Monday, July 30, 2012


I've been keeping a little secret. We went to Charleston, SC last week. I had a ton of emotions to deal with and it wasn't easy. I went with my Mother in Law. Since she was the driver and I was technically riding on the coat tails of her vacation, I thought it would be best to not make plans. Plus, I was a wreck. It really was a good vacation, but I was not prepared for the mood swings and the emotions that would plague my trip. Our first day there, I had an emotional breakdown. It was so bad, I was nearly in tears on a bench at the City Market with my mother in law's arm around me. I had a lot of peace to make with my former home. I didn't think a trip to the Market would set me off, but it did. Lots of things did. Some I showed, some I didn't. Here's a few highlights from our trip.

The Battery. I love this park. Right next to the Charleston harbor and the old part of the city. This is looking down towards the pier.

The pineapple fountain. It felt so good to put my feet in after walking. See that small creature right behind me in blue? That's Brandon, about 30 seconds before splashing my entire backside. Now that was a shocking surprise!

Tugboat pulling a barge in the harbor. It was huge. I don't have a way to show perspective, but trust me. It was a big boat!

Day two..the beach!

This also happened to be the site of another emotional breakdown. It started out a good day, but the memories kept flooding back. The last time I was on this beach, Tommy was in the hospital, just a few days from dying. I had needed a little down time from all the stress, so we had gone to the beach. I guess I've never gotten over the guilt of taking a time out instead of spending those few hours with my boy. It wouldn't have changed anything, and at the time, I really did need a day outside the hospital, but the guilt...Not even the ocean could wash it away and I spend the day alternating between tears and sleeping wrapped in a beach towel, listening to the ocean.

We went to the aquarium for free! Okay, it cost us our time. We signed up to hear about a timeshare and our reward was free aquarium tickets. It's three hours of our life we won't get back, but I loved every moment of the aquarium. I even got flirty with a frog.

A. W. Shucks... Best dinner in Charleston. I'm still dreaming about the craw fish mashed potatoes.

And now we get to the hardest part of the trip. I went back to Children's Hospital. I will admit, it took me two trips to get the courage to walk inside.

Once I was through the doors, there was no turning back. I walked with no purpose to the elevators and pushed the button. Three seconds later, I was on the 7th floor. He died here. I walked passed the ward, 7A, where he died, barely glancing through the glass. It was so painful. I fought the tears. I took Brandon with me, because he asked, and because I really needed a hand to hold. We stopped and looked into the Atrium (Children's play room). I could see the window to the room where he drew his last breath. I was in a dreamlike state. Not here nor there. A moment in time that hung there like fog. Moving down the hall, I saw the Ronald McDonald room. I spent many days sleeping there, reading and foraging for snacks.

As we got closer to the end of the hall, nearing the ward where he spent most of his life, I began to shake. On the wall, never there before, was a clown fish. Nemo.

Here I was, 7C.

I lifted the phone on the wall and requested to see a nurse in the hallway, since I didn't know anyone on the floor and I didn't want to intrude. The doors opened and I saw the room where he spent so much time about a month before he died. All of the air left my lungs. I tried to explain to the nurse who I was and began to cry. I had a hunch already, and she confirmed that the cardiac step down ward had been moved one floor up. It didn't matter. I could see him throwing his toys into the hallway for Ms. Mary to pick up and come play with him. He couldn't talk, yell or cry, but he had great aim and a strong arm. The nurse comforted me and I was on my way one floor up to see if anyone from our stay remembered us.

I stood in the hall outside 8D, the new cardiac step down ward for a few minutes, not sure what to do or say. Finally, a family came out the door and I asked if a nurse was available. The nurse knew me! Hugged me! I looked over her shoulder. Guess what I see.

Yep, another clown fish. She invited us onto the floor and asked if I remembered Tasha. As soon as I came around the corner, I almost fell through the floor. The very nurse that had come from 7C to 7A to be with us the night Tommy died was sitting 3 feet from me. Who do you think arranged that??? I could have not asked for a better way to have closure than to speak to the very person that witnessed everything with me. We chatted and hugged. Brandon and I went downstairs, but I wasn't quite ready to leave. One last picture before I was ready to walk out the doors of MUSC Children's hospital forever. I felt like I had come back and retrieved a part of my heart and felt a little bit more whole.

We went back to the hotel room and turned on the tv. "Finding Nemo" was playing. My heart sang as we celebrated Tommy's memory and me even more so in the knowledge I was finally free and at peace with myself, the memories, the trauma I went through that night losing him. My heart swelled. I miss him a little less each day because I have learned to make him a part of me. The less I miss him, the more I know he's closer to me than ever. Leaving the hospital was soul cleansing.

Our trip was over. Only a couple more stops to make. We went to see the Hunley. After hearing so much history over the past few days, seeing it in person was just amazing. This is Brandon peeking into a replica. No photography is allowed of the real thing.

Lunch was a walk down memory lane. Andolini's!!!

The pizzas are SO big. 19 inches! Two slices and I was done in. I wish they had pizza like this around here. I would eat it every chance I got.

It was then time to get back on the road. We stopped in Tennessee for the night and enjoyed their pool. I even got to lounge in their hot tub for awhile.

Matthew had his birthday on the road. Who can say they've had a birthday party at a rest stop?

All said and done, it was an emotional, but much needed trip. I go back to work in the morning. I have lots of pictures and a ton of memories. And a tan!


Katie said...

You had me crying reading this, Rene. I'm so glad you got the opportunity to go back where Tommy spent his last days and make peace with it. I'm sure you will always have the pain of loosing him - don't know what that feels so won't even try to act like I do - but maybe this trip will make that pain a little easier to bear. You have to know that you did all you could do for lil Tommy. There's not anything you, as a mother, could have done. You were his best advocate and did a wonderful job at it.

Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I check your blog on a weekly basis to see how you and your family are doing.

The family you met at the heart walk seems to be doing o.k. I speak to her every once in a while and she's struggling but muddling through. Sure you know how that is. I'll send you here FB name so you can look her up if you haven't already done so.

Take care and hope the boys enjoy the rest of their summer break. It's coming to an end soon, unfortunately.

Katie Columbia
God's Special Little Hearts
Mom to 3 (Arielle, Emily & Isaiah-HLHS,DORV,Post Glenn twice after failed Fontan,Heart Transplant list as of 7/15/11)

Claudia said...

Hugs Rene.
Sounds like it was a good and heart cleansing trip. I'm glad you were able to get some closure.

Claudia said...

Hi Rene. It sounds like you had a nice heart cleansing trip. I'm glad you were able to find some closure. Hugs!

Diagram of Tommy's Heart Defects

Diagram of Tommy's Heart Defects
Double Inlet Left Ventricle with Transpostion of the Great Arteries