Family Turns Devastating Loss Into an Opportunity to Help the Heartbroken

By  //  January 9, 2020

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Health First features loss bereavement program at all four hospital emergency rooms

Paula knew that something wasn’t right. Her son, three-month-old Maxwell, had been miserable for days. A doctor visit and multiple tests revealed nothing. (Health First image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Paula knew that something wasn’t right. Her son, three-month-old Maxwell, had been miserable for days. A doctor visit and multiple tests revealed nothing.

But the day after Christmas 2017, Max was suddenly struggling to breathe. He was rushed to the emergency room at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center.

Her husband was still parking the car when Max’s heart stopped. Despite 45 minutes of trying to revive him, Max was gone.

“He was the most jubilant baby ever,” Paula said. “It was almost like he knew he didn’t have a lot of time.”

The devastation hit Paula, her husband, Todd, and their eldest son, Jackson, hard. Eventually, they learned Max had neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.

There was nothing more the medical staff could do for Max. Yet, Paula knew that her experience could provide comfort to others undergoing a similar, unexpected loss.

On what would have been Max’s first birthday, an emergent loss bereavement program was introduced at all four Health First hospital emergency rooms.

“If we can help other families not feel the pain we felt, then we’re all for it,” Paula said.

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Ceramic necklaces made of a tiny heart – for the patient – that fits inside a bigger one – for the family – are provided, as well as a memory box for families of the littlest patients. That way, they may save locks of hair and preserve handprints and footprints.

Within 48 hours of any ER patient’s death, a bereavement counselor calls. Within five days, a sympathy card signed by the care team is sent. Within two weeks, bereavement resources are offered.

“No family will ever feel like they’re going through the most difficult time of their lives alone,” Paula said. “It’s bittersweet at best, but it’s an amazing thing.”