Warning: following is some very raw information of a very sensitve nature that honestly might be more than some may want to handle. If you do not want to cry, or do not have a lot of time right now, skip it! I don’t really know if I should write this. There is a part of me that wants the story of what I have experienced to be out there, almost like by sharing it, it will somehow make it a little easier for me to deal with. It won’t be this big secret burden I have buried in my chest; I won’t have to try to deal with it on my own. But then I think it is wrong of me to share because I don’t want others to carry the same horrible images I do! But, right or wrong, I want to share the story of Caydin’s accident, but if you choose to not read it, I understand! It is very late at night, and I did not have the energy to go through and proof read it, so I hope it makes sense! Sorry for the loaded post entries tonight!
Rob and I had taken Caydin, then 2 years and 7 months, and Eden, who had turned one earlier that same month, to Bear Lake to go camping with Rob’s parents in their trailer. We had just gotten up and Helmut was making breakfast. Just as a side note, right before we got out of bed, Caydin, who was laying between Rob and I, had randomly given me a hug as we were laying there. It was the last hug I would get from him. It is a special memory for me. Anyway, one of the things we were making for breakfast was bacon, which was one of Caydin’s favorite foods! We always cooked them to a crisp. My last funny quote of Caydin’s was when we put a plate of bacon on the table, and his eyes got big and he said “Mine!”, to which we laughed and told him that he had to share with everyone. We were all still preparing everything else, so he was the only one sitting at the table. Only a minute later, someone, and I’m not even sure who, noticed that he seemed to be choking a bit. Please do not judge me for anything that I’m saying. I am going to be as honest in my feelings of the moment as I can be, and some of those thoughts still haunt me a bit today! I only admit these thoughts and feelings to help show how disorienting it is when something like this actually happens. Anyway, once we all noticed that he seemed to be struggling, my mother-in-law started to kind of panic and started telling everyone to lift him up, and pound him on the back. As a side note, when Rob and I were first married, his siblings teasingly warned me to expect middle of the night phone calls from his mom declaring that she had had a dream of something horrible about a child and to please go check on them to see if they were okay. She has a reputation in her family of being extremely paranoid. So, when she was panicking about Caydin, my first feeling was of annoyance. I thought to myself, “Oh quite being so dramatic. He’s fine.” I did go to him right away, but I also was deceived by thinking he was okay because of something I had learned in my EMT class, which was if a person is making a noise, they aren’t totally choking. While I could tell he was struggling, I could hear a slight wheezing noise, so I assumed, and I think in my mind wanted to believe, that it wasn’t that bad yet. But it only took a few seconds to realize this was worse than I had thought. His eyes started rolling, and his face started turning blue. I remember my father-in-law, who had been a firefighter and paramedic for 26 years grabbing him and stepping right outside the trailer where there was more room and starting to give him the Heimlich. I just watched in a stupor, not able to really comprehend what was happening. Then I remember Helmut saying in a desperate voice, “He’s passed out!” Suddenly I had Caydin in my arms, and I was laying him down on the trailers floor saying out loud, “Oh God, oh God help us!” as I continued giving him chest thrusts. I kept sweeping his mouth, but never felt anything. I remember thinking that I should give him rescue breaths, and stupid human that I am, even in this situation, I remember being slightly grossed out about the possibility of getting saliva in my mouth. I only hesitated for less than a second, but I hate that the thought even crossed my mind. Knowing the outcome now, I wish I would have tried using my mouth as a section to try to get the stupid bacon out, or tried sticking my whole hand down his throat as far as it could just to try to get that bacon. It couldn’t have resulted in a worse outcome! Anyway, while I was doing this, Rob gave Caydin a blessing, which I don’t really even remember what was said. After just a couple of minutes of this, we realized we needed more help, so I grabbed Caydin and Rob and I rushed to the car. I still remember how it felt to be carrying my limp little boy, and how his arms and legs bounced lifelessly around as I ran. Eden stayed with Helmut and Shirley. As we started driving towards the campgrounds entrance, I’m sure people thought we were stupid and reckless, and I am grateful nobody was on the road for us to have to try to avoid. I was trying to give Caydin rescue breaths as we were driving, but because the bacon was still stuck, I didn’t know how effective they