Lessons from an 8 Year Old

10 Dec

Meet Gavin Bailey, the 8 year old son of my best friend since high school, David Bailey.  Gavin is one of the strongest and most inspirational people you’ll ever read about or if you’re lucky, come to know. Gavin has been an inspiration for many, reminded us of what’s important and has shown us that life, while sometimes hectic, sometimes fun, and at times, difficult, it’s always a gift and always fragile.

This is Gavin’s story starting with this story from Duke Children’s Hospital from 2007:

As the parents of two healthy children, Denise and David Bailey never thought they would need Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center. Their third child changed all that.

Gavin Bailey was only seven weeks old when he was referred to Duke Children’s and within days was undergoing heart surgery. Gavin had a narrowing of his aorta, multiple holes in his heart and thickening of the heart muscle. Gavin’s heart was beating 240 times per minute – nearly three times the normal rate – and he wasn’t gaining weight.

Several successful surgeries corrected some of Gavin’s problems but he continued to have trouble gaining weight. By the time he was seven months old, he still looked like an eight-week-old baby. It was taking so much effort for him to eat that he was burning more calories than he was taking in.

“The holes in his heart had become so numerous that Gavin’s heart looked like Swiss cheese and was so thick its function did not improve after surgery,” says Denise. “It soon became clear that Gavin’s only hope for survival would be a heart transplant at the tender age of one year.” A donor was found, and the transplant was a success. “Within a short time – for the first time – his hands were warm,” Denise recalls.

Through it all no one gave up on Gavin. “Those talented, dedicated doctors held our little boy’s tiny heart in their hands eight times…and eight times they gave us back his life,” Denise says. “There were so many times it seemed Gavin would lose his battle with heart disease, but not once did they give up. They are the reason he’s alive today.”

And through all the brilliant, life-saving medicine the Bailey family learned another side of Duke Children’s – that of compassion and family-centered care. “We were treated like family by everyone,” says Denise. “They cried with me, they laughed with me. We had a big party for Gavin’s first birthday where 200 people came. I would say at least 100 of those people were from Duke Children’s.”

Today, four-year-old Gavin is healthy, thriving and finally on the growth charts. Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center was with the Bailey family every step of the way and will continue to be for a long time.

Fast Forward …October 2011

After no less than 9 major invasive surgeries, Gavin’s doing great. He’s enjoying an active, yet challenging life with his family. He has been doing things that every other little boy is able to enjoy doing, just with a little more difficulty. Gavin had a cochlear implant and now has a hearing aid. He is not in school with his friends because of the special needs he has, however he’s the most precocious, smart and active little boy just like those friends. He plays with his older brother and sister and loves his newest friend, Skylar. He’s been horseback riding in the mountains, he’s gone fishing with his dad, played soccer on his church’s Upwards soccer team, rides his bike, and and ran like a bullet through a corn maze, laughing and having the best time.  A short time later, he was back at Duke, fighting to live, unable to do things for himself, unable to speak and unable to comprehend what’s going on around him. His neurological system is shutting down and no one can diagnose why.  After several days, Gavin showed enough improvement to return home to monitored care.

Fast Forward … Yesterday, December 8, 2011

I called David to see how Gavin was doing and the response was “he’s not”, his voice stoic and matter of fact, yet obviously scared and worried like any good father would be. He told me that Gavin has basically shut down. He cannot do anything for himself, he does nothing but sleep. He cannot hold his head up, he cannot hear, talk or even open his eyes. The cardiologist has said although his heart is in good condition, there is nothing they can do and they’re waiting to hear from the neurologist to find out what is going on because although he has normal brain pressures, something is preventing him from doing what he should be able to do. David and I talked at length about the past years and how maybe this is Gavin’s way of saying “I’ve had enough. My body can’t take anymore, it’s tired and wants to rest”.  David agreed and said he is preparing himself to have to put Gavin in hospice care and wait for the inevitable. He told me that he just wants his little boy to stop hurting.

Fast Forward … 4:30am this morning, December 9, 2011

Text from David: “Gavin has slipped into a coma, being transported to Duke now. I need your strength and love now more than ever. Love you”. My heart just broke.

Fast Forward … 9:47 pm

Text from David: “Turned off all monitors and stopped all medications. Should be anytime now. So sad.”

