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My name is Craig, my lovely wife is Linda, we are from Australia and are the parents of the lovely little boy in the picture called ANDREW, who died from a ruptured brain aneurysm at the age of 11 months. It is the worst experience anyone could ever go through, seeing their child die. Here is my story about Andrew….
August 21, 2000
Andrew was born on the 17th of December 1997 at 6.25pm after quite a quick labor of only 2 hours weighing in at 9lb 3oz. He was a very healthy boy when born and took to breast feeding very well. Over the next few months he was growing well and developed a very happy nature, always greeting us with a big smile whenever he woke from his sleep time. Andrews sister Karley who was about 3 doted on him like she was another little mum, ever since Andrew was born she just loved him and there wasn't any jealousy from the attention he received.
The 24th of November 1998 began just like any other day, I was on afternoon shift, so I had the pleasure of looking after Andrew for the day while the girls went shopping to buy Andrews birthday presents and Christmas presents for our relatives. We had a great time playing together with all of his toys. I then took him in the pram for a walk up to the shops, which he enjoyed because so many people used to stop and say how adorable he was.
At about 3.00pm the girls came home from shopping and not long after that I went to work and Linda put him to sleep for his afternoon nap. It had been a very normal day, but Linda told me on the phone that night when I rang her, (I just check up on them and say goodnight to Karley before she goes to bed) that Andrew didn't seem as hungry as he normally is, but he was still happy. When Linda put Andrew to bed that night he did his usual trick of pulling himself up to standing in the cot and had a bit of a play. Linda went back in to put him back under the sheets but picked him up first and he gave her a really big cuddle and did not want to let go. He finally did and he went to sleep almost straight away. Linda checked on the children just before she went to bed herself and they were both sound asleep.
I arrived home at 12.45am I went straight to bed as I was very tired after a busy night, but 15 minutes after I hopped in Linda and myself heard a very strange squealing sort of noise we had never heard before coming from Andrew. As I had not been in bed long I told Linda that I would go and see what the matter was. As soon as I picked Andrew up he had a massive seizure in my arms which continued for what seemed like an eternity but was probably for about a minute or two. He was shaking so violently that I was struggling to hold on to him. I called out to Linda and we took him to the family room once the seizure had stopped.
Linda took hold of Andrew and I phoned the ambulance to come, and while I was on the phone Andrew stopped breathing temporarily but Linda was able to revive him. The ambulance was going to take 25 minutes because the nearest station to us was only 5 minutes away, but all their ambulances were being used. (Great help they were for us) When they finally arrived Andrew had regained consciousness but was pale and very weak. Linda went in the ambulance with Andrew to the emergency department where he was looked at by a junior doctor, who on first inspection of our son diagnosed him as having a bout of gastro, but did no more.
Twenty minutes passed by with Linda and Andrew just sitting in the waiting area until he started having another seizure and a different doctor walked by and immediately took Andrew and put all these monitors on to him and they now realised that they had a major problem on their hands. As soon as he was placed on the bed he was sedated and a pediatrician was called in. When he arrived he thought that there was a brain-related problem, suggesting that it may be meningitis or something like that but was not sure. Andrew had to be transferred in an ambulance to the Royal Children's Hospital, which was 75 kilometers away. We were told that we could not go in the ambulance with him, but to go home, have a quick shower and breakfast and drive up as soon as we could.
When we arrived at the hospital we were taken up to intensive care where two doctors met us. The first thing that the head doctor in intensive care said to us after he introduced himself were we believe your son is going to die. This absolutely stunned Linda and myself that our little boy could die when there was nothing wrong with him before that day. Once we had slightly gained some sort of composure they explained that they did an M.R.I. on Andrews brain and discovered that he had a massive bleed from what they said was a right communicating artery aneurysm. The doctor said that it was about 15mm (9/16") in diameter when it burst. I must admit I had to ask them what an aneurysm was, which they explained to us and also told us that it normally does not occur in children, but in older people.
We were then introduced to a neurosurgeon who said that there had been irreparable damage done with such a massive bleed that if Andrew did happen to survive he would be totally incapacitated. At this stage we did not know which way to turn because everything was happening so quickly and everyone that spoke to us had nothing but bad news. The neurosurgeon said that there was only one thing that they could try which would be to clip the aneurysm by cutting Andrew near his groin and feeding an attachment up through an artery and try and clip it from the inside. One of the problems they had was they could not do the operation at that hospital, but he would have to be transported to another hospital. We agreed to this, as we wanted our little boy alive even if he was retarded, it didn't matter.
