Just over three years ago we got a call from Gage’s school. It wasn’t our typical call, one where we would learn he did something we should be aware of at school, or an update on some school work or maybe to discuss changing something in his IEP to help him cope with his out-of-control anxiety. Nope, it wasn’t for any of those reasons.
I’m sure I heard Julian say “The school is calling…” and hung up the phone, rose from his chair and flew to my office. “We have to get to school right now!” Gage had come apart in class, was upset and they were concerned for his safety. Luckily, our office is less than a mile from the school and we were there in just minutes.
We were terrified.
The weeks leading up to the day we got that call had been difficult. Gage had been spiraling for weeks. His PTSD was in full swing. Having just witnessed his sister going through her kidney transplant had brought out memories of his own, particuarly a surgery where he was awake. For over a year he wasn’t getting better, even though he was in therapy and getting treatment for depression. This event happening wasn’t a surprise, but how it happened and the intensity of the situation shook the very foundation of everything we believed we could do to help him.
We arrived at school and found him inconsolable. He was hiding under tables and in cabinets and couldn’t speak. We stood in a room alone with him, his favorite teacher and a principal outside the door, upset and trying to figure out how to help but not being able to do anything. He was crying out for help without words. Within 15 minutes we knew, no doubt, that we would need to admit him and within 30 minutes we were on our way for an emergency admittance to a mental hospital.
The same hospital and its staff I credit for saving his life. I credit the doctor we met there for helping him live a functional life. A safe life. A life of purpose. Humor. Laughter. Choice. Promise and potential.
A doctor he’d been seeing before his admittance discouraged us from committing him in the weeks leading up to that school event, citing our inability to be with him, or see him for days at a time, or have little control of his care in the days he was there and that was far from the truth. I felt very much in the loop of his 6 days there and knew exactly what was going on with my boy. We knew he was safe. Safe.
It’s easy to feel unsure of your choices as a parent to kids with special needs because many times you have to push for something you think might help but you just don’t know.
Which path is the less scary?
Which fight is the one I can’t lose?
What can I give up of all the things he needs?
Some decisions are easy. You know when you know. We knew that day he needed more. Helping him in that way we did was the best thing we’ve ever done. Our family refuses to let people make us feel shame for that choice because that choice kept our boy alive just like the choice to give him care with dialysis until his kidney donor could be found. To us, there is no difference. Period.
Gage has had a big life. A life of ups and downs and he’s fought his way back to us through a darkness so great it consumed our entire family, swallowing us completely. Gage isn’t ashamed of any of the care he receives, which speaks to an unexplainable maturity that such a life has forced on him, even though he’s a typical teenager.
We didn’t know much of what we would find as we walked into that room that day so long ago. What we did know was that we loved that child, the educators at that small public school believed in him with a shocking fierceness, and that we would all do whatever we could to help him.
We strive to surround Gage with people who are understanding and compassionate and who really see him. When people get to know Gage for his smarts, his humor and his potential it’s hard to deny him a chance at a better, bigger life. We’re so grateful to have found so many people that believe in him still.
Gage doesn’t hide who he is and has a way of living that speaks to his incredible resiliency. Watching him live his life makes me believe anything is possible.
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