There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Women's Conference Talk

My church had a stake women's conference yesterday afternoon. My local congregation is a ward, several wards make up a stake. And every year the women in the stake get together (there were about 300 women there yesterday) to have a conference. Basically 2 hours of mingling and a few talks given by pre-selected people.

The stake leaders asked me to speak on how I was able to find the courage inside me to move on during this difficult time. The theme for the conference was the Wizard of Oz and more specifically the line at the end, "You have always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn for yourself."

Whenever it was brought up that I was to be speaking the reaction I got about 99% of the time was "I can't believe they asked you to speak when it is still so fresh for you." And I thought I should clarify how they asked me. They were so sweet and said they had been praying to know who should speak at this conference and felt like it should be me. The sister who asked me said she hesitated and prayed for 3 days before to make sure and kept feeling like it needed to be me. When she asked me to speak she told me that it could be this year, next year or maybe in 2 years; whenever I was ready to share. She also told me that if Saturday morning of the conference rolled around and I was just not feeling okay I could call and cancel and they would just be down 1 speaker and it wouldn't be a big deal. They gave me every out. So I decided I might as well try. 

The thing that brings Bryan and I the most comfort about Jane dying is that it had a purpose. It gives it meaning and makes it feel like it wasn't all for naught. The purpose that brings us the most comfort is that her life and story are bringing people closer to their Savior. That she is bringing more love and peace and perspective to this world. And if speaking at Women's Conference would facilitate that, then I could do it. 

I wasn't planning on posting this talk because I feel really pretentious doing so, but after several people asked I decided that I would post it. So, here ya go:

My name is Christy Clark. We have been in the stake for 8 months. We are in the Millcreek ward. We moved from Vermont in June. My husband is a resident at Loma Linda University. We have 3 beautiful children. A 6 year old son, a 3 year old son and a 1 year old angel daughter who is watching over us from heaven. Jane unexpectedly passed away just 2 ½ months ago on November 16th from what we believe to be meningitis. The stake has asked me to come speak to you today about how I found the courage inside me to keep moving forward during such an impossible time.

I have found that we have two choices in our times of trouble. Turn away from God or turn to Him. Both paths will still be painful at times, but only one brings hope in eternal salvation. Both paths feel dark and lonely at times, but only one path are we actually alone.

Losing a child is the trial I always said I couldn't handle. In my silent prayers I would plead to not give me this trial.  The first few weeks after Jane passed through the veil were dark and sad. Yet at the same time filled with tender mercies. Those tender mercies are always there if we will seek for them.

Why would Heavenly Father give me the one thing I did not want to endure?  I could barely speak above a whisper, eating anything was difficult, I cried all day and couldn’t muster a smile for anything. I tell you this not to be depressing, but so you know that I have been there. There may be some of you who feel like you are experiencing exactly what you cannot handle. You may feel like Heavenly Father has left you alone. I have been there. It is a terrible place to be. I pled with Him to help me out. Someone shared a quote from Elder Uchtdorf with me “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.” So I prayed. I constantly prayed to have that calming reassurance of a testimony put back together. Because I had a strong testimony before Jane passed away, it withstood the storm. I found that the pieces of my testimony came back together easier than I expected. And they can for you too. I promise you they can.

One of my mantra’s through this trial has been a quote from Elder Holland:  “Don't you quit. You keep walking, you keep trying, there is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon. Some come late. Some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be alright in the end. Trust God and believe in Good Things to Come.”

There is a common phrase I have used many times in the past “God won’t give you more then you can handle.” I’m sure some of you have said it too. I think we have formed this idea from 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
But I want to tell you that God WILL give you more then you can handle. It is part of our experience in this life to be tested, really tested. That scripture says that God will “make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” It no where says “You will be able to handle it on your own.” The scripture says He will give us a way to handle it. And through those incredibly scary and dark  times we need to learn that the only way we can handle it, is through our Savior. And behold, I am the alight and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter bcup which the Father hath given me.”  Jesus Christ is that light that can break through the darkness of our scary times. Turn to Him! He is the way to escape!  

