Just wanted to take a moment to reflect and give thanks to all of you for your support of all of the families affected by Shaken Baby Syndrome. Though many of us feel very alone at times, it is all of you that keep us going, and help us to find families that need our support and comfort in their time of need.
Our mission is to provide undivided support for the families, by the families, and such a network is being built to ensure when tragedy strikes no one must walk alone, and for that we are so thankful for all of you.
Wishing you all a very Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When you are the parent of an SBS Survivor, it is easy to get caught up in the “what could have been’s” and “what if’s”. What if you had just sent your child to a different day care? What if you stayed home with her that day? What if you had noticed the signs that something wasn’t right? Riley should be running around and playing with all the other kids her age, enjoying her youth, without a care in the world…but instead her days are filled with school and therapy to help her get better. If you let it, your mind can take over and take you to a place of deep despair and depression…
During this time of year, I try to reflect and be thankful for all of the blessings I have. Of course I am grateful for my husband, daughter and son, family, and friends who have all been so wonderful throughout this journey. But, in a weird way, I am also thankful to have gone through the horrible experience of almost losing my daughter. I know that it may be shocking to hear, and it may sound harsh, but being at rock bottom really makes you evaluate your life, and find out what is truly important. It was the worst experience of my life, hands-down. Believe me, if I could go back and change things for my daughter and make all of this go away, I would do whatever I had to- no exception. I would give up my life for her...
In our busy lives, we tend to take things for granted. We get swept up in all of the daily drama, all of those trivial things that it the grand scheme, really do not matter. We stress about work, or worry that someone may have said something negative about us or don’t like us. We take it personally if we haven’t spoken to someone in a while, or get angry at them because they haven’t found the time for us. We feel guilty if we can’t make it to every event, or make everyone else happy. We worry that our houses aren’t clean or organized enough, or that we can’t find time to make dinner every night, or get to the gym. We are concerned about our finances and gaining all of the material things we desire…
I, too, get swept up in all of this nonsense. But, I am blessed with experiences that allow me to take a step back, and remember what is important. I no longer allow it to interfere with my life. I live each day knowing what is important, and how quickly things can change. I have become selfish, in a way, because I now do things with my family at the forefront. I value my time with the kids, so if that means not being able to attend every party or outing, so be it- no regrets. If I need to leave work or take time off to be with my sick child, I do it. I no longer let my schedule run my life, or feel guilty about not being able to “do it all”…
Each day is a gift. God has given my daughter, and our family, a second- chance. As difficult as it may be at times, I embrace the opportunity to accompany Riley on her journey toward recovery. I am very thankful for this life, and live each day to the fullest. I hope that others reading this blog will do the same. This Thursday, I will be celebrating another Thanksgiving with my daughter and my family- and realizing what a blessing that truly is. Happy Thanksgiving to all…
Lots of Love,
Friday, November 20, 2009
It’s funny how you can think you’ve moved on…moved past all that has happened and start focusing on the future. Your life starts to become “normal,” at least as normal as it can be when you have a SBS child. But, in a split second the littlest thing can bring you right back to where you started and remind you of the past- someone can say or do something, or you find yourself somewhere that brings back all of the memories. You force yourself to move forward, but you cannot stop it- without warning, the hurt, anger, betrayal, mistrust, and fear return…
I was called to jury duty last week. It was not a big deal, until I arrived the first day. As I walked up the stairs and into the building, I began to remember. All of the potential jurors were placed in the same courtroom where the criminal trial for Riley’s assault took place. As I sat down, I immediately felt nauseous. I started to recognize faces of people who worked for the court from our trial. I noticed the “In God We Trust” banner on the wall. I found myself staring at the stand where I was forced to testify about the horrific experience of almost losing my daughter. Where I cried endlessly as I described all Riley had to endure while her attacker, and my former friend, looked on, coldly. Seven months pregnant with my second child at the time, I spent a grueling two hours on that stand, relieving every gut wrenching moment and answering every question. I spent many more hours in the courtroom listening to testimony and waiting for a verdict a year- and- a- half ago. The courtroom hosted many difficult memories. I was very relieved to be dismissed from the case as a possible juror, and thankful to be out of the courtroom…
Unexpectedly, my experiences last week really affected me, so much so that I couldn’t even bring myself to blog. I went about my daily business, but I needed time to regroup, spend time with my children and refocus. I needed time to work through my emotions, and let the anger subside. I found myself picking up the pieces and trying to move forward once again. It is a never-ending cycle…
Many people have told me how they admire the way my husband and I handled ourselves during the trial. If it was their child, they would have handled it differently. That they don’t know how we did it. That we were stronger then they would have been, and that they could not have contained themselves the way we did. The truth is, you do not know how you would handle a situation like this until you are thrust into it- something I would never wish on anyone.
