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She Died on a Monday

no medical image
In the seven years leading up to my daughter’s death, she suffered through hundreds of hospitalizations. I use the word “suffered” and I mean it. When I’d get the call from her husband in her distant city telling me she was once-again hospitalized, I’d do a quick survey of where we were in the week. Tuesday to Thursday = probably okay. Friday to Monday = disaster.

And now we have a new television show, entertainment, if you will, from the TNT network entitled “Monday Mornings” and penned by CNN’s top medical guy, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which explores something all-too-many of us are all-too-familiar with: Medical mistakes.

My concern over the “entertainment value” of such a television show bumps up against relief. Real people with real lives and real families that love them die in real life versus now people will know some of the truth. The problem is that real people get lost in the drama of storytelling. My daughter is real. Our family is real. The loss is untenable always and in all ways.

As you watch this new program, I ask you to keep in mind that they will focus on one error at a time that results in a patient’s death but the truth is quite different. The errors come fast and furious, one atop the other, each moving the individual’s body further and further from its norm until, seven years later, no one can remember what the original problem was; nor can they find it. Instead, the medical collective has created so many new problems, it is virtually impossible to know or understand what they are dealing with today.

Amidst it all is a young, beautiful woman that trusted them to do their best for her. How tragic, then, for her to have to face the multitude of truths she must come to terms with on top of the outcome she must accept. Their “best” made her die. She backed the wrong horse. Their only interest now is to protect themselves.

If this new show turns out to be the type of entertainment you will consume, please remember that it presents nothing close to the truth. It has been sprinkled with just enough truth to make for a good and palatable story but not enough to frighten you and you should be frightened. Like most of you, there was a time I believed in the medical systems and structures put in place to protect me and mine. Having witnessed first-hand the depth of dysfunction in our health care system, I can tell you unequivocally, there is nothing healthy or caring within it. You will meet some fine people there, however, they are powerless and must comply completely in order to survive its political environment.

Should you choose to watch “Monday Mornings”, I can only hope that you will keep in mind that as you sit watching, real medical mistakes are happening. It is not fiction and the people experiencing it are not characters on a television show. They are loved ones. They are beautiful daughters. And they died on a Monday.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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I Have Two Kids

One of the more difficult moments to surface when meeting new people after the death of a child is the inevitable conversational curveball. How many kids do you have, Kim? The first time it happened, my heart shattered just a little bit more.

Beat. T-t-two, I finally spew. Of course I have two. You cannot, after all, erase an individual’s entire life and why would you want to? But it’s hard and it’s inopportune and some days you just can’t do the story justice but still you tell it because it’s important to acknowledge that even though life is not even-handed, it is still worth living. Those of us who die out of order must be equally celebrated for having had the courage to stand in there and duke it out for the little time they were offered in comparison to the rest of us.

My experience with loss has changed my approach to introductions. What keeps you busy? has replaced questions about hearth and home. Do you hike? has become my preferred opening line. I take little for granted now. I know that everyone has a story and that sometimes the telling of it shouldn’t take place in the midst of small talk.

Within the context of her job as a brain injury therapist, my daughter used to talk about the importance of being able to put yourself into the shoes of others. I do that more often now, and with greater intention. It’s a tough way to learn a lesson but it reminds me that even though she’s gone she still has plenty to teach me.

© Kim Reynolds 2013

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Where's My Kid?

 

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La Peregrina

The search for reason plays out in many different ways when a parent is faced with the prospect of losing a child. You look for reasons why and you seek some kind of structure where reason itself will prevail and bring order along with it. And you do some crazy things along the way to make it so.

I decided in my questionable wisdom, one summer day in 2008, that walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain would deliver the outcome I wanted most of all. I’d crawl on my hands and knees in penance for every possible sin I may or may not have committed in exchange for my daughter’s life, just as thousands of pilgrims have done for a thousand years. I’d put my faith in history’s hands – history and the Catholic Church. Did I mention I’m not Catholic? Turns out, I’m not much of a pilgrim, either.

The Camino Frances, a pilgrim trail that runs 780 kilometers from the south of France, over the top of the Pyrenees and across Spain to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, is pretty much de rigueur these days. Everywhere you look, someone is writing a book about their Camino experience. In hindsight, however, it’s clear I had no business being there and you wouldn’t be the first person to wonder if I hadn’t lost my mind. No, the first person to look at me and say, “Um, really? Why would you do that?” was the daughter I imagined I was doing it for. She knew me well, this girl did, and when I told her that my plan included leaving offerings on her behalf at each creche of the Virgin Mary along the pilgrim trail, she didn’t bother to suppress her laugh. “Well o… kay,” she said and sent me off on the path of righteousness, polished stones as offerings in hand, with no illusions as to her thoughts on the matter.

That was then. This is now. Much has changed but symbols of love continue to dominate, as does the lesson I learned on my camino.

My daughter moved to another city to start her adult life eight years before her death last summer. We made the move from a big house to a small one and each of our children’s collections of memorabilia were separated, catalogued, boxed-up and put into one of those storage lockers that inhabit the 401 highway from one end of this country to the other. Following her death, we retrieved her things and slowly but surely reacquainted ourselves with the first 23 years of her life.

She was a collector extraordinaire, this daughter of ours; what we referred to as her bitty-bits. Scraps of paper with half-written song lyrics, every note surreptitiously received in high school classrooms, all the journals of her life – they were all there – along with her most treasured collection of all. She loved Hawaii and when she returned from the trip she took following high school graduation and before she started university, she brought home with her a box of beach shells. I made my decision the moment I held them in my hands.

The first trip we took after her death was to London, a city she adored. Shells in hand, I went about leaving them in the places that meant something to her there. I’ve done it many times now, and I’ll continue to leave her beloved shells in places special to her for the rest of my life. This is the meaning that was missing on my first pilgrimage. Walking, whether a camino or through life, must be purposeful, I think. As vital as the act of living is the company you keep while doing it. Who you walk for, then, becomes as important as where you go. I walk for her. I place a shell, I say a prayer, I shed a tear – finally the good pilgrim has arrived. Buen camino, mi hija. Buen camino.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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