When Caylee's Heart Stopped

As his newborn daughter fought to live, a father was born.

Courtesy of Knight Ridder/Tribune, The Dallas Morning News.

The doctor and nurses didn't have to tell me it was dire. It was on all their faces, especially in their eyes. The eyes that had been so tender suddenly became concerned, then frantic, then, most telling of all, grief-stricken.

No one had to tell me my baby girl was dying, especially as the horrifying minutes passed...10...15...20...25...without a sign of a heartbeat.

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  • I stood about 15 feet away, in the corner of Nursery E of Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas' Newborn Intensive Care wing--my heart, stomach, and mind an anguished jumble: nauseous, aching, terrified.

    How could this be happening? How could the most blessed occasion of our lives, the April 5 births of twin girls, our first children, have come to this inconceivable moment?

    How could I bring myself to do what the nurse supervisor now was gently urging: phone my wife, Sydney, to tell her that one of our 5-day-old girls was dying. Sydney, the supervisor explained, would want to hold her one last time.

    "I'm so sorry," said the hospital chaplain, who had just entered the room, obviously not by accident. "I know this is hard."

    It was about 9:30 p.m. Sydney was at home recuperating from her C-section.

    We had decided that I would make the 40-minute drive to drop off some breast milk Sydney had pumped, and to look in on the girls.

    Fluke decision or fate? When I arrived in Nursery E, I saw Caylee crying and our favorite nurse, Esther Tio, standing over her. So I retrieved sister Mally from her neighboring bassinet and sat down.

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    Brad Townsend
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