Kendrick Nicholas Flowers was born on April 29th at 12:20am. He was 5lbs, 10oz and 18 in long. He was adorable and our hearts were truly overjoyed.
Our first hurdle we sailed over, finding out that Kendrick’s heart was doing well enough to not need immediate heart surgery!
We settled in at Children’s, not sure how long it would be before we could go home with our new baby. He was hooked up to lots of monitors, but he was breathing on his own, his heart was beating on its own, and things were already looking up. He was a strong boy, in the care of so many, and in those first 2 weeks each day things got a little better.
Slowly, one less monitor or tube was taken away, and we got to hold him a little more. He was eating, sleeping, pooping, peeing and doing all the things that babies are supposed to do to show that they are thriving outside the womb.
Each day we got closer to going home as a family of three! After a few days getting his jaundice under control we were finally told we could ALL go home! We left the hospital with our 2 week old and we're so thankful to be bringing him home, finally!
Once home we settled into parenthood, and our unique routine. We knew our routine would be different than most, but we were going to do anything necessary to keep our little boy as healthy and safe as possible. This included daily antibiotics since he was born without a spleen, weekly cardiologist visits and pulse oximeter checks, monitoring skin color, breathing, plus all the other usual baby habits to watch out for. It was nerve-wracking at times, but somehow with each doctor visit he seemed to be thriving and his heart was doing its job. We started to look more to the future, knowing ultimately heart surgeries were in store and medical interventions were needed, but otherwise we had a healthy and happy little baby. To the outside world he looked just so.
You wouldn’t know by looking at him that his insides were a little off kilter, or that his heart didn’t have four full chambers or pumped blood properly, or that he was missing a spleen. So for almost two wonderful months, we shared him with the world. We began to relax into our new family of three and we started to go out more, meet up with friends, and even made a trip to Lexington, VA for Kendrick to meet extended family.
We were fortunate to celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day with Kendrick.
Our last family outing was to the pool. It was a hot day and we dipped Kendrick’s toes in the water. He was calm throughout and didn’t even cry at the cool feel of the water. All I remember, is that it was such a nice day…
The next day was my first day back to work. My sister came over to watch Kendrick as I went back into the office to get settled. I spent the day talking with co-workers, catching up on email, and even missed a few phone calls. Then finally one came through. Now panic. Kendrick was at the hospital and I needed to get there right away. I could barely breathe. My co-worker rushed me over to the hospital and they took me back to see him. “That’s not my baby”, I said over and over again. It couldn’t be him…It no longer looked like my healthy and happy little Kendrick. He was swollen, he was blue, and his eyes almost lifeless, and yet he was still alive. I wasn’t allowed to touch him or hold him, and they were explaining to me quickly all they were trying to do, but that the helicopter was being prepped to get him to Children’s immediately. We were to drive there immediately. I will never forget watching that helicopter lift off and feeling utterly helpless and terrified. This marks the beginning of the end, although at the time this was unknown to us.
At Children’s we are informed that CPR was required during the helicopter flight, but he’s still hanging on and they are going to do everything possible to help him. He’s hooked up to a thousand monitors and all we can do is caress his skin and talk or sing to him, and just be with him. He is being pumped with antibiotics and pain medication so we are assured he is feeling no pain. Now we just have to wait. We book a hotel nearby and when we’ve maximized all the time we can at the hospital we go back to the hotel to try to sleep.
The next day, as the doctors make their rounds and do their updates on patients we are informed of not much good news. His organs are starting to shut down and he is unresponsive. They’ve adjusted some treatment options but the next 24 hours are even more critical. Any movement or responsiveness would indicate a positive step in the right direction. We stay with him and watch him, barely lifting our eyes from him, just in case we see a blink of his eye or something. We talk with him, we read books to him, and we are praying so very hard for things to get better. He is still so swollen, his skin broken in so many places and bubbled up, his lips a light blue, and I still just am in shock that this is my baby I’m looking at. Then, his arm starts to move! I am ecstatic, I’m yelling, the nurse rushes in, and asks me kindly to move aside. The doctors come in quickly as well. I’m so happy. He’s responding, maybe things are going to get better now, he’s a fighter, he’s fighting! The doctor looks at me, and says I’m terribly sorry, but these arm movements are not his own doing and he’s having a seizure. I break down and cry and there really aren’t words to describe what I was feeling. I remember gaining some composure, and then asking a question that no parent should ever have to ask: “Do we need to have a priest come see him?” She said yes, I think that would be a good idea.
