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I am a below knee amputee. More importantly, I am also Mommy to two boys, a very active 10 year old (Robby) and an mischievous toddler (Timmy). I have learned that being a parent with a disability can create some unusual and sometimes humorous situations. This blogger is available for hire! Let's talk and learn how a blog can expand your business.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sad Memories

As much as I would love to forget, I remember every details of the afternoon of June 11, 1993, as if it happened yesterday. Twenty years ago I woke up a naive teenager, but I went to bed irrevocably changed. I was home from college and assumed my job as a babysitter for a local family. At that time in my life, it was the perfect fit. I had taken care of the children, then 6 and 8, since they were born, and they were good kids. Although I had been away at college, we quickly eased into our comfortable routine for the summer.

Because I had known the family for so long, it was normal for the neighborhood kids to congregate at the house. I would like to think that it was because I was such a fun babysitter. In reality they were drawn to the pool and the never ending supply of Rice Krispie treats that I always kept stocked in the kitchen.

That fateful afternoon we had exceptionally hot weather. The pool was open and the children, along with some friends, were splashing and having a great time. The neighborhood children's moms were also poolside, joining the fun.  Among the brood was a little girl named Rachel. She was the youngest of the pack at only three years old, but that certainly didn't stop her from trying everything. She was a spitfire!

Rachel, abiding by the rules by wearing her life vest, jumped into the pool and squealed with delight. She swam over to the side and crawled out. Staying on her tummy, she began to pat and play with the waves coming along the top of the water. At first I didn't think that this was out of character, but after a few moments I became alarmed.  Her mom knelt next to her to make sure that she was okay.

What happened next felt like it took an eternity, but in reality occurred in a matter of seconds. Rachel's mom let out a blood curdling scream, the primitive type that only comes from true fear. In a flash I ran into the kitchen and called for an ambulance. It took me two attempts to solicit aid from 911--the first call ended up being disconnected.  By the time I hung up the receiver, Rachel was lying on the kitchen table, turning blue and unresponsive.

Her mom began screaming, "Please Peggy, don't let my baby die." I took off her yellow Beauty and the Beast life jacket and began CPR. When I think about it, I can still feel her cool wet face on mine which is probably a reason I avoid remembering!  I only stopped CPR for a moment to yell at the kids who had congregated in the kitchen. Wanting to spare them from seeing their friend in such a vulnerable state, I instinctively screamed at them to leave.

It felt like an hour, but an ambulance came within 10 minutes. In my heart, I know that Rachel had a slight pulse when she was loaded onto the stretcher and transported to the hospital. On autopilot, I called the mother of the children I was watching to inform her about the incident. I retrieved my two little ones, who by now were nearly inconsolable with fear, and waited for their mom to come home. I was numb.

I can remember wishing and praying with all my heart that Rachel would be okay. I couldn't fathom such a sweet little girl dying so quickly. I thought that she would be okay because she had to be okay. In my innocence, I couldn't imagine her young life ending so early.

At about 7:00 that evening, the telephone finally rang. Rachel had a congenital heart abnormality and, although she had surgery when she was an infant, the muscle was weakened. Despite my efforts and my pleads to the Universe, she died.

When I heard the news, the pain struck to my very core. I had never felt such anguish, grief and pain. It was overwhelming and I felt like I couldn't breath. If my mom hadn't been by my side, I don't know what would have happened. 

The next few weeks were a blur. I knew that the family didn't blame me, but I couldn't help but blame myself. I did everything "right" but struggled with the "what if" scenarios for years. The fact that the original call to 911 became the impetus for a police investigation certainly did not help! I was contacted by the press and endured a full interview from the State police. In the end, I was absolved, and the 911 system was changed to institute a call-back policy when a disconnection occurs. While I doubt that the few seconds it took me to call back for help would have made an difference in this case, I have some solace in the belief that the new policy might have helped other people during the past 20 years.

What happened with Rachel profoundly changed me. I learned that sometimes, regardless of how deeply you need something to happen, it doesn't always work out. I learned that you need to stand up for the truth, regardless of the naysayers and the pain that you are experiencing in the moment. I learned that life isn't fair and that sometimes bad things happen regardless of whether or not you do everything right. 

I don't talk about that summer, and few of my friends know what transpired. Even fewer realize the depths of self-doubt, depression and anguish that I experienced for the months that followed. It took me a long time to heal. In reality I probably should have sought counseling, but being young, I thought I could do it alone.

In twenty years the memories have not faded, but I have gained perspective. Rachel's death and the inquiry that followed changed me forever. I know that there was nothing that I could have done to save her, but accepting that a child can die so quickly continues to be difficult to comprehend. I'm thinking about her today.

1 comment:

  1. Aww, Peggy. I had no idea. I am so sorry this happened. Life is precious and so are our children. Your story makes it all so real that we just never know what tomorrow will bring and makes me want to just hold on to my kids and never let go. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I know it must have been difficult to share but I am glad you did. Hugs for you today as you remember and grieve for Rachel.