Landan was one of the
sweetest little boys
around, anyone who
knew him would tell
Landan was born on August 17, 2003 after forty-seven long hours of labor. Weighting in a nine pounds even. He was my first baby & I'd gotten pregnant as a senior in high school at the age of seventeen. I was six months pregnant with Landan when I graduated.
Landan was a blessing. He was a wonderful baby, toddler & child. Always had such a gentle & caring way about him. He loved everyone & everyone loved him. Landan was one of the sweetest boys I knew.
November 14, 2006 - started like any other day until Landan woke up early from his nap. He was whiney & grouchy which was not his usual demeanor when he woke up. He was touching his throat a little bit so I asked if his throat hurt & he said yes. My first instinct was that he was getting a cold. We ordered Landan's favorite food that night, pizza, but he wasn't interested in eating. He just wanted to sleep on the couch. After dinner I went out to Meijer to buy some children's tylenol & ibprofin to give to Landan. I also browsed the toy aisle to find a new toy for Landan. I wanted him to have something new to play with when he was feeling better.
I'd talked to my mom later in the night & she wanted to know if I wanted her to come check on Landan. We'd just moved out of her house a few months prior & I wanted to do this on my own & take care of my baby myself for the first time. I still have regrets about that decision. We put Landan to bed around 10pm that night and I got in bed with him around 2am. I'd given him a juice cup to take to bed earlier & it was empty so I asked if he wanted more juice & he said yes. A few hours later Landan woke me up requesting some more juice so I got it for him & got back in bed.
November 15, 2006 - At 9am I woke up to hear my phone ringing from the kitchen. It was my mom calling while on her way to work to check in on Landan. Landan wasn't next to me in bed anymore. I leaned over to look at the floor on his side of the bed because he'd fall out now & then. But he wasn't there. I sat up in bed & saw Landan laying on the floor at the foot of the bed. I frantically tried to focus my eyes because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought he was dead, I was so afraid to touch him. I jumped out of bed to touch him. His temperature was cool but he was breathing. He looked like he had little purple bruises all over his body. I ran toward the kitchen while calling his name to keep him awake, grabbed my phone & dialed my mom back. She could hear how breathy I was on the phone & after explaining how Landan looked she told me to call 911 and she was on her way immediately.
I stood by Landan talking to him awhile looking out my bedroom window towards the parking lot to watch for the ambulance. I remember I could hear it coming, the siren getting louder & louder until it pulled into my apartment complex. I ran to the front of my apartment to unlock the front door & ran to the front door of the apartment building so they could see me & know where to go. Then I ran back to Landan & waited. My mom & the paramedics came in & made there way back to the bedroom where I was with Landan. Landan looked like he had some blood or vomit around the edge of his mouth and had also had diarrhea in his pullup. He whimpered when the paramedic moved him to a better area in the bedroom to check his vitals. After checking some vitals they carried Landan out to the ambulance. I fumbled around inside finding my cell phone, keys & throwing on a sweatshirt before locking the door & running out to the ambulance. My mom was already leaving to met us at the hospital. I could hear Landan whimpering in the back so I yelled to him "It's ok baby, I'm here!" It felt like we were sitting in the parking lot forever. Finally I asked the driver of the ambulance when we were going to leave. He calmly explained that we would be leaving soon they just had to get an IV started & make sure everything was stable before we left. Finally we were on our way & I just remember the surreal feeling that the experience of rushing to the hospital in an ambulance gave me.
Finally we arrived at the hospital. My mom called Landan's father while she was on her way up & they both arrived at the hospital around the same time that we did. It was a flurry of action once we arrived. People rushing all over the place around Landan. I had to step out of the room to give some general information & asked them to get my mom & Landan's father from the waiting area. The last thing Landan said to me was "Mama hold me" but I couldn't because they were working on him & needed to get him up to the PICU. I said "It's ok bebe."
A Doctor from the PICU came down to rush Landan upstairs & we followed behind. On the way up my mom asked the Doctor if he was going to be ok and the Doctor said "... he's a very sick little boy ..."
While they took Landan into the PICU we were directed down to the PICU waiting room. I called Landan's stepdad to let him know where we were. At that point we had no idea how serious things were so Andy was going to stay at work until a further update. Before the Doctor came down they sent the hospital Chaplin. At that point my mom knew things weren't good. Shortly after the PICU Doctor came down & explained that Landan had bacterial Meningitis and only had a 10% chance of surviving. We were shocked. My mom asked when we could see him & the Doctor told us we'd be able to see him soon. I called my husband back at work to break the news. It was such shocking news that he refused to believe what I was telling him ... that there was only a 10% chance that Landan would live. He was leaving work immediately to come to the hospital.
