The story of my guardian angel, Jebbie

Dana Jill Gonzalez

My mom was the first of three girls to get married and have kids. When Jebbie was born, I was 9 and my brother was 7. We wanted a cousin so very bad. We waited for what seemed like forever for my aunt to have a baby. I remember the phone call to tell us she had a beautiful baby boy. We assumed everything was fine. The next day, my mom amd my other aunt were in my grandmothers basement crying. I asked why and they said there was something wrong with Jebbie's heart. He had Tricuspid Artresia which means that the Tricuspid valve in his heart never developed and a small hole was keeping him alive. A few weeks later, they did an operation to make the hole bigger. It worked well and the doctors thought that if they did this every few months he would be okay until he was 3 or so, then hed have to have a heart transplant.

He looked so healthy. He was a beautiful baby with big brown eyes and auburn hair. He didnt seem sick at all. He was doing fine but the last weekend of september when I saw him, I knew something was wrong. He was almost 9 months old. He was having trouble breathing and was cranky. My aunt decided to take him to the hospital again and they had scheduled his next operation to open the hole for Friday, October 2. He never made it. On Thursday, interns were taking him for blood to be drawn. When they didnt get enough, the took him to get more. He was crying hysterically and getting all worked up. This tie when they brought him back to his room, he wasnt breathing well. My aunt tried to feed him, but he stopped breathing in her arms. His blood was as thick as ketchup and he had a stroke.

I remember as if it was yesterday, the phone call. I answered the phone and my grandfather just said, "put you mother on the phone". I knew then, that Jebbie had died. It was the first death I had to deal with and I never really got over it. Jeremy Bernard VanHeemst was born on Jan 13, 1987 and died on Oct 1, 1987. He is buried in my grandparents hometown in New Jersey. I visit his grave as often as possible. I feel that Jebbie is my guardian angel. I have been through a lot that I think my angel might have "helped" me get through. I now have 5 healthy cousins, Jeremy's siblings Nicholas (born 1988), Joel (born 1990), and Kym (born 1993); and my other aunt's children Joshua (born 1990), and Leah (born 1994). We talk openly about Jebbie with the kids. I only wish they could have known him.

Dana Jill Gonzalez

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW