When I opened the door and saw my son Bryce not moving, not breathing the world as I knew it would never be the same. On March 30, 2007, I had to kiss Bryce goodbye and accept the devastating reality that I had killed him, my own son. Though it was an accident that I couldn’t possibly fathom I would be responsible for, for which I learned later on, was very much preventable.
Here is our story. On that fateful morning, Bryce was really tired, Jarrett and I both were. Bryce had a bad cold and was restless and coughing all week, but that Friday morning he was especially lethargic because he had been up all night coughing, stuffed up and miserable. I was exhausted, long days at work along with sleepless nights. I was severely sleep deprived, but as Jarrett shook me for the second time to tell me it was time to get up I finally just said in my mind, if I can just make it through today, I can rest this weekend. As Jarrett got Bryce ready for the day, he dressed him warmly as it was March and had been pretty cool in the mornings for Virginia.
Jarrett and I had had a crazy week; my sister Tina had been borrowing his car as hers was in the shop and so I had been dropping him off, first then Bryce which was not my normal routine. When he brought Bryce downstairs he looked tired and sleepy. I can’t remember if I kissed him that morning. It is a memory that I regret every day. As we were about to leave out of our home, Jarrett started asking when we were going to get Bryce’s new car seat put in by the fire department. I relented and said I would do it at lunch if I had time, but after work definitely. Jarrett took the car seat out to the car and later I would realize he put the car seat where Bryce would normally be strapped in behind the passenger seat. And this particular day he put Jarrett behind me, the driver’s seat. Now it is important to note for routine sake that on my way home from work on Wednesday, I picked up Bryce and arrived at home realizing that I hadn’t picked up Jarrett. Simply because it was a change in our routine.
As I got into the vehicle, Jarrett had already strapped Bryce into his seat and neither one of us remember who put his diaper bag back behind me on the floor board as we started off for the day. Normally, the diaper bag was up front in the passenger seat along with my purse so I wouldn’t forget to drop it off this Bryce at the baby sitters house, but this week Jarrett had moved them other places in the car because of his size it was uncomfortable to put them on the floor board up front with him. As we drove off to start our work day, we don’t remember hearing Bryce cooing and laughing in the back, which was not surprising as he had such a restless night. When I dropped Jarrett off at work, he kissed me and said goodbye.
As I drove off to head to work myself, I received a phone call from my nephew and we talked for several minutes. I was concerned about him and wanted to talk with him to make sure he was doing ok. While on the phone with him, I received an urgent phone call from work, by one of my colleagues complaining that flight arrangements had not been paid for and we were honoring a fallen soldier and the concern was that the soldiers’ family wouldn’t arrive in time for the ceremony the next day. As the transportation officer, it was my job to fix those problems and we had a short time to handle the problem. I began to think about how I could solve the problem as I drove right past the turn where I would turn to drop off Bryce.
You see, I would later understand that in my mind, I had made a stop already and my normal reminders, Bryce in the rear passenger seat and the diaper bag all reminders or memory triggers that were normally there were not. To make matters worse, I had an empty car seat in my field of view, with Bryce quietly sleeping behind me not making a sound. When I arrived at work, I jumped out and hurried into work without another thought except how to get the flight issue fixed. It was only 39 degrees when we left the house and the high that day reached up to a measly 66 degrees. But as I would found out later that would be deadly.
After solving the emergency and saving the flight for the soldiers’ family, I went on with my normal day of work. I answered calls on my work phone and work cell phone as I normally left my personal cell phone in my purse. People close to me knew to call the work phones if they really needed to get in contact with me. Around 2, I picked up my personal cell phone to get a number out of it and saw I had a missed call. It was Whitney, the sitters’ new number. So I called her and got her voicemail. I left her a message. As I started to leave work, excited that we all had been let go an hour early, 4:05 to be exact, I get a call from Whitney. She asked me how Bryce was doing, I said I wasn’t sure he was with her, and she said, “No, he isn’t here”. Not realizing that Jarrett didn’t have car, I asked her if Jarrett had picked him up. Whitney said, “No Lyn you didn’t drop him off this morning.” As she said it for the second time, it began to sink in that she was saying I had FORGOTTEN to drop him off. As I drop everything and race to the car my mind is racing back to that morning and I can honestly remember dropping him off. It was impossible that he was still in the car.
When I began to open the door I could see my little baby, motionless and I was pretty sure not breathing and my heart literally stopped beating. I began screaming and immediately unstrapped him to start CPR. As I see a friend start to dial 911, I start crying as I blow breaths into his mouth for my baby to start breathing and praying that it is not too late. When the ambulance arrives and we rush to the hospital, I am in shock and overcome in disbelief that this cannot be happening to me, I cannot be the type of mother who would accidentally forget her child. When the doctor comes in and tells me they are working on my precious little boy and it doesn’t look good, I collapse to the ground and start screaming and praying to God to please take me, take my life but let him live, let me take his place.
Another few minutes pass, which seems like eternity and when the doctor returns, I can see it on her face, my nine month, ten day old son Bryce had died. I don’t really remember much after that only to recall the look on my husband’s face when he came in the room and a friend had told him our son had died and that he had been forgotten in the car. Now I can tell you that I hope someday that the horrible memories of that day are replaced with the few happy memories I have of his laugh, his infectious smile and the unconditional love he shined upon us every day. But for now, I seem to live with the hurt and pain that never lessens and is ever present like a cold stiff blanket surrounding me. And I will never forget my promise to Bryce as I was cradling him quietly with tears running down my face as I kissed his cold cheek over and over in that hospital room, that I would educate as many parents on the dangers of hyperthermia and how it is absolutely possible to accidentally forget your child because no parent should feel the way I do every day.
God Bless you Bryce, Mommy misses you and this is for you.