We were finally allowed to see Landan. We had to be in full scrubs practically, wearing gloves, a mask & robe. We also had to scrub in & out of his room. Landan looked much worse than when we last saw him though. His left foot was completely purple, his back & nose as well. His extremities were very splotchy purple. Apparently caused by disseminated intravascular coagulation, DIC for short. During this the body bleeds & clots at the same time. Landan looked comfortable & more awake than before and was watching cartoons the nurse had turned on for him. But he also appeared very out of it. The nurse suggested we tell him to go to sleep so he could rest & his body could fight. We didn't want to but my mom said to him "Go to sleep baby" and Landan shook his head no. But finally he did fall asleep. At some point the Pastor from our church arrived to perform an anointing of the sick on Landan. I remember how surreal that moment felt & I almost passed out. I just felt so hot, stuffy & panicked. But was also very grateful they'd arrived to do that. It was actually Landan's pediatrician who called the church & begged them to come visit Landan. She knew how serious his condition was because she'd been calling the hospital every hour & even came up to the hospital to be with us after she got off work. She's an amazing lady & I feel blessed to know her & to have had her support & knowledge during that time.
Soon after it was time to make some tough decisions. Would we send Landan to the hyperbaric chamber or not? The doctor explained that if Landan's heart stopped while in the chamber there was nothing they could do to help him. It takes a certain amount of time during the pressure changed while in the hyperbaric chamber. We decided to go forward with it. We had to try something. Landan would be downstairs for two hours in the chamber & upstairs or two hours in his room. Each time all the tubes being used on him had to be changed in & out as special tubes were needed to support being in the hyperbaric chamber. He certainly kept the nurses busy, he had one by his side taking notes & checking vitals at all times. If Landan survived he was looking at amputations, plastic surgeries & skin graphs.
The chamber treatments appeared to show some improvement to the bruise like places on Landan's skin as it forces oxygen into the tissues. He even sat up during the first treatment so we were really feeling positive about his survival of his horrible disease.
November 16, 2006 - During the third chamber treatment Landan's blood pressure had gone down & they were struggling to maintain/bring it up. Andy & I were trying to take a nap upstairs when my mother-in-law came to get me at my mothers request because my mom was worried about how Landan was doing. We left Andy sleeping & I went downstairs to where Landan was. After returning upstairs with Landan I finally heard that his blood pressure had gone up so I stepped out of the PICU to take a phone call & then called my friend to give her an update as well. I was standing outside of the PICU doors when my stepmom ran past me to the waiting room & said "Lacey you need to get back in there." My Dad was there to walk back in the the PICU with me. I assumed I needed to authorize or sign off on treatment. I asked my Dad what was going on & he told me that Landan's heart had stopped & they were doing chest compression's. I remember walking up to the big glass doors of Landan's room to see the Doctor over Landan doing chest compression's & nurses scrambling all around the room. I just stood their in shock. My mom & Andy ran in. Andy tried to hold me but I didn't want to be touched. I just stood there, no words able to escape from my mouth. My mom pleaded with the nurse who was in the hall with us to please tell him his family was here. She wanted Landan to know he wasn't alone. The nurse cracked the door & said "remind him his family is here with him." At some point the Doctor had a resident take over & took my mom, myself & Landan's dad into the next room. My mom asked the Doctor "... is he gone?" And the Doctor told us yes, Landan's pupils were fixed & dilated.
My mom tried to hug me but I was in shock & stiff. I didn't even want to be touched. It was all so much that I literally felt nothing. I was just existing in that moment, dead inside. My mom realized she couldn't do anything for me in that moment & turned to Landan's father to give him comfort. The time immediately after that is such a blur. I remember a social working coming down to talk to us & was going to call funeral homes.
The nurse wrapped Landan in three baby blankets & family was able to spend five hours with him. So many people came to the hospital during that time. I was in & out of his room making phone calls to let people know that Landan was gone. I was still very much in shock during that time. So many people held Landan during that time including my best friend, his grandparents, one of my sisters & aunts from his dads side of the family. Andy also held Landan & sang him their special little song, you are my sunshine. Finally the time came when the nurse told us it would be time for us to leave. I don't think we would have ever left willingly. The nurse promised me that she would wait beside Landan downstairs for the funeral home to pick him up. It meant so much to me.
