“When to Say Goodbye”

This one is a tough one because it hits very close to home for me.  My wife and I also had to say goodbye to both of our children.  There is always the “what if’s” or the questioning that goes into an impossible situation like this.  The following was sent to me by a fellow grieving dad, Brandon Tucky, who was kind enough to share his story so others that have been faced with making a decision like this could realize they are not alone. 

When to Say Goodbye

Two years ago today, my son Abraham was born.   He came out premature by a few weeks.   Although it was a natural birth, it was far too early to be term.   Immediately after birth, he was taken to the NICU unit.   We waited in pure fear for hours until a neonatologist finally came to see us.   The doctor asked me to step outside while my wife rested.   In the hallway, I waited for the worse news in my life, that Abe did not make it.   He was rushed out so fast that I did not even see him breathing.   Thankfully the doctor told me he was stable.   Stable is a word that I was not happy with.   Better than passed away, but still it sent fear throughout my body.   During our hallway meeting, the doctor went over horrible statistics about how it was in the grey area of too early to semi safe and all the medical complications that will come to pass.  It pretty much sounded like they were telling me to say goodbye.  Well, I was not ready to say goodbye and told her to do everything they could for my son.

With my head down low, I went back into the delivery room and told my wife as much as I could stomach to tell her while crying.  I am sure I did nothing but make it worse for her.  We eventually passed out from utter exhaustion and sleep deprivation.  When we woke up, I went straight to the NICU unit.  We were taken back to see Abe on lock down.  There were machines and tubes all over the chamber he was resting in.  It scared me to see so much stuff keeping him going.  A nurse came over and told me that he made it through the night, but it wasn’t without a few hiccups along the way.  I let out a breath of utter calm knowing he was still fighting.  The second shift neonatologist came to meet us and asked us to step into a room.  He reiterated the risk and depressing statistics of our son and most premature babies.  He asked us many questions about how far we were willing to go.  Once again I refused to say goodbye.  We told the doctor to do everything they possibly can for our son.

That day we got a hotel near the hospital and hunkered down for a long day.  I kept in constant contact with the nurses and checked on him personally several times a day.  My arms began to burse and crack from the number of times I scrubbed in to see my son.  By the end of the second day I began to feel good about Abe’s chances.  On the third day, we came to see Abe resting in the NICU unit, calm as can be.  He was a very good boy for the nurses that night and was about to get testing done to see how he was doing.  We waited for an hour for x-rays and blood work.   When the doctor asked us to come into the loathed meeting room again my feel good vibe went away rather quick.  He told us that his lungs had filled up with blood and they do not know why.  Once again we were asked to make a decision.  I feel so bad about looking at my wife and saying that maybe its time to let go, but she said it is not time to say goodbye.  The doctor, despite how he felt about our decision to keep caring for Abe, went on doing his job taking care of our son.   I felt so bad about, and still feel bad about, even thinking it was time to give up.

Later in the evening we scrubbed in to see how he was doing and the nurses were so happy to have us come over to his bubble.  I noticed right away that it was much quieter.  There weren’t as many machines going as there had been.  The nurse said that the blood cleared up and that he was starting to breathe on his own.  They also turned down some of the meds and let Abe take over for himself for the first time.   Had I said to let him go earlier that day, I would have made the biggest mistake of my life and instantly felt horrible about it.  Seeing him using his little lungs to breathe for himself was one of the most inspiring moments I have ever had.   I still hate myself for almost saying goodbye.  I sometimes think my wife saw me differently from then on.   We left the NICU unit so lifted and happy that we actually enjoyed a day without fear.  Our boy was fighting and we were all going to be home together in time.   We celebrated a good day with dear friends of ours over for dinner and then I slept that night, for the first time in the last few days, with no fear.

