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In death, boy gets his wish

While alive, Terran Robinstein spent most of his time in a hospital bed. For his funeral, his parents brought him home.

By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published September 28, 2006


[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
Parents Dennis and Kim Robinstein embrace beside the body of their deceased son Terran, 10, in his bed Wednesday at his funeral.

Photo gallery: Terran through the years
Seven-organ transplant recipient dies (9/26)
Boy holds on to hope for transplants (8/12)

PORT RICHEY - Terran Robinstein spent seven of his 10 years in a hospital, IVs and tubes stuck in his body. He couldn't do the things other little boys did. He told his mother all he wanted was to go home.

On Wednesday, he was laid to rest on his bed, barefoot and wearing Power Rangers pajamas. He face was pale, almost like a doll's.

It had been three weeks since he underwent multiorgan transplant surgery, and three days since he died.

"I promised I'd bring him home," said his mother, Kim Robinstein. "No tubes, no wires, just to sleep in his bed ... like a normal boy."

* * *

Since birth, Terran battled Hirschsprung's disease, which caused his intestinal tract to malfunction. He couldn't eat solid foods for most of his life. His meals came in an IV, and he eliminated waste through a hole in his abdomen into a bag.

His doctors hoped a new batch of organs - a small and large intestine, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, liver and spleen -- on Sept. 3 would change things. And for a week after the operation, he was doing well. On Saturday, he got to play video games with his brother.

But early Sunday, he lost consciousness and couldn't breathe. The grafts and tubes that kept his body working began to fall apart. Doctors at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami scrambled to save him, but Terran bled to death.

* * *

The men from Faupel Funeral Home carefully placed Terran on the bottom bunk bed. He lay beneath a Power Rangers blanket made by his mother. The top bunk was lined with Tweety Bird, Elmo and Mickey Mouse.

Wearing crisp black suits, the men spoke clear and firm, offering condolences to Terran's mother, his father, Dennis, and his brother, Cephas, 12.

The three sobbed for the boy who spent more days in a hospital bed than at school or on a playground. They remembered how he'd wanted to take his doctors to Red Lobster when he was released from the hospital. He planned to treat them with "stick fund" money from his mother - $1 per blood draw, and $5 per IV insert.

He'd banked $150 since March.

* * *

The visitors filtered into the living room. Eleven-year-old Steven Yinger, a short, chubby redheaded boy with a cast on his right arm, slowly made his way down the hallway toward Terran's room, his father close behind him.

His chest swelling with the confidence of a nearly grown man, Steven crossed the bedroom's threshold. He wanted to see his friend, the one who'd played at his house on the rare days when he was home from the hospital.

A mini-DVD player in the bedroom showed Terran at Walt Disney World, one of the few times he wasn't in the hospital, waving and laughing.

Winter Wonderland blared from the tiny screen, the only sound that pierced the stale, warm air that filled the room.

Steven's bravery waned. He bowed his head, tears forming in his eyes. His father asked if he was okay.

The boy didn't answer. He turned and left the room. At the end of the hallway, Kim comforted him with tissues.

"It's okay, Stephen," she said. "It's still Terran."

* * *

Home funerals, where a body is on display in a casket at home, are more common in smaller farming communities than large, transient places like Florida, said Merl Faupel, owner of the funeral home.

Wednesday marked the first time Faupel performed a funeral in which a body was at home without a coffin.

"It's really not common anymore," he said. "I can only remember a half-dozen instances in the last 40 years where people wanted to go home for a visitation."

Experts say home funerals allow families to personalize their last moments with a loved one.

Terran will spend today at home. His family will welcome visitors. He'll be buried Friday.

* * *

Cephas is tall and lean, with a round face like his brother's. On Wednesday, he sat holding his brother's hand and touching his face, swollen from embalming.

"I feel really bad right now," he said. "I thought he would look the same. His face is a lot fatter. He's stiff and cold."

In the past two years, Terran spent only two months in his own bed. His mother spent countless nights in hospital chairs near his side and months in housing for patients' families.

His death devastated her: "I am so empty and so sad Terran was my life my soul," she wrote on his Web site.

She couldn't keep her son from dying. But she managed to bring him home.

"This," she said Wednesday, "is what I wanted."

Camille Spencer can be reached at (727) 869-6229 or cspencer@sptimes.com.

[Last modified September 28, 2006, 07:17:33]


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