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2003-2004

In Loving Memory of Luke Damron

July 5, 1975 - February 8, 2004


Luke Damron passed away from his earthly life into eternity on Sunday, February 8th, 2004 in his sleep. He was not aware of any current health problems. Luke was a talented musician and songwriter, who loved to play both the acoustic and bass guitars. Luke was the co-owner of Madison Street Tavern in Tiffin, Ohio…a place where friends were made and where Luke shared his love for life with all who entered the doors.

Luke’s journal has been posted on the ARDS website for quite some time. He submitted it to the site himself, to hopefully help others in need of comfort during their own personal battle with ARDS. Luke always reached out to others, and sharing his journal was just one way he chose to do that. He was thrilled when he found out that his journal had been posted.

Luke’s journey and battle with ARDS started on June 25th, 1999, and ended victoriously on July 17th, 1999 when he was discharged home. He fought a heroic fight, and with God on his side, went on to live his life to the fullest without known health problems for the next four years and eight months. His death was sudden and unexpected, and a shock to all who knew him, for to know him was to love him. His heart developed abnormalities that caused it to enlarge and send him into heart failure without him being aware.

We are terribly saddened, but can’t hold back the smiles as we recall all he brought into our lives. Luke left behind a family that deeply loved him, and whom he cherished, and more friends that most people acquire in 100 years of life.

If you have not read his journal, please do so. It is filled with our family’s love, hope and belief through diligent prayer, God still does bestow healing through miracles. We are so blessed to have spent more precious time with Luke.

If Luke were to have one thing left to say to you, my family and I believe he would leave you with these words:

“Embrace life, SMILE, take risks, reach out to those less fortunate than yourself, pray for courage and guidance, search for happiness always, love your family, be a friend, laugh out loud, don’t let any illness or physical setback limit you in following your dreams in this life; for life is short, live each moment to the FULLEST.”

Love forever!

Deanie Damron-Kehres
Dawn Damron-Yates
Frank & Bette Damron
 

In Memory of Mark A. Kardasz

March 7, 1970 - March 7, 2004


In loving memory of Mark, who left behind his wife, 3 year old daughter and 16 month old twins. He passed away on his 34th birthday after developing ARDS as a result of pneumonia. He had spent 12 days in the ICU in two different hospitals. It all happened so quickly and he never had a chance to say good-bye to the children he loved so much. He was truly a fantastic father and will be greatly missed by his family and his mother.
 


In Memory of Sandra “Sam” Jordon

January 4, 1960 - May 1, 2003

Sandra was my only sister. She was the youngest child in our family and I am the oldest. My parents gave me three brothers before I finally got the sister I had been praying for. She was born 5 months ahead of my first daughter. Our relationship changed over the years and we really became close after she married and had a daughter of her own.

On December 13th, 2002, Sam was hospitalized with a small colon infection and a slight amount of pneumonia. Then on December 19th, she called her daughter at 3:30 a.m. to say they were taking her to Intensive Care. When my husband and I got word she was being sent to the ICU we headed straight for the hospital. Sam’s daughter, Lyndsey picked up mom and met us there at 4:00 a.m. We were all shocked to find out that she had been put on life support and her lungs had failed. We had never heard of ARDS and had a lot to learn about the syndrome.

We were told they did not know if she would live long enough to get her to a hospital that was better equipped to handle her condition. It took until 3:00 p.m. to stabilize her enough to have Life Transport move her. By that time there were several members of the family with us.

When we arrived at the “Shock Trauma Unit” at L. D. S. hospital, we were told that she had ARDS and the doctors did not know what had caused it. The infection she was being treated for was not serious enough to cause her lung failure. The next few days were spent trying to find a cause. While the doctors did exploratory surgery, CT’s and a lot of other tests, I began to research all the information I could about the disease. I finally found this web site on a brochure at the hospital. I can never thank you enough for all the information you provided. Families trying to learn about ARDS need all the help they can get and you have a lot there for them. We did not even know what to ask the doctors let alone anything about what to expect. Even though each case is different there is a lot of information in your web sight that everyone can use.

The doctors were never able to find the underlying cause of Sam’s battle with ARDS. They said that all they could do was keep her on life support in hopes that her lungs would turn around and begin to heal. I started a journal to help her know what went on while she was in a drug induced coma. We were soon told that she had severe ARDS and her chance of survival was about 50/50. She was in the Shock Trauma ICU for one month and one day. During that time she had two chest tubes inserted because the pressure needed to oxygenate her body had made holes in both lungs. As a family we went through Christmas, New Years, my mother’s 83rd birthday and Sam’s 43rd birthday, in the family waiting room at the hospital. Mom gave birth to Sam on her 40th birthday so we have always celebrated them together.