Fast Forward … 11:46pm (about 10 min ago as I’m writing this blog) – Message on Facebook “Prayer Warriors for Gavin Bailey” page from Eli Coburn, Gavin’s mother’s fiancee

“Gavin just flew home to heaven. Thank you everyone for yalls love and prayers”

UPDATE: 12:52am – There is a bright halo around the moon right now in Pine Knoll Shores, about 2.5 hrs from where Gavin and his family are right now. God speaks loudly and right when you need it.

Fast Forward  December 11 and 12, 2011

The Baileys held 2 gatherings (one on Saturday and one on Sunday afternoon) for friends, family and anyone who loved Gavin and learned from him. This was a a time for celebrating the life of a special and beautiful little boy, a time for love, laughter and sharing memories and how Gavin inspired others. What a nice way to remember Gavin.

Today, December 12, 2011 …. Funeral Arrangement Details

Funeral arrangements for Gavin Bailey are as follows:

Visitation is being held at Bryan Lee Funeral home in Garner, NC tomorrow night, Monday 12/12 from 6-9pm.

12/14/11: Update from David: Over 400 people came to pay their respects to the family and to show their love for Gavin. The line of people wrapped around the building. Thank you to all who came and to those who weren’t able to make it but expressed their condolences.

Gavin’s funeral service will be at Colonial Baptist Church  in Cary, NC on Tuesday 12/13 at 2pm

12/14/11: Update from David: The funeral was beautiful. The sanctuary at Colonial Baptist Church seats approximately 600 people and was filled to about 2/3 capacity for the church service. The graveside service was conducted to a loving crowd of between 75-100 people at Montlawn Memorial Park in Garner, NC. Again, thank you to all who loved Gavin and made it a heartfelt and meaningful day for the entire family.

You may see Gavin’s official obituary on the Bryan Lee Funeral Home Obituary Page.

On behalf of David and the rest of the Bailey family, his friends and everyone who loves Gavin, thank you so much for your love and support through this difficult time.

Gavin’s story won’t end here, it will continue to speak to all of us in the form of what he’s taught those of us that were connected to him and even those of us who weren’t personally connected. He’s taught me personally to realize that there is nothing more important than love and caring. He’s shown me what the meaning of being a friend is and how to do that by the strength I need to show for his family, especially David. He’s shown me that no matter how bad your circumstances, you can rise above them and fight the good fight. He’s also shown me that life is short and there is no timeline or guarantee on how long it will be. It is today, this moment and that is what we should all live in and enjoy. Love those around you, show the best side of you and stop the unnecessary drama in your lives that only bring stress and hurt. Take care of each other and let those you love know it while you have the chance. Take all the pictures you can, they’re reminders of memories and the good times. Above all, just enjoy your life and be thankful everyday. Rest in peace Gavin, thank you so much for all you’ve taught me. You are flying with the angels, free of pain, free of suffering. We love you.

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4 Responses to “Lessons from an 8 Year Old”

  1. Jenn SilverwoodYoung (@Number1NHKaniac) December 10, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Oh Jenn, what a beautifully written blog.. I can’t get the tears to stop flowing. my heart aches for all who knew beautiful Gavin! What an inspiration he is! In a time of anger and hatred his story is one of amazement and sorrow. In his short time here he’s touched so many and is someone who will live on forever. My heart goes out to his family and to you! David is very lucky to have you in his life!

  2. Johnna King (@joking11) December 10, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    God bless Gavin and his beautiful family. Thoughts and prayers are with all that loved him. You are a wonderful friend to them.

  3. julz9776 December 10, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    What strength and grace that family has shown through an incredibly trying time, esp young Gavin who had the heart of a fighter, which so often have a shorter life span than the rest of us. I think you were right, sometimes we have to understand what message might be being sent and his family did the hardest thing they will ever have to do and let their little boy go on before them. My heart is breaking at the thought of any family having to do this, your blog was so wonderfully written, thank you for sharing their story

  4. Janet December 10, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    I have been praying for Gavin and his family. They have been through a lot. You were there for them, Jenn, in how you gave them your love, and also how you let us all know that they were going through this and needed prayers. They certainly had a sweet little boy for 8 years. I’m sure they’ll treasure all the good memories of him being in their lives.

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