Finding a Heart
The surgery went late into the night. Victoria and Patrick took some nurses and doctors to a tapas bar to celebrate. They ate. They drank. "It was the happiest night of our lives," Victoria says. Nurses would send periodic text messages from the operating room: "The old heart is out!" "The new heart is in!" "The new heart is pumping!" Victoria and Patrick returned to the hospital close to 3 a.m., elated. That's when Victoria ran into a night nurse who told her that Sean was bleeding. "What do you mean?" Victoria asked her. "The doctors are working to control it," the nurse replied.
Victoria, who was still nursing, went downstairs to a lactation room to pump some milk. At around 3:30 a.m., she heard a knock on the door. "I knew it was bad," she says. "If everything was okay they would have waited for me to go up to Sean's room. But they came down."
Victoria and Patrick were ushered to their child, who was wheeled toward them in a big bed. "People were saying things like 'There was so much bleeding, we tried all kinds of blood clotters,'" Victoria recalls. "I told everyone to stop talking. I said, 'Are you telling me he died?' My friend Alison, a nurse in the OR, looked at me with tears streaming down her face and said, 'Yes, Victoria, he's gone.' I went over to him. I needed to pick him up. I hadn't been able to pick him up for a month. But when I touched him, he was so cold. It didn't feel like Sean. My baby wasn't in there anymore."
Patrick leaned over his son repeating, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I couldn't protect you. I'm so sorry."
Victoria and Patrick took Sean to his room to spend time alone with him. Victoria held her baby tightly in her arms, desperate to finally feel him against her body. "All I wanted to do was hold him," she says. "I could have held him for hours and hours." A nurse came in and suggested they give him a bath. Victoria loved the idea of tending to her child, cleaning him up, rubbing lotion into his battered skin. But Patrick, overcome by grief and feelings of helplessness, began ripping get-well cards off the walls and pleading with Victoria to leave the hospital. As strongly as Victoria wanted to stay, she felt she had to get her raging husband out of there. She kissed Sean goodbye and left. But she returned first thing the next morning. "I had to see Hiromi," she says. "I knew what it would mean to her to see Sean's empty bed." She walked into Hiro's room, where the Japanese boy was recovering in his own bed, and the mothers hugged each other and cried.