December 9, 1996 - December 24, 1997
Our little Pooh Bear
Our son, Will Chippich, died December 24, 1997, from pneumococcal meningitis. He was 1 year and 2 weeks old. We hope by sharing our story, we can help others who have had to face the death of their child.
Saturday, December 19, 1997
In the morning, we took Alex and Krystie rollerblading. While they skated, Will and I played some games. I won him a Santa smiley face beanie baby. He was very fussy at the rink. He kept throwing his beanie on the floor. We ate lunch and he got extremely fussy so we left.
In the car, Will started to scream like I’ve never heard him scream before. I couldn’t wait to get home so I could hold him and make him stop screaming like that. The only thing that quieted him down was Krystie’s jump rope she had won at the rink. I didn’t know if he was constipated or starting an ear infection-again. I had started to give him whole milk in the beginning of the month and he had trouble "going" since. He felt warm but I couldn’t tell if it was a fever or if it was from all the screaming.
He took about a 45-minute nap and woke up screaming again. I was able to tell he had a temperature at that point. 102 degrees. Ear infection. I called the doctor and told him what was going on and that I knew it was his ears because I was pressing under his ear lope and he was wincing. The doctor said to give him Motrin and he would see Will Monday morning at his 1-year checkup. I insisted that we at least get him started on medication. So the doctor made us an appointment for Sunday morning. We gave Will some Motrin and he slept well that night.
Sunday, December 20, 1997
I had planned on going to church that morning but decided not to since Will was sick and had a doctor’s appointment. The doctor confirmed the ear infection. Not a bad one, but it was infected. Everything else looked good. Nose, throat, lungs, heart. All looked and sounded good. We started him on Surprax that day.
After Will’s appointment, we went to the mall. Alex hadn’t had his picture taken with Santa yet. Alex and Will rode the train. This was Will’s second time on this train. He really enjoyed it the first time. And he did OK the second time. I could tell he just wasn’t feeling well. I can still see the expression on his face. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
Later that day, we went to Ma’s for dinner. Will hadn’t eaten much since the day before. Mostly cookies. But he was still taking his bottle. He had some mashed potatoes and peas for dinner. He fell asleep that night on my chest and I slept with him all night on the couch, as we often did when he wasn’t feeling well or had a hard time sleeping. Sometimes I think he just wanted me to hold him because he’d be asleep and I’d lay him down and he’d wake up. As long as he was in my arms, he’d sleep. I cherish those times we snuggled all night. How I wish that night had never turned to morning.
Monday, December 21, 1997
Will woke up like any other day. He had his bottle and we sent Alex off to school. I had Will’s picture taken on his birthday (December 9th) and they were due back today. Will and I drove to the mall to pick them up. We walked around for awhile. Will was sitting in his stroller, swinging his legs and talking or rather babbling away. He started to cry when we were in picking up the pictures, so I picked him up.
I could feel him starting get warm again. He put his chin on my shoulder and stared off. I believe this is the time the infection went into his brain. He would cry softly once in a while.
When we got to the door to leave the mall, I sat down to put on his coat. I turned him around to see his face and I saw that his teeth were chattering. I put his coat on and held him tight for a few minutes. He was so sleepy, but it was naptime so I thought this was normal. He fell asleep within a few minutes of putting him in his carseat.
I needed to run to the car dealer where we had bought my car a few weeks before. It was about a 45-minute drive. I thought about just going home but then thought that Will would most likely sleep the whole way anyway, so we went. He did sleep the whole way there. But on the way home, he was awake or at least his eyes were open. He just had this far-away look in his eyes. He was quite. I kept checking his hands. I could tell how much of a fever he had by the warmth of his hand. They were always ice cold and when he had a fever they would get warmer and warmer.
The closer we got to home the warmer his hands did get. It was naptime again when we got home. I gave him some Motrin and laid him down. Bill’s grandfather had died today around noon and they had been trying to reach me for a couple of hours. I made plans to go over Grams after I picked up Alex at school. My mom would keep Will for me. But when I got home from picking up Alex, Will was waking up from his nap. I went in to get him, he had thrown up and he felt so hot. I took his temperature. It was 104.5 degrees. I tore off his clothes, put him in the tub and called the doctor. They wanted to see him right away.
I got him dressed and while walking out the door I said, "Please Pup, don’t take him with you," not thinking for a moment that my baby would actually die. At the doctors his temperature was still 103.5. She looked in his ears. Again, they didn’t look that bad. He cried when she tried to listen to his heart and lungs. He really didn’t like doctors.
He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since that morning so the doctor wanted to get some fluids in him. He chowed down on a pedilyte popsicle and made funny faces because of the coldness of it. He had about ¾ of it and seemed to be handling it very well. The doctor and I thought he had the flu on top of the ear infection. We were sent home with orders to get more fluids in him and rotate Tylenol and Motrin.
As soon as we walked in the door Will threw up the pedalite all over me. The doctor said to wait an hour and a half before we give him anything. So I waited and he slept on my shoulder. After the hour and a half was up, I woke him to give him his medication and more fluid. He threw up again before I gave him anything.
Over the next three or so hours, every time I moved him he threw up. At about 10 p.m. he stopped throwing up and I got some Motrin and fluid in him. He was still sleeping on me. He had pulled himself up to an almost sitting position, looked at me and almost like he was rolling his eyes and his head, fell back down on my chest.
At about 11 p.m. I laid him down for the night. Oh how I wish I had slept with him on my shoulder that night too. Unknown to me, this would be his last night at home. In about 30 hours, he would be leaving this world behind. I didn’t hear a single noise from him that night. He was sleeping peacefully.
