It has been two and a half years now – two and a half long years.
I meet people every so often who do not know about my son. Some of them are new clients, new friends, new colleagues. Some are old friends or Andrew’s teammates we have not heard from or seen in years. Whatever the situation, they don’t know, and it is so uncomfortable to tell them face-to-face. It puts them in an understandingly very difficult position and I can see that.
So this is written for you – my new friend, my new client, my old friend who just does not know, or who has not had the courage to, or who has had the compassion not to ask me what happened.
The bottom line is that on August 25th, 2013, my son, Andrew, went to sleep. Just like any other night. He crawled into bed, watched television, took his meds, and went to sleep. But he never woke up. He passed very quietly in his sleep due an unforeseen reaction to the medications he was on. His breathing became more and more shallow during the night, and eventually his lungs shut down. There was no pain, no suffering, he just passed very quietly. We have done a lot of work on this for the past two years, and through talking to many doctors, the medical examiner, an attorney, and others, we have come to accept the fact that no one was at fault. There were no known interactions to what he was on. There were no red flags. No one messed up on a dosage. It was a combination of the stress of school starting the next day, the lower level of resistance he faced because of the kidney issues, and the fact that he was pretty thin kid. It was just a bad combination of factors that caused his body to react to the medications.
This is the story of his last few days. It is personal, and tells a lot about him that most people do not know. But I felt it was important to tell this story about my son.
Andrew was entering his senior year at Colorado University at Boulder (CU Boulder). He loved the school; he loved living in Boulder with its 360-degree views of the Rocky Mountains, and most of all he loved to go snowboarding almost every weekend at Vail. He had made a few close friends there, but most of all he loved Jovi, with whom he was living with for two years.
We had a great time most of that last summer as a family. We sat and talked by Andrew’s outdoor fire pit, we took walks with the dogs, went out to dinner quite often, and hung out together. Andrew worked for me during the summer, visited my clients and resolving their issues, and spent time with his friends. During the summer he was unfortunately involved in a roll over accident with my truck, and because the officer found his bottle of Concerta in the truck, he issued Andrew a summons. He was prescribed the medication for his ADD. He took the proper dose, and kept the bottle with him so if he was out he would not miss his medication, and the medication was still in the original bottle with his name on it – but the officer felt compelled to give him a summons for it. Did he have to? Or was he being a prick? We will never really know. Andrew showed no signs of being under the influence of anything. The accident was in the afternoon on a wet winding road. The toxicology results from the urine sample they took when they issued him the summons that came back months later showed that there was a very low dose of Concerta in his system – well under the therapeutic range, and nothing else in his system. Whatever his motivation was, the officer issued him a summons. This really bothered Andrew and caused a certain level of stress. We hired an attorney, pleaded innocent, and we were all pretty confident that the charges were going to be dismissed once we had our day in court – but the stress and aggravation that it caused Andrew was still there hanging over his head.
A few weeks later I brought Andrew back to Boulder – on August 12th, 2013. I stayed in a lovely local artsy hotel that Dorothy and i had been at many times before. Andrew stayed in his apartment with Jovi. His lease was up that week and we had to move out of the old apartment, but the new place would not be ready for a few days. So we loaded everything into a rented U-Haul, parked it on the street, rented another car, and the three of us spent several days traveling and hanging out in the Boulder area. It really was a nice vacation for all of us. We sat at the pool, went out to eat every meal at a different place, and went to the movies. We talked a lot about school, about what he wanted to do when he graduated, and Jovi talked about how happy she was that Andrew was back.
Andrew was pretty relaxed that week. He was with Jovi, who brought him love, and she also brought him a sense of peace.
Unfortunately, Andrew also had kidney problems. Over the past three years, he had a couple of instances of kidney stones, inflamed and infected kidneys. He was on a mild pain killer for the pain, as well as an anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and something to help his kidneys function better than they were. He had been in and out of the hospital for kidney stones, countless urologist appointments here and in Boulder, and was dealing with it as best he could. Dorothy or I made many trips out to Boulder to take him to the doctor, or to spend time with him when he had the stones blasted out of his system. It was a long hard road for him to travel, as well as for us to see him in the pain his kidneys caused him. He tried to be strong about it, not wanting to take a semester off of school, and not wanting to worry Dorothy and I too much.
We finally got them into the new apartment. He was happy, she was happy; school was starting in a few days. Jovi went to spend a few days with her mom so Andrew could get his schoolbooks and focus on starting school. This gave Andrew and I time alone together. We went to get him a new skateboard he wanted, we went to the movies and had dinner together.
Andrew and I also went to see a major vendor of mine who had relocated part of their business to Denver. He met a few people in their technical support group, someone in quality control, and a manager, and after a couple of hours of meetings and talks about his knowledge of ACT!, he was offered an internship for the school year, which might lead to a permanent job upon graduation. It made him so happy, and it took so much pressure off of him for his senior year. He had such a big smile when we left their offices, he had to call mom right away to tell her. (Several months later, after we lost Andrew, the manager at Swiftpage sent us a company issued briefcase with their logo sewn on it – the briefcase that Andrew was supposed to get when he started working there the week after we lost him. It was very touching and I have it sitting on my night table to this day.)
It was a great father-son few days we had together. The next morning I packed up, checked out, we did some food shopping, and had breakfast together. He asked me what the chicken fried steak was that he saw on the menu – and I told it how bad can breaded, deep fried steak be? It was the first time he ever had it and he absolutely loved it. I dropped him off at the apartment and headed home. I hugged him just like every other time I left. Little did I know.
He was so happy. School was starting in a day or two, he had to get some books, some other odds and ends for the apartment, and say hello to old friends.
He called home Friday evening with some news. He was riding his new skateboard and for some reason someone walked out in front of him, and to avoid hitting them he swerved and fell off the board, injuring his right hand. He was not sure how bad it was and decided to wait until morning. Morning came and it was hurting him a little more. After a visit to Boulder Community Hospital, the hand was put into a caste; he had broken his pinky and sesamoid bone (the little bone in the hand attached to the pinky). The hospital gave him another painkiller for the pain, another anti-inflammatory pill to keep the swelling down, and told him he should see an orthopedist on Monday to reset the bone better and recast it. The hospital knew all of the medications he was on; we can see that in the records. They knew this from their prior records, from the forms Andrew filled out, and from their on-line records. The list was very complete. He went home from the hospital Saturday afternoon, we talked a few times that night to check on him, he took his medications, all of them, and went to bed. He was doing okay.
We talked Sunday as well. He told us he made sushi with the salmon and rice I had bought him that week. We bought him a new rice maker, sushi rolling mats and chopsticks that he was so happy to have. He rolled himself a few salmon and avocado rolls and had a very quiet peaceful night at home. Jovi was still away at her mom’s house and was coming home Tuesday or Wednesday. Andrew called us, told Dorothy and I how excited he was for school to start, and that his senior year was going to be fun – especially now that he did not have to worry about a job later on. Who knew if it was going to lead to a job, but it made him happy to know the option was there. We said we loved him, he told us he loved us too, to kiss the dogs goodnight for him, and that misses everyone already. We hung up, and he went to sleep, for the last time.