Little angel another fatality of swine flu
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Sunday, November 15, 2009
11/15/09 at 4:04 AM
Just as he slept in life, 2-year-old Drake Eli Hall's body was lowered into the ground with his beloved yellow blanket called "Lovey" covering his cherubic face.
His mother, Jennifer Hall, tucked one of his pacifiers beside him in the tiny casket.
"For all the pain that boy went through, he was the happiest little thing," she said.
Born prematurely with a heart condition called hydrops fetalis, Drake's lungs weren't fully developed. His heart condition improved over time, but his lung condition never did. His body was constantly fighting recurrent bouts of pneumonia.
It was another bout of the chronic lung infection that took the Webbers Falls youngster back to his second home at St. John Medical Center's pediatric intensive care unit in mid-October. Nearly two weeks later, he had improved and was set to go home when his oxygen levels began to drop. He was put on a ventilator.
The boy, whom nurses affectionately called "Chicken Little" because of his round face, glasses and a big curl atop his head, had contracted the novel H1N1 flu virus. A week later on Oct. 29, Drake died surrounded by his family and many of the nurses who loved him.
"He just didn't have the lung capacity to fight that off," said Jennifer Hall. "Drake was in and out of the hospital so much, my brain still tells me he's there."
Drake is among nine Oklahoma children who have lost their lives to complications from the swine flu. Those with underlying conditions like Drake are at higher risk of developing complications or dying from the new flu, although increasingly more healthy people are succumbing to the virus, health officials say.
Because of his weakened immune system, Drake spent most of his life either at home or in the hospital and rarely went outside, said his mother. He was fed mostly through a feeding tube, called a mickey button, and was on oxygen around the clock. His body retained fluid constantly, the reason for his round cheeks and belly.
"He was pretty much homebound. He never stepped foot in a Walmart or a grocery store. I have to admit I did take him to a couple of my nieces' basketball games. He just loved basketball and football," Hall said.
Drake is the second son the Halls have buried. The first, Kayne, died shortly after birth. She said her 5-year-old daughter, Kimber, has been "playing" with her brothers the last few days.
"She has seen more death in her five years than most adults," she said.
On Wednesday, Justin and Jennifer Hall took some of Drake's toys and clothes to donate to the St. John unit where he had spent so much time.
Nurses Sharon Hinds and Kristina Baugess were two of the tot's primary nurses and were there to greet the Halls. The cart was filled with boxes and bags of toys, books and clothing. On one end was a child's recliner Jennifer Hall had purchased for Drake. It still had the tags on it because he never got to use it.
As Jennifer Hall unloaded each toy, the group reminisced about Drake.
"He was very social," said Hinds. "If anybody was happening by, he would capture you with his smile."
Baugess remembered how he loved to ride the unit's toy rocking horse while wearing his cowboy hat.
"He loves the trash cans," she said, recalling how he loved the crinkly sound of the plastic liners.
"He was a pistol," Hinds said. "And he was quite a little blessing."
On the day he died, Jennifer Hall had driven back home to pick up her daughter from school. She had dropped Drake's clothing off at home, then got the call from the hospital that he was dying.
Nurses from both the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units took turns sitting at his bedside, while others resuscitated him until the family arrived. After his passing, another critically ill child's mother gave the Halls one of her own child's outfits.
"She gave us an outfit to dress him in so he wouldn't leave the hospital naked," Hall said.
At Drake's graveside service, the Halls asked that the casket be opened so the wind could drift across his face, something he rarely felt in life. Mourners sang the boy's favorite song, "Clap, clap, clap your hands. Wave them in the breeze . . ."
Not one eye was dry.
"He really touched our lives," said Hinds. "He was very much a little light."
A note for Drake
Do not be sad for me
for I am free
I can walk, I can run
and i can breathe
I no longer have to
watch the breeze go by
it’s here with me as
I soar through the sky
no more tubes or cords
to hold me back
Look at me
I can have a snack
Kayne and I are playing
poppa Joe is up here too
We’re keeping a lookout
for granny reheard’s shoe
We’re all safe now
your lives must go on
and we’ll wait for you
in the Lord’s great beyond.
Kim Archer 581-8315
Drake Eli Hall
Justin (left) and Jennifer Hall donate toys and clothes to the St. John PICU with nurses Sharon Hinds and Kristina Baugess. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World