Tuesday, December 23, 1997 & Wednesday, December 24, 1997
A busy day. I wanted to have the house cleaned for Christmas. Pups’ viewing was tomorrow. Alex had his Christmas party at school that afternoon and I was one of the helpers.
Bill checked on Will that morning and said I’d better check him. His breathing sounded funny. So I went in and got him up. His breathing was "different." That’s the only way I know how to explain it. He wasn’t having a hard time breathing; it was just not his normal breathing.
I called the doctor right away and she said it was probably from the fever and to keep giving him fluids. He was so distant – his eyes half open/half closed. His mouth hung open, he didn’t have enough strength to hold it closed. When I gave him his bottle, he’d try to hold it but needed help. He would gulp it down so fast. I knew he was hungry, so I thought he was getting better and was just wiped out from the fever and throwing up. I laid him back in his crib while I took my shower.
When I got out of the shower, his leg was twitching. I panicked. I thought he was having a seizure. I called the doctor again. She told me that it most likely was not a seizure because it was just his leg twitching and it stopped within a few minutes of me seeing it. (How long it was like that while I was in the shower? I don’t know.) She said she wasn’t going to send us to the hospital just yet. "Let’s see how he is this afternoon."
My instinct was to take him to the hospital but I waited and listened to the doctor.
I laid Will in Alex’s beanbag chair. He loved sitting in that thing. I did my dishes and got ready for Alex’s party at school. I gave Will fluids every 15 minutes. My mom watched him while I went to the party. I kissed Will and told him I hoped he felt better by the time I got back.
Alex and I were just about to leave school when my mom called and said they rushed Will to Children’s Hospital. He was drinking his bottle and she pulled it out of his mouth and he gulped and gasped and gulped and gasped, again and again. He was having a difficult time breathing and was turning gray. I didn’t know how to get there (this wasn’t our hospital) so I had to go home to pick up my mom. My husband went to the hospital with Will.
When I got there, his eyes were fixed to the right and he had a croup sound. Within an hour they had him on a respirator because he stopped breathing on his own. Every time they suctioned him, he made no efforts to breathe for himself. They did a head scan and saw the meningitis. They did a spinal tap to see what kind. They did EEGs, MRIs and all kinds of test. There was seizure activity and they told me that his leg twitching that morning was a seizure.
The neurological surgeon came in about 1 a.m. and said he was concerned about a stroke because the brain was still swelling and cutting off blood circulation. I thought, "It will be OK. If he has a stroke, we’ll teach him how to walk again." I never dreamed that he would die.
At 4 a.m. I had a really bad feeling. I ran back to his room and the doctor met me coming out of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He said he didn’t know exactly what happened but his brain was flat line. He wanted to do another MRI to see if his brain was pressing down on his brain stem. It wasn’t. They put a tube into the top of his head to drain fluid out and relieve some pressure. That didn’t help. His brain had swelled to the point where all blood supply was cut off and he was brain dead.
At 8 a.m., they started medications to keep his heart pumping. The final test result came back at 7:10 p.m., Christmas Eve, declaring him brain dead. My precious baby, who had just turned 1year old 2 week before, was lying dead in my arms.
It’s been five month now and I still can’t believe that Will is gone. He was so happy and full of life. I had no clue he was so sick. He had a mastoid bone infection so bad that it was eroding the bone. We don’t know how long he had the infection but from what we are told, this type of infection is extremely painful. Yet Will never showed any signs of pain. When I pushed around his ear that Saturday, he winced. The doctors said he should have screamed bloody murder.
I am convinced that the Lord knew it was Will’s time so he made it so Will felt no pain. And up until Monday, when he fell asleep in the car, he was running around, playing and having fun. I thank God that Will did not suffer in pain because I could not have handled remembering him screaming and crying in his death. I remember him just lying there so peaceful, so at rest, so little.
I miss you so deeply, Will. There’s not a second that goes by that I don’t think of you. I’ll love you forever and always, ever so deeply in my heart. I miss the times we would have had every day. I miss my best friend, my pal, my son. You are my Pooh Bear, my love, my everything. Life will never be the same without you.
"Missing you is just a part of living;
Missing you feels like a way of life.
I’m living out this life that I’ve been given;
But baby, I still wish you were mine."
- Amy Grant
Until the day I see you running into my arms again – I will live with this pain, I will miss you and I will love you. But on that wonderful day, we will be together forever.
I love you Pooh Bear.
MY ADVICE TO PARENTS:
FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCT. The doctors aren’t always right. They are human. You know your child better than anyone. If something doesn’t seem right, take them to the hospital. Insist on Children’s Hospital.
KNOW WHAT LETHARGIC IS. I thought lethargic was where you couldn’t wake them. Will would wake up a little, but then fall back asleep within 5 or 10 minutes.
WATCH THEIR EYES. The eyes are the windows. I didn’t realize until after Will was gone that he looked like he was a million miles away.
If you are reading our story because something similar has happened to you, you have my deepest sympathies. Only those of us who have lost a child have a clue as to the amount of pain there is. Hang in there. You are not alone. Find a support group you feel comfortable with. The two groups I have found helpful are The Compassionate Friends (708) 990-0010 and The SIDS Alliance 1-800-221-SIDS.
If you are reading our story and it has not happened to you, I pray that it never does. Please take my advice seriously. I’d give anything to have my son back and to have my family not go though this lifetime grieving process.
If you would like to share your story with me or ask any questions, my e-mail address is email@example.com
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