Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Politics of Death

It's been one week today since Dominick left us.  I was finally able to drive home yesterday (with my one-year-old being surprisingly tolerant of  the 3-hour car ride) and visit with my brother's family as they hunker down at Rachel's sister's house, trying to avoid going home to the house riddled with painful memories or climbing into the big Suburban they bought just to have enough room for baby Dominick.  Although I'm here, I still feel helpless.  

When I asked what kind of help they needed, they asked me to help them order an urn and some vial necklaces online.  (And, go figure, after I spend 20 minutes convincing them that ordering online is safe and easy they end up getting double-charged for the urn.)  

They've decided to carry him close to their hearts in that way... they also found an engraver at our local mall who engraved Dominick's photo onto some necklaces both for themselves and the three girls to wear.  It's both incredibly sweet and sad at the same time, especially when their youngest daughter catches sight of the necklaces and proudly says, "That's my brother!" 

Will it ever get easier?  Will they ever be able to go for more than 2 minutes without being reminded of what they've lost?  At this point the sadness I feel is  more based on the anguish I see them in instead of my own feelings of loss.  I never wanted to see my little brother this upset.  (Even back when we were children fighting over the remote control, I would never want it to get to the point of tears.)

The coroner hasn't released the official report yet, but initial findings say that Dominick was anemic, was over-producing either adrenaline or cortisone, and had underdeveloped lungs.  So this begs the question: why on earth would the hospital allow them to take their anemic baby with known sleep apnea problems home (to a house at 6,000ft elevation, no less)  without so much as suggesting that they get a monitor that senses movement like those Angel Care monitors do?  I mean, forget the fact that Jon and Rachel were pushing for him to come home, it's the doctor's job to weigh the risks of taking a NICU baby home and say "No, I know you want him home, but this baby is not ready yet." 

My mother tells me that there were two NICU doctors at the hospital Dominick was in - one in the morning and one in the evenings.  The evening doctor had told them the day before Dominick was released that he was going to be there at least another 2 weeks (which would have been roughly when he was due - a typical deadline for most preemies), but the next morning the other doctor said told them to get the carseat out of the car and take him home.  Of course, they were overjoyed to think that their son could come home with them and trusted that the doctor knew what he was talking about.  When you get good news like that, you don't think to question it, you just accept it and are grateful to have your family together.  Perhaps the nagging voice in your mind says, "Wait, that other doctor said..." but you choose to tune it out because what you have wanted since your baby's birth is to bring him home with you and you are getting what you want.  

So what can this mean?  Was the doctor wrong or irresponsible?  Were there complications no one knew about?  Or was he simply trying to push a MediCal baby out of the NICU?  The thought that the latter option is even a possibility infuriates me to no end.  We live in a country where medical treatment is considered by many to be a privledge instead of a right, and if the state is the one footing the bill does that give anyone the right to say, "This baby is costing us a lot, let's just push him out of here?"     

Until the coroner's report is finalized I should probably try to calm down with these angry thoughts, but I'm realizing as I type this that I'm in the anger part of the grieving cycle.  These questions won't bring Dominick back, but perhaps Dominick's life can be used a lesson for anyone who's baby ends up in the NICU: make sure your doctors are being safe and almost overly cautious with their lives.  You may want to bring that baby home SO BADLY but you also want that baby to live and grown up to run and play and get in fights with their siblings.  Have patience and be sure that if you don't have great insurance that no one is running math calculations on your child's life.

Also, many people have asked about how much we've raised in donations: family, friends, and the generous people of the internet  have sent Jon and Rachel $1400 so far to help with the costs of Dominick's memorial!  After purchasing the urn and neckalces mentioned above and paying for the cremation that leaves them about $400.  Since they are hoping to find a way to afford to either move out of their house with so many painful memories or to buy a new vehicle that doesn't still have the impression of Dominick's car seat dented into the seats, they could certainly use more.  If there is anyone who wishes to contribute to this fund, here is the link:


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