Lizzy's Story

I remember it like it happened this morning.  I remember Damon and I walking into the hospital around 7:00 am in silence because we didn't know what to expect. We decided to not find out the sex of our first born child because, as Damon put it, no one did that anymore. When I'm unfamiliar with anything, I become silent and just watch everything around me. Making a mental list of questions in my head to ask for later. It was Saturday, September 18, 1999. My due date was September 19. I was healthy and the doctor had no real concerns other than my severely swollen ankles. We called them cankles because we didn't know where my calves ended and my ankles began. I was checked in and given a beautiful hospital nightie:-) Up until this point, I had not felt one contraction or was dialated. I was being induced. I was able to get up and move around for a few hours while the medicine kicked in. When it did, I didn't want to move. I felt contractions and I never wanted to feel them again. If this was the rite of passage into motherhood, one kid was enough for me!

I remember all Saturday having contractions, nurses checking me, friends in and out of the room, football on the television (just because I was about to spew a baby from my loins didn't mean college football took the day off), and Mom and Dad settling in. I remember around 5:00 the contractions becoming so unbearable and my mother in law telling me to breathe between them. There was no break and they were one on top of the other. For some reason, I missed the chapter about that in my reading of every book known to man about giving birth! This was my first indication that either I was doing something wrong or something was going wrong naturally. Another indication was that they were adjusting the belt on my belly A LOT!  "Lost it again" was what they kept telling me. "It"? as in theheartbeat?

Finally after a few hours of pain, Damon jumped the anesthesiologist as he walked passed the room. I received my pain medicine for good behavior and life was good. I was tired but remember my doctor and my family watching football and laughing at how content I was. I heard the doctor say, "she just had a really big contraction" and they all laughed.

It was getting late and nothing was happening. Damon and his parents were urged by my doctor to go home and get some rest. We would start again in the morning. This being our first time having a baby, we did what the doctor suggested.....everytime! So, they all went back to our house and I went back to sleep.

I woke up to a nurse doing something to my medication. I immediately asked her what she was doing and she was told by the doctor to stop the inducing medication. I went back to sleep. An hour later, she was back telling me that she was to stop the pain medicine too. I went back to sleep.

I woke up an hour later to the most intense pain I had ever felt. I rang for the nurse and through tears begged her for the pain medicine again. She told me to bite the bullet and understand that this is what childbirth was. I continued to cry and asked her to call my husband for me. I needed Damon. She took the phone and thumped it on my belly and told me to call him. I composed myself long enough to dial and lost it when I heard his voice.

Things just got worse when he got there. There was one other woman in the maternity ward and our room was directly across from the nurses station. We would ring the nurse and no one would come. Finally when they did, they would check me and say "nope...nothing yet." Profound. The doctor came in around 8:00 am Sunday morning and said that I needed to get to the operating room immediately. I remember them squeezing two bags of pain medicine into my epidural as fast as they could.

I remember the operating room being so cold and loud. The curtain went up and I was feeling my stomach being cut (insert Damon here....). I was looking at Damon looking at what was happening. Then I remember the doctor pulling the baby out saying "Lisa- it's a girl!" I will say this about my doctor. She was a wonderful doctor. Very personable. I loved her. Back to the story. A girl!!! I cried. I remember thinking, why is it so quiet all of a sudden in this room? Silence. No baby crying. No tools clanking. Nothing. I looked to Damon and he says they are working on her. I asked to see her and they held her up about 15 feet from me. Blue. Why is she so blue?

I woke up in a room with heated blankets on me. I look around and find a nurse writing in a chart. I assume it's mine and that she is my recovery nurse. I ask her where Lizzy is? She tells me she is in the nursery and that she will wheel me down there on the way to my recovery room. I am immediately wheeled to my room. No nursery visit to see Lizzy. She was born a little after 9:00 am. I continue to ask to see her ALL DAY! I was told everything EXCEPT what was going on. Around 7:00 that night, Damon and our pediatrician (friend) came into the room. Damon had been crying and shut the t.v. off.

"Lisa, we can't do anything more for Lizzy here." I felt like I was dreaming. I was confused and didn't understand what was happening. What can't you do? More importantly, what is going on? What they weren't telling me all day was that she repeatedly would stop breathing and was having seizures. My world stopped. The hospital chaplain came in and prayed with us. I had about a minute to gather my thoughts and realize that Lizzy was in serious trouble. The child that I carried for all these months may not even get a chance to touch her mother? I immediately became angry with God. Where the heck are you RIGHT NOW God?

Lizzy spent 13 days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) in Columbia, SC. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House there. Damon's parents were there with us and shared the heartache of watching Lizzy go from bad to worse to better. What a roller coaster!  I had a c-section and was released a day early because the doctor wanted to be sure I'd be able to see Lizzy in case she had too much trouble and............

Lizzy came home on anti-seizure medicine. Medicine that would try and control the shakes but couldn't. But....she came home!

I still cry remembering all the details. My heart aches for Lizzy on her birthday. She knows no different, but I do. We all do. I wish I could go back and speak up. I would have been mean. I would have chucked that phone at the wall. I would have................