were. When we got to the entry booth, we stopped, planning on only finding out where some kind of hospital or clinic was. The girl working at the booth told us to bring him into the booth, which was more like a mini cabin, and she would call an ambulance. We were on the south west border of Bear Lake, so Garden City was only a few minutes away. Some of my memories are a blur, or at least I was enough out of it to realize how and when people got there, but it seemed like right as we were taking him into the booth, some people who had been in a car behind us followed us in. It turns out they had been camping next to us and heard the commotion and followed us there. The woman was a practicing nurse practitioner, and her husband also did something in the medical field, so as soon as we got inside, they started CPR on Caydin. I was wearing one of Rob’s sweatshirts, and I remember just sitting at Caydin’s head and crying into the sleeves of the shirt. I remember someone saying that we needed to move our car because it was blocking the way of the ambulance being able to get out once it got there. I took that opportunity to do something and ran out to move it. There was a bit of empty field right in front of the booth, so I jumped in and pulled the car forward. To this day, I can’t explain this part, but I remember when I was getting into the car, I saw the ambulance on the main road. The campground entrance was in a fence, and then about 20 yards off the road, which was all empty field. I saw the ambulance and was glad it was there, but when I pulled the car forward, I never saw it pass me, so I thought it had missed the entrance, and I was so upset! But when I turned and went back to the cabin, there was the ambulance! To this day I have no idea how I missed it driving past me! I was so glad to see it! Once they got there, they went in and got Caydin and brought him out to the ambulance where they were FINALLY able to suction the bacon out of his throat. They then proceeded to give him CPR and hook him up to their machines. They escorted me to the front of the ambulance where I sat in the passenger seat, and we were off. Rob was to follow in a car behind us. At first I was upset that I wasn’t in the back with Caydin, but then I was glad. We were headed to Evanston, Wyoming, which was the nearest hospital with a decent trauma unit, and also happened to be a 45 minute drive away, even in an ambulance going over 80 miles an hour most of that time. It was somewhat of a blur to me. I think by this time I was officially in some sort of shock. I remember looking out the window a few times at the empty fields rolling by thinking, “It’s like you always hear, ‘It’s like I’m in a dream’, and here I am, living this nightmare!” I would look back occasionally just to see them continuing CPR, and have to look away. I remember thinking how rough it looked on his poor little body to have them pushing so hard on his chest! The ambulance driver was an angel, and tried her best to make light conversation. I remember telling her that he had to make it because in his baby blessing he was blessed that he would do well in his school work, so that meant he was going to make it or else how would he be able to even do school work? To help illustrate how out of it I really was mentally at this time, about 5 minutes before we got to Evanston, the guys in the back yelled up that they had a heart beat! I remember the ambulance driver reaching over and with tears in her eyes, grabbing my hand and squeezing it at the good news. Unfortunately, for me, it was like a bucket of cold water had just been splashed on my face. In spite of my EMT training, it had not occurred to me, even though I had been watching him receive CPR for almost the entire last hour, that his heart had stopped, and technically, he had been “dead” that whole time! I realized how serious it really was in that moment. Soon we were at the hospital, and I followed them in. They immediately took him into a room and curtained it off. I sat there alone, shaking and scared, not sure what to do. I think because it is a smaller town, we were the only patients there. I remember a lady coming up to me with some paperwork. She was really nice, and I was actually kind of glad to have something to try to focus on. I tried to give her brief details, like our names and address, and I remember having to sign some papers, although even I could barely recognize my writing. They finally allowed me into the room with Caydin, where they were busy hooking him up to machines and trying to get his vitals somewhat stabilized. I stood by his head and told him mommy was there and it was going to be okay. There were at least half a dozen people surrounding him, working on him. At one point, I remember one of the EMT’s turning to me and asking me if I had considered organ donation. I still to this day am somewhat mad at him. There I was alone, with my son, and he’s asking me to consider organ donation when I was still trying to grasp how only about an hour earlier, my son was a healthy, vibrant child, full of life. And, I figured it wasn’t really his place to ask this question. It