Finally on January 20th they decided she was doing well enough to be sent to the hospitals Respiratory Special Care Unit (RSCU). The ICU was named “Special Care” because it is different from any intensive care unit in the hospital. They have private rooms that are decorated like a bedroom, with TV, VCR, chest of drawers for clothing and a chair that converts to a bed if you want to spend the night with your loved one. They use this unit to start physical therapy so the patient will be able to walk by the time the ventilator is removed.

As a family we could visit at any time and stay with her for as long as we wanted. When she had too many visitors, there was a really nice waiting room we could use. We were allowed to bring flowers and plants into her room and put up pictures of her family. One nurse said it would be a good idea to bring a picture of Sam, so everyone working with her would know how beautiful she is. No one looks like themselves on life support. This ICU unit made the following months easier to tolerate. It is so difficult when you have someone you love, fighting for their life in intensive care. Our family will always treasure the relationships formed there.

When she came down from the Shock Trauma Unit she was paralyzed and unable to even lift her hand from the bed. It’s unbelievable how fast the muscles atrophy. Soon Sam was sitting up in a chair. The nurse told us that it was as hard for her to do just that simple physical task, as it would be for us to run the Boston Marathon with no training.

On January 28th, they let her try a CPAC for a couple of hours but the oxygen and pressure had to be raised back up and it was a long time before they felt comfortable trying anything like that again. I don’t believe anyone can truly prepare a family for the emotional roller coaster ride you are on when you have a loved one with ARDS.

By the first part of February Sam was doing so well she could communicate with us using a letter board. Her feeding tube was removed from her nose and put into her side. Her memory was good and she could tell you who had been to see her the day before. On the 9th of the month she was given her first shower. Even though it took a lot out of her, she was so happy. Sam always smiled and said “thank you” to everyone in the unit. Before long the entire staff fell in love with her and began to come into her room even if she didn’t need their help.

I have never known anyone with as much strength and courage. Her faith in God and will to live was so strong that she was willing to do anything asked of her.

On Valentines Day Sam was able to initiate her breaths on her own for a few hours. She was still on life support but it was a step forward. It lasted for one day. On the 15th I rushed to the hospital because she was in a coma. Her daughter Lyndsey and I kept shouting at her. Before too long she opened her eyes and gave us that fantastic smile. The entire staff was shocked because they didn’t think she would ever be conscious again. Sam’s oxygen had to be taken back to 100% that day. She had Staff infection in her lungs. Our journey downhill was just beginning. Because she was in such bad shape, we began to spend the night at the hospital again. The doctors told us that she had a very slim chance of survival (10%) but Sam’s faith was so strong she wouldn’t give up. She began her physical therapy again, sitting in a chair and exercising in bed. The care managers of the unit told us that the infection was like a tornado and that it leaves destruction even after it is gone. Since Sam was competent they felt it was time to talk to her and see if she wanted to continue to fight for her life. With tremendous courage she told us she was not ready to give up yet.

For the next few weeks she tried even harder but it began to look as if she would never be able to come off life support. She had trouble with panic and anxiety through the whole ordeal. Now she was beginning to have blood pressure problems. It was hard to believe that she could not survive because her lungs were the only organ that had problems. Everything else was working just fine.

By the beginning of March the doctors (all three of them) told us that Sam would never survive ARDS. I have always thought that it was important to have a living will so my family would not have to make a choice as to when life support should be removed. Never in my wildest dreams, did I think a conscious person would be asked when she would like to end her life. It all seemed so in-humane, as if she were given a death sentence and then told she could choose when to have it carried out.

Since she was so alert and aware, and by no means ready to give up, they began to work again on physical therapy. First they got her out of her room and into the family waiting room. There she was able to see outside for the first time in many months. She was walking, with the help of four people, up and down the hall in front of her room by the middle of the month. The doctors asked her on March 17th if she still wanted to live and she asked for another two weeks. The care managers all felt that she should be moved to the Medical Surgical ICU to make room for a patient that could come off life support. The Special Care Unit was there for that reason.

