In a school environment, especially a small school, your coworkers become like an extended family. In a small high-needs school, they become more like your fellow soldiers. We work together in the trenches.It's dirty, it's smelly, it's sometimes disease-ridden. We know all the kids and daily talk about what they need or the best way to get something difficult accomplished. We can read each other well, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we are there to help each other through the personal stuff that we each deal with outside of this job.
These people are a version of family for me.
One of those family members is Larissa. Larissa is a tiny, brilliant, organized, hilarious, sweet Filipina, who wears sky-high heels every day and whom the kids absolutely adore. She got married to a great guy last summer, and found out in September that she was pregnant, due the first week of May.
In January, she had some genetic testing done because of a blood condition that runs in her family. While waiting for the results, she felt the baby kick for the first time. Two days later, she found out that her baby had a condition called Alpha Thalassemia Major. This condition is quite severe, and essentially means that the baby's blood does not produce hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is what carries oxygen in the blood, so the chances of survival are slim. Less than 1%, in fact.
The cruelest part of all is that babies with this condition are often carried to full, or close to full, term and are then stillborn.
Larissa and her husband Dan prayed for a miracle. They named the baby Ethan and focused on being positive and optimistic. Ethan seemed to respond to this, growing, kicking, and stretching. Larissa started going in for weekly sonograms to check on things. She is tiny, and that baby grew big. At 32 weeks, Ethan was measuring at 36 weeks. At 34 weeks, he was measuting at 39 weeks.
And it was at that point (last week) that the doctor told Larissa that the baby was measuring large because Ethan was swollen all over. She asked about a birth plan and the doctor said she wouldn't need one, and that he was actually surprised there was still a heartbeat.
Thursday, Larissa started having contractions, so left in the middle of the day to go to the hospital. She texted me later to say they were inducing her and it would be a while. This morning I got the message that she was ok, but Ethan hadn't made it.
While it is what I was expecting, it is never easy to hear something like that confirmed. Hope is a stubborn flower, with roots that go deep into your soul and entwine themselves around your heart. When it dies, it hurts.
I don't know what to say or do...a common lament in this situation, I would imagine. But as my alternative family, she has my constant prayers, my deepest sympathy, my utmost support, and my heartfelt wish that I could carry some of this hurt for her.