The weekend before Valentine's Day began like any other weekend. I had a vibrant 12 year old named Savannah that was spending her Saturday watching cartoons, listening to music, and texting with her friends. Everything was fine until late that night my daughter came to me wrapped in a blanket complaining of a sore throat. "Mommy I don't feel well," she said. I took her temperature (no fever) and tucked her into bed for the night. The next day, on Sunday, Savannah spent most of the day in bed with the symptoms of a cold. Her nose was running, she had a cough, headache, and her chest hurt. Later that evening she developed a fever of 100.5. I gave her a dose of Tylenol and explained to her that I would take her to the doctor on Monday if the fever didn't subside by morning. Savannah didn't want to go to the doctor. "They'll just tell me it's a cold, they won't give me any medicine, and I'll just have to let it pass," she said. Most of the time it is only a cold but I remembered hearing about a child's death from the flu recently. I wanted to take my daughter to the doctor to be assured that it was nothing. My child had been vaccinated for the flu so everything should be fine, right? On Monday Savannah was sicker than the day before. She was exhausted with a constant headache and chest pains. She didn't have an appetite, had a fever, and had some difficulty standing for long periods of time. At the doctor's office Savannah was tested and diagnosed with the flu. I was assured that this would be a very mild case of the flu because she had been vaccinated. When the doctor listened to her chest she heard diminished breath sounds in her lungs so she ordered a chest x-ray which was clear. Savannah was sent home with a prescription for Tamiflu and instructions for using an inhaler every four hours. I took her home and put her in bed which is where she stayed for the rest of the day. She would wake up long enough to drink something and take her medicine. Later that night when I was offering Savannah something to drink I rubbed my daughter's back and she felt warmer than she had felt all day. I took her temperature and she had a fever of 101.5. This was concerning because I had been giving Savannah doses of Tylenol all day for her fever, headache, and chest pain. I called her pediatrician's office and spoke with an after hours on call nurse. She informed me that the fever was nothing to worry about because children often have higher fevers than we're used to as adults. She also told me to discontinue the Tylenol until the next day. I got up at 4 am to give Savannah her scheduled dose of inhaler. When I went into her room she was sleeping peacefully. She rolled over, used her inhaler, and went back to sleep. The next morning (Tuesday) my mother woke up at to find Savannah standing in her room facing the wall. Savannah asked her to help her to the kitchen but couldn't explain what she wanted in there or why she wanted to go. So my mother layed her down so that she could come and get me. When I entered the room the nightmare began. My daughter was gasping for air and her eyes were bulging out of her head. I got her inhaler and administered a dose. Savannah continued to gasp for air and it appeared to me that her mouth was slightly blue around her lips so I got her dressed and helped her to the car. She slumped in her seat and I had to buckle her seatbelt for her. On the way to the hospital Savannah continued to gasp for air and her breathing was very loud and raspy. I told her to try to cough and clear her throat to clear the mucous and she did. At the next stoplight I looked at Savannah and her eyes were open but her stomach wasn't moving anymore. I gently touched her forehead and said her name. There was no response. I gently shook her and continued to say her name with still no response. I burst into tears, turned my blinking lights on, and sped the remaining 2 miles to the emergency room. When I got there I jumped out and ran inside screaming and waving my hands. The trauma team came out immediately and accessed her vital signs. "No pulse. Unresponsive," announced one of them. The day before I thought my daughter would be out of school until Thursday or maybe Friday. I thought that she had the flu. Now she's unresponsive with no pulse? How could this happen? I watched in horror as the team gently loaded my daughter's lifeless body on to the bed and quickly rushed her to an examining room. They began CPR, stuck tubes down her throat to help her breath and to suction the mucous. There couldn't have been less than 10 people in the room trying to save my daughter's life with more in the hall waiting to help. I called my family and asked them to come to the hospital to support Savannah and I. At some point, they were able to get her pulse back but they were still struggling to clear the mucous from her lungs. A nurse tried to question me about my child's condition. There wasn't much to tell. My child has always been healthy. Seasonal allergies that's it. She was healthy on Friday, on Monday she was diagnosed with the flu, now on Tuesday my daughter has no pulse, is unresponsive and her lungs are filling with fluid. I watched in complete disbelief as my daughter lost her pulse again and they began CPR. As horrible as the situation was the severity of it never really set it. I just kept thinking, "She's 12 and she's strong. She may have a long recovery road ahead of her but she's going to be okay. This is just the flu. The doctor said that it would be a mild case. Other kids die from the flu. That won't be my child." There were several staff and clergymen in the hall supporting me. They prayed for me and offered beverages, optimism, and hope. I don't think that I could have made it through that experience without them. They talked with me and mercifully distracted me from the horrors happening in the examining room. They wanted to know what kind of child Savannah was such as what she liked, hobbies, school, sports, and music. Then they relayed the information to the