After two months in RSCU, she was moved to MSICU. This unit looked nothing like the room she had just left, but the care was just the same. It was a big adjustment for all of us. The rules were like the Shock Trauma ICU. She had the same doctors and gratefully they bent the rules just a little. We could visit with her for the entire day except during shift change (7:00 to 8:30 morning and night). Sam told the doctors not to put a time limit on her decision to continue fighting for her life. She said she would let them know if her feelings about ending her struggle and removing life support changed. We had at this time been dealing with her illness for almost 3½ months.

At the beginning of April things began to change very rapidly. Sam’s oxygen and pressure on the ventilator was dropping fast. They were able to do a tracheotomy on the 4th of April and for the first time in a long time you could really see her smile. One of her doctors noticed that she improved when heavy steroids were used in her treatment and so he began to use them again. That made all the new changes possible. On April 9th, my husband’s birthday, we came to the hospital and Sam was breathing on her own, NO VENTILATOR. All at once we had the miracle we had been praying night and day for.

Lyndsey, Carl and I visited with her almost every day during her struggle with ARDS. We had between the three of us only missed (never all of us at the same time) four or five days of being with her. You can imagine the way we celebrated when she was able to talk using a special plug in her tracheotomy. She even teased the nurses and said she would be able to yell at them now. I helped her call mom and a very close friend that day. She was on top of the world and life was beautiful again.

They released her to a small hospital/nursing home on the 16th of April. Suddenly things began to go downhill again. The plug to help her talk was removed because they couldn’t watch her close enough to feel secure about using it. The speech therapy that she needed so desperately to be able to eat again was almost non existent. The nurse would help her walk (when we were there to help the nurse) but it was only once a day. She was used to walking at least 2 or 3 times each day. All the changes made Sam very depressed, and the whole family was really worried. The drive to this hospital was a lot further away for mom and she was not able to see Sam as often as she had before the move. Then on the 28th of the month the nurse called me to let me know they were sending her back to L. D. S. hospital. She had pneumonia again.

She was actually really happy to be back where she had felt so safe and secure for over four months. They admitted her back to MSICU where she knew all the staff. This was on a Monday. By Tuesday she was using the ventilator but she was controlling each breath. On Wednesday she was back on full life support and the doctors had told her that her lungs were so bad that if she survived this pneumonia she would never be able to go home. Her remaining life would be, from the nursing home to the hospital and back again. You could actually see all of the joy in life leave her. We all believed she had received the miracle we had been praying for. We never doubted she would come home again.

The next day when my husband and I got to the hospital I couldn’t believe my eyes. After spending hours the night before, asking God to help her get back her peace of mind, she was truly happy again and her beautiful smile was back. When her daughter came in to visit we learned the reason for her smile. She had told the doctors she was ready to take herself off life support. She asked Lyndsey if it would be okay and after a lot of tears and discussion Lyndsey said it was alright. She told me not to be upset because God was with her. She told the nurses she intended to visit with us until 7:00 pm. We called the family and they were all there at the hospital. Sam wanted mom, Lyndsey, a close friend named Corrine, Carl and I to be in the room with her. She just didn’t feel she could say good-bye to everyone. She did see one of my daughters and another close friend that day. At seven she called in the nurse and they began giving her enough medicine to put her into a deep sleep before the ventilator was removed. I can honestly say I have never felt such peace and contentment in anyone, as I did that day with Sam.

She was finally ready to give up her life, and we had the privilege of being there with her at the very end. The strength and courage she had shown during the entire time was a lesson none of us will ever forget. Sam died on May 1st, 2003. Her four and a half month long fight with ARDS was finally over. No one doubted that God had answered our prayers. He gave Sam the miracle we had prayed for. It just wasn’t the miracle we wanted.

Kathy Leon kcleon61@networld.com

 

Meagan Amber Watkins
 

Meagan is a 17 year old high school student who has always been extremely healthy, considering how very sick she is now. Meagan was born with Spina Bifida which means she had a hole in her spine and will never walk. Meagan has had numerous surgeries, from shunt tubes in her neck to rods fused into her back to create a spine, as her spine protruded outward and was impossible to sit and lay. She survived all of these surgeries with no complications even though spine surgery kept her on her back upwards of six months.

