My Niece, Gabriella Jade Garcia; We Love and Miss You
Gabriella Jade Garcia (Gabi, for short) was born on April 12, 2011 to my sister-in-law, Sara Garcia, and her husband, John Garcia. She was born into a loving family with parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles and an older sister that loved her very much. Her sister, Bella, would run and fetch a diaper for Gabi if Bella were in the room when Gabi was being changed. Bella tried to be the best big sister to Gabi, and she was. Gabi bore a great resemblance to her aunt on her mother’s side, Carol, whom Gabi got her love of Spongebob Squarepants from. She was a happy baby and had a habit of growling low, in her throat, rather than crying. One would think it would be upsetting for a human baby to growl at someone while they were trying to put her down for a nap, but it actually was really funny, in a cute and endearing way. She would wake from naps, smiling and would laugh like a maniac when I held her, gave her a hug and my beard would tickle her chin. This would immediately devolve into more laughing while yanking on my beard or trying to relieve the bridge of my nose of the burden of carrying my glasses. She was a sweetheart and is loved, very much.
Unfortunately, at only 20-months-old, she passed away on January 13, 2013. Gabi was staying with her babysitter while her older sister was at Kindergarten and Mom and Dad were at work. This part of the story get’s a bit fuzzy as, when I heard it, the event had occurred only 3 hours prior and was being told to me by people in a fit of panic while in a family waiting room at Doernbechers Children’s Hospital in Portland, OR. At ~3 P.M. on Friday, January 11, John Garcia arrived at his daughter’s, babysitter’s house to find the babysitter loading his daughter, Gabi, into the backseat of her car. She informed John that there had been an accident and she was taking Gabi to the hospital. John took Gabi from the babysitter to find her unresponsive in any way and bleeding heavily from her head. The story that the babysitter told was relayed to me by Sara and John as:
Gabi was taking a nap on a bed in the babysitter’s spare room. When the babysitter came in to check on the baby later, she found Gabi standing up on the bed. As the babysitter was approaching the bed, Gabi started running toward the edge of the bed. As Gabi went over the edge, the babysitter attempted to catch the baby but only managed to grab her by the ankles. This actually turned out to make the situation worse, as it created a pivot point that caused Gabi to hit the floor head first, cracking her skull and causing Gabi to lose consciousness on impact. This injury caused massive swelling of Gabi’s brain.
Gabi was transported to the hospital in Lebanon, Oregon where John contacted his wife Sara, Gabi’s mother. Upon her arrival to the hospital ER, the doctor informed them that a LifeFlight helicopter was on its way to transport Gabi to Doernbechers Children’s Hospital. Due to the seriousness of Gabi’s injury, there was no room in the helicopter for either Sara or John to ride up in the chopper, so they would have to drive up. The message was passed through the family that Gabi had been hurt and was being transported to Portland via LifeFlight. At ~6:30 P.M., my mother-in-law, Pauline, came over to my house and asked me to wake my wife, as she was taking a post-work nap. I stirred my wife and we listened to Pauline report the very little that they knew at that point. She told us that they would call us when they knew more, but were waiting for Sara and John to arrive in Portland (~1 1/2 hours north of us) and speak to the doctor. Once they knew more, they were going to call all of us and let us know an update. My wife and I agreed to go over to Pauline’s house and wait for word with her and her husband, Mark. We waited there until about 8 P.M. before we got the call (not looking good) and left.
Due to freezing conditions that night, the trip took longer than any of us would have liked and we arrived at ~10 P.M. It had not gotten better since we left; in fact the opposite was true. Her brain continued to swell, causing the doctors to take a piece of her skull off completely and leave it off to allow the brain to swell without causing more damage. under these circumstances, that is normal procedure. Shortly after our arrival, we were informed that the neurologist had told John and Sara that the likelihood of Gabi receiving an injury of this magnitude from an accidental fall from a bed was “virtually impossible” and that the hospital had contacted the authorities and child services. I will not inject my opinion of what that could mean, but I’m sure you will arrive at nearly the same conclusion I did. Shortly thereafter, we were told that our wonderful little Gabi was virtually brain-dead. John and Sara elected to wait another 24 hours in hopes that the swelling would recede and Gabi would improve. We all stayed at the hospital until 2 A.M., at which point my wife, her parents and myself (all of which rode up in my vehicle) elected to head back home for the night. John and Sara have another daughter that was being cared for by Sara’s grandparents while they were at the hospital and we thought someone else should watch Bella so they could go up and see Gabi. At this point, most of us were still maintaining a shred of hope that we would arrive in Portland the next day to find Gabi had taken a turn for the better.
