As a very proud dad of two amazing kids, Father’s Day is always a special day for me. It also holds a strong memory of a day when being a father took on a whole new journey that I never expected.
On April 7, 2004, my smart, fun loving and comedic three-and-a-half-year-old son, Jayden, was stricken with bacterial meningitis. Our “perfect world” would never be the same. It was truly a nightmare with each minute, hour and day getting worse for two weeks.
He suffered two devastating strokes, seizures and fell into a coma. After those painfully challenging weeks, my wife Jenny and I were transferred with Jayden to Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey where we lived for six months. We slept on an army cot next to Jayden, never leaving his side, so when he opened his eyes he’d see us there. He was given last rites more times than I can remember.
Realizing the True Meaning of Life
Jayden’s brain suffered severe trauma and life as we knew it changed in an instant: he was left a deaf and mute, had total right-side paralysis and he still experiences uncontrollable seizures to this day.
Going through something like this, you really see what life is truly about – and what’s really important. He was so young and with so many health challenges, we had to essentially learn how to take care of him all over again. Nothing else mattered. In those six months, it felt like my wife and I were becoming honorary nurses and doctors with all the hands-on care we had to learn in such a short time.
A week before Father’s Day that year, we were told we could take Jayden home for a few hours, but then go right back to the hospital. We ended up doing this for many, many weekends to get into the routine of caring for Jayden full-time on our own.
That Father’s Day was one of the scariest days I can remember. We had to take home so much equipment, dozens of medications and we had to remember so many things just to keep our son stable. I remember that moment when he was in my arms and I was so scared wondering, “How are we going to do this every day without the nurses and doctors around?”
At that moment, I looked in his eyes and realized: it’s Father’s Day and I’m his father and I will do everything I can – not just today but every day – to make sure his new life, our new life, will be the best it can be.
Finding the Strength to Laugh
I can think about what we’ve lost, or what Jayden has lost. We lost our home and so many things, but that’s all they were – just things. We don’t have much, but we have each other. No matter what has come our way through the years, we’ve dealt with it with love and laughter. That’s the greatest secret to life I’ve learned from Jayden.
We had another child in 2006, Dakota Skye – and she is everything our family needed. Both Jayden and Dakota continue to show us what life is about. Their sense of humor in getting through just about anything still amazes me.
It’s not an easy life by any means, and we don’t live or do what most “normal” families do. I am grateful for what we do have and how our journey, hopefully, helps others.
Happy Father’s Day!
Every day is Father’s Day for me because even as difficult as most days are the greatest joy in my life is seeing my kids laugh and smile. I truly believe when you can find humor even in what may seem like the darkest of times, it makes everything a little bit easier. Laughter is truly the greatest medicine.
From our crazy family to yours – we wish you a happy Father’s Day, and a happy every day full of love and laughter.
Andy, Jenny, Jayden & Dakota