I rode home to my moms house with my best friend. I remember telling her how unreal it felt. I felt like we were just hanging out & that I would see Landan later at home. We waited for the funeral home to call at my moms house. We were hoping to go to the funeral home that night to spend more time with Landan but the funeral directer told us he was planning to embalm Landan that night. Landan's dad & friend left so Andy & I went home to grab some things to stay at my moms house. The first thing I did when I got home was get on the computer & post in my mommy group. I knew they were all waiting to hear from me & I wasn't sure I'd be able to post if I didn't do it right away. After that I went into our bedroom & laid on the floor where I'd found Landan the previous morning. I laid their bawling my eyes out hoping that I would pick up the bacteria that had just killed my precious boy. Then I went into Landan's room & continued crying. Andy left me alone because that's what I wanted. I just wanted to be alone. I don't even remember driving back to my moms house, I was in such a fog. I just remember that I could barely see the rode because my eyes were so puffy & foggy from crying. I was so tired from being up for over twenty-four hours & from all the crying I'd done that I went upstairs & slept for awhile in my sisters room.
The next few days were filled with vising the funeral home to pick out funeral cards, write his obituary, picking out a casket & stone and visiting the cemetery to pick out a plot for Landan that they'd donated. We also picked out five plots around Landan for my husband & I, Landan's dad and my mom & stepdad. We choose to have a private family viewing one day & the next day we had a public viewing. The first people to see Landan were myself, his stepdad (Andy), my mom & dad and Landan's father. I'll never forget how soft his hands felt. Every time I held them I just waited for his little hand to squeeze mine back. His funeral service was nice & I remember the crying, heartbroken faces that greeted mine after. We'd gone out the night before & bought a helium tank & filled balloons to be released at the cemetery. After everyone had left & before they closed Landan's casket I rushed back in so I could be the last person to see Landan. I kissed his lips & held his hand one last time in hopes that I'd wake up from this hellish nightmare & he would squeeze my hand back. But it didn't happen. I walked away & buried my face in my best friends chest & cried.
I drove my husband & I to the cemetery. He was my son, I wanted to drive. We listened to one of Landan's favorite songs ... Take My Breath Away. Police were blocking the intersections we passed through on our way to the cemetery. I remember the police office that blocked traffic as we drove into the cemetery stood & saluted Landan as he went by. It was so touching & I'm so thankful for that touching sign of compassion from him. After the funeral service the funeral home had a dove inside a wicker basket for Landan's father & I to release. It was so beautiful to watch the dove fly off into the sky. Afterwards we released our balloons. At that moment a train blew it's horn as it approached & went by. Landan loved trains! I also remember my friends mom exclaim how the balloons flying off to Heaven looked like M&M's, Landan's favorite treat. After the funeral I was given the teddy bear that had adorned his casket & we went to the church for a reception.
I don't even remember the weeks that followed. I just remember having such a hard time sleeping through the night & finally I just became nocturnal. I didn't want to be awake throughout the day when I should have been spending that time with Landan. So I just stayed away all night & slept all day. I threw myself into learning how to use Photoshop to make graphics for Landan. It was what I called "grief work" it helped me to have something to focus on as well as being able to make graphics of Landan.
As time approached the first anniversary of Landan's death I began to struggle with anxiety. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat & if I did I would throw up, I literally couldn't function. I begged Andy to take me to the hospital on multiple occasions & he did take me once where I got an EKG & clean bill of health. But it still wasn't enough. I was still terrified that I was going to die. If my healthy 3yr old could die within' a matter of days what was keeping me alive? It's taken six years for me to get my anxiety under control. In 2013 I finally decided I couldn't live the way I was living. Constantly thinking I was dying wasn't a way of living. I was finally put on medication to help with my anxiety & have been feeling "normal" again.
The pain of losing a child never goes away & it never diminishes. The pain just changes & it changes everything about you. You learn to live with the pain & function through it. I'd give anything to have my precious angel back in my arms. I miss him more than words I know that could express the loss. Landan is now a big brother to three siblings. He has a little brother from me & his stepdad and a brother & sister on his fathers side. I know Landan would have been an amazing big brother because he loved other children! But we know he's doing an amazing job watching over us all from Heaven.
You are loved & missed by so many people my precious little angel!
- Lacey Harris-Willoby, always & forever Landan's mama -