February 8, 2000 – August 15, 2000
Our third child, Kaitlyn Marie Russell, was born on February 8, 2000. My obstetrician had made the decision to deliver her one month early due to her lack of growth from thirty-one weeks. Kaitlyn was only 3 pounds, 9 ounces and 17 inches long, but very strong and healthy.
She spent her first week of life in the Special Care Nursery at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, California. On February 15th, the neonatologist decided she was ready to go home. Kaitlyn weighed only 3 pounds, 12 ounces and the calf of her little leg was no bigger than my thumb. I was scared to death!
The first month was spent monitoring her body temperature, gradually increasing her feedings from 7 mls to 10 mls (1 ounce), visits to the doctor once or twice a week and, most of all, loving her.
I slept in a recliner for 3 months with Kaitlyn on my chest, I wanted to be sure I could feel her breathing. She and I struggled for a couple of weeks to get her nursing as she had been put on a bottle in the hospital to enable them to track her nutritional intake amounts — she soon rejected bottles. Kaitlyn progressed as any full term baby, gaining weight, cooing, rolling over by two months and being as cute as could be. Her brother and sister adored her as well as the rest of the family. We celebrated every ounce she gained, every milestone she made and every moment of her life.
When Kaitlyn was 3 months old, I had to return to work part time. Derek 4 and Kristen 2, were going to Kindercare, but they had no room for an infant at that time. I contacted a mom that my mother had known for several years, to see if she might be interested in caring for Kaitlyn three days a week. She said she would and I was thrilled — I felt Kaitlyn would be with a wonderful person.
On August 15th, exactly six months to the day since she had been home with us, I dropped Kaitlyn off like any other morning. I gave her a kiss, told her I loved her and would see her “”tonight””.
At 12:45 p.m., I received a call at work, they said it was an emergency. I thought when I got to the phone it would be Kindercare telling me that Derek or Kristen weren’t feeling well, but it wasn’t. It was the Riverside County Sheriff saying there was an emergency with my baby. She wasn’t breathing and they were transporting her, she had been left in a car.
I remember screaming and falling to the floor, it was a 100 degrees outside that day, I knew there was not much hope.
A co-worker drove me to the hospital. We prayed and I remember thinking that Kaitlyn was a fighter, that she could make it.
When we arrived at the emergency room, the ambulance had not made it there yet. We sat for what seemed like an eternity before a nurse came and said Kaitlyn was there and they were attempting CPR. I prayed she would live– even if it was with brain damage. I didn’t want to lose my beautiful baby girl.
My husband and mother arrived soon after — in time to hear the pediatrician say the words that haunt me daily, “”I’m sorry.”” Kaitlyn’s body temperature had been 107 degrees upon her arrival at the hospital and she had died from hyperthermia.
We were then taken in to see our precious baby Kaitlyn and to hold her one last time.
These last weeks since that August day, have been the darkest of my life — my pain unimaginable.
My husband is trying to deal with his pain and to be my rock. Derek and Kristen give me lots of hugs and kisses, they tell me “”we will take care of you mommy.”” They both ask about Kaitlyn often. Kristen doesn’t understand and asks where she is. Derek comprehends what a four-year old can about death, he says he misses her and cries. I am still in a fog, I don’t think I have come to the full reality that my baby is gone forever.
Kaitlyn’s death was absolutely, 100%, preventable. It should never have happened. It is my goal to affect change in legislation and to bring about public awareness to this type of tragedy. If I succeed in saving one child’s life and keeping one family intact and free from this emotionally devastating pain and suffering, I will have accomplished what I set out to do — I will have done one last thing for Kaitlyn.
Please pass our message on to others. And please remember to NEVER leave a child unattended in a car, running or not. It only takes seconds for a tragedy to occur.
Mother of a Little Angel in Heaven– Kaitlyn Marie Russell