Sam. Conqueror. Overcomer.

On the 15th May 2009, Samuel Christian made his way into this world...two month's premature and in severe respiratory distress. Within hours, Sam was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome - a very rare congenital disorder, of which little was known. The diagnosis together with the immediate challenges Sam faced to thrive became our core focus and it was with joy and thankfulness that we eventually brought Sam home, after nine weeks in the NICU.

As time pressed on, it became obvious that Sam's development was falling behind that of his RTS peers. Shortly before his 5th birthday Sam underwent a brain scan and it was confirmed by a paediatric neurologist that in addition to Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Sam also has Cerebral Palsy related to his premature birth, as well as Autism.

This blog chronicles our journey through these challenges...
SAMUEL - COMPLETE IN GOD
Our world has crashed, been blown apart.
This can't be happening....why us? Why now?
Your fragile life shaken before it could barely start,
How do we get through this...please, Lord, tell us how?

Drowning in our sorrow, waiting for answers that just don't come.
Our baby "special needs"? It simply can't be true!
The heartache overwhelms us, we're left feeling cold and numb.
The diagnosis tells us little - these children are so few.

But then we finallyget to touch you, to see your precious face
And all the heartache and questions fade, replaced with love and pride.
It's obvious from the very start you're showered in God's grace,
And with His love and guidance, we'll take this challenge in stride.

When once we couldn't pronounce it, Rubinstein-Taybi's become our norm.
When once the future seemed dark, we now welcome the journey as having an RTS angel brings lessons in unexpected form.

Our world has crashed, been blown apart!
This IS happening....to us.....right now!
We've been blessed with a gift, so precious from the very start. How do we get through this? Here's how.....
By believing in a God, so merciful and great,
By trusting that He's right beside us as we journey through the narrow gate.
By believing His love for us is not determined by a human frame,
By trusting that we draw Him near by merely calling His name. This precious baby we asked God for,
Prayed he'd be perfect and complete.
And, as Samuel means "God hears", He's laid His answer at our feet.

(Nicky de Beer : 27/05/2010)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Does he know...

...that he is different? I've wondered about this often before but could never really come to a solid conclusion and, honestly, wasn't sure it mattered much. About a month ago we sat in the ENT's office...I say "sat" but mean "flapped, whinged and occasionally shrieked"...with Sam becoming increasingly agitated as our wait ticked past an hour. The younger, more mobile patients (all 'typical') provided Sam with a momentary distraction as they played on the mat, hopped around, etc. but once that moment had gone (all 5 seconds of it) Sam resorted to taking occasional swipes at them, especially whenever one sprightly young kiddo entered his personal space...which personal space, with about 4x4m² being shared by four other children, had had to become remarkably conservative!

The doorbell rang and I cringed inwardly at the thought of having to tap into even more adept ninja moves, intercepting Sam's frustrated swipes at now FIVE moving (and thankfully, blissfully unaware) targets. A youngster of about 12 quietly entered the room with his adult companion. With my back being to the door and my neck currently alternating between despairing states of immobility or excruciating pain (but Yay! for still half-gracefully being able to carry 30kg's of flappy dude around right?) I had a limited view and decided a not-too-welcomed bear hug was needed by Sam at the very moment the newly-arrived patient had to brush by our chair into the room.

Surprisingly, no swipe...no smack...just the most magnificent smile as Sam watched the boy take a seat in the corner and pick up a magazine. As he settled quietly into his chair and I was able to glance more easily at the newcomer, I found myself suddenly fighting back overwhelming emotion as I instantly recognised his Down Syndrome characteristics. For the rest of our time in the waiting room Sam smiled, happy-flapped and ooooo'd admiringly at the very reserved youngster, the other energetic and now also agitated kiddies having suddenly become invisible. Sam has always shown recognition of other physically differently-abled children, for instance, when walking in a busy shopping mall he will quickly point out a child in a wheelchair, but this was more than simple recognition...it was a resonating of shared journeys and an instinctive knowledge that Sam and this boy were the same kind of different! Understanding this 'recognition' when the object of Sam's attention is in a wheelchair or walker or similar means of support is pretty easy, but his intrigue this time round would not have been triggered by any outward 'hints' and although incredibly heart-warming, has left me somewhat unsettled. 

Because of having Sam's learning potential constantly undermined due to his physical challenges, finding a school which focuses on his cognitive abilities rather than the physical has been life-changing. With Sam suddenly seeming so perceptive to those around him though, I can't help but wonder what the effects will be of his being the only physically-disabled lil flappy dude in his school. I do see occasional inklings of frustration emerging (okay...maybe "occasional inklings" is a little conservative #eyeroll) but because in my heart I know that he would not thrive anywhere else, hope that I can find a way to instil upon Sam's heart the very thing I spend a decent amount of my time advocating for...that being "different" is not only okay, it can be a pretty profound state of being. Wish me luck xxx


Mother's Day this year was one for the books (or blog in this case) as it came complete with a school-made Mother's Day card from the lil flappy dude. Although I am pretty sure that Sam's not particularly invested in the sentiments of Mother's Day as, of course, every day is in fact Sam's Day (just kidding) he sure did seem super-chuffed with his card!


And immediately after Mother's Day the lil flappy dude went and turned EIGHT! With his birthday falling on a Monday, he had  a small celebration with his classmates, which he was just as super-chuffed about...especially because there were balloons involved, the object of Sam's most passionate love-hate fascination.



And immediately after his birthday (like literally the next day) Sam went into theatre for his umpteenth number of grommets and for us to finally have an opportunity to intervene and hopefully provide some relief from the nasty issues those talon cusps have been causing. 

The grommets were a breeze, as always! The talon cusps were filed down so that they now lie flush with the gum/palate and then a little of the surrounding gum was cut away to make room for the bulk of the cusp which has yet to grow out. Sam had also made light work of grinding another two teeth down into the gum. Luckily these were both still milk teeth which could be extracted to make way for the yet-to-make-an-appearance adult teeth. The work on the talon cusps proved a bit of a bloody affair and Sam was not entirely impressed with the generous mouthful of blood he woke up from anaesthetic with (apologies for the graphic details). Since the procedure, now three weeks ago, we have had a rather challenging time getting Sam to drink fluids. Follow up consultations have reassured that his mouth, throat and ears are all looking really good so it has been a little exhausting trying to figure out what the issue is, which issue is now causing some very unwanted bladder problems. For a host of reasons (which I am not going to go into now) Sam still drinks mostly from a bottle. Knowing his complicated sensory system, the chances are that the first few bottles after the procedure caused a significant amount of discomfort (we were warned this would be the case) and so Sam has now developed a negative association with a bottle. With another kid this could perhaps have been a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to animatedly introduce an alternate, way more fun drinking apparatus! This is, however, Sam...so I'm pretty much doing WWF-style moves while squirting small amounts of liquid down his throat. Could it possibly have gone any other way 😉  

And, in closing, some recent school pics...just because 💜




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