Joshua Alexander Henderson

Joshua Alexander HendersonMarch 4, 1997 to July 31, 1999

Meet Josh. He was, you could say, busy. Always into something. And up until July of 1999, never really sick a day in his life. That summer we went camping and swimming. He thought he was the hottest thing on wheels when Grammie would take him for a ride on her scooter.

He loved the computer. Joshie would climb up to the key hooks (placed well above his head) get the key to unlock the computer cabinet. Power up the CPU, open the drive door, and climb back up on the desk to retrieve his Little People Farm CD. He would put the CD in the drive and start to play. He had a mischievous grin, and I swear just a little larceny in his heart. He was barely a year when he got his big boy bed; I couldn’t keep him in a crib. He was a climber, and better to fall one foot than three. Only one bad thing ever happened to this boy, he died.

We picked him up from his sitters after work on a Tuesday evening and were told that he had spit up his kool-aid and just started feeling a little warm. At home he was fine, then his fever started to rise. I gave him some Tylenol and threw him in the tub, one of his favorite places to be. When he got out he was running around giving his big sister a hard time as usual. That night I had him in bed with us and he slept fine up until about 3am or so. He had a fever again. Let me also explain that in our family a high fever during a growth spurt is the norm. This time he spit up the Tylenol. I tried to give him water but that came up to. So we don’t have a growth spurt

I called into work and also Josh’s doctor. They gave me an appointment that afternoon. When we saw the doctor he said that it’s probably a stomach virus but if he can’t hold down water lets go ahead and take him to Cardinal Glennon (Children’s Hospital) to keep him from getting dehydrated. You should be home later this evening – just a precaution, they said.

At the hospital they took blood for labs and started him on an I.V. Around 10 p.m. one of the doctors told me they wanted to go ahead and admit him for the night just to keep an eye on him. He hadn’t wet his diaper yet and they wanted to wait until “what went in also came out”. You should be home in the morning- just a precaution, they said.

He was restless that night- strange bed, strange place and what’s this thing attached to my hand?

You know how it is, who does sleep well in hospitals? The next morning during rounds everything was fine. Then at 9 a.m. he started holding his head and screaming. A loud, high-pitched rhythmic scream, as if with every breath Josh was trying to send a message. The message was never received. Josh pulled on his hair and screamed for five hours straight. Maybe I should have done more, but I truly believed the doctors had it under control. I was after all at a children’s’ hospital, they are all pediatricians and I’m just a mom, they know what to do. Don’t they? They checked his ears, checked them at least seven times. They had surgery come down and feel his belly. Not a surgical problem. He’s holding his head, screaming, pulling out his hair, wringing his ears and is now picking at his lips until they start to bleed. This does not sound like a stomach problem to me but once again, hey; I’m just a mom.

Josh arrested at 2 o’clock Thursday afternoon. From here on he was in a coma hooked up to a ventilator. All they could tell me is that either his brain (encephalitis) or the tissue surrounding his brain (meningitis) had swollen. They just weren’t sure which and his condition was too fragile to go any further. This was the first time I heard mention of meningitis. Early Saturday morning, I held him in my arms for the last time and sang John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” to him as support was withdrawn. Joshua’s death certificate only gave meningitis as a possible cause; we had to wait another month for the final autopsy report to get an answer as to what our son died of. The final diagnosis lists Acute Purulent Meningitis possibly bacterial in nature, however no microorganisms were identified. Not quite as definite of an answer as we hoped for. I suppose we will never really know for sure.

I found out some months later, that for the five hours Joshua laid in the hospital screaming and holding his head, the doctors suspected either meningitis or intusseption, a intestinal disorder in which his only symptom was fever. They opted to work up the intestinal possibility first putting meningitis on hold. A poem was given to me, that has helped put into perspective what happened to our family, “God’s Lent Child.”