The next day, my wife and I drove up. Things had not gotten better. Again, our hopes were smashed with the news that Gabi was fully brain-dead and any sort of recovery (which was highly unlikely) would end up having profound effects on Gabi’s quality of life, with the best outcome being that she would live the rest of her life in a vegetative state. Needless to say, that day at the hospital was hard for everyone. Detectives spoke to Sara and John, as well as, John’s younger sister, who has known the babysitter since high-school. They insured us that there was an investigation underway and that they had already spoken to the babysitter once, with plans to speak to her again in the near future. We all spent the day knowing what was coming, but avoiding it at all costs. Around 7 P.M., the doctors did another test (probably just for everyone’s piece of mind) that showed no improvement. John came out to us, delivered the news and asked if I would go with him to have a cigarette. I was amazed at the level of control that Sara and John were exerting… They seemed to be taking it well. However, they stayed in Gabi’s room with her most of the time, causing me to theorize that they were melting down in there, and putting on one hell of a show for the rest of us to keep us from breaking down. It didn’t work as most of us were huddled masses of tears at some point that day, but they tried.
John and I went and smoked. The discussion made me realize that most of my family was having quite the existential crisis when it came to religion. Some leaned harder on their faith, while others shunned the idea of god. We had several cigarettes and talked about Gabi and Bella. He told me that they were going to be “pulling the plug” in a while and I could tell that John had mixed feelings about it. In retrospect, the conversation seems more like he was gathering his strength to do what we all knew needed to be done. In the elevator, on the way back up to the waiting room, John said to me something that will resonate with me for my entire life:
We had [Gabi] for 20 months. Even with all this, I wouldn’t give it up, because having her for 20 months is better than never having her at all. -John Garcia
Can you imagine the presence of mind he must have had in that moment to say something like that? How powerful, heartbreaking and consoling all at once. That was the moment that it broke for me. Up to that point, I was trying to keep myself under control. To be the one that made sure people were eating. I was running little errands like grabbing soda or coffee for anyone that needed it and knowing that the roads might be icy and that I should probably hold it together to make sure I can drive all of us home, if no one else can. That moment in the elevator with John was what penetrated my facade of strength. I managed to get it under control until I was out of John’s presence, as he was gathering strength for what came next and didn’t need his blubbering brother-in-law being a mess.
The entire time, I was the only one that did not go into Gabi’s room to see her. I didn’t want that image polluting my memory of Gabi’s laughter as my beard tickled her chin. When everyone gathered in her room for the last time, I still couldn’t bring myself to go in and see her that way. I waited just outside the door for anyone to emerge needing someone to hold them or be there for them, which was just the case. Gabi died surrounded by her family and loved ones. A little piece of all of us died with her that night. After it was all done, we all stayed at the hospital for a couple of hours while Sara and John did the last of the paperwork. At ~10 P.M., we all left the hospital at the same time.
That was just over a week ago. Sara and John took the last week off of work, getting things in order and preparing the memorial service. I stopped by a couple of times to deliver some food and check-in with them. Turns out that was a good idea as John had told me that he had forgotten to eat that morning. I found that John’s two sisters, Lisa and Kat, as well as Kat’s boyfriend, had been staying with them quite a bit to help out around the house and such. I haven’t heard much of anything about the investigation of the babysitter, but it appears that they are leaning towards the idea that it was an accident. I’ve said it several times recently, but I am torn on the idea. Part of me wants it to be a freak accident in which the shittiest bunch of circumstances all came together to bring this about. Should that be the case, at least I can maintain some hope in humanity. Another part of me wants this to be someone’s fault. Religious people tell themselves that “God wanted his precious, little angel back because he missed her”. I understand that, even if I don’t believe the same. Believing that “God wanted his angel back” or that someone is a lunatic and killed a baby puts purpose to such a tragic event, even if that purpose is shitty. It’s harder to handle that a person has been stolen out of the lives of those that loved them by some cosmic roll of the dice. It is easier to blame the babysitter, as that gives me a place to focus my hate, rage and anguish over this. There’s also the guilt of taking that person for granted. I don’t see my loved ones as much as I should. We all have busy lives and our own oats to roll, so we take the existence of our friends and family as a given, never expecting them to be plucked out of the world and out of our lives.
On the positive side, the community has been amazing! Sara’s mom started a Fundrazr page to help cover the medical bills and pay for the memorial. A local country music radio station picked up the story and have been showing support for our family by plugging the page on the radio and on their websites. At the time of the writing of this article, the Fundrazr site has already received over $3,000 in contributions! Papa’s Pizza locations in Springfield and Corvallis, OR are doing fundraisers on January 28, 2013 to help out and the Lebanon, OR Dutch Bros coffee stand is donating $1 for every drink sold on January 25, 2013. Should you be interested in contributing to the Fundrazr campaign or visiting Papa’s Pizza or Dutch Bros during their events, you can link over to the Fundrazer or view the flyers for the events below. Gabi’s memorial will be on January 27, 2013. More details for all of these events are available on Facebook, and I have included links to the event pages. Consider yourself invited all of them and please come. Please help out in whatever way that you can, even if it’s just a nice word in the comments that I could pass along to my family.
Posted on January 24, 2013, in Personal and tagged albany, alloy matt, gabi garcia, gabriella jade garcia, garcia family, isabella garcia, john garcia, lebanon, matt jacobs, oregon, sara garcia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.