Yesterday my day was progressing as expected until Robby asked me the date. As soon as I said June 11th, memories came wafting over me like a tsunami. It took a moment for me to regain my balance, but for the rest of the day I felt off and sadly reflective. Twenty five years earlier, my life was changed forever.
I was babysitting when a neighbor child suffered a cardiac arrest. Although she wasn't in my care and her mom was present, I continue to be haunted by the event. If I close my eyes I can still see the lifeless body of a mischievous two year old on the kitchen table as I prepared to perform CPR. Her wet mouth and her little yellow Beauty and the Beast swimsuit against the red plaid tablecloth are visions that are emblazoned in my memories. I can still hear her Mom screaming for me to not let her baby die.
I failed to save her. Rachel was pronounced dead at the hospital later that evening. My world changed that afternoon. I struggled with guilt, grief and the constant memory loop of the event replaying in my mind for months. Rachel's death was the first time that I experienced true heartbreak. I was changed forever because of the experience.
Twenty five years have passed since that fateful afternoon, but the memories persist. Time has faded the strength of the memories and now the event is no longer omnipresent in my life. Every once in awhile I have flashbacks to that June afternoon, and the panic and grief return. Yesterday was one of those days. I found myself shaking and on the verge of tears throughout the evening. All of a sudden I felt like that scared and confused teenager grappling with the reality of her death.
With time comes wisdom and perspective. I now take solace in the fact that I remained calm and collected during an extremely tense and scary situation. At least I tried to save her. I know that there is nothing I could have done to save little Rachel. She had a congenital heart defect and had already endured multiple open heart surgeries. That knowledge has brought comfort during the aftermath of that horrible afternoon. If wishes and prayers were enough, Rachel would be alive today. Unfortunately, sometimes there just isn't anything you can do. That was a rough lesson to learn as a teen.