doctors and nurses who would occasionally encourage and talk to Savannah. Within a few minutes it was clear who we were all fighting to save. Savannah a 12 year old honor roll student at Jefferson Middle School. She's a second chair violinist and one of the smartest and funniest children you will ever meet. For the next hour and a half my daughter's heart continues to fail and her lungs continue to fill with fluid. When I step into the room from time to time to hold her hand or whisper in her ear what I see is devastating. My daughter is naked,her eyes are wide open, and there are tubes and wires coming from everywhere. She's cold to the touch because they've lowered her body temperature. It was so hard not to begin screaming and crying and fall to the floor in a blubbering mess. The things that I saw in that room, my daughter's lifeless eyes and body, the extreme measures that they were taking to save her life, the fluid suctioned out of her lungs, the violent CPR no mother should ever have to see. I had to stand there and helplessly watch my only child go through that while praying that she would be ok. At some point they decided to transfer her to another hospital that specializes in pediatrics. So they began the process of stabilizing her for transport. I don't exactly understand what they meant by stable. My daughter's heart was continuing to fail, she couldn't breathe on her own, and she was still literally drowning in her own fluids. The doctors continued to work and an hour later they prepared her for transport. I chose not to ride in the ambulance. I didn't want to get in the way of the ems or make them feel as if they couldn't do their jobs effectively in front of an emotional mother. The original hospital sent staff members with us to the next hospital. By this time my mother and I were both sick with the flu as well and exhausted. So the hospital sent staff to drive us to the next hospital, transport us in wheelchairs, find the area that Savannah had been taken to, and continue to provide support. It took us a little while to find her. The doctor came into the consultation room to provide an update and current assessment of the situation. I looked into is solemn face and searched for any signs of hope as I felt my stomach twist into knots. I didn't find any. He said that Savannah's heart had stopped again just as she made it to the hospital. They had performed CPR and had gotten her heart started again but it was time to question how much longer this should go on. Approximately 5 hours had passed since the time that I first arrived at the emergency department. During that time Savannah had a steady sustained pulse for only about 45 minutes, her heart had continued to fail (at least 8 times), and her pupils had become unresponsive. Her lungs were now filing with fluid at an alarming rate. The canister that at one time took an hour to fill is now filling in a matter of minutes. He wanted my advice as to how to proceed. I told him that as long as she's fighting you keep fighting. Then I was lead back to my daughter's room. I was devastated before and what I felt in that moment was some how 2 or 3 times worse. In that moment I knew that my child was going to die. All hope drained from my body. I was so hopeful that once they transferred Savannah to the pediatric hospital she would start to get better. I thought that the pediatricians and pediatric equipment would be the edge that my daughter needed. But I was wrong. Savannah looked worse. She had bloated to 3 times her normal size and the doctor explained that they were applying pressure to her chest in attempt to rid her lungs of the fluid. Consequently the fluid was traveling to other organs and parts of her body. As we stood there, Savannah's heart stopped again and I watched as they began another violent round of CPR. Fortunately her heartbeat came back relatively quickly. I turned to the doctor and told him that the next time her heart fails to start CPR. After about 10 minutes my family and I would come in to be there for the end. He agreed and I gathered my family so that we could say our goodbyes while her heart was still beating. I stepped forward and looked at my only child laying on the table. Devastating, gut wrenching, incomprehensible all come to mind. I gently placed my hand on her forehead and stared into her eyes. I cried. Her eyes were dead and lifeless. There wasn't any light in them and my little girl wasn't in there anymore. Nevertheless I had to hold it together long enough to speak to my baby for the last time. I leaned over and whispered into my daughter's ear. I told her everything that I have ever wanted to tell her. How much I love her, how proud of her I am, how much I'll miss her, that I will never forget her, how she made me and everyone around her better people. Savannah managed to keep her heart beating just long enough for my family and I to see her alive one last time and to say our goodbyes. Then her heart failed for the last time. They began CPR again and I stood there watching my only child. I couldn't do it anymore. She had fought a losing battle all day and she was tired. It was time for me to let go. It was the hardest decision of my life to tell the doctor to stop CPR. The words choked me coming out. I thanked the doctors and nurses for everything that they did for Savannah. They apologized for not being able to do more. I sat down beside my little girl and cried as I held her hand.
I have created this go fund me page because I didn't have life insurance for my daughter and I need to pay for her funeral expenses as well as a headstone. I know that anything can happen but my daughter has always been healthy and I never dreamed that one day I would have to watch my twelve year old be lowered into the ground. Losing my only child has been devastating and the debt from her funeral would be catastrophic. Any donation that you make is appreciated. Please remember my family and I in your thoughts and prayers.
- Chad Collins
- Megan Bryant
- Debra Hardiman