Sawyer’s Story (part 16): Becoming a Stalker

May 10, 2011 at 11:08 am | Posted in Death, Grief | 3 Comments
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We had missed the first call from the medical examiner.  She had left a message.  I called back.  I had missed her for the day.  I called again the next day.   And the next.  The Tuesday after Sawyer died I spoke to one of the two pathologists who had performed Sawyer’s autopsy.  I spoke to Dr. R.  She told me the preliminary findings and explained that it would be a few weeks before all the test results were back. 

Dr. R. proceeded to tell me that Sawyer had a coarctation of his aorta.  She explained that this is a narrowing of the aorta.  She gave me the measurements.   I asked frantically if there was some way that we could have detected this.  Did we miss a symptom or a sign?  Could we have prevented it?  If it was a heart defect than that would mean that it was not a virus or something else that I could have let Sawyer be exposed to.

After hanging up the phone with Dr. R. Evan called our pediatrician.  He told him the preliminary results.  Our pediatrician explained to us that the measurements of the narrowing in Sawyer’s aorta were small but Sawyer and his heart were small.  I was now wishing that I could understand more of these medical terms.  More than once when Jake was in the NICU I cursed myself for going to law school instead of medical school

I tried to call Dr. R. back.  She was not in her office.  I left a message.  She did not call back the next day so, I called again.  And again.  I contemplated how many times a day I could call her.  I decided to keep calling but just leave messages once a day.  Two painfully long weeks went by.  I began to think about going to the medical examiner’s office in person. 

I asked the receptionist what she thought would be good times to call.  I called at the times she suggested.  I called at other times.  I jumped every time our phone rang hoping it would be her.

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. . .” —  Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking)


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  1. I remember the days of stalking the pathologist for Jim’s autopsy results. Thankfully he was much more available than yours. How upsetting this must have been for you. It’s all just too much isn’t it?

  2. I think becoming a stalker must be a normal step in this insane process. Anything that feels like a step towards some sort of control or answers is a step you have to take.

  3. You deserved answers. I hope and pray that someday you have more answers.

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