We are only human. We are Riley’s parents, and we always put her needs before our own, even before her injury. That is what parents should do- take a step back and look at the big picture. We were not going to do Riley any good from a jail cell. We needed to be there for her, no discussion. But, I am filled with anger, disgust and hatred for the “monster” that harmed my daughter. My trust in others is completely shattered- this woman was my friend, I entrusted her with my little girl, and she hurt her. These raw emotions are there, will always be, and will emerge when I least expect it. I am not a saint, just a mom who loves her daughter so much that I make her my priority, and put my own feelings aside. We instead watched as the “monster’s” lawyer and family attempted to turn the trial into a “Jerry Springer” episode- something that obviously did not help her. As difficult as it was, we contained ourselves at the trial because we felt it was best for her case. We hoped that justice would prevail, and lucky for us, it did…
Thursday, November 12, 2009
After Michael had left this world to live in a better place, I never thought I'd have to see another one of my family members go through the horror of knowing your innocent child, a child you placed in a setting you thought you trusted, to be harmed. To feel this kind of violation is beyond imaginable, the torture my Aunt put herself through, for something that was completely out of her control is not a fun thing to witness, for anyone. To know that justice was never served for Michael, a person would think that lightening could not strike twice in the same family.
This past April, I was informed that my cousin, this time on the maternal side of the family (Michael is on the paternal side). My cousin, my little cousin, my perfect angel cousin, was assalted in the care facility he risides in. Aaron is not a typical child, he has Angelman Syndrome, a syndrome that has left this 15 year old boy with a mentality of a 2 year old, and nonverbal. In so many ways Aaron is an infant in a grown boys body. Aaron was beaten by a man at the facility, this facility is a place where I was employed nearly 10 years ago, this place I even thought to trust, I knew so many of the people and I knew the hearts these people had for the children of the home.
I was fooled, as was everyone else in my family. On my Aunt Julie's weekend to get Aaron, she was pulled aside by an employee to hear the most gut wrenching news ever, Aaron had bruises from an incident, and they assured her the proper measures were taken and the male caregiver was fired. This man, a man with complete knowledge of his own strength and power over any child, non the less a child with special needs. He used his own physical strength to leave Aaron's face black and blue, and even his feet.
This man fled and later "turned himself in" he voluntarily came to the Police Station and openly admitted to striking Aaron several times. In October of this year, this man was not charged, why you may ask. His Miranda Rights were never read to him. He was let off due to some stupid technicality. This man will not have it on his record that he harmed a child, so he could go to another state, free to harm another innocent, powerless child again.
The lightening struck twice, the lightening bolt of failure in the justice system. Surely something must be able to be done to protect the youth of our country...
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Though it has only been 4 years, it seems like an eternity when it comes to grieving and allowing the forces of life to take hold of what I once called life. Many paths come into focus in my life, and if I haven't learned anything, life is trial and error. You have to be willing to make choices with all your heart whether those that surround you know what is best for you, and you have to know the boundaries as to what is healthy for your heart.
I know I have stumbled down many paths, and know this is only the beginning and only the surface to the grief that will over take the rest of my life. The only difference for me I feel is that I can allow myself to plummet, allow myself to fall down, and still know how to pick myself up, and stand with my chin up knowing that no matter what happened I can move through it..
Often times I hear of others whom seem to think you move "past" grief, when truly you learn to live through the pain, and the moments of joy that bless your life are moments you cherish no matter what the end is.
I think one of the most difficult and blessed thing for me is that so many look to me for strength, for answers, and for direction in their own lives. I struggle very hard with that knowing that I am human and there will be moments where I will seem less human. Dark moments when I am grabbing on to the one thing that makes me the happiest to get through to the next. But it makes sharing this and knowing I am strength for some, and knowing that sharing my experience has helped them to pull through whatever it is that is darkening their soul at this time that makes my heart fill with love. I suffered deep scars, and sometimes less "likable" moments, but by sharing I have helped someone else.
