Dental Health Month is celebrated each February to help raise awareness of the importance of oral health. In recognition of this national month-long dental health observance, we decided to do something special for one our patients.
By Candace E.
When we first got married, Chad had taken a new job in Charleston SC. Chad was 23, I was 19, we were in love, and life was full of promise and excitement.
As we were getting settled into our new life in Charleston; enjoying the beach, the work and our new marriage, we were thrilled to discover that I was pregnant with our first child.
Like most new moms, I loved preparing for Dakota’s birth. There were no indications that Dakota would be born prematurely at 27 weeks gestation.
Dakota would spend the first four months of her life in NICU. Seeing our child suffer was a big thing and a very hard thing. We were wanting to learn how to change diapers and how to give bottles…instead we would be learning how to inject and administer life-long medications, and to read heart monitors.
When Dakota was born, we had several questions. Being there in the hospital with other families and other births occurring all around us, we were feeling desperate and angry. How did this happen? Why did this happen to us? What was happening to our daughter?
Over the 4 months spent in NICU, we experienced the first of what would be several tests and specialists, and lessons on how to live with Dakota’s symptoms and challenges. Dakota was born blind and with panhypopituitarism. Another term for this condition was Diabetes Insipidus.
We visited Dakota everyday in the hospital. After Dakota was released from NICU, we would be in and out of the hospital with regularity for the next few years. After approximately 2 years of seeing doctors and nurses, meeting other parents at the hospital who were having to give their final goodbyes to their own kids, we began to see our bitterness and sadness turn to hope. Dakota had challenges. But she was alive and she was ours.
We were very dedicated to Dakota, to make her better, and to give her a better life. After a move to Greensboro for additional medical services, Dakota began to improve. In spite of her going through puberty at a very age, her blindness and seizures, she was always smiling and laughing. Our hope continued to increase. We had another child, a daughter named Carolina Rose. She was born full term and had no medical problems.
We had eventually moved back to Charlotte area after a series of circumstances and additional life challenges in Greensboro. Chad was laid-off from his job, was unemployed for over 3 months, lost our house and we had caved to life’s pressures and had separated from one another for a short period.
After a period of separation, we knew that this was not how life was to be lived. I gave birth to our third child, Brennen William, who was also born full term and had no medical problems. After a lot of diligence and effort, Chad found a new job, got us a new home, and we began putting our family back together.
We found Lee Park Church during this time of trying to make our life work. Our marriage was working and Chad had a job, so we went to church one Sunday. We were blown away. This was what we’d been looking for in our lives. Unfortunately, Dakota would scream during services and though the church was very accommodating, we felt like Dakota was hurting the church experience for others. So we would stay home and watch the services online. This was just one of the ways we would have to compromise our lives for our daughter.
One day, Dakota suddenly became lethargic. Her right arm was drawn to her chest, and she was having a different type of seizure than she had experienced before now. After having been out of the hospital for a while, we took Dakota back.
Everyday she got gradually worse. Her brain was not functioning and her blood pressure was very low. The seizures were getting worse and she got pneumonia.
We had not lost our desire to fight for Dakota. So we started with our research all over again.
6 days before she died, we took in the research that we had done and, in our passion for Dakota’s success, we demanded that the hospital do certain things make her better. She was suffering. The doctors said, “We’re not finding anything and it is time for you guys to make decisions concerning Dakota. They didn’t know if Dakota was going to make it or not. The Doctors asked “did we want to send her home on life support or wait and see what happens?”
We were in shock because we were still fighting for our child. We couldn’t decide. After a lot of emotional and honest discussions, within an hour, we decided to not put Dakota on life support. She had suffered enough. We were going to let God take control. We worked with the doctor to make plans on taking the tube out of Dakota. Funeral plans were made on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Once we had all the things in place that we knew were needed, we went back to the doctors and were ready for a one to two hour passing. The doctor’s removed Dakota’s tube.
We prayed. We did everything that we knew and felt to be right. We brought in the family, our other children, and then everyone exited the room while we waited with Dakota. It took 48 hours for Dakota to pass.
Our prayers were never, “Please God, take Dakota home.” Our prayers had always been, “Dear God, please let Dakota see.”
Death had never crossed our minds with Dakota. She had always pulled out of every challenge. She was just so tough. So death NEVER crossed our minds.
During Dakota’s final 48 hours, we felt at ease, we felt at peace, and we were so glad that we could spend that time with her. It was relief for us when she passed because we knew that our child wasn’t suffering anymore.
After this experience, I am determined to enjoy my time with our kids now…I don’t take it for granted. We try to spend as much time as we can with our children. Life is very precious. It has made us a better mother and father.
Looking back….this experience has made Chad and I better parents and closer to God than we’ve ever been. Because of our faith in God, we have no bitterness about this journey.
We are so glad that Dakota is no longer in pain or suffering. She had a laugh/giggle/smile to die for and now, because our my faith in God’s promises, I know that she is doing that all the time.