By Randy Helm
Modesto HAND chapter
On Friday, June 11, 1999, my wife, Shonna, went in for her regularly scheduled prenatal appointment. Our son Nathan was due that day, but if he did not come naturally, Shonna was scheduled to be induced the following Monday. To our dismay, the doctor could not find Nathan’s heartbeat.
Shonna was immediately admitted to Washington Hospital in Fremont, to induce labor and deliver Nathan. But, we had so many questions. What happened? What were we to do? What would life be like without Nathan? Why us?
Our doctor and the hospital staff were very helpful. They asked us if we would like to speak to someone who had been through the loss of a child. We said yes, but we were skeptical. We thought they would send us a “Pollyanna” type who would tell us that they had been through it, it was no big deal and we would get over it.
Instead, Heidi Olson, coordinator of Alameda HAND, visited us at the hospital. Heidi is soft spoken, warm and very compassionate. I met Heidi in the waiting room with our doctor and our family.
I don’t think Heidi realizes how important those first minutes with her were. All I remember are the tears in her eyes and how she honestly told me she was so sorry.
As I am sure all of you know, there is an instant bond between those of us who have lost a child, but Heidi was the first one I experienced it with. I don’t think I would have been able to walk down the hallway to the delivery room if it wasn’t for Heidi. She had her arm around me the whole time.
Heidi went in to meet my wife. The minute Heidi began to talk, Shonna found solace in her voice. She asked Shonna to tell our story. Then Heidi told hers. Shonna said she just focused on Heidi’s voice the whole time. It really helped to know that Heidi went on living after her son had died and it gave us hope that we could too, someday.
The materials she left for us also helped. She offered to come back for Nathan’s delivery and she did return. Also present were a minister from the Episcopal Church and our favorite delivery nurse, who had also experienced infant loss.
When Nathan was delivered, they treated him just as special as if he were living. It gave us the strength and courage to see him and hold him and make memories with him. They also took pictures for us. Without their presence next to us in the delivery room, we may never have taken the time to be with Nathan. Without their support, we would have many regrets.
Our home is in Modesto, which does not have a HAND chapter. So Heidi directed us to a support group in Pleasanton. Through that support group, we learned that the Central Valley was lacking in support for parents of infant loss. Also through that support group, we met Becca Coleman who was a co-facilitator.
We talked about our experience with HAND and the support we received in the hospital. Becca mentioned her desire to do similar things here. We thought Becca would be perfect for HAND and perfect to coordinate a chapter. So, one day in December last year, a short six months after Nathan’s death, Shonna talked to Heidi, Heidi talked to Becca and HAND of Central Valley was born.
For more information call (209) 823-5503