Wednesday, September 4, 2013



A lot of you may know about the trip our family took with our youngest son, Mr D.  But here is something not a lot of you know about…simply because it is something I have not even shared with my family.

A bit of background.  Mr D and his sister came to live with us when they were 1 and 2.  This was the second time they were placed in our home.  The first time Mr D was only 6 months old.  They stayed with us for a few months and then went back to their bio mother for a while.

When Mr D came to live with us he was practically non verbal…a few grunts was all you heard from him.  Since all of my older kids were talking way before the age of one (as was Miss B, Mr D’s bio sister), we took him to the doctor.   He had severe ear infections and As a result could not hear very well and this was preventing him from talking.  Once those nasty ear infections were cleared up he started talking to beat the band!  His little personality started showing STRONG!

He was a normal, happy, little boy who loved to learn and get into things!  In fact, to keep him busy during church and other quiet times, we would hand him an ink pen.  He could take it apart and put it back together easier than I could.  He loved to do this over and over.  In fact, he loved to use tools of any type to take things apart. We had to keep buying new vacuum cleaners because he loved to take them apart.  He didn’t have a lot of problems putting them back together…he just had a problem with losing some of the parts!

He had found a way for a lefty to fit in a righty world.  It never seemed to bother him.

All that changed on April 22, 2005.  He was a passenger in the car my mother was driving.  He was in his safety seat behind her.  She pulled out in front of a car and was instantly killed.  Damien suffered severe head injuries. 

While we were at the hospital, both Eggelston and Scottish Rite, the nurses and doctors and therapists were fantastic!  They did every thing in their power to make us as comfortable as possible.  While we were in the CRIB unit (rehab with extensive daily therapy) they had a few older kids visit.  These were graduates of the TBI section.  Looking at these kids, I had no clue how they were supposed to help us.  They could talk and walk…neither of these things my baby could do.   They were all in 
school.  I could not imagine how my baby could ever go to school. 

The nurses wanted us to join the program and bring Mr D around to help the other kids after we graduated.  I could not understand what on earth we could do to help anyone.  Showing someone the hopelessness that is TBI?  Reminding them that the chances were their child would never recover?  I wanted to get as far away from that unit as I could as fast as I could.

It became a daily thing.  The nurses would tell me “Johnny and his parent s are here today and we would like for you to meet with them.  We think it could help both you and them to talk about what you each went through and are going through and will have to look forward to.” 

Johnny was walking, talking, feeding himself. He was at least 10 years old, maybe older.  I failed to see what we had in common, other than a terrible diagnosis. 

The nurses and therapists kept insisting it would be good for all of us, and urged me to talk to my husband about it.  I never did.  I never told him, because I was afraid he would want me to do it.  I could not bear to discuss the accident with anyone, much less strangers.  I had stayed busy with Mr D’s hospitalization and therapies and refused to even think about what happened, including taking the time to grieve for my mother…or even to think about what Miss B was going through.  She was also in the car.  She saw her grand mother die and heard the original EMTs say that her brother was dead.   She saw the helicopter come and take her brother away, and thought it was an angel taking them to heaven.  She was only 4 at the time.

Today, Mr D is an active 5 year old in an almost 12 year old’s body.

So, why am I writing this?  I have been following Tripp Halstead’s journey. I have read all the joys and heartbreak that his family has gone through.  I read how his mother goes through what seems like irrational bouts of self-pity.  And I know it all too well.  That time when you see parents with their ‘normal’ kids and mourn for the fact that your baby will never be like that.

 It does not get easier.  But it does get ‘different’.  You stop morning for what you will never have again, and start mourning what will never be.  You realize that THIS is your new normal.  You learn to embrace it.  You learn to enjoy it.  You learn to cherish it.

This is what I missed by not being part of the ‘graduates’.  I missed being told that I was going through normal stuff.  I missed knowing that there would be life again, just a bit different than what I had expected.  Not better, not worse, just different.  I also missed the chance to let other families hear the same thing. 

Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock and change just one thing that day; one tiny thing that may have made the outcome better.  Then I realize that if I did I would have missed out on so much more that God had in store for me. I realize that my life would have still changed, maybe for the worse, but doubtful for the better.

If I had one chance to talk to Tripp’s mother, I would just tell her it is normal to have the feelings you are having. That it is ok to mourn for what you don’t have any more, but to cherish what you do have and hang on for the ride… it will be exciting!  And then I would hug her!  She is a member of an exclusive club that no one EVER asked to join.