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.

    Within five minutes, alarms were sounding on Caylee's vital signs monitor and people were rushing past me. Suddenly, six to eight staff members were clustered around her 4-pound, 10-ounce body. Someone put a tube down her throat, while someone else pumped her tiny chest.

    "Could someone please tell me what is happening?" I asked, trembling. A nurse said Caylee's heart had stopped and that no one was sure why.

    For a while--I don't know how long--I sat there, clutching Mally, praying. But when the X-ray machine was wheeled in, I realized I might be in the way. I put Mally back in her bassinet and moved to the corner, near the open door.

    A thousand things, none good, rushed through my mind. I saw the doctor, a tiny dark-haired woman I'd never seen before, stick a long needle into Caylee's chest.

    I started several silent prayers but finished none. That is when the chaplain, Judy Frizzell, appeared. Sydney and I had met her a few days earlier, very briefly, and now I was hugging her, crying and praying clear thoughts for the first time.

    I realized the nurse supervisor was right. I had to call Sydney. But she was alone, and I was worried about how she would take the news. So I called our neighbors, Eric and Karen Hutto, explained what was happening, and asked them to walk to our house and wait outside the door.

    I took a deep breath and phoned Sydney. There is no script for moments like this, no right, subtle, or easy method.

    I plunged in, trying to sound as calm as possible, but Sydney began crying immediately. I told her that Caylee's heart wasn't beating, that Eric and Karen were outside and would bring her to the hospital.

    Then someone touched my arm.

    "We have a pulse."