Abigail Rose Beto was born on September 17, 2005 following her sister, Autumn, in 2002. After going through almost 24 hours of labor with our first daughter, we couldn’t believe how quickly Abby came into the world. (We had to wait longer for the doctor to get to the hospital!) The 19 months that she lived with us went by just as fast. Abby was a typical, normal little girl. She was nursed for a full year and rarely had any illnesses or infections. She loved seeing family and playing with other children – especially her sister, Autumn “Ada”. She also LOVED going outside and taking baths. She walked right at age 1, said a few words like “go, ma ma, da da, by by, up, done, more, ah huh” etc. She was just beginning to say new words everyday right before she passed away. Her life with us was so short, but thankfully, we took a TONE of pictures and even videotape (as seen on this website.) We are so glad that the memories of her can never be forgotten and especially, not overshadowed by the memories of the pain of losing her.
Thursday, April 19, 2007 was a cloudy, cool, rainy day. The phone call came in at about 2:15pm. Abby’s caregiver said Abby wasn’t breathing. (She found her gasping for air in her playpen after her nap.) The paramedics were there with her and would meet Kevin and me at the hospital. She must have arrived within 5 minutes of us, but we were not allowed to see her because they were still trying to revive her. The first report we received was that not only was she not breathing, but her heart was not beating, either. We said prayers together and did a lot of crying. Finally, close to 30 minutes later, the doctor came in and said her heart was beating, but that she was on life-support and heavily sedated. He took us into her room to see her. It was hard to get to her because of all of the cords, tubes and machines. We both bent down to kiss her and whisper sweet words of love and strength. Then she was moved to the Intensive Care Unit where the testing began.
When we met with the doctor, he somberly explained that Abby should not be alive. Typically, if a person’s heart does not start beating within 10 minutes of stopping, nothing can be done. So he called it a “miracle” that they were able to get it started after more than 20 minutes. But since her body did not get adequate blood circulation during those 20 minutes, then she would probably die a few days later.
The next 4 days were filled with tests, questions, and more tests – with none of them giving us any answers. There was a nurse in her room at all times. Her heart stayed strong and her breathing improved every day, however CT scans showed more and more swelling on her brain and that her lungs had developed pneumonia. The doctors were thrilled, however, that her kidneys were still working well, because they are usually the first organ to stop functioning after an “event” such as hers. We continued to have thoughts of hope, because we saw her start to open her eyes and even respond to pain by pulling her arms away. As visitors came and went, we tried to show as much optimism as possible. On the third day, a Sunday, she was taken off of life support because she was breathing completely on her own. We were convinced that things would only get better, so we sent everyone home.
It was not to be. As the day went on, Abby started taking long pauses between her breathes. The nurses had to tap her feet so she would react by taking a breath. Finally, on Monday, April 23, 2007 the tapping didn’t work and they had to put her back on life support. We found out later that there was no longer any “brain activity” on the CT scan. The doctor had prepared us for this moment, but it was such a disappointing ending to an already horrific nightmare.
Somehow, during our tremendous grief, we decided that her life was not going to be in-vein. We told the nurse that we wanted to donate her organs, since almost all of them were in great working order. Later, we were told that a little 6 month old boy received most of her intestines, pancreas, and liver, while a middle-aged man received one of her kidneys. The little boy died over a year later, but we were told that the family was sure grateful for the extra time they had with him thanks to Abby’s donation. The man with Abby’s kidney sent a message to us saying that her donation had freed up 12 hours a week for him, since he no longer needed to go to the hospital for dialysis.
After Abby died, the state conducted a thorough autopsy, but found no conclusive results. We also sent heart and tissue samples to another research facility, but no determinations have been made.
The first few days & weeks after her death were horrible, but we were told that we would develop a new “normal.” We went to support groups, visited relatives on weekends, planted trees, and tried to keep the lines of communication open between us. We’ll never forget the countless people that reached out to us with love, food, time, prayers and all kids of thoughtful gestures.
Well, the months and years have passed by and the counselors were right. We do have a new “normal” and our fears have gotten less and less. On May 10, 2008, we had another baby girl, Charlee. She has been a huge blessing, but we worry more now than we ever did. However, we try to live in the moment – not letting our fear take away the happiness of the present day. We cannot stop bad things from happening - and they most certainly will - but we refuse to live our lives in anticipation of them.
We all have our own ways of remembering Abby. Her dad, Kevin, enjoys spending time outside – hunting, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, or just cutting wood for our wood-burner. Autumn likes to talk about her little sister and reminisce about the funny things that Abby would say and do. I like to volunteer my time to support other grieving families by speaking, printing signs, showing up for their “causes”, and just listening to their stories. I especially like to send e-mail and cards to people around the anniversary of their loss. (Now that I know how much it means to me when I get support, I want to give that back to others when they need it.)
In our home, there are plenty of memorial decorations and pictures of Abigail mixed in with all of our family pictures. We visit the cemetery, but not very often. We never really felt a connection with her lifeless body. A counselor told us, once, that one way to gauge our healing is when we realize that we don’t need to go and find her; she is ALWAYS with us and we will NEVER forget her.