This quote by President Monson speaks so beautifully of how our Heavenly Father feels about us. He knows we will struggle, it’s why we are here. But He hasn’t asked us to struggle alone. He says, “Wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to  all. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith. When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer. Your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you deserve love. It is simply always there.”

I want you to know what Oz taught the cowardly lion is true, “You have plenty of courage, I am sure, All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” I think that is the courage we have inside of us. To just keep moving when we are facing danger, to just keep praying when we feel lost, to just keep hoping when we are afraid. In our darkest times, sometimes that is all we can do.  It takes courage to realize that we cannot get through this life on our own. It takes courage to put our trust in God when we feel forsaken. This is from the Emma Smith movie, “Strength isn’t something you have, its something you find.”  I want you to know you are a daughter of God, you have been given power to do all things asked of you in Christ. You can do hard things! If I can, you can!

Sister Sheri Dew says about You, “Noble and great. Courageous and determined. Faithful and fearless. That is who you are and who you have always been.”

I know all these things to be true. You are noble, you are faithful and you are courageous. God loves you. He wants you to succeed!

Monday, January 20, 2014


-Did you notice any signs or symptoms?

No. Well not until it was midnight and too late. I don't like answering this one. It is like my brain runs through scenarios of how I could have saved her and that is just too much for me. Especially when in all reality there just wasn't anything that abnormal about her symptoms so I couldn't have. It is also usually young moms who ask and that is not the answer they want to hear. They want to feel like they can control their kids mortality and something like that really rocks that security.
Also, to be very clear...Jane was vaccinated! If you slightly know me, you know I vaccinate. But meningitis can be caused by a lot of different things including virus. There are not vaccinations for viral meningitis. Please do not ask me that question, how my brain hears that is "Was this your fault?"

-How are you?

I'm okay. I mean I am better then expected. I guess what I expected losing a baby would be like is self-combustion and never getting out of bed until I died from drowning in my tears and sorrow. So ya...better then that. I am functioning. I have a really hard time getting up in the mornings. I have never been a morning person, but its like 3x worse now. I am SO exhausted I can't even keep my eyes open. And this is at like 8:30 am. I'm usually fine around friends and play dates, like 90% of the time. I can keep my emotions in check and chat with friends, including talking about Jane.
Overall, I have good days and bad days. Mostly bad days, like 70% bad days. I am hoping that number will get lower with time. But you know those bad days are healthy and needed. It means I'm dealing with it and this is real to me and I love her. So as hard as it is to just want to cry all day, the tears are a release of emotion and a sign that I'm affected.
Last week I had two good days where I felt genuinely happy. But that ended with those vivid memories of Jane's last morning. Whenever I am having my bad days it is because I am focused on the present, the here and now. When I had my two good days I still missed her kisses and snuggles; but I was more focused on the future, the eternity with her. Funny how something as simple as an eternal perspective can have such a profound effect.

-How are Nate and Ethan?

They are okay. They miss her a lot. Nate sometimes throws little tantrums of wanting "Jane back from her casket" like a 3 year old would throw a tantrum of wanting a cookie before dinner. I snuggle and hug him and tell him it's okay to miss her, but she isn't coming back from her casket. And when that doesn't work (which it usually doesn't) I get him telling his favorite memories of her. Ethan is basically the same but a little more mature in his sadness. He knows she isn't coming back but he still misses her and cries sometimes. I basically console him the same way I do Nate.

-How is Bryan?

He is okay (surprise! we're all "okay"). He misses her a lot but has such a strong testimony that holds him up. It doesn't take away the ache of missing her now but it does help soften the blow a bit. He is doing a lot better working in the hospital again, but he is on a really easy month.
-What can I do to help?
Prayers really are the best. And you dont need to be humble and say them anonymously. I like knowing so many people are effected by Jane and are turning to their Heavenly Father.
Messages saying you're thinking about us.
Notes in the mail.
Music! Recommendations are good. Some spiritual and some just feel good music. I got an awesome mix cd from a dear friend in the mail a few days ago and it was just what I needed!
Little inspirational quotes/videos you have read and thought I might like.
Funny stuff. I really can't tell you how good it feels to laugh when you are carrying a heavy load (emotionally. I imagine laughing while carrying a physically heavy load would be quite painful...)
A swept and mopped floor
....I'll stop before I start turning over my to-do list :)