God and I are good again:-) He gave me (us) Lizzy. He entrusted me (us) with Lizzy. He chose Damon and I to raise her.  He wanted our lives to be full of blessings. I am proud of our daughter and am amazed at the things she can do everyday.  She is a happy 12 year old with a sister and brother that love her. Her mom and dad have full hearts and know that having her means having a life filled with daily blessings.

We brought Lizzy home thinking she was a normal baby. We were told that she needed to be on medicine to control her seizures. That's it. So she was on an anti-convulsant medicine that made her very lethargic. She would just stare at lights, had horrible acid reflux, and wouldn't smile for sometime.  I loved taking her out, it made me feel like a real momma. Holding her, rocking her, walking her, and having people fall all over her. Lizzy was a beautiful baby. C-section full term baby. Perfect. While she was staying at the children's hospital, she had every test known to man. One of those tests was an MRI of her brain. It came back normal. They wanted a follow up MRI a month later. No problem there. We scheduled a three month check up for her at the pediatrition. I was excited for these because I loved seeing how much she had grown. They did the normal checks....weight, height, head circumference, etc. Lizzy's pediatrition was a friend of ours and said everything looked good!

Almost a week later, I get a phone call at home from the neurologist at the children's hospital telling me that her brain is bleeding and that we need to get to the hospital in Columbia as soon as possible. He sounded very serious. I immediately began to cry and without any sensitivity the doctor asked me when I would be there. I gather some things for Lizzy and we drive to the high school where Damon is having basketball practice. I tell him about the phone call and we are immediately on the road for the next 45 minutes. We get to the hospital and we wait for an hour for a room. By this point, Damon was determined that Lizzy was fine and wasn't hurting.

We stayed in the hospital for two days. We were told that the some of her brain was missing, something was eating her brain (my personal favorite), and that she would be a vegetable the rest of her life. The pediatric neurosurgeon. So smart. So educated. Zero bedside manner. It was at this point, I was I don't have a normal baby? 

Bottom line? Lizzy was put in the hospital under protective custody. They watched Damon and I with her all day. With the first hospital MRI, her brain was normal. No it wasn't. Her brain was swollen so it looked normal. By the time the follow up MRI took place, the swelling had gone down. However, when that happened, blood vessels were torn and bleeding occurred. This is where we looked like we had hurt Lizzy and the reason for protective custody. Horrible experience but it was then we knew that Lizzy has some needs. She would never be labeled with CP however.

Within a few months we were set up with occupational, vision, speech, and physical therapies. Lizzy was placed on medicaid. Her first opthamologist appointment was discouraging. We then knew why she loved the lights so much. Lizzy couldn't see and would be labeled legally blind.

Adjusting to this new way of life was a bit difficult. I felt different from every mom. I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be my life. I was teaching at the time and was talking after school one day to a friend of mine (teacher also), Debbie Sweat. She asked me if I ever thought of getting Lizzy's records from the hospital? I am so blessed that God placed her in my life at that time. So thankful! So I retrieved my records from the hospital. It took about 4 weeks.

I came home with the records and told Damon I wanted to contact an attorney. He immediately said no. We went back and forth for a few hours and told him I was doing it anyway. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was telling me to do it. So I called a local attorney, who connected us with a well known attorney that dealt with.........gulp........medical malpractice lawsuits. The next five years would prove to be the most challenging years of our marriage. Depositions, meetings, having another baby, caring for Lizzy, teaching, Damon getting his national board certification, and eventually me stepping away from teaching.  From the moment I made the phone call to the attorney, I KNEW I was doing the right thing. I just knew it.

About five months before we were to go to court for the trial, we received a letter from our attorney's office. Out of no where, they decided that Lizzy's condition was because of abuse and they are dropping our case! I was devastated. After reading the letter, Damon looked at me and said, "it's over Lis...... it's over." Over? I cried. How can we come all this way for nothing? For the second time in my life, I was angry with God.

I was so angry. I called that attorney and told them to depose everyone that EVER had contact with Lizzy. I told them that this isn't over and to keep working on it. I was THE  mother of Lizzy and it ain't over! Within the week they received a call back from an OB expert that shed some light on what he think happened.

In April 2005, we went to court to fight for Lizzy. We had jurors, witnesses, experts, a judge, everything that you see on television. It was real. It was scary. The jury took two hours to decide that abuse did not play a role in her condition and that the hospital and doctor were negligent.  It was a warm and sunny Thursday afternoon when we left the courthouse. We met some of the jurors crying and telling us that they were so sorry and wishing us the best.

The burden was lifted from us that day. We will be able to care for Lizzy and have her with us for the rest of her life. We would eventually have a house built with a wing just for her. She loves her ball pit so much and it's so therapeutic. It has 8,000 balls in it and entertains Lizzy for a period of time. Seeing Lizzy happy makes us happy.

So now you know. When and how did you realize Lizzy was a child with special needs? What prompted us to demand accountability with those involved in Lizzy's birth? We are an open book when it comes to Lizzy.


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