Ten Years


Ten Years


Where were you 10 years ago? What were your thoughts, your hopes and your dreams? It is mind blowing to think we have reached this moment of 10 years since Ethan’s injury.

A week after Ethan was struck by lightning, we sat down with several doctors who read the report of his first post-injury MRI. I was numb, in complete disbelief at the dismal possibilities for Ethan’s life. A trusted doctor soon after told me not to put all my thoughts into one MRI report; this represented one moment in time, a still-shot, and it would take time to see where Ethan’s journey took him. I draw on a quote recently gleaned from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy – Pick Yourself Up. “Tests and algorithms don’t tell the whole story. They’re snapshots in time. There’s not a roadmap for every uncertainty we meet. Some things we just have to wait and see. We have to reach down inside ourselves and find that last piece of strength. As impossible as it can be to find, we have to rise to the occasion. We have to rise to keep going.”

And rise is what we’ve tried to do throughout these years. Rising to meet each uncertainty, each hospitalization; rising to provide love and support for Ethan’s older brother and younger sister; rising to keep our own heads above water in a sea of constant grief; and rising to make the choice to continue living a life full of meaningful experiences.

 Here are some lessons we’ve learned along the way:

1) Unconditional means just that – without condition. In the early days of being at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, different medical professionals would come in to do x, y, or z on Ethan. They would always turn to us and say “Would you like to do this? You know your son best.” Those words were among the most ridiculous I’d heard. What do you mean we know him best? Do you see him? Yes, he looks like our son, but that is where the familiarity ends. The very essence of this young man, lying in that bed, has been altered beyond recognition. Through time, everything we knew about Ethan would need to be learned again, and we embraced this challenge because we loved him—whoever he turned out to be—unconditionally.

2) What started as a local community support, Team Ethan quickly grew to include people across the country and around the world. With the guidance from Help Hope Live, and the incredible generosity of so many people, we have raised funds that have not only helped us with Ethan’s uninsured expenses in these last 10 years, but will also help him into his future. The enormity of gratitude we feel every single day is beyond belief.

3) Anyone who steps into the viewfinder of our lives comes in for a short time – an hour, a day, a week – and then, rightfully, returns to their own lives. Eventually, what remains is the core strength of support that comes from the caregivers who live with his complex needs day in and day out. Holding that strength for the two of us has been a daily challenge, and one that we take pride in having accomplished for these 10 years.

4) We are immensely appreciative for the home nursing care Ethan receives each week. These professionals love and tend to Ethan's needs as if he was their own. We trust them implicitly. And we are constantly reminded that nothing gets planned without first having nursing coverage in place. Spontaneity is overrated.

5) You don’t go through an experience like this without being changed. I don’t know if I like all the changes I’ve witnessed in myself, and I’ve let go of any perceived expectations. We are living the best life we can under unfathomable and heart-wrenching circumstances.

These 10 years have launched all three of our children into their 20s; we’ve joyfully celebrated the marriage of our oldest, and our youngest has completed her second year in college. And for every day that Ethan has a smile on his face or a laugh coming from deep within, is a day that brings us a small sense of peace.

Who knows what 10 years from now will reveal—for today, we will be quiet; we will reflect and be a little sad. And then we will continue.