At Our-Kids, we had a rash of accidents where children were accidentally hurt while in their caregivers care. We know already how horrible we feel if we by accident hurt or allow one of our children to be hurt. Some of our children are very fragile. Some days we are just clumsy at the wrong time. The following response was so touching and strengthening that I thought it only fitting that it be saved.
Jennifer allowed me
to add this message to the Our-Kids file archives.
Subject: [OK] Hurting Our-Kids and Guilt Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 12:06:20 -0800 From: "Jennifer L. Saks" To: OUR-KIDS@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU Hi all, This week marks the third anniversary of Nathan's death...on November 20th, to be exact. It's hard to believe. In some ways it seems a lifetime since I last saw and held my beloved little son, but in other ways it seems like just a flash of time. In fact, it seems like, if I turned around fast enough, I'd see him behind me as I type, on his little mattress here in the family room. (well, the mattress isn't here anymore, but the family room is!) Over the years we had our share of guilt and self-examination. I even keep going over the events regarding the day of his death, sure one day that we did all we could, and the next day I wish we could or would have done things differently. I've been thinking a lot about this recent discussion about guilt and accidents, etc. I once had a fall, while holding Nathan, that ruptured a disc in my spine. Fortunately Nathan wasn't hurt. I would have beaten myself up like you are talking about. Many of you know that Nathan's bones were very, very fragile. He had two things against him in this regard. One is the lack of movement, which most of your children also share with him. Someone mentioned osteoporosis being rare in children. Actually, I guess osteoporosis would be rare in a child if it were the only thing going on with him, but I think almost every child who does not walk winds up with a problem in this regard. The other problem Nathan had was the deficiency of copper in his bones. Copper is essential to strong bones. Nathan's bones were eggshell-thin. He had his first fracture when he was about 4. He was lying on the floor beside me, and I wanted him on my lap. I reached over and picked him up. As I pulled him over onto my lap, his heel brushed across my leg. I heard a SNAP! and he started crying inconsolably. An x-ray confirmed a fractured femur. I was just sick. I couldn't believe it, and was not prepared for that to be a problem with him. For several months I was so sad...I don't think I really felt guilt... I realized what an accident it was...the problem I was having is that I was afraid it would happen every time we did anything with him. What about therapy? Could we no longer hug him? What about letting his sister and brother play with him? I didn't want him to be a "no-no baby" for them. Most of all, I was afraid of hurting him again myself. It took a couple of months, and finally I started to realize that what he really loved was being held and touched, and that he was going to need that to maintain his quality of life. He would continue to get broken bones, but the most important thing in his life was to maintain his happiness and joy. If we pulled back he wouldn't have that. I just had to get over my fear. Over the years he had more fractures. Not as many as you might think, but enough. Among others, he had a broken clavicle, several broken arms, and a fracture just below his knee--the only one that didn't heal completely straight. I don't even remember how many he had, and it's probably likely we didn't know about all of them, either. One blessing, if he had to have such fragile bones, was that they healed remarkably fast. Because the bone layer was so thin, most healed within two to three weeks. We tried to remember to be careful and not move Nathan quickly, or in an unnatural position, but other than that we just did our best. Therapists were nervous about it, but I always told them to just do what needed to be done. He needed the movement and therapy, and it was worth the risks. One day, about 5 years ago, we went to a restaurant. We usually took Nathan into restaurants in his carseat, and Kraig would carry him in. He unfastened the carseat, and as he turned the seat to the side to slide it out, Nathan's foot brushed the back of the seat in front of him. He started crying piteously, and I knew his leg was broken. I told Kraig, and he thought not. We went into the restaurant after he settled down a bit, but he continued to cry on and off. So...another trip to the doctor, and of course his leg was broken. Kraig was really depressed about it. I tried to tell him it was just an accident, and it was just his luck that this time HE was the one responsible. I'd done it a couple of times, and he'd had several spontaneous breaks. Nothing I said helped, and he wouldn't touch Nathan. He was so afraid he'd hurt him. One night, just a couple of days after this incident, Kraig had a dream. In his dream, he had died and gone to Heaven. Nathan was already there, and they were hugging and talking. Kraig always "temperature checks" with all of us--"How am I doing? Can I do better?" etc. etc. Well, he asked Nathan if he'd been a good father to him, and how he could have done better. Nathan told him he'd been a wonderful father, but he said "Remember that time you broke my leg? You stopped touching me, and I really wish you hadn't done that." Kraig woke up crying and crying, and he went to Nathan. He woke him up and held him, rocked him, and told him he was so sorry, and that he'd never stop touching him again. Kraig said God taught him a very valuable lesson that night. It's helped him in our life after Nathan, to continue to reach out to people, to help and try to touch them, and not worry about getting hurt. Because we WILL get hurt sometimes, but it's never worth cutting off that contact with others. For those of you who are struggling with guilt, try to remember this story as a little reminder that you are doing your best. Your child knows that, and needs you. You just have to be careful, and beyond that, there's nothing you can do. Jennifer Emilie (19, NDA, univ. soph), Matthew (14, ADD, computer whiz) and our littlest love, Nathan, in Heaven Nov.20, 1995 (14, MenkesDisease, seizures, g-tube, cath, profoundly disabled, etc...forever he will be the sunshine of our hearts. ~our-kids outreach~Kraig and Jennifer Saks Portland,OR USA