Gerald James Comeaux was born on March 5, 1968, a month and a half after his sister, Michelle, died. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant when Michelle died. Before Jerry was born, I had a terrible fear that something would be wrong with him but he was beautiful and healthy. Jerry was the only one of my children to have curly hair. He had a slim build, and delicate features. He was so lovable. He was a little slow when it came to talking. Even at age 2, it was sometimes difficult to understand him. But he was so beautiful...inside and out. He always had a smile on his face. Again this came out of the blue. Just when I was beginning to feel secure, my world began falling apart again. The last happy memory that I have of Jerry, is a trip to the local amusement park in July of 1970. We took movies of him, his older brother, Donnie, and his baby brother Darrin, riding all of the rides and having a wonderful time. Today I can't watch those movies...he was so happy that day. I can't watch them knowing that shortly after that my little boy would be in a hospital, never to return home. Jerry's illness began much the same as Michelle's did.
Both Jerry and Darrin came down with a virus. The doctor gave them both injections and medicine. Darrin got better but Jerry didn't, so the doctor had me bring him back into the office. Still he didn't get better...another trip to the doctor, more shots, more medicine. By now I was concerned because Jerry was weak and pale. When he would cry he wouldn't be able to catch his breath. The doctor thought he was holding his breath but I knew better. Now Jerry was developing bruises all over his body. Finally, after a blood test the doctor decided he should be admitted to the hospital because his platelet count was very low. That was why he was bruising...platelets enable the blood to clot. Since Jerry's count was so low, his blood wasn't clotting properly. Our pediatrician decided to call in a blood specialist. When the specialist arrived, he asked me a million questions...could Jerry have gotten into poison, do you think he may have put flashlight batteries in his mouth, had we been using insecticides in or around the house, etc. He had no idea what could be causing the dangerously low platelet count. It was decided that Jerry must undergo a bone marrow test. The problem with this test is that the skin can be numbed but the bone can't and this needle had to penetrate Jerry's bone to take a sample of his marrow. While the bone marrow test was taking place, my husband and I stood out in the hall and listened to our precious son scream in agony. No parent should ever have to put their child through something like this...and our baby had to endure this procedure at least 4 times.
For 40 days Jerry was in the hospital without any diagnosis. Everyone seemed to be at a loss as to why his platelet level was so low. At one point, we told the pediatrician that we wanted another doctor to be called in; we wanted a second opinion. He refused, telling my husband and I that if we insisted on a second opinion that he would not continue to treat our son. We were young and ignorant about the laws but we know now that he had no right to refuse our request for a second opinion and he was obligated to continue treatment. But, at the time, we didn't know that, so we backed off. All we knew was that Jerry needed care and that was first and foremost in our minds.
As the days passed, Jerry got weaker and weaker, he developed ulcers in his mouth and could barely eat or speak. In my heart I knew that my son was dying and Jerry confirmed this for me just 36 hours before he died. I was alone with Jerry in his room, my husband had gone to get a bite to eat, when Jerry looked at me and said just as clear as a bell, "Momma, I'm going to die". I was shocked and said, "What?", and he repeated it..."Momma, I'm going to die". By this time Jerry had ulcers in his mouth and could barely speak but this was clear...clearer than he would have spoken without the ulcers. I didn't have time to say anything more to him because the doctor came into the room. When he saw that Jerry was having trouble breathing, he had him rushed into intensive care. That night, 24 hours before Jerry died, the pediatrician finally consented to a second opinion. The new doctor arrived a couple of hours later, examined Jerry, came out of the ICU and told us that Jerry had aplastic anemia and there was nothing that he could do...the disease had progressed too far. Aplastic anemia is the result of a complete shut down of the production of red blood cells within the bone marrow. At approximately, 3 AM on September 6, 1970 Jerry died. It was Labor Day.
We later learned that the most probable cause of the aplastic anemia was excessive medications, all of those shots and antibiotics...12 injections in 4 days, given by our pediatrician. It was nothing that we could prove but the specialist who had been on the case, told us that he felt that this was the cause of the aplastic anemia.
After Jerry's death, I agonized over the tortures that he had to endure. I had nightmares and I couldn't get it out of my mind. Then one night, Jerry came to me...he wasn't alone, he was with his protector, at least that's the message that I received. I couldn't see his face but I knew that it was Jerry and the only thing I heard was, "Momma, don't worry, I'm all right now." With that he was gone but after that night, I never had another nightmare. Some people have tried to tell me that it was my imagination or that I was just dreaming but I know that God sent him to put my mind at ease, the same way that God allowed him to speak clearly enough to prepare me for his death. You see I was again pregnant by 3 months for my fifth child, Danny, who at the age of 6 had to have surgery to remove a brain tumor. The doctors believe that the sedatives that were given to me after Jerry's death and the trauma I endured caused tissue to wrap and form a mass at the base of Danny's brain.
For many years I felt a lot of guilt for what happened to Danny but I've come to realize that God has His own agenda and that everything happens for a reason. I don't know what those reasons might be but I've learned something from each of these tragedies. With my children's deaths, I've learned empathy and compassion for others. With Danny's illness and resulting disability, I've learned patience and understanding. With my own illness, Hepatitis C, I've learned acceptance and to savor every moment of my life. People say that I am very strong. I'm not so sure about that. There are many days when I don't feel very strong. No one goes through such tragedy and emerges untouched. I am not the person I once was and I will never be that person again. Losing any loved one changes you but especially the loss of one's child. My life will never be the way I'd dreamed it would be and my heart will forever be broken but I will survive...one day at a time, one moment at a time!