A little over a year ago, life was fairly normal. My husband Bryant and I worked hard and did our best to manage a household with three busy boys.
Then our lives changed drastically at a moment's notice. It was May 1st, Brady's 10th birthday, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that needed to be removed. The first thought I had was that I really needed my mom, whom I had recently lost to cancer. I went into panic mode over the fear of losing my son, too.
Our world started spinning out of control. I stopped working in order to take Brady to pre-op visits and to spend time figuring out what life would look like for the immediate future.
There were so many questions that had no answers. I'm a problem-solver, I like to fix things, but in this case of my own son it seemed there was nothing I alone could do to make him better. Things were out of my control in a big way. I could barely gather my thoughts, and I was scared.
The surgery took 10 hours and they were able to remove the majority of the tumor. Everthing appeared to be ok - he was responding properly and looked good. Then all of a sudden, he seemed confused and wasn't completely coherent. They did an MRI, which revealed he had suffered a post-surgery stroke.
What was supposed to be 1-3 weeks in the hospital turned into a month at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital and 5 months at the Traumatic Brain Injury unit at Blythedale Children's Hospital. My world was upside-down. Bryant took a family leave. Bills were stacking up, things were getting tough, and I couldn't even think about it because I was focused on Brady.
A social worker at the hospital suggested I contact Friends of Karen. I wasn't sure it was for us. This is the type of organization I would donate to or support myself, not take from. My pride caused us to almost miss this amazing opportunity. I had no idea the emotional and financial toll Brady's diagnosis would have on our family and how Friends of Karen would profoundly impact our lives.
I first met Rhonda, our Friends of Karen social worker, when she visited us at Blythedale to learn about our situation. After talking, she realized I had no idea what my family's needs were at the moment nor what they would be in months to come. She told me about how Friends of Karen could help us. I felt like she intimately understood the crisis we were enduring and cared not just about Brady's well-being but about our whole family.
I stayed at the hospital 24/7 with Brady the entire time he was there which forced me to take an extended leave from work. Friends of Karen assisted us by paying some household bills, which helped alleviate a huge financial burden.
Being away from my family was insanely difficult. Blythedale was an hour away from our home, making visits with my husband and children expensive and, therefore, infrequent. Friends of Karen gave us a stipend towards gas based on miles travelled, which allowed us to spend more time together.
Setting up logistics and paying for childcare was a nightmare. I had two little boys at home and wanted to keep their lives as normal as possible. This was very expensive. Friends of Karen gave us a daily allowance to go toward a consistent caregiver.
If left on our own, I don't know how we could have managed.
But Friends of Karen didn't stop there.
They sent birthday gifts, Christmas gifts and school supplies for each of my children. These thoughtful gestures allowed Bryant and me to spend more time with our family and less time worrying.
I understand that the support we received from Friends of Karen was a direct result of generous donations from corporations, families and individuals. So I'd like to say thank you. Thanks for lightening the load of a heavy burden and allowing us to focus on our family throughout this long and arduous process.
Friends of Karen is an extraordinary organization.