WHITEHORSE - Olympian Zach Bell endured the hardest moment of his life last week, and it had nothing to do with cycling.
He and wife Rebecca’s infant son, born weighing seven pounds, eight ounces Oct. 13 in Vancouver, died just three days later after suffering an acute brain event due to a lack of oxygen during the late stages of pregnancy.
The Yukon-born cyclist took to his blog to share the heart-wrenching story.
Paxton Michael was born not breathing, and was quickly whisked away to B.C. Children’s Hospital.
There, he received care for two days before Bell received what he described as “the most terrifying news I have ever received in my life.”
A late-pregnancy issue with the umbilical cord resulted in a lack of oxygen, resulting in an acute, severe brain event.
“There was no part of him that was not impacted,” Bell wrote.
“Our perfect boy, a perfect pregnancy for my wife, had grown just the way he should have and had everything robbed of him.”
Last Tuesday, after being informed there was nothing more the doctors could do, the family was faced with the difficult choice to take Paxton off life support to see if he could support himself.
“After a fight that seemed to last an eternity, it was obvious he (could) not, and he passed quietly cradled in his mother’s arms,” Bell said.
“Rebecca and I love him with all our hearts after only a short time. Even though he never had a chance with us here, we got to know him and his personality over the last nine months.
“He has forever changed things for us. Cycling and its challenges seem small compared to what he fought against. We will miss him.”
Bell went public with the couple’s heartache last Saturday, sharing the tragic news with his fans, with whom he had so recently shared his excitement.
The 29-year-old North Vancouver resident had announced to the world his eighth-place finish at the London Olympics.
Messages of support have poured in on Twitter since Bell posted the blog last Saturday.
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski tweeted: “Sad news. Our condolences to Zach Bell and wife Rebecca.”
“Very sad time for cyclist Zach Bell and his wife Rebecca,” said Whitehorse weightlifter Jeane Lassen.
Added Olympic rower Brian Price: “My sincere condolences to fellow Olympian Zach Bell. So sad, I can’t imagine what you are feeling.”
Many also shared grief and condolences on Bell’s website http://zerailleur.com.
A small private funeral ceremony will occur soon, Bell said in an email to the Star.
“We are asking that people observe a family gathering in his honour and light a candle the same day,” he said.
A fund at B.C. Children’s Hospital has been set up in Paxton’s name, in hopes that all who read about the “little fighter” will donate to other children fighting for their lives at the facility.