Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear Elva

I wanted to share this letter because many have asked to have more information about Granddaughter Margot's medical journey.  Also, I think that often we don't say thank you enough.  Perhaps you can help keep the thank you's going.
Dear Elva,
Lately I’ve been thinking about well-placed comments.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about some thoughtful remarks that you made to my son Casey and his wife Kylene several months ago.  They had just welcomed their new daughter Margot into the world.  For nine months they prepared for the birth of their first child.  They attended classes and developed a relationship with a midwife; they painted nursery walls and said prayers for a healthy child and smooth birth. And they tried to prepare for all contingencies.  But who ever does?  For instance, they were not prepared for an ambulance ride to Seattle Children’s Hospital, or for the tubes and wires inserted into their fresh, new child.  They were not prepared for the seemingly endless group of professionals they encountered who had questions or who shared test results or who gave advice.  And even though they were grateful for Children’s and those who work there they were not prepared to make it their temporary home for three weeks. 
I was out of the country at the time and had planned a trip to Seattle to welcome Margot soon after her birth.  Instead, I waited until her release from the hospital.  Every day, it seemed there was either no news or bad news as more problems were found.  The date set for going home was pushed ahead several times.  And I will always remember the day that Casey called in tears with the news that a physician had told them that their daughter had epilepsy which could worsen as she grew. 
Sometimes bad news has to be given.  Someone has to describe both the good and the bad scenarios.  Words must be chosen with care and spoken with as much understanding as possible.  I believe that is what happened more often than not during their stay at Children’s.  Yet, you do tend to dwell on the worst news, don’t you?  And after the words are spoken they often leave fear, doubt, and only partial understanding.  Casey was so distraught during one particular phone conversation that I offered to go to Seattle immediately.  Both he and Kylene decided that it would help if I did.
And that is how I came to be at the hospital for the last couple of days before Margot’s release to home.  Elva, you were “our” nurse for the last two days and I will always remember and be grateful for your easy, friendly manner.  You brought your years of experience with you every time you entered the room, listening carefully to concerns, giving focused attention and thoughtfully dispensing advice or help.  And you always left me more relaxed.  I hope that Casey, Kylene and Margot also felt that calmness. 
The day we left you recounted some of your experiences with Group Beta Strep, which was thought to be the cause of many of Margot’s problems.  I took note that you had dealt with this many times before.  You concluded your remarks with, “I’ve seen a lot of babies through the years.  I’m telling you now that your baby is going to be just fine.”  Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how much relief washed over me just hearing you utter those words.  I’ve thought of you so many times through the last months and I have heard that assurance in my mind over and over again.  I thank you for placing that seed of knowing.  Although we hoped and prayed that she would outgrow the apnea and the seizures, every time I sent those prayers and hopes, I launched them with the conviction that you would be right.  It not only made me wish for a positive outcome, it made me believe it would be so. 
And it was true.  You were right.  Today I said good-bye to that sweet child and her parents and she really bears little resemblance to the baby who left the hospital that day.  No oxygen.  No meds.  No seizures.  No apnea.  Now we are given the leisure to celebrate the first tooth, the frequent smiles and her expressive jabbering.  Of course it could have been a different story.  I work with children who have special needs and I know that complete wellness is often not the outcome no matter how many hopes, prayers and beliefs are sent forth. That makes the happy endings all the more miraculous…all the more cherished.  And I believe that when we know how lucky we are we should thank those who helped make it so.
 And so, I thank you Elva for your part in helping our little one on her path to wellness.  Thank you for sharing your years of experience and your carefully chosen words.  At the time they meant the world to me, and they still do.  Please rest assured that her doting parents are continuing to nurture her growth.  I am in awe of the terrific job they are doing.  Thank the heavens you were right... 
Our baby is going to be fine.  Just fine.
With fondness,
Shelley Larrivee


  1. You're right about the well placed words. It's amazing how things do stick with you. Oh and what a relief Elva was right!

  2. Thanks so much Mom! It was a very hard time but I think we're all a bit stronger for having been through it. She truly is a happy chubby little girl now.