-Are you eating?
Yes! I am familiar with the anxiety-inducing lack of appetite. I get that way after each baby. I know that I need to choke it down whether I want to or not. Luckily (or maybe unluckily) my loss of appetite only lasted a few weeks.
-Are you going to have any more kids?
Yes. We wanted 1 more anyways and that hasn't changed. I'm just waiting until I feel ready. There are a few things I'm nervous about. Feeling like I'm replacing her, not being able to give my love to another baby because I will just be reminded of Jane and still having to take medication for panic attacks that I can't take while pregnant.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The post I have been avoiding....

I couldn't write this one. Every time I tried my fingers shook and my anxiety overwhelmed me like I was drowning in it. But I know a lot of people have questions, so it needed to be done. I had to ask Bryan to write her story.
 I have added my experience in between his. Mine will be in blue in between his. I am sorry if it all seems disjointed with two different perspectives going on, I just don't know a better way to do it.

Many people might be wondering about the events and details that took place with Jane.  Christy had thought we might wait till we actually have an official cause of death, but it looks like it might be another 4 months or so until we find out.  The leading diagnosis for her death was acute bacterial meningitis; however, in order to diagnose someone with meningitis you need to perform a lumbar puncture and study the CSF fluid.  In the following story you will find out that she was too unstable to perform a lumbar puncture and thus we are left waiting for the post-mortem biopsies and studies to determine the exact cause of death. 
I would like to start by stating that it has been very obvious to both Christy and I that this was Heavenly Father’s plan.  Although as painful  as this is, it has been very sweet in many instances remembering and continuing to see God’s hand in our lives.  There is no doubt about that.
Jane had been a very healthy child.  She was never hospitalized and never had more than the typical runny noses and mild fevers.  Leading up to November 15th we had not noticed anything abnormal about her health.  It was a typical Friday night.  We had finished putting the boys to bed.  Usually Jane would go to bed soon after the boys but she wasn’t very tired.  She fought to stay awake and be with mom.  She won us over as she usually did.  Christy even said that she was “being extra cute” that night, and took a 3 minute video of her (having that video is one of many “tender mercies”).  We finally put her to bed sometime around 10 o’clock.  We watched a movie.  Then as we were going to bed around midnight she started to cry.  Crying is not unusual so we didn’t think anything of it.  After a little while the cry sounded a little different so I went to get her out of bed to nurse and sleep with Christy.  When I picked her up I noticed that she felt warm and was a little lethargic.  She responded as usual to me but was a little weak.  When I went to lay her down with Christy she had a very exaggerated moro reflex (startle reflex).  Whenever my kids are sick, I often worry about the worst case scenarios, thanks to the great medical education I have received without the years of experience.  My mind started to worry, but I reasoned it out because of the much more common illnesses that are always around.  We measured her temperature to be 101-102 degrees.  We fed her some Tylenol and ibuprofen and Christy nursed.  She nursed just fine.  After nursing for a couple minutes she vomited.  We cleaned things up. Christy thought it would be good that I give her a priesthood blessing, which I was more than happy to do.  I volunteered to sleep with Jane and let Christy get some sleep in the guest room.  She continued to be lethargic and sleepy, but wouldn’t fall asleep.  I watched her for a while, not being able to sleep. I was a little uneasy, but thought that she probably just had gastritis.  Around 4:00 am she slowly started to act a little more strange. She reached out her hands in the air as if to grab something, but she would turn her head to look at me when I called her name.  Thinking some warm milk might help her fall asleep, I fed her just a little bit so she wouldn’t vomit again.  She finally fell asleep around 5:00 am, which allowed me to sleep as well. 
Jane woke me up at 6:00 am vomiting again.  I reached over to turn her so she wouldn’t aspirate.  After vomiting for what seemed like forever, I awaited the usual deep inspiration that normally ensued.  It didn’t come.  She wasn’t gasping for air as if something was stuck blocking the airway, she just didn’t breath.  I started to panic.  I yelled for Christy.  As I ran with Jane to the bathroom sink, I had Christy call 911.  I yelled at Jane hoping that I would wake her up, silently saying a helpless prayer.  I tried several breaths of air. I tilted her head back and held her jaw up, hoping to open up the airway.  After a couple minutes she started to breathe again, although the breathing was very irregular and agonal.  Then a small bit of the panic and adrenaline had settled down and I started to think a little more clearly.  I realized that even though she was breathing, she was not there.  Her eyes were open, but they were not following or responding to anything.  I tried to feel for pulses but had never been good at pediatric pulses anyways. 

