A Personal Project Linus Story
On February 1, 2005, I set out from my mountain home in North Carolina bound for my daughter's home in Covington, GA. My daughter, Hansi, was entering the hospital that night in preparation for the birth of her third child.
Even before his birth, Ronald Andrew Holloway had taken on a personality. Daily, often several times daily, my daughter called to give me news of Andrew. He liked the sound of his father's voice, he had hiccups, he wanted to play in the middle of the night. "We put up his baby bed today, Mom," my daughter called to say. "We lost a spring for the side rail and I had to special order one." Of course, the arrival of the spring prompted another phone call. There was little of this baby's anticipated arrival that we did not share.
About 1 AM on February 2nd, my son-in-law, James, called from the hospital and told me to hurry over, that it appeared Andrew would arrive soon. When I arrived at the hospital, my daughter was in hard labor but, typical of her, cracking jokes with the nurses. Hansi, who holds the title of second runner up for Miss Plus Size America, was telling the nurses that she actually was a model for the February, 2005 issue of a national magazine. "Bet you can't guess which one," quipped Hansi. "Fit Body!"
This was the last bit of humor we were to have for a long time. Very shortly, Hansi's labor became abnormal. The transition was instantaneous and Hansi knew something was terribly wrong. She told her doctor that things were not right and that her baby was in distress. Her doctor did not listen to her. She begged for a C-section, to no avail. Hours passed, with Hansi in excrutiating pain, Andrew's heart rate eratic, and precious time being wasted. Eventually, the doctor decided to take Hansi to the OR for a C-section. Andrew was whisked away by the neonatalogists, who, despite their desperate attempts to help him, could do nothing to save a baby who was brain dead from lack of oxygen.
Just as one of the neonatalogists was telling us of Andrew's condition, my youngest daughter, Lindsay, arrived at the hospital with Hansi's two other children, Walker, age 7, and Kaylin, age 10. Walker and Kaylin were bouncy and excited to see their new baby brother. Will they ever forget that it was their grandmother who explained to them that their little brother would not live?
Of course, none of us really believed that. Andrew just needed time, we told ourselves. In the NICU, Andrew was a giant, almost too large for his bed. All around him were tiny babies, some barely as big as Andrew's leg. Babies weighing just under 2 pounds, babies whose heads were no larger than an apple. And Andrew, 8 pounds, 15 ounces. We could not grasp that these fragile infants would live to go home and our Andrew would not. He was perfectly healthy and normal looking; he was asleep and would wake up.
I think the children realized Andrew's condition before we grown-ups did. Kaylin explained it this way, "Nana," she said with tears streaming down her face, "Don't you see? He's not a real person." It was the only words she knew to explain brain death. Walker, who has an aversion to hospitals and needles**, pulled me aside. I could hear the fear in his voice as he said, "Nana, I'll take Andrew's place." As I looked at that frightened little boy offering to exchange his life for his brother's, I knew that I had looked into the face of God.
Somewhere in all the pain, confusion, and fear, I remembered Project Linus. Here I was, a Project Linus coordinator whose blankets were 200 miles away. Lindsay located a computer, went to the Project Linus National web site, and found the coordinator for Rockdale County, GA. In just a few hours, Laurie Lewis arrived with beautiful, handmade blankets. She had special ones for Walker and Kaylin, and she brought several for James and Hansi to select from for Andrew. James chose a beautiful crocheted blanket in a rainbow of colors. Seeing it beneath Andrew was a blessing. There, beneath all the tubes and lines, was color. When Andrew was transferred to another hospital, the blanket went with him. Today, it is a cherished memento of Andrew's too-brief life.
Kaylin, the quiet one, hugged her blanket to herself and retreated to a private corner, preferring solitude to company. Walker, the extrovert, was happy to have his photo made with Laurie. When he left the hospital that night, he covered his mother with his blanket and insisted she use it until she returned home, then they could share it.
While we grieve for the loss of Andrew, we celebrate the many blessings we received while he was with us. To those precious people who work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units, we offer our sincere thanks. These caring professionals not only use every skill known to man to save these fragile babies, they do it with kindness, compassion, and a true love for the tiny people entrusted to their care. For Project Linus, and especially Laurie Lewis, we are grateful. Laurie worked a full day, then drove across three counties to deliver blankets to our family. Although she will always be special to us, I know she is just one of hundreds of Linus volunteers who do this every day. If you would like to read Andrew's story and see his photos, click here. Since Andrew's site also has music, you need to close the Project Linus main page first.
Pamela Carman, coordinator Project Linus of Western NC and Northeast GA February 15, 2005
**Walker's aversion to hospitals and needles stems from an incident when he was about three years old. Right under the eyes of his Nana, he managed to gulp down, without water, about five tablets of a medication his grandfather takes. He spent four days in the hospital on a heart monitor, and received a Project Linus blanket that he still cherishes. His Nana has spent the past four years on a guilt trip for not being more watchful.