To say that ARDS was a shock to us would be putting it mildly, then we read the numerous cases and different variables and we're amazed how common it is and how many different reasons people contract this syndrome. We have a large very close knit family and without their support this ongoing trial would be impossible to bear. We pray to God every day now and believe he will do his will. We are realistic but hopeful that all will turn out for the best. Meagan got the flu around February 1st and there were many of our other little children who had it as well. Meagan was much sicker than they were and she was taken to the doctors office where her primary care doctor is, but with the flu virus around she saw another doctor. We were told it wasn't pneumonia and we believe that to be true, but her heart rate was high and that should've clued us in to the trouble she was having breathing. That was on Thursday night. She continued to struggle but her fever stayed around 99.5. Meagan, being paralyzed from the waist down struggles a little more than you or I would normally, so we assumed it was still normal flu. We finally went back to the doctor on Monday after a harrowing weekend and her primary care doctor, Dr. Lamberts was ready to call the ambulance as her pulse-oxygen rate was very low. We left and went straight to the hospital and have been there ever since. Below I've started to put together a journal of the things we learn from day to day and the frustrations at this syndrome, in hopes that others will get knowledge and comfort from what we're seeing and learning.

To Meagan

March 2nd, 2003
I'm writing this to you so you know what very serious trauma you've been through. I'm going to give you as much information as I can so you understand why you're so weak. As you struggle through recovery you'll see what a strong will you've had so far and it will motivate your recovery.

Today is March 2nd, I'm sure you're wondering where you are and probably, according to various sources, you're having very vivid dreams. My only hope is that you're not in pain and you're dreams aren't frightening.

We've decided to start this journal after reading various stories of other people who've survived this syndrome they now tell us you have. I'll try to retell some of the past 2 1/2 weeks as best as I can remember.

You were brought to the hospital February 10th. That was traumatic enough to you because you were so weak you kept screaming to just let you die. We should have realized then how very serious your condition was but it took another 2 days for that to sink in. We thought at first you were just suffering from pneumonia. We've always known how serious pneumonia can be to someone with no lower lung capacity or muscle, but we surely didn't know it could get worse than pneumonia.

They moved you to the Intensive Care Unit the first night and then they decided you looked better once you had some forced oxygen through the CPAP (I think that's the nose thing??) and they let you go back to the floor. That didn't last through the night and they decided it'd be better to move you back to ICU.

The whole next day you're oxygen sats (which should be at 100%) were dropping lower and lower. I don't remember which day but I think it was the next day that they reached 78% and there was no question as to whether you'd have to be incubated. Unfortunately, you knew of this and were determined not to be tubed. We're so very sorry you didn't want this but had they not done it your condition probably would've done irreversible damage. You're body needed to rest which meant the machine would breathe for you and we all felt better when your oxygen sats started to come up.

There was a day when the Paralytic drug they're giving you wore off a little and you reached your hands up and were breathing harder than normal. I tried to calm you and tell you not to fight the tube and try to be calm but I'm sure you were not calm. They decided then to keep the paralytic in your system. We knew you were very sick but it was a relief to see your hands move and your eyes open if only for a short time. The doctors are giving you Morphine, Norcuran (paralytic), Ativan for nervousness, and 15 different antibiotics at different intervals. At one point they decreased the amount of Norcuran because you seemed to not have enough brain responses to the sensors (you were too far under). All of this happens as it happens, no rhyme or reason to it, but it's apparently all part of this syndrome, so we try not to worry more than normal about any one thing.

Remembering the first week we all had basically a vigil at your bedside every time they had a visiting. I can't tell you how many people have been in to see you, besides Mom, Dad, me, Leslie, Teresa and Adrienne. I can tell you just about everyone we know from Paul, Sally, Richard, Sherry, Brian, Taryn, Kim, Eric, Stephanie, Ms. Curry, Kelli, Nannette, along with various others, have been in to see you at some point. Not to mention the various people we all come into contact with who tell us they are praying for you and the family.

Around the weekend they informed us that none of the antibiotics were culturing anything to kill the pneumonia and we were told you had staph infection all over your lungs and that was making it all the more difficult for your lungs to work to clear the pneumonia. There was a time during all of the pneumonia talk the first week that they decided it was staph infection and then we thought back to how many times you had a sore throat during this year and it always came out as staph in the back of your throat (which most people have). We then pieced together that given what we know from Shriners, Gastric Reflux is very common in paraplegic children and this could very well be the cause of the staph infection. We continued to watch your sats rise and fall all through the next week and it seems to me that every Friday your sats would be really bad, but then you'd turn it around and be okay again.

