Wednesday, April 1, 2009


So I used to think of myself as lucky. Insanely lucky. I have this great husband. We are the rare high school sweethearts who are perfectly compatible. Then and now. Really. And I had a great childhood; can't complain at all. I had three beautiful kids. Each of them healthy and happy and just a huge joy in our lives.

Enter 2008. Did I mention that my brother committed suicide three days before Samantha was born? He went missing on January 2nd, but his body wasn't found until later that month. Yeah, that's a whole other post (or series of posts) in and of itself. For now, I'll just say it came as a huge shock to everyone who knew him.

So, here's the timeline for our start to 2008: January 2nd, we find out that my brother kissed his wife goodbye that morning as if he was going to work, then was never heard from again. January 4th, I go into labor three days before my scheduled c-section (this being my fourth). January 5th, Samantha is born. It was a bit of a blur. It was such a weird and difficult time. Not many people from my family were able to come see her when she was born because they we dealing with this giant shit-storm, searching frantically for my brother.

I worried at the time that Samantha's birth would always be tainted by the events surrounding my brother's death. Still, having her, holding her, loving her, helped me get through that otherwise awful time. As I did with my first three kids, I fell head-over-heels in love with my new baby right there in the maternity ward.

Then, at one month, just a week after my brother's funeral, we found out that Samantha had a large hole in her heart. That she would have to undergo open heart surgery to correct it. That until it was fixed she would have a hard time gaining weight. That because of all this, she would need medications to help regulate her breathing, which would become labored and too fast over time.

Well, call me naively optimistic, but I still didn't worry *that* much. The doctors swore that this is the most common and easy-to-fix type of heart defect. Sure there were risks, and yes, her hole was on the large side of large, but I figured we'd get through the surgery, get her heart fixed, and move on with our lives. Oh how wrong I was.

As I've written in my bio and numerous other places, her surgery didn't go as well as it could have. Samantha got an infection, and was one of the unlucky 5% of babies who need a pacemaker after this type of open heart surgery. Still, the pacemaker was just to correct the rhythm, and I trusted the doctors when they said it wasn't that big a deal. Really, I trusted them. It did make me nervous that her heart was dependent on a man-made (battery-operated!) device, but I mostly believed it would all be ok. I figured in another 10 years medical technology would have found a way to correct her heart rhythm in some other way and it would all be just fine. Oh how wrong I was.

Even at that point, I still mostly thought of myself as a lucky person. Then, on December 10th I watched a team of doctors perform CPR on my daughter as she went into cardiac arrest. They told me, if you're going to go into cardiac arrest, a hospital is the place to do it. She was surrounded by doctors and hooked up to monitors when her heart stopped. Of course they could revive her, right? That's what doctors do. Well, they did get her heart beating again and put her on a breathing tube. But the damage was done. Severe brain injury, combined with an enlarged, non-viable heart. She was one of the rare cases where surgery to correct the hole didn't work out as it should have. No one really understands why.

I have not felt lucky since the cardiac arrest. My baby died. She defied all the odds (you know, in the exactly wrong way), and now she's no longer with us. I still feel fortunate to have the family that I do. I wouldn't trade places with anyone. But losing a brother and a baby in the span of 13 months? I kind of feel like this was retribution for the first 35 years of my life that passed relatively crisis-free. Can we please call a truce? I have no more room for tragedy in my life. I'm not a lucky person any more.


  1. Oh shit. I am so, so sorry about your brother. And piling up around Samantha's birthday -- I can only imagine what '09 must have been like, let alone '08.

    I wrote a post about this, I think on GITW, about how "lucky" I often think I am. That we had Maddy here, and not in NoVa. That I was in this house, surrounded by these neighbors. That she in all likelihood felt absolutely nothing. And then I think about how fucked up it is that I consider any of that lucky given what happened.

  2. i always remember that story they force everyone to read in high school, 'the lottery,' where the winner gets stoned to death. luck is luck. i actually am starting to think i'm the luckiest girl in the universe.

    that's life, they say. i'm starting to get what they mean.