This is a big week for Maddie and Gray Harrison. Their son, Keegan, started school. Like most parents this time of year, they had the first-day-of-school jitters as they walked their almost 3-year-old into the classroom. But their fears weren’t about whether Keegan would get homesick or share his toys. Instead they worried about the germs he’d be exposed to that could land him back in the hospital. And his feeding and communication issues. But they also knew that Keegan has proven to be a fighter since being born with a heart defect.
At just 7 days old, Keegan was the smallest and youngest in Texas to ever undergo a heart transplant. So Maddie and Gray dropped him off and hoped for the best.
“Keegan is starting school this week. Yep, at the urging of the transplant team at Children’s, he’ll start Mother’s Day Out at a nearby church two days a week. I hate to admit it, but I’m absolutely, positively terrified about it.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will have the time of his little life there. I know he’ll be excited to be in his class with his friends Lainey, Gage and Ainsley. I know he’ll grow up before my eyes, and I hope that his speech and eating will take off because of it. I know these are the reasons we were told to enroll him. I’m certainly grateful for a transplant team that stays positive and has realistic goals for him. I can’t wait to see all the artwork he’ll bring home, to read the daily reports of the fun things he did, to see him shine to his full potential. We are blessed to have a school with teachers and administrators willing to take on the responsibility and risk of caring for Keegan and other parents in his class that already care so much about him.
But I’m paralyzed by the fear that he’ll end up inpatient way too much when we are so close to a year of being at home. I’m afraid that the teachers will get frustrated that his communication skills are so far behind his peers, that he’s the only one in his class that hasn’t even thought about potty training (you try talking potty with a kid pumped full of formula all night and who has GI problems, for lack of a more PC term). I’m nervous about possibly having to ask every parent in his class to please choose flu shots instead of the nasal mist that contains live virus. We have spent three years shielding him from others to keep him well, and here we are, sending him to the front lines of germ warfare with no armor whatsoever.
It’s not fair that we have to worry about these things. It’s not fair that the choice to send my son to school was not made because he wanted to or because he was old enough. No, it was made as a “quality of life” issue. I shouldn’t have to think that this is something he needs to do because if he were gone tomorrow or next week or next year, we wouldn’t want to have not given him the experience of learning and playing with other children his age. It’s not fair that he’ll miss the first full day of school for his annual cardiac work-up. Because we need to cut his neck open and snake a line down to his heart for a biopsy to make sure his body isn’t rejecting his beautiful heart. It’s not fair that every day when I drop him off, I’ll have to drive away wondering if it’ll all come crashing down today. This should be fun and exciting, but instead, all I can think about is that it’s just not fair.
Grateful for life
But then I remember all the parents I know who would love to be the ones walking their child into school, no matter how unfair it is. The ones who don’t get to hug and kiss their child anymore and send them off to have fun, even if all they do is sit and worry about them. The ones who would give anything to spend another night awake tending to their child. And my worry seems petty. I might not get to walk Keegan into school for as many years as I would want, but this week, I get to. It will take a huge leap of faith to walk away and put my trust in Him. But I will, because He has done wonderful things for us, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Go to Maddie’s blog and read an update on Keegan’s first day of school.