Kendrick is given a blessing and his last rights. We are still holding on to a glimmer of hope, but we are also preparing for the worst. That night we go back to the hotel, and I am brought to my knees. I am begging God for help, for a miracle, and I am asking forgiveness wondering if this is punishment for something I’ve done. Rogan and I fall asleep, and we fall asleep hard. We miss multiple phone calls overnight. I look at my phone in the morning and see the missed hospital calls. I’m furious at myself and at Rogan! How did we sleep through these?! We need to get there immediately, what if he died!!? We get there and are told his heart stopped last night and an immediate procedure was done to put him on a life support machine. We go in to see him and honestly I don’t remember what this looks like. I guess my mind has found a way to block that memory because I’m not sure I can handle having that imagery along with what remains. We spend some time with him and then the doctors ask us into a room for a meeting.
We sit in a room of wonderful, amazing doctors. I don’t remember all the words, but we are told that Kendrick will not survive. We are told that he is on the machine to give us the opportunity to say goodbye and to be with him, but that we have to decide when it’s time to take him off the machine. The room is very quiet. We ask, “are you sure”? “are you absolutely sure he can’t survive?” They are absolutely sure and our hearts break into a million pieces.
We tell our family and close friends who are there the news, and we give each of them a chance to be in the room with him alone. Then it’s our turn. There’s a part of you there that almost doesn’t believe it’s happening, then there’s a part of you there that knows it has to happen and somehow you are strong enough to be present. The doctors ask us again if we are ready, an impossible question to answer, but somehow yes is our answer. All the tubes and monitors and IVs are taken off of him, and he is placed in my arms. I haven't held my baby in 3 days and it feels wonderful, and yet I know it's the last time I will do this. He doesn’t open his eyes, he doesn’t move, but his tiny little body breathes ever so slightly while we hold him. We read him "Goodnight Moon" and we tell him that we love him so very much and that we will be together again.
We hold him, kiss him, and our tears land on him. His loudest breath is his last, and it’s heartbreaking. I’ve never known such pain as holding my baby and watching him fight for a final breath. This pain is with me forever.
He is pronounced dead July 1st, 2009. Just two months after he came into our lives. We are given as much time as we need and then ultimately our time is up. I run into a room and scream into a pillow, and I just want the world to disappear. I’m literally choking on the pain and every horrible emotion in my body is screaming out – SADNESS and ANGER are battling, and all the while I just want to hold him alive one more time.
I’m not sure how much time passed, but eventually the time to leave the hospital [for the last time] is here. We are given a gift…if you can call it that, a memory box. They have clipped some of his hair for me and put in containers, and they have put in some teddy bears that were around him on his bed for the past few days. We leave the hospital without our baby, and instead a box.
Nothing feels right and I’m now a mother without her child. A grief so unspeakable, and at times so unbearable, there are no words to fully describe it.
This is Kendrick’s story, our story. For a long time I wanted the pain and hard memories to go away. I didn’t want the images of him sick or dying with me, but they are with me always, just as are the happy images of him, healthy and thriving. To remember him is to remember the good and the bad. He died in my arms with his father’s touch, and having the chance to be with him as he left this world is a blessing. We of course wish things had gone very differently and I’ve spent countless times questioning all that we did and possibly didn’t do. Yet that is not for us to know.
What I know, is that Kendrick was a true gift to us. When I look back at the baby he was, there is a feeling that he already knew he wouldn’t be here long. It’s almost like you could see it in his eyes. He was so calm, he was so peaceful, and he strengthened our family. He is never far from us. I still kiss him goodnight every night, laying kisses on his urn next to our bed. It comforts me to do so.
Our children hear his name, they know about him, and he will always be a part of our family. He is our shining star at night, he is our butterfly on a spring day, and wherever we go, we take him with us.
Thank you for reading this and I hope his story has touched you in some way; to appreciate life and to hold onto those you love.
For us remembering Kendrick helps us to do this, when sometimes we lose sight of what truly matters in this world.