He was two years old.
His mother had taken him to the doctor two days prior to the day I met him with what she and the doctor both thought was a simple virus. The previous evening, he’d gone to bed and then awakened her in the middle of the night and said, “Mommy, I’m thirsty.”
It was the last thing he ever said.
She felt him and realized he was burning up and she and Kevin’s father brought him to the emergency room as rapidly as they could.
Kevin quit breathing shortly after their arrival.
He was intubated (a tube placed in his bronchial passage) and connected to a breathing machine and brought to us in ICU. (Intensive Care was all one thing in those days. There was no separate ICU for pediatric patients.)
I was a new graduate. And I was assigned to care for Kevin.
He had meningitis. We don’t know why he got it. We’re not sure where he got it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. His parents did exactly the right things. The doctor failed to realize what was wrong, but that wasn’t his fault either.
He was with us for about three weeks, while we tried desperately to save him. Doctors wandered in and out, residents and interns following anxiously. Specialists came and went. Every night I came to work and every night there lay Kevin.
His mother gave me a small photograph of him, smiling, eyes bright, full of life. I kept it for years. I never saw him like that.
Slowly, gradually, his parents began to understand, along with the newly graduated RN on night duty, that we were not going to be able to save Kevin. His mother and I cried together. We stood at Kevin’s bedside and she told me stories of Kevin from better days. She rarely left the hospital and slept only sporadically. His dad had to go to work with that situation looming. To say it was stressful for them is an understatement. He was their only child.
And then one night, I found a small pill cup on the desk at the nurses’ station with a note addressed to me. The cup contained one tablet of Valium. (This was back in the day when controlled substances were not as controlled as they are today, so don’t give me hell about this.) The note was from the night resident. He said, “When Kevin dies, take this pill and then and only then, call me. That’s an order.”
Kevin did die that night, and I did not take the pill. I did call the resident.
And we all cried. All of us. His parents, all the nurses, the resident who had to go tell the parents that their boy was dead. We all cried for this beautiful little boy who was never going to be three.
I attended his funeral. I still know his whole name (although I will not use it here), even though that was almost fifty years ago.
Wouldn’t you want someone to at least try?
They did try. They’ve tried now for weeks, just like we tried so hard to save Kevin.
They cannot save this child. We couldn’t save Kevin and they can’t save Steffen.
It doesn’t matter what the grandmother claims. She has not the brains or gumption to have made sure that the kid even went to the doctor in the first place, but has this gem to say now.
“I think he needs a heat transplant and I think he has a chance if he has a heart transplant,” said Lisa Rivenburg, the child’s grandmother. “If the heart is the problem, then let’s fix the heart. Because they’re the one’s that messed it up by doing too many surgeries and making the muscles so hard that it won’t beat. So we get a new heart. The new heart beats and we should be good!”
It’s so damned simple. Just get the kid new heart. It’s sort of like installing a new burner on your stove. The old one doesn’t work? No problem. Order a new one from Amazon, use a screwdriver to remove the old one and pop the new one in.
And of course, it’s the doctors’ fault in the first place because they fucked around with the kid and he would have been fine if they’d just ignored the congenital heart defect he had. Because babies with those kinds of defects just get better all by themselves, with no treatment at all, you know, except maybe some fresh air and nice dirt to play in.
It doesn’t work that way.
This child is in one of the finest children’s hospitals in America. He has been seen by multiple specialists. They have done everything humanly possible to save his life, with no help from the parents. I know what it’s like to try so hard to save a life and fail. I know the anguish of the medical personnel and to see them vilified like this simply pisses me off royally. Like CPS, they cannot defend themselves. They aren’t allowed, professionally, to speak about this. They just have to take it silently.
And these sociopaths are using that situation to get people to give them money. They are literally getting a windfall over the body of their child.
Little Steffen is going to die. He’s going to die if they pull the plug today. He’s going to die if they manage to find some moronic doctor someplace who is willing to take him and if they can scrape up the money to move him. He’s going to die.
And nobody is going to approve wasting a perfectly good infant heart (and there are very few of them available) just because the grandmother doesn’t have a clue what the hell she is talking about. And yes, the word is waste. He’s going to die.
It’s very sad, yes, and very unfortunate but it might have turned out differently had these morons actually taken him to his appointments when they were supposed to. And maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe he wouldn’t have survived, no matter what. We will never know.
By the way, the little video that the grandmother released purporting to show the child responding to her voice is bullshit. The parents of Terri Schaivo did the same thing, and theirs was equally bullshit. Terri even had her eyes open. The problem was that on autopsy, they found that Terri Schaivo didn’t have any optic nerves. They had rotted away. She was blind. Her brain was basically liquified.
And yet, she moved a little like this child does. It’s meaningless. It’s brain-stem activity. I’ve seen more than one brain-dead person and this is not meaningful. It doesn’t mean he’s there or that he can survive. They cannot fix his heart. They cannot leave him on life support for very long. He is going to die.
All this libertarian crap about how we aren’t entitled to healthcare is complete nonsense. It’s the kind of bullshit people spew when they don’t want to pay for health insurance (“individual mandate? You can’t make me. I have my rights.”) but then as soon as they are facing a life-threatening situation they start demanding stuff right and left, and have no intention whatever of paying a single dime for any of it.
Here’s my own modest proposal.
If you don’t want to pay for health insurance and you believe that taxation is theft, so you won’t help pay for anything that way, then get a small tattoo someplace on your body where we can all easily find it that says “DNT,” meaning “Do not treat.”
Then, when you are plastered all over the pavement after your automobile accident or you have a heart attack because you have untreated high blood pressure and got no medical treatment at all because of your rights, we can say, “Sorry. Cash only, up front.”
If you’re going to opt out, just do it. But do it all the way.
And by god, quit insulting good people who are in anguish over this situation and who have done everything they possibly could to save this child.