This all is something that I have learned to live through, and share when my heart is ready. It is not always when everyone else wants to know, but when I go through a moment of distance from others, or a moment when I need time to just dwell that those around me and those who truly care about me and my dreams and aspirations are so understanding of me and situation. Throughout this I have had to make selfish choices at points that put a wrench in my heart, but in the end of the situation, the answer prevailed to where everyone could see the light I saw the entire time.
When tragedy struck in my life I was handed a grieving pamphlet and basically told "Nothing will ever help this...". I begged to differ. I have God in my heart. I have a family of solid gold, and a friendship circle that not many have. I am bound and determined to let others know that because society believes your life is over when tragedy strikes, and that you will only spend the rest of your life grieving, they are wrong. I am only 27 years old, and if you think I am going to spend 3/4 of my life dwelling, being hateful, and not enjoying my life your wrong. My daughter is well taken care of, in a place where hurt does not exist now, and the last thing I want her to see is her mother wasting away her life, spiraling into constant depression, anger, and hatred. I want her to look down and see triumph through tragedy, and that she will NEVER be forgotten by anyone.
Acceptance, of not ever being who you once were, and understanding you do not know who you are becoming is the first step to survival. Often times people assume you should never change and be who you have always been. With the death of a child that is humanly impossible. You have to stand up, put that chin up, grasp those things that mean the most, and walk forward through the unknown, through the fire, and start living life so you too can get the most out of it. Attacks will come. People will simply not like you for random reasons. Move past it. You have a mission in your life to LIVE not just dwell. Living life is not running yourself ragged, but smiling every chance you get. Telling those you love you love them every time you get the chance, and ensuring that not one beat is missed in your life because one life is already lost, but not yours.
So please, if you are in the midst of heartache, grief, depression and sadness, look who is standing next to you, open up to them, seek comfort, and know the sunshine will come, but you have to make the first step to healing. You are the only one who can create happyness.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, April 12th started out just like every other day. Little did I know that it would change my life forever. I got up and went to work at our restaurant. I had just purchased a car and was going to get the tags for it that afternoon. I went to the courthouse a little after 4pm and it was closed. When I pulled into the circle drive my husband was running across the drive towards our motel and said that something had happened to our granddaughter, Madilyne. I quickly parked the car and called my daughter, Rachel’s, phone.
Upon talking with her co-worker, he told me that Madilyne wasn’t breathing and she was in the ambulance being worked on by the EMT’s.
My heart stopped….literally. My first question was to Rachel… “do you want me to come?” She couldn’t answer me and I knew I had to run and get there. I asked questions regarding what had happened and how did Rachel find out. However, I also asked if she had any bruising. The Dr. said he didn’t see any. Later we would know she had many.
So, we headed out on the highway, not knowing where we were going. On to I-44 and into Oklahoma. But where??? I kept praying for Madi. I kept praying for her to be ok. The babysitter’s husband called me while we were en-route. My first question to him was “what happened”. He gave me an answer which sounded ok, but I would find out later that he had given out many different answers to as many different people.
It was finally decided that Madi would be taken to a hospital in Tulsa. We were the first to arrive of the family. I sat in the waiting room waiting for some word about Madi. She finally arrived at the hospital about 9:30pm. They wouldn’t let me see her. That I would understand because they had to get her settled. Finally a nurse came into the waiting room to let me know she was settled and they were going to take her for a CAT scan. I asked the nurse why the CAT scan because she just choked on her milk…
I was told by the babysitter’s husband… What could they be scanning??? The nurse said I could see her on the way to the scan.
Madi came down the hall on a HUGE white gurney…she looked pale and tiny and beautiful. They were giving her oxygen. I put my hands on either side of her head and kissed her forehead and told her that Granny loved her and she needed to get better. I was crying and so was everyone else around. They took her into the elevator and I started to sob….I got to a wall and slid down it and kept on sobbing. Something wasn’t right! I couldn’t comprehend what was going on….That’s when I knew my life as I had known it would be changed forever.