This week from the 24th to the 27th, we were informed the stuff in your lungs was getting worse not better and you were taking more and more pressure to keep air in your lungs. At the same time Dr. Ruiz was telling us this he mentioned ARDS and said we could look it up on the internet which is how this journal started. We've been reading other people's survival stories and most of them started journals. It's now Saturday morning and I'm sitting here trying to do this fast overview of where we've been the past few weeks. Grandma Dot had knee surgery at University, so she's now at Doctor's Hospital as you are. Teresa's grandfather also had a stroke and he's at University. We went to visit and Justin immediately had to throw up when we went in to see Grandma. I couldn't understand why then later I asked why he got so ill and he was afraid he would catch it, he said. He thought it was contagious and he'd have to have his knee replaced. We all got a kick out of that. Anyway she had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia, but it's normally for older people, they said. She's on the rehab floor and doing very well. Along with you and Grandma, Bobby Jean's sister Gail is in ICU with you. She's in the first room and you are in room 5. So all of her family and ours congregate in the ICU waiting room for hours on end. We even have snacks and goodies in there since we're in for a long haul. Last night your sats were at 98% and your heart rate is around 118, which is great, considering it had been 148 and 93%. They are giving you heart medicine now to keep your heart from struggling excessively. It seems to be working and I'm going to quit writing now and get in the shower to get ready to go see you around 2:00. Just know that we all love you very much and will continue to keep this journal.

You've gone all Saturday and Sunday with very good sats but the pressure your ventilator has is at 54 ( it had been in the 20's a few weeks ago). This is dangerous because you could suffer a pneumothorax (which means your lungs could collapse) so we just pray that you'll show improvement and they can back the pressure down. This week they are going to have to do a tracheotomy (a tube inserted surgically into your throat, leading to your lungs, for the ventilator to breath) and a gastro tube (which means surgically inserted feeding tube, basically). They don't like people to be on a ventilator for more than about 2 weeks, so this is standard in ARDS at this stage, I believe.

We read one story where a survivor said her Trach scar was the prettiest mark she had and I pray that you'll feel the same when you're well. You've been a literal pincushion since you were admitted; however, it's all been necessary. We've read stories of how depressed people were when they came around and I pray with out support you'll feel just like you're old self and not defeated with how weak you'll be. Just know that we all love you and we'll do everything in our power to help you feel better later. Just get better now.

March 4, 2003
Well I want to update you with some positive news. First I'll tell you yesterday they put in the trach tube and all went well. Your sats are still holding and look even better. Today Dr. Deppy came in and was very positive. This is the first time a conversation with the doctor has been anything but cautiously optimistic. He said the x-rays showed clearing in your lungs and they would be taking you off the norcuran (the paralytic). He also said they were going to give you your meds through the tube instead of IV. He said "I see no reason you shouldn't pull out of this to recover". We were so happy to hear that because no one has said anything except we'll have to wait and see until now. They actually were able to pull off the forced breathing and put on respirator support only.

March 8, 2003
The last few days have been up and down. The day after everything looked so good didn't look good again. Your sats were dropping into the low 90's and they put it back on total ventilator support. All day long the sats didn't look good and your heart rate was up a little. He came in the next day and said he had no explanation for why you were worse. Nothing had been changed. He just figures there's another infection so he gave another type of antibiotic. The sats then came up but they had to up the pressure control to 62 and the Peeps at 20, which is higher than they want it to be.

March 10, 2003
Someone told us today that they have a gram-rod negative bacteria growing, that something actually cultured. We were very relieved because they'd know which antibiotics worked best now.

March 14, 2003
Hey Meagan. I'm sorry I haven't written since last weekend, but it's been a very scary week. Dr. Trellow was back on Monday and we didn't see her but your sats were okay. Tuesday, Mom got a call at home that your right lung had a small pin hole but it had been caught before any major drops in sats. They had been dropping slightly the two days before but nothing large. You looked more stable after this but they had to insert a chest tube to keep your lungs inflated. That was Tuesday, the 11th, before 10:00 visitation.

