When Ryan posted a picture of the ring he bought me, I received a lot of comments and messages about how happy we looked together.  I wasn’t (and still am not) sure about how to reply to all those lovely comments and messages.  Ryan and I are indeed incredibly happy with each other but we are also coping with a sadness and a loss that is in many ways indescribable.

Ryan and I didn’t meet under the most convenient of circumstances.  We were both married and when our relationship turned romantic and his (now ex) wife Hannah was pregnant with their first child.  The circumstances didn’t make for a very sympathetic picture of Ryan and I.  While we received lots of support (including from my now ex husband Shaun, who has been beyond fantastic), we also received lots of very negative feedback about our relationship.  Despite some misgivings from the outside world, Ryan and I set up a life for ourselves in Connecticut and we were looking forward to the birth of his son in September.

On September 8, 2015 at about 11:30 p.m., Ryan received a call from Hannah’s sister letting him know that Hannah would be delivering immediately.  Ryan was devastated because he had wanted to be present for the birth of his first child.  We debated whether he should leave and drive to Portland, Maine in the middle of the night or wait until morning.  The decision was made for us when Ryan received another call letting him know that his son Owen’s heart had stopped beating in utero and that Owen had been without oxygen for a sustained period of time requiring the doctors to resuscitate him.  Ryan immediately left for Portland.  I had a court hearing in the morning and told Ryan I would head to Maine as soon as I got out of court.


Ryan and Owen the afternoon of September 9, 2015.

Ryan rushed to Maine and I couldn’t sleep, racked with guilt about not being with both Ryan and Owen.  Around 6 a.m. I finally received a call from Ryan at the hospital letting me know that Owen had suffered massive damage to his organs and was not exhibiting very much brain activity.  I immediately got in the car and experienced the most agonizing drive of my life.  When I met Ryan at the hospital things were not looking good and the doctors were not optimistic.  Ryan and I spent a lot of time crying, talking and trying to figure out what the future held.  We were able to spend a few moments with Owen that afternoon.  It looked like things might be improving, we were able to touch Owen’s hair and tickle his feet and Owen grasped onto our fingers and held them tight.

After talking with Owen’s doctor around 5 p.m. we decided to leave the hospital to check into our hotel and try to get something to eat.  Those plans didn’t work out.  After checking into the hotel, Ryan got a call from the hospital that Owen had suffered massive seizures and we needed to come right back.  After the call Ryan doubled over in pain and vomited on the sidewalk.  I went and got the car and drove us back to Maine Med.  We immediately went to Owen’s room in the NICU.  Owen looked perfect but the strained faces on the medical staff told a very different story — the seizures Owen experienced had destroyed any remaining brain function.  Ryan and Hannah met with the doctors and the decision was made to remove the ventilator and allow Owen to pass.

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Ryan, Owen and I at the hospital.

Before removing the ventilator Owen was able to meet his family and friends and they were allowed to hold him.  I couldn’t hold Owen.  I knew Ryan had so very little time with Owen and I couldn’t bring myself to take any of of the seconds Ryan had with Owen in his arms away.  Instead I held Ryan, stroked Owen’s hair and let both of the boys know how much I loved them.  At about midnight on September 10, 2015, the doctor removed the ventilator and Owen quietly passed, his heart beat growing fainter and fainter– a life span of twenty four hours and fifteen minutes.

Ryan and I had lots of plans of what we wanted to do with Owen and where we wanted to take him.  Ryan’s intention was to take Owen’s ashes and scatter them in all these special places.  Owen was small and there was very little ash.   The weekend of Owen’s memorial service we came up with the idea that if we couldn’t scatter Owen’s ashes, there must be a way of bringing Owen with us.  We googled animals that begin with O — orcas, ostriches, okapis, orangoutangs, ocelots and otters.  While I was a big fan of the three foot long stuffed orca, we decided that Owen Otter would be a much better fit.   Now where ever we go, we bring Owen Otter with us to remember Owen Peter Heisler and to share him with the world.


Owen otter.

Its only been three months and it still hurts.  Everyday.  Sometimes Ryan and I will just start crying, for a long time we had a very hard time being alone.  I struggle with how I’m supposed to feel.  I’m not Owen’s mother or even his step mother.  As I tell Ryan, I’m just the internet girlfriend.  A lot of people have been supportive but I think its hard for others to know what to do or what to say (I know that I would be lost for words as well).  Ryan and I both balance how excited we are to get married with how sad we are about Owen — but as you can imagine Owen Otter will have a place of honor at the wedding.

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Categories: Random

Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / witsup.com writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


Jen4Tri · December 1, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Hugs to you both.

KT · December 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Hugs and strength to you both.

Cathy Sheehan · December 1, 2015 at 10:43 pm

God knew best. Lean on each other and be there for each other through the rough times ahead. God Bless you both.

onecrazypenguin · December 2, 2015 at 11:29 am

I am so sorry for your loss. I wish I had something comforting to say other than that. At least in his short time on earth, he was very, very loved.

Amanda Remlinger · December 2, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Oh my gosh. My heart aches for you. I’m so sorry Kelly. May you find peace in this difficult time. Big virtual hugs.

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