It took nearly six months, but the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office finally determined the cause of Nick’s death and sent us an autopsy report. It was a very long wait for a crucial piece of information. And while it was very difficult to receive the report, we were glad to finally know. We couldn’t bring ourselves to read it, so took a quick photo of each page and sent it to a doctor friend. He read the report thoroughly and explained what we needed to know.
I am going to be honest with you: I am extremely hesitant to share this information. I know that many of you have so kindly supported us through this difficult time and for that reason I’d like for you to know what happened. My hesitation comes down to this: I do not want well-meaning people to send emails with medical advice. For obvious reasons, this situation has been extremely tough and it is one we have had to entrust to medical experts. So I will explain what we’ve found out, but ask that you don’t email or otherwise message me about it (unless, I suppose, you happen to be a cardiologist or geneticist or someone else with particular expertise). Thanks for your understanding.
Essentially, the autopsy led to a diagnosis of “presumed cardiac dysrhythmia of uncertain etiology.” In other words, for causes that remain unknown, Nick’s heart very suddenly and unexpectedly slipped into an unsustainable rhythm which in turn led to full cardiac arrest. This is a presumed diagnosis, which is the best they can do in such cases. While the cause is unknown, it is possible that it will be determined as we consult with a geneticist in the weeks to come. Genetic testing may (or may not) give us clarity about what caused Nick’s heart to fail.
And now we know. Now we know that the heart of an otherwise healthy young man can just stop. We wouldn’t have imagined. The day we received the report was one of the hardest we’ve had since he died. Yet there was also some comfort in it. It was comforting in the sense that he did nothing wrong and we did nothing wrong. It was comforting in the sense that the people who tried to save him did nothing wrong since, without specialized equipment, there was little that could be done to save him once he collapsed. And it was comforting in the sense that it was so clearly an act of providence in which the Lord just took him. All we can do is bow the knee.
Two weeks ago was the day that would have been Nick’s wedding. I will write about that more at another time, but it was an extremely difficult day—a day in which I think we were mourning the future that will never be. He was so proud to be engaged, so eager to be Ryn’s husband, so gratified that she was willing to have him. We visited the cemetery that day and laid a boutonnière at his grave as just a token of what might have been. I took the speech I would have given at his wedding—a speech that honors him for becoming the man he was—and read it there. It was so hard. So sad. So devastating. But the Lord met us there, bringing us comfort through some readers of this site who just happened to be there at the same time, who introduced themselves, and who prayed for us as we stood together by our son’s grave (and within a very short distance of their son’s grave).