should have been a doctor. If they hadn’t given up on his chances, why should I?! I don’t remember what I said, but not too long after Rob arrived. I feel horrible that he had had to drive that whole way to Evanston by himself, not knowing what was going on. What a hell of a drive. Rob and a different EMT proceeded to give Caydin another blessing, and they prepared him to be life-flighted to Primary’s. We walked out with them to the helicopter, where we kissed him good-bye, and watched them go. I remember thinking to myself how sad and ironic it was that Caydin was getting to ride in a helicopter, but wasn’t able to enjoy it! He had a fascination with planes and helicopters, and always looked for them in the sky when he heard them! We then walked back inside to wait for Helmut, Shirley, and Eden to get there. They had followed Rob, but had to go back and hook the trailer up first, so were a bit behind him. They led us to a little office where I used the phone to call my dad and tell him what had happened and begged him to go to Primary’s so Caydin wouldn’t be there alone till we could get there. After the call, they brought me some medicine to try to help calm my nerves, and they also brought me some hospital socks. When everything had happened at the trailer, I had only been wearing socks, and it must have rained a bit the night before, because there were puddles. When we had jumped in the car, I had not put shoes on, and just from the different times I had been out walking, my feet had gotten wet, and by this time were frozen. The sweet nurse sat down at my feet, removed my old socks, and gently put on the dry socks. It wasn’t a huge thing, but to me, it was one of the sweetest, kindest acts anyone has done for me; her silent and simple way of mourning with those who mourn. They brought us food, which I tried to eat, but couldn’t. Soon, Helmut and Shirley arrived with Eden, and I just held her. Rob’s brother had been on his way up to the camp when this all happened, so they also showed up about this same time at the hospital, which was a blessing because his wife drove their car, and he drove Helmut and Shirley’s truck so Helmut could drive Rob and I to Primary’s. Ironically, Eden’s car seat buckle broke at the hospital, so we ended up having to put her in Caydin’s car seat, and I thought how sadly ironic that the car seat was available for her to use. We then made the approximately hour and a half drive to Primary Children’s hospital, which because of the medicine they had given me, went by calmer and faster than I think it should have.
When we finally got to the hospital, I don’t remember how we found out where to go, but I remember walking down the hall towards the entrance of the PICU. My parents were there, waiting just outside because they hadn’t allowed them to actually go into the PICU. I only stopped briefly to greet them, and hurried to the doors where there was a phone. You have to pick the phone up, and then a receptionist answers and you tell her who you are, and they she opens the doors for you. Rob and I went in, and a nurse led us to where Caydin was. They don’t really have rooms for most of the kids in there, just sectioned off curtains, but Caydin was in a more remote area. It was actually more of a room, just with a wider entryway that still had curtains instead of a door. I saw Caydin laying there, with what seemed like hundreds of tubes coming out from everywhere in his body. He had been there long enough, that they had already run most of the tests on him, and were just trying to keep him stabilized. The doctor was in the room, and started talking to us about what they knew so far, which wasn’t much, but also wasn’t good. From the tests they had done so far, they hadn’t been able to detect any brain activity. They still had a brain test they wanted to run on him, but basically we had a very sick and seriously ill little boy. I remember feeling confused, and not really grasping the idea that our little boy, even if he lived, would never be the same. As we went over and stood by him, one very obvious thing that was happening that we asked the doctor about was his breathing. He was hooked up to a respirator, but as the doctor explained, his brain was still on a very instinctual level of trying to breath. I guess it is a function that the very bottom of the brain stem does. As a result, even though he was hooked up to a respirator that was doing all his breathing for him, his body was still trying to breath, which resulted in every second or two, his head tilting slightly back, his chest raising, and his body basically looking like it was trying to take a gasping breath. This would end with his body relaxing, causing his teeth to slightly clamp down on his respirator tube, making a slight clinking sound. I heard this sound for slightly more than the next 24 hours. The doctor said this reaction was a sign of significant brain damage. I remember him asking us, when we first got there, how long Caydin had gone without oxygen. At first I wanted to say it hadn’t of been very long, but as I thought back on it, I realized it had probably been at least 10 