Wednesday, the 12th, before 2:00 visitation your left lung collapsed and your sats were very low, they were in 50% oxygen range - we were scared to death. We watched your sats stay low for more than 10 minutes, we saw you turn blue from lack of oxygen - it was very scary. We were all in tears and trying to be positive, but it was looking bad at that moment. We left the room and called family so that Dr. Trellow could put in another chest tube on the other side. She came out at about 3:30 and said she was unsuccessful with the chest tube but that a vascular surgeon was available and had rushed to put in a larger chest tube closer to the center section of your lung. The smaller tube wouldn't inflate your lungs, I guess because the lungs are fibrotic (which means hardened scar tissue). That's a major worry now because the pneumonia seems to be clearing but the fibrosis, we don't know how that will heal. It's hard to tell how much will heal because they can't get a CAT scan done. They can't bag you to transport you and they couldn't see much with the rods in your spine because the CAT scan uses magnetic imaging. We just hang on and pray every day.

Dr. Trellow said they've discovered the gram-rod negative bacteria is called "pseudomonas" and that it's treatable so we wait for improvement. Through all of this we're very grateful for the amount of family and friends who've showed us concerns. It's been difficult for all of us, but we have to go in and have to tell you we love you and that you need to get better, because we know what a fighter you are. That night the whole family was there for visitation - and I do mean everyone. Even Ms. Curry, Kim's mom, Teresa's mom were there. They've all been very supportive and caring.

Thursday, the 13th, everything looked good, your face looked good even though your tongue is so swollen they've had to put a block in your mouth to protect your tongue from your teeth clamping. They were giving you blood and the pneumonia looks improved, Dr. Trellow seems pleased and your sats were stable enough all day. You're back on the paralytic drugs as of Tuesday when the first lung collapsed. We don't like that but we know they have to do it. We just miss you so much esp. the kids, we want you home and well - or at least just well enough for rehab.

Friday, the 14th, your pulse-ox was lower, only 91's but that still causes worry at this point. At 2:00 visit, we noticed you had a lot of fluid and lasix has still not been added. We asked why and were told your Co2 and Po4 levels weren't good. Later your left lung collapsed again. You now have 2 chest tubes in that side. Your sats didn't really drop lower than 80, which is good - no 50% oxygen levels. We're worried about brain damage when it's low. You're having nose bleeds and they also had to do a doppler on your left arm because they think there is a blood clot. We don't know the results of that yet. We all love you and miss you.

March 15, 2003
Today I went up at the 10:00 visit and your sats look good but now your heart waves are doing funny things. I'm so worried that there's something going wrong with your heart and nobody will say anything. We have a funeral to go to today, so I can't go back at 2:00 and that's usually when they see the Doctor. Jamie, Kenny's friend, lost his brother Tuesday night, so in addition to seeing you he's had to be with Jamie a lot this week. It's been a horrible week. Today we were told you did have a clot in your arm and they removed the arterial line from there and will have to put it back later. We just pray there are no more pneumothoraxes because your body can't take too much more stress. They have a tongue depressor wrapped in gauze or something back in your mouth so you can't bite through again. Yesterday you were very red and flushed in color from the pac-cells (blood transfusion) but today you're very pale. We all love you and miss you.

March 16, 2003
I haven't been to see you today, mainly because it's weekend and I try to entertain the children a little. They just expect now that I'm going to the hospital and they can't go. Mom said you looked good yesterday - which I went in too but sometimes I take her judgment above my own. I know I was talking negative a lot the last two days, but we're a little less worried now. We all love you and miss you.

March 18, 2003
Well, you've made it since last Friday without a pneumothorax so we feel pretty good that maybe you could just be headed out of the danger. No one (Doctors) will say that - I think they don't want to jinx themselves. Your pressures have been at 64 to 56 back to 59 but your oxygen is holding around 100 - 98. Today your heart rate was back to 128's but we're assuming whatever medicine hasn't kicked in yet. So, things look good I'll keep you updated. We've been told that it will be a matter of time to see what you lungs will clear because they are so hard and scarred they just don't know what will heal so it's a time thing. The pseudomonas in your lungs has cleared so now it's just the fibrosis. We love you and miss you.

