As anyone who knew Oscar or has read this blog will realise, very little concerning Oscar ever went to plan. I’ve always said that Oscar liked to do things “Oscar’s way” and that very often turned out to be the best way.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that getting Oscar’s death certificate was not a straight forward process.
Oscar died on the Thursday. On the Friday (25th) we went to register his death. We took the paperwork given to us by the hospital to the local registry office as we had been instructed. Normally you would need to make an appointment, and they offered us one for the following week.
The issue with this was that we were not in our home town. And until we had a death certificate for Oscar we could not move him from the hospital mortuary. I was not prepared to leave the town while Oscar remained there.
So, we sat and waited. We were told if we did this they would likely be able to get us seen when someone else either didn’t show or cancelled.
We sat in this separated part of the waiting room, for bereaved people. In a way this was good, because we weren’t sat with all the new parents come to register their child’s birth (we hadn’t actually done that yet either) but, honestly, it was a horrible, sad corner to be sat in. Nobody really made eye contact and there were vases of Lilys, boxes of tissues and a rack of useful leaflets. It was also right by the front entrance so everyone who came in could see you sitting there, kind of like you were exhibits in a zoo.
At some point during that morning we were spoken to again by someone. They had noticed a problem with Oscar’s paperwork. Because the doctor who completed it had mentioned the words “operated on” and that was within a certain time period, Oscar was supposed to have had a post mortem. I suppose to ensure his death hasn’t been as a result of an error during the surgery. The registry office staff were in contact with the hospital staff that day about this and all we could do was wait while they figured out what needed to happen.
What I actually would have loved to explain to them was that he was born with a condition that was incompatible with life. He lived far longer than he should have. That registering his death was something we knew we would have to do from a long time before he was even born.
What I actually did was sit and wait. Yes, we could have left. They could have phoned us once it had been sorted, but honestly, where would we have gone? We had spent all of the previous days with Oscar and now we couldn’t do that. There was no point in going anywhere as there was no-where to be.
Five and a half hours later, we accepted that there was nothing more that they could do that day. Oscar needed to be referred to the coroners court and that couldn’t happen until Monday. And that meant we would be staying in the town until then as well. Yes, we could have gone home for the weekend and then come back, but I just couldn’t leave Oscar.
When we left the registry office we went to see Oscar in the mortuary. This was something we were told we could do. We sat with him for a while. We held him and we even took a few more photos (those will always be just for my eyes.) What I will say is that he looked peaceful. I stroked his face completely free from tubes and wires and when we left, we put his duck comforter on his head.
We went back to see him on the Saturday and Sunday and on both occasions we found his duck on his head when we arrived.
I don’t remember much of the weekend. I know we spent some time looking up funeral directors in our local area. I know we went for a walk or two, but the only really clear part of that weekend is the few minutes we spend with Oscar each day. The only part that really mattered to me at the time.
On Monday we went to the coroners court. We didn’t actually need to go there, but figured that it was only a few minutes walk from where we were staying and that we would get answers quicker than over the phone. What I wanted to know was when Oscar’s autopsy would take place. This is something we had already said we didn’t want when he had died. We know exactly why he died. I didn’t want Oscar being cut open again. I hated that because he had surgery, it was now a decision taken out of our hands. I’d actually already apologised to Oscar at the weekend for what was going to have to happen.
The coroners office actually gave us some good news. They were happy that an autopsy wasn’t needed. They were fine with the death certificate being issued. It sounds odd, but I actually smiled when we were told that.
We then went back to the registry office. We were told that they were understaffed. We could come back tomorrow (Tuesday) and wait for a cancellation appointment or we could book one for Wednesday. Neither of these options I was particularly happy with.
What happened next was that I stormed out of the office and went for a walk. No idea where I was going, but it was my only option for not screaming at someone or crying in front of them. I returned maybe 15 minutes later and the person now on the desk remembered us being there on Friday. She told us to take a seat and she would see what she could do.
As it turned out, what she could do was put us first on the list, making the first booked appointments run late (sorry about that!)
Once we were in the room we were told something we didn’t know was possible. That we could register Oscar’s birth first. He was born out of area so we didn’t think we could do that until we got home. So, before we registered his death, we completed a record that said he had been born. That he actually existed. I think it would have been something that always bothered me if we hadn’t been able to do that; to have his death registered days before we were able to do his birth.
Of course, once we were registering Oscar’s death, we needed a final curve ball or two. The first being that we were unable to read the doctors name who had signed the paperwork. He wasn’t one of Oscar’s usual doctors. This was sorted by a phone call to the hospital. The second was that we couldn’t read the spelling of Oscar’s lung condition. A quick google search solved this.
Actually it turns out the second problem wasn’t solved, as that lung condition is still spelled incorrectly on Oscar’s death certificate! It was something that we could have got corrected when we realised later, but I’ve never wanted to. I think it suits Oscar better that the error is there! That according to his death certificate one of the causes of his death is something that doesn’t actually exist (it’s only one letter that is wrong.)
That official cause, with the correct spelling:
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome with restricted atrial septum and pulmonary Lymphangiectasia.
(Yes, it’s a mouthful and no, I still can’t spell lymphangiectasia without looking it up!)
On that Monday, we were initially told there was no chance of us being able to get the death certificate that day. That it was impossible. Now, we all know a little baby who was an impossibility. For whom, we were told there was no chance. We know that he proved everyone wrong. Oscar taught me that impossible isn’t always so, and he taught me that sometimes being stubborn isn’t a bad thing. Oscar taught me that it’s OK to fight for what you want.
That Monday was the first time I really realised those things weren’t just true of Oscar. That maybe it was ok for me to try doing things “Oscar’s way.” Thanks to this and to a caring lady in the registry office who bent the rules a little, we got what we needed that day.
On our way back to where we were staying we of course went to see Oscar. We did this every day he was in the mortuary after he had died. I knew he was gone, but a part of me couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone all the time. On the Monday I thanked him for giving me the strength to do things Oscar’s way.
All of the above was difficult at the time, and not something I would wish on anyone. The process of getting a death certificate should be straightforward. Especially when you are already trying to cope with the loss of someone that you love dearly. Looking back now though, it actually makes me smile. It’s just another example of how things concerning Oscar didn’t work out at all as we planned. If we had got that death certificate on Friday we wouldn’t have had those extra cuddles. I wouldn’t have been able to spend time talking to him after he had gone. I wouldn’t have been able to tell him the things I never had the chance to while he was alive. The delays actually gave us a little more time. And time is a very precious thing.
Oscar left the hospital mortuary to be transferred to the funeral directors on Tues 29th April at 11:30am, just after we had given him some final cuddles. That afternoon we went home, able to to do that once we knew Oscar was where he needed to be.
When Oscar left the hospital his duck friend was on his head, and his monkey was beside him. Just as they should have been.