Baby Gracie’s Story

Shared from her mother, Nichol Willow.

Four days after Gracie received her two month shots – DTaP, HIB, IPV, Hep B and PCV – she died of cardiopulmonary arrest and cerebral edema.

“You think the government should have the right to force all parents to vaccinate? You’re a fan of forced medical procedures? Well, I’m going to tell you why I oppose that line of thinking.

Meet Gracie.

Gracie was a happy and healthy 2 month old baby girl. On this day 14 years ago, I was dealing with a cranky, fussy infant because I did what I thought was in my child’s best interest. Doctors know so much about vaccinations, right? They tell you that in order to be a good parent, you get your child’s shots, so you do it. Doctors know best, right…?

Not necessarily.

I went to sleep on this night 14 years ago not knowing my entire world was about to be turned upside down.

I woke up to my baby screaming. Not an “I’m hungry cry.” A full on something hurts scream. I was groggy and I was young. I didn’t know what was wrong, so I did what every nursing mother does to console her child, and I put her to breast. I didn’t know that would be the very last time I would interact with her like normal.

Later in the night, I woke up and checked on her. I’m pretty sure that every mother to ever have a child in the history of humans wakes up and looks for the rise and fall of her breathing, sleeping baby. I looked. I strained my eyes in dark. For a split moment I sat in shock and disbelief. She HAS TO be breathing, right?!

She wasn’t.

I started CPR. My now ex-husband dialed 911. None of it seemed real. I knew it was bad when the ambulance showed up and we didn’t leave right away. They continued to try to stabilize her before leaving. It felt like eternity…

At the hospital, we were ushered into the waiting room while staff began working on her there. I prayed like I’ve never prayed in my life.

We waited…

And waited…

And waited before a doctor appeared.

I sat there with leaking breasts in my pajamas as he explained that they were still trying but that it didn’t look good. He said I could go back to the room with her now but that I would have to stay out of the way.

I watched in horror as they worked. I watched while my heart was breaking and my breasts were leaking. I longed for this to be a nightmare where I could wake and nurse her again as I listened to the medical speak, sometimes understanding and sometimes not. What I did understand though… finally a heartbeat! I was filled with so much joy and happiness. I didn’t quite understand what it all meant though.

“What happened? Why did this happen? Was this SIDS and we caught it in time?” I had so many questions. I was told they didn’t know what happened but that it wasn’t SIDS. There were certain aspects that made them think that was not the case (the details of which I’m not going in to here).

To make a long story short, my baby was flown via helicopter to a bigger city hospital. They began immediately to talk to me about removing her from life support. I was stunned. Why would I stop trying?! No. Hell fucking no!!! I was not going to agree. I was told they were uncertain of her chances, but that we would know more over time.

She went downhill.

She was bloated from swelling all over because her kidneys weren’t working efficiently. There was blood in her urine. She had rancid poopy diapers because the lining of her stomach and intestines was sloughing off due to the time she had without oxygen.

All through the next night, I barely slept. On top of worry, on a timer, every three hours I went to a tiny room the size of a closet and pumped breastmilk on schedule. I refused to believe she wasn’t going to pull through.

By that next morning, she was not only not improving, she was still getting worse–and rapidly. Her kidneys completely quit. She swelled even more. Her soft spot was then bulging from the swelling. It was explained to me that while she was occasionally taking breaths “on her own” over the vent, it was something called agonal breathing–a reflex from the brain stem. Finally, her heart rate became erratic and her blood pressure began to skyrocket and then nosedive and then repeat.

After so many talks of them trying to convince me to remove life support, in the middle of the morning of September 26th, a doctor came into the room…

“Ma’am, I know you don’t want to remove Gracie from life support, but soon, you won’t have the choice. Her heart was once beating like clockwork, but that is no longer. Her blood pressure is uncontrollable. She IS going to die.”

I have this very clear memory of turning around, my face scrunched up in absolute agony in the ugliest of ugly cry faces, and I slapped the counter as hard as I could as an uncontrollable wail left my throat. I cried from my gut. I cried from the bottom of my very soul. I cried from a place of pain I never wanted to know.

We made final visiting arrangements. Elders from my church made the drive to dedicate my precious baby girl. My other very young children were brought up to say goodbye. Gracie was given a dose of morphine. They say that’s to ensure there’s no pain while passing, but really it’s to suppress breathing function so death isn’t drawn out.

It was time.

They took most of her tubing and IV’s out. They wrapped her in a second diaper and then a blanket. I sat in a glider rocker next to the bed. Without warning, they pulled the vent out, picked her up, and turned around and placed her in my arms.

I rocked her with a flood of tears streaming down my face. I sang Jesus Love Me (something I sang to my children frequently when they were little). While the entire room was filled around the edges, in that moment, it was just my baby girl and I.

Three breaths. She took three breaths on her own. Then she was gone. The doctor quietly came over and kneeled next to us. He placed his stethoscope on her chest. He silently looked up to me and nodded. It was over. She was gone. I continued to rock and sing to her lifeless body in my arms…

I asked if vaccines did this. They were so quick to shut me down. “That’s impossible,” I was told. From the get-go, that didn’t sit right with me. I wasn’t even 21 years old. I was young and naive. I trusted doctors even then. It wasn’t until years later through research (hours and hours of research) that I learned that vaccines DO IN FACT LIST SIDS AS A POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECT. It’s even listed in the vaccine insert. I went from being told there’s no way this was almost SIDS to this is just SIDS (basically don’t ask questions).

14 years later and all I have left of my baby girl is this bottom picture. A handful of ashes in a pretty urn.

There was no first giggle. No first “I love you, Mommy.” No first Christmas. No first birthday. There was no first day of Kindergarten. No first day of middle school. No first crush. No first dance. No other first anything. Forever, Gracie is frozen in time at two months old.

This. This is why parents get to have a choice in whether or not they inject their children.”

From the autopsy: “CAUSE OF DEATH: Cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to sudden infant death syndrome versus aspiration event.”