March 22, 2003
Yesterday was Mom and Dad's 34th anniversary. They had managed to lower your pressure to 54, but had to raise it back to 60 and when that didn't hold it went back to 64, today. Dr. Ruiz also came in and said that while you showed improvement for 2 days the last couple have been steadily downhill. Your white count is 54,000 its supposed to be 13,000. You aren't stable enough for surgery or a trip downstairs to CAT scan and even if you were you're body is immunocompromised which means whatever antibiotics they could give you aren't doing any good. Just about the whole family was here yesterday and Leslie and I stayed last night. We're all preparing for the worst, Meagan, and we're still trying to be hopeful there will be some miraculous recovery when we visit next. The doctor said because your lungs are so hard and there's another infection somewhere unknown that eventually he feels he won't be able to ventilate you any longer. You're at the max support level they can give you. The x-rays look about the same which is what we've heard for weeks, no real improvement but a little hope. It's hard to be in that room because you look so much like yourself. You aren't swollen or red, you look good, just asleep and peaceful. I'm very thankful you are asleep and don't know just how sick you are. The nurses are letting us come in whenever we want and stay in there too. Which is bad because it tells us just how serious it is even though your sats look okay. We're all miserable right now, we just pray your comfortable. We all love you and miss you.

March 25, 2003
Well, Meagan, Today is a different day but overall you're still the same. The doctors told us you had a white count of 52,000, then the next day it was 56,000 and the next it was 76,000. You can't maintain body temperature (you're at 94 now but only because of the heat lamp above you - you have been 92). We're suffering so much because the doctors say there is really nothing they can do for you. You have a massive unknown infection from somewhere we don't know. Then yesterday your white count was down in the 60,000's, and you improved a little - you are fighting so hard. You're at the max ventilator pressures and PEEP and you're oxygen is now falling into the low 90's but it does seem to change daily. We have been told to expect you're oxygen levels to fall as infection increases and that eventually you're heart will just stop beating. This hasn't happened, your sats have actually showed improvement - we're all very hopeful. We just pray you're comfortable. We all love and miss you so much and we just pray you aren't suffering. You're such a little fighter - I wish all those doctors and nurses had met you before you were sick. They're all amazed that you've survived the pressures at 64 for as long as you have, they just don't know how strong you are.

March 26, 2003
Today was the hardest day of my life. Last night, Leslie called and I had gone to eat with Kenny and the kids. She said your blood pressure had fallen quite dramatically and you had started with lividity. That means your blood was cooling and pooling in places where you didn't have enough blood pressure to keep it moving. She said Daddy didn't think you'd make it through the night. After Friday I thought sure it was just another scare. I went to the hospital knowing it would be an all-nighter, just as the rest of us arrived there to see you. Everyone has been in to see you since Friday when they told us it didn't look good. Your little body was so cold and you were so pale, it hurt to know how long you've been sick. We watched as your pressure slowly started to go lower. You started the night at 79 over 45 with a heart rate in the 90's and when God took you home it was 23 over 10 or something of the sort with a lower heart rate. You were gone before that, I feel certain. Momma, Daddy, Leslie, Kenny and I were at your bedside holding your hands in a circle as you quietly slipped away. I told you everything I could before you went - I hope you know how very much I love you and will miss you and how much the kids will miss you. We all always tried to give you the best and you certainly were the best to us. We know you're in a better place but we're sad it couldn't be with us. Thank you for sharing your life with us. You will be in ours always. Love, Cher

March 31, 2003
We had visitation March 28th and buried you March 29, 2003. There were so many people and flowers - you would've loved it. The last few days have been harder than I thought, we thought we were prepared. There are little things that tear me up, like seeing the ramp or going to Momma's and wanting to say "Where's Meagan?" like we all always did. I've got the gift certificates you gave me at Christmas that you were so proud of and that I loved and I can't bear to go use them, even though I love that restaurant. I hear a song and have to turn the radio and I have a hard time going to Waffle House because that's what we got that last day in the hospital before they tubed you - it's the last meal you ate what you always loved. Now, I'll always order Cheese 'n Eggs. I'm so worried for Momma because she's at home all day and I hope something will come along to give her hope. Your funeral was beautiful, Taryn read her poem and didn't break down too much. Leslie L. read Shala and Kim's poems to you. We released balloons at the cemetery (the kids and us) and they all stuck together until they were in Heaven, just like we did. You looked at peace and I felt like you were there watching all the people and flowers and were pleased. People from school and lots of others came, some you didn't even know. Sherry and some of the rest of us made a beautiful collage of pictures of you at all ages - Monty made a large frame and we're going to have that forever. Everyone loved it and it made us all cry. You were always so strong and happy and that's what I'll try to hold to. I'm going to close this now and post it on the ARDS website that's been such a valuable information bed for us during this crisis. I want everyone to know how strong and beautiful you were. You had obstacles in your life even before ARDS but you never let it keep you down or felt sorry for yourself. You were wonderful just how you were and everyone we talked to knew it, too. I love you forever ---- Cher