Some time in March, Kim and I spent an hour on the phone with a pediatrician. He was not Elena and Maggie’s doctor. He was the pediatrician that our school nurse took her children to. He had done some research into what could have happened and sat on the phone patiently answering every one of our questions. The science that he passed on was invaluable, but he did something even more important for us. Something we didn’t believe until much later. There are days we don’t believe it now.
At that time a lot of our questions were centered around what more could we have done to save our baby. Should we have brought her in earlier?
No. She would have been sent home.
Should we have seen some symptom that we hadn’t?
No. She was presenting like a child with the flu. In fact, that’s what any doctor would have seen it as.
Should we have …
And he stopped us. And then he said the oddest thing.
He said that there wasn’t any reason for what had happened. There wasn’t a real logical explanation. And in cases like that, parents would rather blame themselves than have no other explanation.
Kim and I looked at each other. We each held a phone in our hands not speaking. Just thinking. We both knew that Elena’s death was somehow our fault. It would be a while til we knew that it wasn’t.
Kim was sure that, no matter what any doctor said, that she had brought home the bacteria that had killed Elena from the hospital. That if she didn’t work at the hospital it wouldn’t have happened.
I was sure that if we’d called the ambulance immediately instead of minutes later that Elena would still be alive.
The pediatrician explained to Kim that no she hadn’t brought it home and that the bacteria is often present. It wasn’t its presence that had killed Elena. He explained to me that had she been in the hospital when she started turning blue she still would probably not have survived.
Not our fault. We both knew he was right. We both felt he was wrong. If it hadn’t been something we did, then what was it? Our job is to watch over our children and keep them safe. I had failed at that.
He was right about one thing. Blaming ourselves – never each other – was somehow natural.