Lori’s Wish

Lori’s Wish

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

Lori’s Wish

Lori came to the hospital with a great attitude. She was such a spunky twelve-year-old you almost forgot to notice her frail little body and blue lips and nail beds. Lori saw this heart surgery as just one more hoop to jump through on her way to becoming a grown-up. In her bag, she had packed all the essentials of a preteen girl and an afghan she was crocheting. It really looked quite nice but had a long way to go.

Lori went to surgery with an abnormal but incredibly brave heart. Late in the afternoon, she arrived in the pediatric intensive care unit with all the typical supportive medication and equipment. We knew that her many previous surgeries and time on the heart-lung machine had put her at risk for bleeding, and before long we noted an abnormal amount of blood coming from her chest tubes. This continued over the next hour until the surgeon had no choice but to take her back to the operating room. We got her parents to her bedside for a visit before Lori was quickly returned to surgery. A couple of hours later, she was back in ICU and the bleeding stopped. The relief in her parents’ faces sent me home, tired but reassured.

The next day, Lori’s heart was doing reasonably well, and her lips and fingernails were pink. But she had a lot of recovering to do. Her family was at her bedside as much as they could be, considering the restricted visiting hours so prevalent back then. Lori’s condition rapidly declined, however, and her kidneys began to fail. She needed a ventilator. This tube, through her nose and airway, prevented her from talking, but it definitely didn’t prevent her from communicating. She still had that spunky attitude. She was very thirsty but, of course, she couldn’t have anything to drink. When I dipped a cloth into a little fruit punch just to wet her mouth, her eyes said thank you in no uncertain terms.

When the charge nurse came to the bedside to ask if I could stay into the evening shift, Lori overheard. I looked back at her and she mouthed, “Please stay.” I did. Her urine output declined even further, and when I went home that night, I felt tired and uneasy.

By the next morning, Lori was on dialysis. We all continued to hope her kidneys would begin to recover, but each hour of no urine output was devastating. Lori became puffy as the fluid accumulated in her body and stressed her heart and lungs. She slept more. Her spunkiness faded.

Over the next couple of days, her condition continued to decline. How unfair it seemed that now, with a repaired heart, Lori had the pinkest lips ever, but the rest of her organs suffered in the process.

Her unfinished afghan stood out as a reminder of her unfinished life.

Still, her parents stood faithfully by. Her mother was five months pregnant, very tired and so devoted. She told us of Lori’s biggest wish—to hold her baby sister. She was so sure it was going to be a girl, Lori had named this Christmastime baby Mary Christine.

But Lori continued to fade. The helplessness we felt was overwhelming. On a beautiful sunny August day, we all said our goodbyes and Lori died. As her parents left the hospital, I tearfully handed them Lori’s belongings and the unfinished afghan.

The next spring, as I walked down the hall, I saw Lori’s mom. Joyfully I blurted, “How is the new baby?” I was heartbroken to learn four-month-old Mary Christine also had congenital heart disease. On Friday of that week, Good Friday, Mary had surgery on her weak and poorly formed heart. Sadly, she followed a course so like Lori’s—persistent postoperative bleeding, failure of her kidneys and so on. On Easter Sunday morning the outlook for Mary was bleak. I went with her parents to the chapel.

As we sat quietly there, a butterfly glided silently around us. I was mystified. This chapel had no access to the outdoors. Where could this butterfly have come from? The mother smiled through her tears and said, “Lori is here.” She paused, then went on. “Last summer, at the cemetery, following Lori’s funeral, a butterfly landed on my shoulder and stayed right with me and I felt Lori’s presence. Then, when we brought Mary home from the hospital on a cold wintry Christmas Day in Indiana, a butterfly entered the house with us! Again, we knew Lori was there. And now, she is here for Mary!”

As they faced the death of another daughter, these parents looked through their sorrow and found peace, knowing their two girls would now be together. We returned to Mary’s bedside and within minutes, she slipped away.

Lori’s wish had come true. She was holding her baby sister.

~Gwen Fosse

Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul

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