Flood of Emotions: Woman Loses Infant Son, and Then Apartment Meant for Him
Janet Ogilvie talks to a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center chaplain from the Rivermere apartment where she has lived while her infant son Braedon was being treated in the DHMC neonatal intensive care unit. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Janet Ogilvie holds her son, Braedon, on the morning of Sept. 4, the day he died, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. (Courtesy photograph)
Eligibility rules are forcing Janet Ogilvie to move out of the subsidized apartment where she had planned to care for her son. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
Lebanon — Braedon Ogilvie, the 8-month-old son of a Lebanon woman who was temporarily flooded out of her apartment at the Rivermere affordable housing complex in July, died last week from complications related to his premature birth, his mother said.
On top of her grief, Janet Ogilvie will soon have to move out of the home she had hoped to share with Braedon because of federal guidelines that govern eligibility for the subsidized two-bedroom apartment.
For now, Ogilvie’s focus is not on herself and her own struggles, but on Braedon and the community that came together around him during his short life.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do and I’m a little nervous, but Braedon — I have a purpose and a goal, Braedon gave me that,” said Ogilvie, a 36-year-old single mom who was living in Laconia at the outset of her pregnancy.
When she began bleeding in early January, she was transported by ambulance to DHMC and gave birth to her son a few days later.
Ogilvie, who said she’s on disability payments because of trauma and panic disorders, has been trying to get settled in the Upper Valley ever since, including a stint at the Upper Valley Haven homeless shelter before moving into the Rivermere apartment in June. The unit is handicap accessible and was one of the first to be restored after flash floods pummeled the complex in early July.
Andrew Winter, the executive vice president at Twin Pines Housing Trust, said the organization will work with Ogilvie and other agencies to try to find housing for her before her Oct. 6 move-out date.
“Ultimately the housing that we provide is housing for folks that we work with in the community every day, and (that) has made the situation incredibly heart-wrenching when you have to make decisions like this,” Winter said. “I think as a community ... both we at Twin Pines and the residents of Rivermere are closer because of the shared experience of what we went through back in July.
“This is an incredibly unfortunate situation, but we will continue to work with Janet to hopefully get her into a stable housing situation for the future.”
In the meantime, Ogilvie is coping as best she can while coordinating funeral services on Friday at Ricker Funeral Home in Lebanon. The community has continued to support her, she said; Ricker donated its services and the Friends of Carson, an offshoot of the Kiwanis Club of the Upper Valley, donated money for other arrangements.
And the city, she said, is allowing her to gradually pay back the costs of a burial plot large enough for her to be buried with Braedon at the end of her life.
“I know that his soul is gone but I didn’t want him to be buried alone,” she said. “I’m the only person that he had that was responsible, so I don’t want to just bury him somewhere in a cemetery, and not be with him eventually.”
She said she feels no ill will toward Twin Pines. Instead, she said, she’s thankful for everything done to help her and Braedon. She’s also trying to stay optimistic. Inspired by her experience with Braedon, she hopes to become a nurse and work with families who have children in the ICU in the future. She wants to stay in the Lebanon area, which has quickly become home.
But for now, the emotions can be overwhelming.
e_SDLqThere are times when it’s really, really not good,” she said. “Late at night is difficult, when there’s no one around. It still kind of feels like a dream.
“I’ve heard ... that a lot of people have worried about me because of how much I put into Braedon … and there are moments that are very, very difficult and very dark, but Braedon changed my life tremendously, hugely ... and I’m not going to just let that go.”
Braedon struggled since his birth at the hospital on Jan. 16. He was born weighing less than two pounds only 26 weeks into Ogilvie’s pregancy. He breathed through a tracheal tube connected to a ventilator and needed round-the-clock care at the ICU, where Ogilvie spent most of her time during the past eight months.
While she and others expected a tough road ahead for Braedon, his death came as a shock. In the days prior, she said, she and nurses had “the best night with him we’ve ever had.”
Last Monday, he had learned to suck on a pacifier without any help, and he smiled as he held it in his mouth. One of his primary nurses in the intensive care unit was even teaching him how to kick his feet in the tub, creating gentle waves and splashes.
“And he was doing it,” Ogilvie said. “He started doing it, and he was laughing, he was smiling and stuff in the tub. I remember leaving the ICU Monday night and telling (the nurse) … we were both just like, that’s the best night we’ve ever had with him.”
By Tuesday evening, things were different. His dependence on the oxygen ventilator was high, around 75 or 80 percent.
Ogilvie returned to Rivermere around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning to try to steal some sleep, but by 6 a.m., she was called back in. Braedon’s neonatologist, Dr. Bill Edwards, arrived soon after.
“And he just came over and hugged me,” Ogilvie said, “and he just said, ‘We need to talk.’ ”
Braedon died in her arms a few hours later, surrounded by a group of ICU nurses that Ogilvie said had become a surrogate family. Somebody offered to take pictures, which confused Ogilvie at the time, but now she’s grateful to have them.
“They are very sad but very beautiful,” she said.
Edwards, the neonatology section chief who is also a professor of pediatrics and vice chair of the department, said that having a baby in the ICU creates “total turmoil” for families, many of whom had imagined perfect pregnancies and perfect babies.
Even a one-day stay in the hospital can be traumatic for the baby’s caregivers, he said; those stresses can increase with time, and are also impacted by the size of the support system surrounding the family. (Ogilvie said Braedon’s father, who lives in the Laconia area, chose not to be on the birth certificate and she’s spoken to him only a few times since his birth. She thinks he knows that Braedon has died, but she’s not sure. Ogilvie also has an 8-year-old son who lives with his father elsewhere in the state.)
Braedon’s stay in the hospital was marked by a roller coaster of ups and downs, Edwards and Ogilvie said. But Edwards knows what Ogilvie means when she says her son changed her life.
“I think the experience that Janet went through was an incredibly lengthy, traumatizing experience, but on the other hand is one that she really grew personally, taking responsibility for Braedon and being his advocate,” said Edwards, who will also speak at Braedon’s funeral. “She and I have talked a lot about that being of value and using that in the future.”
After the Valley News ran a profile about Ogilvie following the flood in July, she said she received two anonymous donations sent to her at the hospital.
One included some money; the other, a children’s quilt addressed to Braedon “from a friend.”
Ogilvie brought the quilt to the ICU, but had never had a chance to use it with Braedon. She was waiting for the right time, she said.
That Wednesday, after she finished talking with Edwards, the time had come.
“The fact that people had reached out — it made it pretty clear in the article that ... I wasn’t complaining, it was just for Twin Pines or whatever — someone still sent that,” Ogilvie said.
“That morning, I grabbed it, because I wanted Braedon to use it. The quilt was beautiful, and I wanted whoever sent it to know that it meant a lot, and that as sad as it is, it wasn’t wasted. It was used at the time it was most crucial to Braedon and I, when it was needed the most.”
By Friday, she will have to decide where the quilt will go.
“I know that someone wanted the quilt for Braedon, it was sent to Braedon,” she said, “and originally my plan was just to have him wrapped in that along with the blanket I wrapped it in, but now looking at the pictures, it’s a very tangible piece of that day, and we were both wrapped in it, and I just don’t know if I can let it go. ... And I’m trying to decide how that person would feel about that. I’m sure they’d be honored either way.”
Calling hours for Braedon Ogilvie are scheduled at Ricker Funeral Home in Lebanon Friday from noon to 1 p.m., followed by a service at the funeral home and burial at Valley Cemetery on Mascoma Street.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3220.