I woke up to Bryan shouting my name at 6 am. I ran into our bedroom and saw vomit on the bed and found Bryan in our bathroom holding our limp daughter.  I have never seen panic and fear on his face like that. I grabbed my phone and with shaky terrified hands I called 911. I was talking to the dispatcher and she wanted to know when Jane was taking breaths.  They were rapid and shallow. My thought was “Oh good! She is breathing. She will be fine.” At this point I didn’t think she would die, that couldn’t happen.

During all this, Christy was talking to the 911 operator and trying to ask me questions and transmit those answers back.  Finally the paramedics arrived and Christy called our neighbor who ran to our house and was there within 2 or 3 minutes. The paramedics started to put monitors on her, bag mask her, and finally got her into the ambulance.  As I put on some clothes, the ambulance left.  Christy stayed back with the boys to make sure they were ok and I drove off in my car.  Good thing it was so early in the morning because I was running every red light.  I beat the ambulance to the hospital, to my hospital.  I was no longer the responder to the trauma.  The ambulance arrived and she had not improved in the ambulance ride.  They took her to her room and the doctors started working on her.  She was hypotensive and they started some medicine to help increase her blood pressure.  They intubated her.  Many other things happened as I paced around the corner, trying not to hear all the things they were doing to my little baby girl.  One of the ED attending’s not working on Jane came and embraced me and offered say a prayer, which I welcomed.  Christy finally arrived along with our neighbor who came to help give a priesthood blessing.  There was too much going on to give her one.  They paged anesthesia to come assist because her oxygen concentration would drop for a couple minutes, then come back up.  Another ED attending came inquiring what had happened, hoping to get information that would help.  We concluded that among others, maybe she had meningitis and she was started on a bunch of antibiotics to cover bacteria and viruses that would cause meningitis.  She finally was taken to the CT scan.  A neurosurgery resident came to talk to us and tell us about the CT scan, even walking us to the computer to show us.  Essentially her brain was being squished by pressure.  He put a bolt in her head that measured the intracranial pressure.  Normal intracranial pressure is around 10 mm Hg (1-20 mm Hg).  Above 20 mm Hg is elevated.  Her intracranial pressure was measuring between 90 -120 mmHg.  The doctors talked to us and wanted us to come see her even though they were still working on her.  She had the bolt in her head, was intubated, had several iv lines, and the anesthesiologists were trying to put in a femoral central iv line.  We stood as out of the way as we could and held her hand and rubbed her head. 

