By Annie Gebel
Everyone has a story. Some tales are heartbreaking, others inspiring. There are great action-adventures, romances, or comedies out there. Many of us simply get by day-to-day, but it all adds up. It’s your life – your story and it’s worth sharing. Please send in nominations for those (yourself or someone you know) whose stories you would like us to share with our HaveHeart readers. Your story may let someone know they’re not alone, give someone a reason to make some changes, or provide a good belly-laugh. Regardless, every story is one we should hear. Email your story to: YourStory@haveheartmagazine.com
Imagine answering the phone and hearing your 2-year-old grandson is in an ambulance. The confusion of what could possibly be happening alongside the fear of what could happen next mixing in your gut. You rush to the hospital yourself, catch a glimpse of his small body attached to so many wires, and wait in a private waiting room with police officers filling the empty spaces. Your first interaction with the doctor is to hear his angry demand, “Who did this to this baby?”
Michelle lived this experience more than three years ago. She didn’t fully understand what had happened at that point, but over the next hours and days, the pieces fell into place. Her grandson, Kay, had been shaken, probably more than once. Just a few weeks earlier, Michelle’s husband, Toby, had noticed lethargy, difficulty breathing, and other troubling symptoms after picking him up for the weekend. Toby took Kay to the emergency room. After an MRI showed no injuries and behaviors seemed to return to normal, he was sent home. Michelle and Toby offered to help with childcare, but weren’t taken up on it and nothing more went wrong…until whatever proceeded that phone call.
Back at the hospital, the doctor tried to explain what they might be facing IF Kay survived. Michelle recalls, “He could have cognitive disabilities along with the loss of vision, loss of hearing, not be able to walk…at this point I felt like I was listening to the teacher on Charlie Brown…whaa-whaa-whaa-whaa. I felt like I was in a nightmare.”
Kay was kept in a coma for ten days. While he was fighting to live, having surgeries to repair brain bleeds, and having tubes drain fluid building in his swollen brain, Michelle and Toby were in court fighting for him too. Four days after he was taken to the hospital, they filed for custody of their grandson – their son’s son. Michelle’s mind was still spinning, but she “just did what needed to be done and moved to the next thing to be taken care of.” Kay was eventually brought out of his coma and dealt with drug withdrawals, healing from his injuries and surgeries, and an assortment of therapies. After four weeks in the hospital he was released and went home with Michelle and Toby. That home wasn’t permanent until two, long years later.
During those emotionally and financially draining years, Michelle focused on her family, her education, and her faith – not necessarily in that order. Kay’s grandparents on his mother’s side fought for custody, as well. There were hurt feelings and relationships damaged. Not only was there the custody hearing, but also the investigation into what happened. However, that was never completed. The original officers that took statements and asked questions at the hospital were homicide detectives, which tells you something sobering about Kay’s initial prognosis. They neglected to hand the case off to a different department once it was clear that Kay would live and no one was ever arrested or charged. When Toby called to ask about this he was told to be thankful Kay was alive, and he was so they didn’t follow up on it any further.
This is perhaps the one point that sticks in Michelle’s craw a little. “I’d like to think that I’m not the one to judge…but I know deep down how pissed I am at the situation. Now that I work in the field and I know the proper procedures I would of handled things a bit more aggressively.”
Without an arrest, though, Michelle and her family have done their best for Kay. “I know it was a hard adjustment for the whole family,” Michelle told me. Aside from Kay’s father, Michelle and Toby have two other children, now aged 18 (and in her first year of college) and 15 years. They’ve also welcomed a second 15-year-old into their home to live with them as well. Michelle also has a wonderful network of support in her parents, siblings, close friends, and their Child Protection Worker. All of these people have witnessed Kay’s progress and growth over the past few years.
Kay is now, “A rambunctious 5 year old boy who was taught that his delays were NOT a handicap.” This fall he started Kindergarten in an integrated setting. He takes Tae Kwan Do, receives physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and special education services. He’s impulsive and has vision problems, but is on track cognitively. He wears a Sure-Step ankle brace and a Kiddie Gait brace to help with range of motion. This is, “All typical for Kaydence and he will continue to thrive!”
As for Michelle, she’s thriving too. “There are times I get really mad at Kay’s parents for putting me in this position of raising a young child again, especially at the beginning, but three years later we’ve just become accustomed to what it is.”