I felt that I had to put my feelings on the shelf and concentrate on Rachel. I had to help her get through this. Desperation set in. Little did I know how bad it was going to get and our lives would be changed forever in the next 48 hours. I felt if I could just hold her up and get her through this I wouldn’t lose her, too. Fear is as cold as steel. When it grabs your heart I believe you lose yourself. Standing beside Madilyne’s bed, watching the FBI and OSBI take pictures and roll her from side to side hurt me to my core. WHO could have hurt her so badly to take her away forever???
During the funeral I kept close watch on Rachel. I couldn’t lose my child and I couldn’t blame her for the way she felt or acted….Madi was HER child and she was my grandchild. Madi was my heart….
I spent a year watching Rachel, making sure I saw her everyday.
The trial was horrific. I sat in the library behind the courtroom and listened to Rachel cry, sob and scream with the testimony. But my thought was keeping her alive. After the judicial system betrayed Madi and our family, it was time to go home and try to put the pieces together…but the pieces didn’t fit anymore.
I gave up my love….my restaurant and my home. I watched, with dread, my daughter move to Florida and away from where I could SEE her everyday and know that she was alive….I knew she wasn’t “well”, but at least she was breathing. Sometimes you live second by second….waiting for the next breath to come.
It has been 4 years now and it still seems like yesterday. Rachel started to come alive in her spirit about a year ago. By last spring I knew she was going to be “ok” and my worry of “losing” her to the tragedy was over and God told me she was his and I must learn to go on with my life, too.
I didn’t realize that when I put my life “on that shelf” when Madi was hurt, I would forget how to live MY life. I lost almost everything I had…my home, my marriage, my businesses, cars, and almost my sanity, but I kept the most important things with me…my family….my kids…
Life is precious and delicate. Everyday, every moment is a gift from God and needs to be lived accordingly. My life will never be the same…but it will go on and be blessed because I know God will never leave me. Without the very STRONG FAITH I have in Him, I could not have made it through the furnace of flames, to come out victorious on the other side…
With Love and Blessings,
"Granny" to Madilyne
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
As the cousin of SBS survivor/victim, I have seen the struggles that go along with the life and death of a child. A child that was given to his mother as a gift from above, had a life that was not meant to be. Leaving your child with someone you trust, handing them your very life and for that trust to be destroyed breaks a person in a million peices. Not just the mother, but each person around her, her husband, her other children, her neices and nephews, her own parents, not one has been left untouched by the horrific act of abuse to a beautiful child.
In the years since the loss of Michael, there is not a day that goes by in those lives that do not wonder the what might have beens. Would Michael be a father today, would he be in college, become the next brilliant surgeon, or even finding the cure to cancer? We as a family can not live with the might have beens, we all have to find the peices that have fallen from our hearts, and try to repair a broken heart. We know that the repair may only be temporary as some of the peices still threaten to fall apart. We must relinquish our thoughts of the might have beens and find some peace in the fact that Michael sits in the hands of the Lord, a place where we all must try to find in the hopes of being with Michael once again, and when we do find him again, we will become whole again and for the first time since this incident, be with him for eternity.
Monday, November 2, 2009
You see a disabled little girl…I see a survivor.
You may not understand her…but I do.
You may not be able to talk with her…but she and I can carry on entire conversations.
You see a girl who must be fed…I see the girl who overcame her feeding tube.
You see her leg splints…I see the fancy new shoes she can finally wear over them!
You see the girl in the special seat in the grocery cart…I see my shopping companion.
You see her glasses…I see her eye contact.
You see her propped in her adapted car seat…I see a girl enjoying her car rides.
You see a 4- year- old wearing diapers…I see my big girl who is potty training.
You see a special bathing chair…I see some smiles during bath time.
You see her kicking her legs…I see her trying to figure out her movements.
You see a girl who can’t hold a crayon…I see a girl who can finally reach and touch.
You see a girl with limited mobility…I see her increased strength.
You see a girl with crazy sleep patterns…I see a girl who will go to sleep when she is ready.
You see her busy with therapy and doctors…I see a rehabilitation support team.
You see a little girl not able to play on her own…I see a girl who interacts with help.
You see a girl who can’t walk…I see a girl who can take steps.
You see the toys she cannot play with…I search for ones she can use.
You see a girl struggling to keep her head up…I see her reluctance to let it fall.
You hear her laugh…I never take it for granted.
You see her smile…I see an accomplishment.
You see her limitations…I see her potential.
You see Riley…I see my miracle