Sunday, February 13, 2011

Life Story Part Two

In the previous post, I started my life story by describing the struggle I had to go through to survive past my infancy. After the open-heart surgery to save my life, my health improved and I began to grow. I was a little behind developmentally, but I caught up in time.

I will now jump ahead to the time when I started elementary school. The first few years seemed uneventful to me. But as I advanced in school, problems began to arise. When I entered school, I was placed in special education classes. This was fine until I was in around fourth grade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to backtrack a few years to maybe my second grade year when my eyesight was getting progressively worse. At this time, my teachers started teaching me Braille to prepare me for the eventual loss of my sight. I will admit, I resisted the need to use Braille. I can still remember the times that I strained my eyes because I didn’t want to use the Braille. I guess that was my way of fighting against my increasing eye problems. But at age eight, this struggle came to a halt by the detachment of my retina in my right eye. A surgery was performed to fix this problem, but it was not successful. A second surgery was done that gave me some of my sight back, but it was not nearly what I had had before all of this occurred. I was then left to cope with my new reality of near blindness.

The best that I can remember, this is when all of my school problems started. A new teacher came into my classroom during my third grade year. That first year was not really a problem because she did not have much control over my education. However, this changed at the beginning of my fourth grade year. She had total control over my education then. It did not go well. At first, she was giving me assignments that were far above my academic level for that time. When I failed at these assignments, it seems as though she gave up on me. To her, I was a stupid kid who could not be taught. To this day, I am still haunted by the words, “you are unteachable.” At age ten, I believed her and gave up on myself.

These events set off a chain reaction of events that would forever change me. After a while, the class I was in was eliminated and I was placed in a classroom with students that were below my age level and my grade level of fifth grade. My fellow classmates were placed in a fifthgrade classroom. I was placed in the other class because the teachers didn’t think I was ready for a fifth grade classroom. The part I struggle with most about this is that I was not given a chance to prove that I could make it.

Because of all of these events, I fell into a deep depression. A few years before this I had been diagnosed with seizures. During all of this turmoil in my life, the seizures became uncontrollable. A lot of my fifth grade year is a vague blur to me because of of the depression and seizures. The combination of the two had a devastating effect on my emotional state. The one thing I remember most clearly is the feeling that everyone, except my parents, had given up on me. I felt as though I had just been shoved into a classroom because no one wanted to take the time to teach me. I wasn’t worth their time or energy. I was a problem that just needed to go away.

After many meetings and disagreements with the administration and teachers, I finished the fifth grade. The school wanted to hold me back another year, but my parents wouldn’t let them. All my parents wanted was to get me out of that situation and into middle school where I might be able to pull my life back together. I spent months trying to pull myself out of the deep depression that I was in. It took me years to catch up with my peers academically. The emotional damage has been harder to handle over the years than that of my academic difficulties. Even now, I’m dealing with the emotions from that dark time in my life.

In the next post, I will continue with what happened next. I will explain more how I recovered from what happened to me in elementary school and what I did with my life in the years that followed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Life Story Part One

In the next few posts, I will go back in my past and tell my life story up to this point. Some of what I am going to say is a secondhand account. Either I have know memory of some of the events or I have blocked some of it from my memory.

My parents had been married for four years when my twin sister, Jennifer, and I were born. Both my sister and I were declared healthy at birth and were sent home. However, I was not healthy at all.

My first few months of life was spent in and out of hospitals. My mom took me back to the hospital because of an irregular heartbeat after being home for a few days. At a month old, doctors finally figured out that I had a hole in my heart that did not close on its own as it should have. Doctors wanted to wait until I was a few years old before doing surgery to repair the hole. This did not happen though.

At three months of age, I had a scary incident that alerted my mom that I was seriously ill. One day, I threw blood up all over her and stopped breathing. She rushed me to the hospital at which time a procedure was done that determined that not only did I have a large hole in my heart, I also had a blockage in my heart. In short, I was in heart failure. Without immediate surgery, I would soon die.

The odds for my survival were very slim. The doctors only gave me a ten percent chance of living through the surgery. But as my mom has told me many times, if she and my dad did not consent to the surgery, I would have died anyway.

I can’t even imagine how my parents felt when they signed those consent forms and when I was wheeled away into surgery.

I did have complications on the operating table in which the doctors lost all of my vital signs and they had to bring me back to life. During the surgery, the surgeons patched the hole in my heart, and were able to remove the blockage.

My medical complications did not end there. As a result of being on a feeding tube for such a long period of time, the passage to my stomach closed off. For a while, I was only able to be fed in small amounts. I had to be taught how to eat again at three months old.

I went home at four months of age. My parents have had to watch me closely for much of my life. I have had to see cardiologists often in my short life to make sure that everything is still fine with my heart. Now at age twenty-four, I have no further complications. The fact that I am alive today is a miracle. To this day my mom calls me her “walking miracle.”

Now you might be asking how my vision impairment comes in to all of this. My mom could tell by looking at me when I was born that something was wrong with my eyes. The doctors told my parents that I just had a lazy eye. It wasn’t until I was nine months old that they learned that it was something else. Finally at eighteen months, doctors were finally able to tell that I had a severe case of a disease called Coloboma. Coloboma is a disease that causes deformities in the eye. My retina is misshapen and my octave nerve is damaged.

I am going to end this post here. All of what I have written above has had a huge impact on my life. There is more to my medical history that I will get to as I tell more of my life’s journey in the next post.