracle #10.