After the boys woke up I got them breakfast and sat with them and our neighbor for a bit, not knowing if I should stay with them or go to the hospital. After about 15 minutes I decided I needed to go and our neighbor took the boys to her house.  I called my parents and in-laws, told them what was happening and told them to come immediately. As I was leaving the house a friend called my cell.  Her husband (another resident) was working the ED and he called her to tell her Jane had just arrived.  She was asking me “what is going on?” and I remember thinking I had no idea what to tell her but I still felt like Jane was going to live.  Somewhere between the end of that phone call and arriving at the hospital I had a very clear, very penetrating thought “YOU AND BRYAN will be fine.” When I got to the hospital Bryan was crying. More like sobbing. He was so worried and sick and panicked. I couldn’t cry; I was in shock. I felt so nauseous. I held Bryan and kept asking him what the doctors were saying and what it meant and he just couldn’t tell me. He kept saying “I don’t like hearing it. I know what they are talking about and I can’t listen.” So I covered his ears and held him and told him my thought in the car, that we would be okay. I really didn’t want to say the words aloud, but I felt another strong prompting to say them aloud. I’m glad I did because I think saying them out loud helps me now to remember them more clearly. “We are going to be okay.” Our Bishop, Elders Quorum President and another member in our ward (church) came to be with us. The other member is a doctor who works closely with LLUMC and kept going back into her area with the doctors and coming back to tell us what was happening.  I’m so grateful for his insight and expertise.
During this time in the ED, several residents and attending’s that Bryan worked with heard and came down to see him and sometimes it looked like they were holding him. The word spread very quickly he was a resident and I think it made it very emotional for the whole team working on Jane knowing he was “one of them.” In fact, they kept saying “I hear you are one of us”, hugging him and crying. It hit real close to home for everyone.
After she was moved up to the PICU is about when my adrenaline wore off. I was exhausted and couldn’t stop crying.  Our friend (who happens to also be the world’s best landlords) came to the hospital and she held me a lot and cried with me. My mom and little brother got to the hospital and I have never seen my mom cry like that before. It was hard for all of us. Blake was so distraught, yet such a rock for my mom and  I.

She was finally transferred up to the PICU.  There they continued to struggle to keep her blood pressure up.  By now they were slowly titrating up her two different “pressors” (meds to keep up her blood pressure).  But as her blood pressure increased her intracranial pressure would increase equally.  She was maxed out on all medicines they could give to her and she wasn’t improving at all. After talking with the doctors we decided to stop treating her.  They slowly lowered the pressors, allowed Christy to hold her, and turned off the ventilator.  She was declared a little after noon on November 16th.  We continued to hold her body till late in the evening as family drove down from Las Vegas and flew down from Salt Lake.  

As a doctor you have to learn to shut off emotion while you are treating a trauma. You need to be able to think clearly. This has actually been a struggle for Bryan the last 6 months in residency. But I hear that sometimes, it is just too hard and the providers get emotionally involved. A friend of a friend was one of Jane’s nurses in the ED. We were told after Jane was moved to the PICU, they all cried. The ED attending came to our PICU room around 5 pm sobbing. He hugged Bryan and kept saying “I wish I could have done more. I am so so sorry. I wish there was something else I could have done.” It meant a lot to us that she didn’t go unnoticed. Her sweet, short and perfect life really touched everyone around her. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


I have seen a lot of people summing up 2013 in a Facebook status or Instagram post. It got me thinking about 2013.

- In March, Bryan went through "the match" into residency. Really only those who have gone through it know the stress.
- In May, Bryan graduated from medical school
- We moved away from Vermont. People who know me know that Vermont is heaven on earth to me. And my friends there are family. It was a heart wrenching move.
- In June, Bryan started residency. It was a tough time for all of us. Extremely long hours, the weight of life and death on Bryan's shoulders was a difficult adjustment for him. The kids went 3-4 day stretches without ever seeing him.
- I sank into a depression and re-started Zoloft in September.
- And of course the passing of our baby girl, Jane.

I know I'm a pretty "woe is me" type of person. I've never liked that about myself but in this instance, it is what it is. I've had a pretty hard year. Like, really hard.

But I'm still here. I curled my hair today. I made it to therapy this morning. I snuggled Bryan and cried while watching the ball drop (and turned the channel when Miley Cyrus performed.) I cleaned the house slightly and made scrambled eggs for dinner (at least we ate).

I realized something pretty simple, but life changing while reflecting on this year. I can do hard things. 

How in the world have I survived this year?
Philippians 4:14 "I can do all things in Christ who strengtheneth me."
That is the only way I have been able to survive. The comfort of the gospel truths. And the power of the atonement that brings peace in only a way Jesus Christ can provide.

This quote from Orson F. Whitney has brought some eternal perspective to me;
"No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven."

If I can "endure this well" I will be more like my Father and Mother in heaven. As hard as this pain is, that is a pretty amazing promise.