Andrew was then prepared to go to the other hospital and as he was being taken we could not stop crying and holding his hand and trying to reassure him we loved him and he would be all right. The doctors suggested that we get something to eat and they would send for us after the operation was over which could take several hours. No sooner had we just sat down to have a bit of food, than we were asked to come over to the other hospital. Because such a short time had gone by we knew the news was not good. We were then told that Andrew had died in the ambulance being transported to have the operation. It was less than 12 hours after Andrew had his first seizure that what was a very happy life had suddenly ended.
The next time that we spoke to the doctor was when they asked us if we had considered organ donation. This question really threw us because we thought Andrews's organs would have been to small to use. We agreed to this as we hoped Andrew might be able to help save the life of another child perhaps. Over the course of the next 24 hours all the tests were done on Andrew which was terribly stressful seeing our boy lifeless except with the aid of the machines keeping his organs going.
It was during this time that our 3 year old daughter arrived at the hospital and now we had to try to tell her that the brother she loved so much had died and would not be with us any more. Trying to explain this in the state that we were in was extremely hard on everyone.
The doctors came and told us that they could only use Andrews's liver, because all the other organs were too immature or had taken to much shock. The operation took place and a beautiful little 14-month old girl received his liver. Unfortunately for her and her parents there were complications and she died 2 days later.
Andrews's life was such a happy one that was filled with so much love that even now it does not seem possible that this could have happened.
When Andrew died the doctors thought he was born with the aneurysm and suggested that Karley, Linda and myself all have an M.R.I. to make sure we do not have one as well. As it turned out we are all clear of any problems at this stage.
On January the 11th 2000 we had another child, a beautiful little girl we called Lauren, who we were worried about having an aneurysm as well and once she had reached 3 months of age she had an M.R.I. also. The tests came back all clear and we are only now just starting to get our lives back in order.
I was told by the neurosurgeon who has had 25 years experience at the hospital that he has never seen another child as young as Andrew with an aneurysm, which makes me wonder why did it have to happen to Andrew for. If anyone who reads this story knows of any cases involving young children, could you please let me know as that it is just so rare?
Andrew was a wonderful little child with his whole life ahead of him and we will never ever forget the love and happiness he brought to our lives and to all that knew him.
Update 14 October 2008
It is almost 10 years since our wonderful young son Andrew died from a ruptured brain aneurysm and a lot has happened in that time. Karley and Lauren are growing up at a very rapid rate, and there is not a day that does not go by without thinking of our little champ.
Karley still talks about the things Andrew used to do, and always talks about his cheeky little smile.
Life has changed for us in so many ways since Andrews' death, we are more protective of our children and feel edgy whenever either girl complains of a bad headache (we tend to fear the worst and work backwards from there). It is an irrational fear but still we can not help it. I do not think we are as carefree as we were, but we are getting a bit more relaxed as time goes on.
There is a real positive move that both Linda and I have done and that was to get involved with an organization called Hope bereavement care. Its role in the community is to support and offer counseling for parents and siblings after the death of a child. This group of counselors was there for us after Andrew died and their support was invaluable, as without them we would have really struggled to cope.
The voluntary role that we took on was as parent supporters, which involves contacting recently bereaved parents and offering our support, comfort and knowledge of what they are now going through in their time of need. We are available to talk to them any time that they need to talk, if they are having a bad day or just need to offload how they are feeling.
Linda started taking the girls to a children's memory morning, which is a program run during each school holidays for children to do activities which are fun and also a great way to help them remember their brother/sister in a very positive way. After a while Linda started helping out with planning of activities, and helping the kids if they needed a helping hand.
About 2 1/2 years ago Linda and I decided that we would like to help as parent supporters and did a course to teach us how to do our role effectively. We have both been in contact with a number of parents in that time and it can be very confronting at times, but is such a great feeling at times when you get to know these families and see how it can help them.
I have also become involved in the men's support group which runs once a month where dads get together and talk about how they are feeling in a very relaxed environment. We have also run a few great events, like golf days, but the event that had a number of dads really enjoy themselves and gave them a chance to really just forget about everything else for a while was a day out at the Ford Motor Company Proving ground, where they got to travel at some awesome speeds around the high speed track, do some high speed spins on the slippery surface, and ride and handling rally style. It was a day that these men and I walked away from having done something that brought some joy back into their lives.
It has been a real roller coaster of a ride for us since Andrew died but I think that as time goes on we have learned that life really is worth living and we treasure each and every moment we have with our kids and our families. There have been times when things get a little strained but we have learnt how to handle most issues and our love for our family continues to grow. We will never forget Andrew because he is in our hearts always.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Craig Mulder