Come morning, we once again scrubbed in to see Abe.  The nurses said he had a little trouble during the night but got better and was back to normal by the time we were there to see him.  The nurse let me open one of the little windows so that I could touch my son for the first time.  To my amazement, when I put my goliath finger in the palm of his little hand, he actually grabbed and held onto me.  I finally had my dad moment.  My son held his dads hand.  I could not have been any happier and more proud of my son.  We told the nurses that because he was being such a good boy, that we were checking out of the hotel and going home.  We didn’t live far and honestly, really thought we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.   Right after I showered in my own bathroom for the first time in 4 days, I got out to my phone ringing.   The Neonatologist asked us to come back to talk about something, but to not be alarmed and drive safe.  There was no way that I was not going to be alarmed by this, so we rushed back to the hospital as fast as we could.

When we arrived the doctor put us back in the dreaded room where I refused to say goodbye many times before.  This time was going to be different.  We were informed that the blood that had vanished from his lungs was now in his brain.  She said it was a stage 4 bleed and the one procedure that could be done, was risky and severely dangerous.  We were given disclaimers about quality of life and the potential for a son who would never know he was even alive.  The doctor said she would be right back and left for a few minutes.  My wife and I just broke out in tears and a horrible pain in our hearts as we finally came to a decision where we would have to say goodbye.  No one really knows if he was suffering, or if it was only the medicine and machines keeping him alive.  We know for at least one day, Abe was giving the fight or his life to prove he was not giving up as we refused to.  Something just told me to not be selfish and to let God do what he was going to do.  My wife could not say the words to the doctor, so I built the strength to tell them its ok, and to pull the plug.

They brought Abe to us with a drip so that he would not be in pain while he passed away in our arms.  The first time I actually got to hold him in my arms, and the last time.  He gasped for air a few times which was so sad to see.  I almost yelled for the doctor to start hooking him back up to the machines, but knew it was too late for that.  Our son passed away in our arms 3/8/2012.  We had four of the scariest yet happiest days of our lives.  Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever done but knew that we did it for our son.  We overcame our selfishness and thought only of Abraham, and I would live with myself knowing by being selfish and trying to keep him live, was actually making his life worse.  I am by no means telling you to give up or give in immediately, but there is a time when you have to get over yourself and start listening to the doctors, and God about what’s best for your child.   We are both saddened at times but know that he is in heaven and happy, waiting for the day we are with him once more.  In the end, it was not really a goodbye for good, just a goodbye for now.

Brandon T.

This entry was posted in Agonize, Compassion, Courage, Death of a baby, Death of a son, Despair, Devastation, Tough and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “When to Say Goodbye”

  1. Brandon Tucky says:

    I appreciate the kind words, and am also sorry for the loss of your son. I do envy you for having 17 years to be with him. I wish I had more memories with my son. I do strongly believe that we will be with our sons again one day. I know when you do see your son again, he would say it was ok to let him go. Thats how I keep going, knowing my son would just tell me it is ok. I am a skeptic like you when it comes to “mediums,” but in the off chance that it is real, I am glad you got that message.

  2. Bruce says:

    Brandon – I’m so sorry. I feel your pain, our son spent three weeks in the ICU as we watched him slip away. During the last 36 hours we saw his blood pressure drop to the point the doctors told us that any thoughts he could be having would be totally incoherent. At the end, we had to decide to wait for his life to end while connected to a machine or to disconnect the machine, and we ultimately felt letting go and saying good bye was the right thing to do. My son was 17 and fought through his disease throughout his entire life, but the last two years were full of pain and suffering and my wife told him early on in the ICU it was OK to let go. A few months ago, my wife had a “reading” and told me that one of the messages from Josh was that I should not ever feel that I let him down. (I don’t know if I believe in the “reading” stuff, but she did come back with some items that the medium brought up that only we would know.) At times I do feel that I let Josh down, partly because the last three weeks of his life were so difficult and he told me how scared he was and partly because I made the final decision that it was time to turn off the machine. It’s been 2 1/2 years now, I still lay in bed every night thinking of moments in the ICU. Fortunately, during the day I have 17 years of mostly incredibly awesome memories to think about whenever we say Josh’s name. I think you’re right about seeing our boys in heaven, not believing that would be unbearable. Thank you for sharing your story.

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