minutes, more like 15 before the ambulance had gotten there and was able to remove the bacon, and from my EMT training, I knew that after even 5 minutes, serious brain damage usually occurred, and I remember telling the doctor it had been a long time, and then just bursting into sobs. Caydin remained stable through the afternoon, and they were able to do another brain test on him while he was laying in bed. When the doctor came to explain what they had found later that night, he said it did not look good and that they had detected no brain activity. We asked what that meant, and he said that basically even if he lived, he would be a vegetable and have a very low level of existence. As he was telling us all this, we were standing a few feet away from the bottom of his bed. The nurse had just come in to change out his heart medication because it was almost gone. I want to add here that pretty much the only organ in his body that was even kind of functioning on it’s own was his heart, and even that was with the assistance of very strong medication that was being pumped consistently into his body. The nurse basically pulled the tube out of the old bag, hooked it up to the new bag of medicine, a process that literally took less than 3 seconds. But, when the small amount of fluid got to Caydin that did not have the medicine in it, he crashed. I have never seen people show up so quickly. It was like people popped out of the walls themselves. They were giving him CPR again, and there was this mad, organized, chaos around Caydin. The doctor, ironically, was not a part of the mass of people, and was still standing by us. I started bawling, and was panicking about if this was it. The doctor turned to Rob and I and asked us if we wanted them to continue. I couldn’t talk, but Rob said that yes, he wanted them to keep trying. After only a couple of minutes, they were actually able to stabilize him again. Obviously it was a very upsetting moment, and after a few minutes had passed and things were a bit calmer again, Rob and I talked and decided that if Caydin crashed again, we would not try to keep him here. By this time it was well into the night. We had many family come, and they had a conference room right outside the PICU, I’m sure for times like this, which had become our headquarters. Once we were there to give the approval, the grandparents were allowed to go back and see Caydin as well, and as others came to the hospital, we would take a few back at a time to see him. I was overwhelmed by the amount of family that came, some from hours away! I think feeling their love and support was a huge reason I was able to get through this time at the hospital with some source of comfort. Not too long after we had gotten to the hospital, someone brought me a fresh change of clothes, and Rob and I went into a bathroom that was in the PICU to freshen up. We took that opportunity of being alone to kneel together and pray to our Heavenly Father. We asked him to heal our son, but asked for strength to get through whatever His will was, and to help us know what His will was so we could make the right decisions. As night came, family went home to sleep, but our parents stayed with us. They also have a room outside the PICU that is like a little hotel. It mostly has a big main room with a TV and many couches, almost like a waiting room. But, attached to this main room are about 5 or 6 small rooms with beds in them. Rob and I were assigned one of these rooms, but our parents had to make due on the couches. The hospital provides many pillows and blankets, so people are able to at least have a place to sleep. Rob and I did go into the room and tried to get some sleep with the nurse’s promise that if anything happened or changed, she would get us right away. I don’t know exactly how long I slept, but I think it was a couple of hours. I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I left Rob there and went back to sit by Caydin. By this time it was early Sunday morning on August 28th, 2005. His accident had happened on Saturday, August 27th, at approximately 8:00 in the morning. The day continued much the same way the day before had. More family came, and I remember getting a phone call from my Aunt Lynette, who is my dad’s oldest brother’s wife. I can’t actually remember if she called Saturday sometime, or Sunday, but there was a phone in Caydin’s room. Several people had called, but I had always let someone else, like one of our parents, answer it and talk to whoever it was. For some reason, I ended up answering this call, and Lynette said who it was and asked how he was. