Children's Hospital Book Drive for Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Houston
This will be difficult to keep brief. Who doesn’t want to brag about their children? Will and I never realized how much joy a child could bring us. I would always selfishly say that my 20’s are for me; I couldn’t fathom carseats, midnight feedings, anything baby-related. Maybe it was once we were in our thirties, or maybe it was we became more mature…I like to tease Will it was because I was bored with just him…but we knew that we wanted a family. My pregnancy went smoothly; no problems at all. I went into labor on Easter Sunday and Abby was born the next morning. I was so amazed by this little girl and so overcome with every emotion possible. I felt like we had finally found our purpose and it was the most important job of our lives.Abby made us laugh and smile. She was the happiest baby I had ever met. She smiled at everything. We couldn’t go out without strangers stopping us to tell us how beautiful she was and how happy she was. We used to joke that Abby had more friends than Will and I. She had her own social life and never wanted to miss out on anything. She would get mad when she would fall asleep and wake up only to realize that there were a group of people around and she was missing out on being social. Will and I spent every possible moment with her. During the weekdays, we had a woman watch Abby in her home. She only had one other baby and a handful of older girls that she watched during the day. Abby had so much fun at Lydia’s house. The girls would sing, read, dance, and play all day. It was so hard to be away from her, but I knew how much fun she was having and it made me feel better. In the evenings, we enjoyed our routine of dinner, bathtime, playtime, storytime and then bed. Something else unique about Abby was that she loved to play with her feet. All babies find and grab their feet, but Abby took it a step further. She would grab wipes with her toes, she could grab her sippy cup with her feet and even bring it up to her mouth. We were even at the doctor’s office once and she grabbed the doctor’s stethoscope with her toes! She was a riot to watch. She also loved her books. We would read so many books each day. Her favorite book was one called “Counting Colors” as well as “Goodnight Moon”. We read our books so often I had them memorized. We would also sing songs and play games like patty cake. I know that she must have practiced patty cake at Lydia’s because everytime we played she would grab my hands in hers and clap along. She even knew the motions for “roll it, pat it, mark it with a B”…I didn’t even know that! It was so cute to hear her say “Pat Cake”.
Will and I were always trying to come up with songs or phrases to go with her name. We would sing our Abby C’s (instead of ABC’s), or would call something that would seem abnormal to some but normal for our family, Abby-normal. We also had nicknames for her: Abigoogle, Absters, and sometimes call her the Sesame Street character, Abby Cadabby. We would sing lots of songs too, usually ones that I made up as we went along. Ironically, we even had a bath-time song about germs and another one to sing while we brushed our teeth. I always wanted to make sure her hands were clean, which is a difficult task for a baby that crawls on the floor. If we were out and she dropped her sippy cup on the floor, we would wash it off completely; we never wanted to take the chance that she would pickup any nasty germs. Babies are going to encounter germs of course, so I’m not going to say that we kept her in a sterile environment; that would have been bad actually, but we did our best to prevent the spread of germs.In the dozens of meetings and phone calls with doctors following Abby’s death, as well as the hours upon hours spent researching Meningitis, there is consensus on what happened, but the “why” will never be known. Abby died from a common bacterium that entered her bloodstream. Time from onset to death was under 24 hours. It was a non-vaccine strain of s. pneumoniae; She was up to date on all her vaccine shots. There is currently not a vaccine for the strain that infected Abby. When people ask me where she got this, I want to scream at them, “What do you think, I took her to Pneumococcal R US?!!” Where does anyone get exposure to bacteria? Bacteria and viruses are everywhere. You touch something with germs and then rub your eyes, or cough and then shake someone’s hand. Bacteria can also live a very long time in your nasopharynx. Abby could have encountered this bacterium 6 months prior to getting sick, two weeks before getting sick, or even the day she got sick. We will never know. We also don’t know where or how the bacteria entered her bloodstream. An immunologist validated that her immune system was functioning properly and that essentially no one, especially a 13 month old child, can overcome an attack like this. Others have told me how they or a family member survived meningitis. There are so many different strains, each replicating at different speeds and each body reacting differently. A difficult thing to comprehend and something that several doctors have confirmed, is that it was a domino effect. Once it entered her bloodstream, no amount of antibiotics in the world could have stopped it. Even if we were at the hospital insisting on a spinal tap within minutes of her first sign of fever, it wouldn’t have been enough. I find that hard to swallow. You think we live in 2008 in Dallas, Texas, not the 1400’s or in a third world nation. We have access to excellent health-care, our children get vaccines for scary things like polio, measles, and hepatitis, but that nothing could have stopped this? We are touched by the outpouring of support from friends, family, and colleagues. I see so much good in people and the lengths they have gone to console us. There really are no comforting words anyone can say, other than “I care”. Even though I should, I find it incredibly hard to dismiss the well-intentioned comments that sting and are so hurtful. The accusations that we didn’t vaccinate her and that is why she died (she was vaccinated), the one that makes all bereaved parents cringe, “It was God’s will so don’t question it”, the people that tell me to just have another child and I’ll get “over it”. I’ve even had people tell me they know how they feel because they have lost their dog. I just have to walk away. Will and I would have given our life for our child. She deserved to grow up, have sleep-overs, go to the movies with her friends, go to school, have a boyfriend, get married, and just live. Abby was the greatest joy of our lives and in her short 13 months, she taught us more than we were ever able to teach her. - Mary and Will Kearney