Though I wish with all my being that Casey were well, I’m so grateful that Zoey isn’t the one who’s ill. I don’t know how I would deal with that. I don’t know if I could. It’s hard enough watching her struggle through normal childhood illnesses like Bronchitis and Hand Foot Mouth Disease. So I’m amazed when I see other mothers caring for their sick children with grace and dignity, when I see them acting normally, when I see them smiling and working and living. How do they manage not to fall apart? How do they find the strength to watch their children pocked and prodded? How do they wait for them as they’re wheeled away for procedures they’re too young to understand?
Melissa Hammerle is one of these mothers. Her son Parker isn’t even two and has spent more time in hospitals than most adults that I know. He has Gastroesophageal Reflux and Vesicoureteral Reflux which affects the bladder and kidney function. He is also hearing impaired in both ears (loss in one, partial in the other). And he suffers a condition called breath holding spells where, unable to express himself adequately, he holds his breath until he turns blue and passes out.
As if all of this weren’t bad enough, he has broken attachment to Melissa, which means he won’t let her hold, bathe, feed, or change him. This is because he associates the pain and anger and fear of hospital visits and needles and procedures and probing doctors with her. Because she was there for him. Because she was trying to make him better. Because she loves him.
Everyone has told her repeatedly that he won’t remember any of this, but it’s clear he does. He may not remember the procedures or the doctors, but he remembers the fear and pain and anger. And he associates those feelings with her.
He doesn’t understand why he’s angry.
He doesn’t understand why he’s in pain.
When I sat lamenting her pain, telling her how sorry I was, that I couldn’t imagine what she’s been through, her response floored me. She said that it was okay, that she takes it all in stride because his pain is so much worse than hers. She said they refuse to sink.
There are days I don’t want to function because I feel so overwhelmed by our circumstances. There are days where I moan constantly about working full-time with a sick husband and a toddler, about being tired, about not having enough time to write or read or breathe. There are days when I let life crush me.
You know what Melissa does? She teaches high school kids all day (child development) and sometimes takes care of Parker and her little girl Paisley-Kate on her own (because her husband is in the military). She’s planning on teaching swim school this summer for extra money. She over-extends herself and does it happily because that’s who she is. I know she, like any of us, has dark days, but she doesn’t let herself drown. Because she can’t. Because Parker and PK and her husband Matt need her. Because her students need her. Because her clients need her. Because she refuses to sink.
And now she needs us.
In May, Parker will be put under anesthesia for another procedure. They’re nervous and afraid, but they push through. Parker is a fighter. They are all. They need our thoughts and prayers, our love and support, our good vibes and happy thoughts. Send them in abundance for this sweet family, for this adorable little boy.
Maybe for a little while, we can be the life raft that keeps them all from sinking.
Click here to visit the Hammerle’s GoFundMe page.