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I know it was that it was pretty serious. Lynette told me, with a faltering voice, that there were many family members up in Cache Valley thinking and praying for us, and again, I felt so overwhelmed and grateful for the love and support of so many. As Sunday wore on, it became apparent that Caydin was declining. The doctor explained to us that when a person dies, or when their heart stops beating, the body almost instantly starts deteriorating, and many parts start to liquidize. During the time right after Caydin choked and didn’t have a heartbeat, his body started the death process. As a result, he was basically a very sick little boy. One of his major complications, besides brain damage, was that his lungs were full of liquid. They were so full that the only way they had stabilized him was by basically turning the respirator so high and fast that it was like they had blown his lungs up like a balloon. They had to keep the pressure high, because they were basically forcing the liquid to the sides to provide a middle space that could have air. If they lowered the pressure, his lungs would fill up with liquid and he would basically drown in his own fluids. That’s how I understood it anyway! So, as Sunday went on, his oxygen saturation was starting to drop, and they weren’t having any luck getting it to go back up. I was sitting next to him listening to two respirator techs, the doctor, and the nurse talk about what actions they could take. They were pretty much down to one option, which involved taking the respirator completely out and then trying to once again to somehow put it back in and re-pump up his lungs. As I sat there listening to them, I realized two things. Because of what they had said, I realized that the process was going to be very messy. They also made it clear that there was a very small chance of this actually working, so I also realized that there would be a good chance that this would be it, and I was going to lose my son amidst mess and chaos, surrounded by hospital staff fighting to keep him here when it wasn’t meant to be, until we or they finally said enough and declared him gone. I didn’t want it to end that way! So, as they were talking about this, I interrupted them midsentence and told them, “No, you can’t do that! He has been through enough.” Whether it was my imagination or not, I don’t know, but I thought I saw a bit of relief come over their faces. I think they knew he wasn’t going to make it, but they felt obligated to do every last thing they could think of to try to save him. Even though I had had those realizations, I remember still feeling like it was someone else talking to them when I told them no. I felt some fear inside me that made me wonder if I was making the right decision, or if I was just making the selfish decision because I didn’t want to be there anymore. At that point, we talked to the doctor about what was ahead of us and what to expect. By telling them not to do that procedure, we pretty much were acknowledging that we were letting him go. I felt a little guilty because I hadn’t even talked to Rob about whether or not this was the course we wanted to take, but I have since talked to Rob about it and he said he was grateful I said it and he knows it was the right thing to do. The doctor told us that we pretty much had two options at this point. We could leave everything the way it was, and Caydin would eventually pass away on his own; it could be in an hour, or it could be in a day or two. His levels would just continue dropping until his body completely shut down. The other option was to choose to stop giving him his heart medication. Like I said before, his heart was pretty much the only thing that was still functioning remotely by itself. We decided to take him off his medication for a couple of reasons. One, I felt that if he was meant to stay, his heart would continue beating even without the medication. Two, I couldn’t stand the thought of watching him slowly die. Even though they told us that his brain was so far gone that he wasn’t feeling or experiencing any of the physical discomfort of his body, it was hard for me to grasp that. I saw my little boy lying on that bed with tubes coming out of everywhere, and I just wanted to take it away from him. I didn’t want him to suffer, and it was hard for me to believe he wasn’t there. Several times while at the hospital, as I sat next to him, I would lift his eyelids and look into his eyes, hoping and praying to see some kind of life in them. I never saw it, but I just couldn’t let him suffer in that condition longer than necessary. They told us that by taking him off his medications, he would pass away within just a few minutes, and it would be very peaceful. So, that’s what we decided to do. Before we took him off the medication, we got to spend some time with him. Up to this point, we had only been allowed to sit next to him because he was hooked up to so many vital machines that to attempt to hold him could have messed one up. Once we made this decision, it wasn’t so important if they got messed up, so we finally got to hold our little boy in our arms. Rob and I took turns holding him, and the hospital allowed all our family that was there to come back with us. I bet there were well over 20 people there! They kind of formed a line and walked by to say their good-byes. Then they all left , including the nurses for a few minutes to give Rob and I alone time with him. How do you say goodbye to your baby?! I told him that he was going to have to watch over us and his siblings because we were going to need his help to get through this. I told him I was so blessed to be his mother, and that I was sorry for all the mistakes I had made with him. After we were ready, we invited all our family back into the room with us, and the nurse stopped his medication. I don’t really remember what everyone else was doing, but I don’t remember thinking that they were all just staring at us waiting for him to go. It was like everyone was in quiet conversation with everyone else. I was actually fairly calm at this point, just watching trying to enjoy my lost moments holding my son. I remember looking up at the monitor, and watching the stats get lower and lower. I finally heard a sigh from Caydin, and then there was a little bit of liquid in his mouth tube, but he finally quite taking those jerky breaths. The respirator was still on, so his body wasn’t totally still, so I did look up at the nurse to confirm that he was gone, and she nodded her head once, and I bent my head over my son and sobbed. I have never cried so loudly, and not yelling or moaning, but just sobbing so hard my breaths seemed so loud, but I didn’t care. He was gone. I honestly don’t know how long I sobbed like that before finally calming down. They invited a volunteer in who makes molds of deceased children’s hand prints for the parents to take home. Ironically, they make it with the same stuff that Rob and I had been using that summer to create whole hand molds of hands and feet. We had even tried to start a company called Heavenly Hands Memories where we were making kits for people to do their own, or offered to do make the molds ourselves. When we saw what it was, we asked them if they could please do a whole hand mold with me holding Caydin’s hand. Because of our business, we had made sample molds, which included several of Caydin’s hand alone, and one of Rob and Caydin’s hand, but I didn’t have one with Caydin. The lady was willing to try, even though she had never done it, and with our help, we were able to get a perfect mold me Caydin’s hand in mine. I have long ago decided that if my house ever caught on fire, after making sure my family was out safe, if I could only grab one thing, it would be those molds of Caydin’s hands! It’s a perfect replica of his hands, and the one with my hand has his hand slightly open, so more than once, I have stuck my finger in his little hand and imagined how it felt when he would squeeze my finger. After making the mold, we held him a little longer before they told us that he was starting to stiffen and that they really needed to be able to prepare him. We laid him on his bed, and they let us help clean his body. They removed all the tubes, and we gave him a sort of sponge bath. Then we helped wrap him in a blanket, and we left the room. Walking out of that room was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I felt like I was leaving my little child in an unfamiliar place. I was his mother! I was supposed to take care of him! I couldn’t just leave him with strangers! What if he was scared! It was hard for me to grasp the idea that he wasn’t there anymore. They took us to a room where a counselor had been talking to our parents. I don’t remember everything we talked about or even how long we were in there talking. The only thing I remember talking about was when the counselor asked us if we knew which mortuary we wanted to go through, and I just started back at her like she had spoken a different language. Not once in my life had I ever thought, gee, if someone I know dies, I want to go through so-and-so. I was saved from having to try to make a decision when Helmut mentioned that when his parents had passed away in previous years, they had gone through Goff Mortuary, and they had been good to work with and they had been pleased with their experience there. He also mentioned that when he had helped to purchase a burial plot for his parents, he and Shirley had bought into a plan where they bought their own grave sites and were paying on them so when they passed away, that wouldn’t be a burden on their family. He told us we could use one of those plots, which was at the Memorial Hills cemetery located on the same road as Brighton High school, but a mile or two further east. I was grateful I was spared from having to figure out all that myself. After talking to the counselor, we left. Again, leaving the hospital I had the same feelings as when I left the room. It just felt wrong to be leaving my little boy there. And that is the story of Caydin’s accident. There were still many things that happened that week with the funeral and everything, but that is a story for a different day. If anyone has made it this far, please know I am okay talking about this, and I don't even mind answering questions. I have been living with this for over 4 years now, and while I am more weak right now than I have been, there have been many comforting times, and I have come to accept and truely believe it was Caydin's time to go. The fact that I am actually sharing this story is a sign for me that I have grown and am dealing with these things okay. I can finally share it without it so completely overwhelming me, although I did cry plenty writing it!