Wednesday, April 30, 2014

this post is dedicated to you…


This post is for every mother who has sat next to her child’s hospital bed, sick with worry and praying that their surgery will be successful.

It’s a post for all those mothers and fathers who have spent sleepless nights inside a cramped, semi-dark hospital room tending to their child after surgery. Vigilant and alert. Measuring the days by the number of pain pills that were needed. While watching their child’s heartbeat move like a slow steady, gasp beneath the translucent skin stretched across their chest.

This post for all those young, self-conscious boys who dream of having a normal looking chest.



During his freshman year in high school, my youngest son announced to us that he wanted to have surgery to repair his indented chest, a condition called Pectus Excavatum.



Even though we knew he had inherited this condition (my Dad has a less severe case), we always considered it more of a small, idiosyncratic trait than a physical problem.

Not only were we surprised to learn that our 15 year old had already done his research on the types of surgical procedures available to remedy his condition. We were shocked when we accompanied him to the specialist and watched him remove his shirt.

Up to that point, we had no idea that the hollow space in his chest had continued to deepen throughout puberty, and that his physical endurance and breathing were now being compromised on the playing field.

Somehow we had never questioned the fact that we never saw him shirtless. We missed the subtle ways that he had kept his chest hidden from view. And his self-conscious feelings tucked inside.


On our vacation with family friends, Michael was already beginning to ‘hide’ his chest.

To make a long story short, Michael elected to undergo what is considered to be one of the most painful childhood surgeries there is, the month before his sophomore year in high school.

Because the surgery required that he have a bar inside his chest for a year, it meant giving up his soccer and lacrosse sports and most important, it meant missing out on the precious high school experiences that accompany team sports, the camaraderie with team-mates, the sense of belonging, and the overflow of extracurricular activities.

If your child plays team sports you know the social world that comes along with it. And as a mother, I privately ached for him.

When he left the hospital he had 119 pounds on his weakened, six foot frame and as it turns out, during his next two years of rehab I became his partner in recovery. We spent endless hours sitting together in waiting rooms. We drove back and forth to doctor appointments, seeking second opinions for an unexpected complication. Together, we peeked over the doctor’s scale hoping for weight gain. And we counted off the days and weeks before the doctor gave his ok for Michael’s return to weight lifting.

When Michael finally began his relentless trips to the gym, he told us later that he had lost so much muscle; he would need to lower the weights even after the women were done using the machines


Eventually, like so many new beginnings, he found his way into rowing by pure necessity. He needed a new non-contact sport and the Sacramento State Aquatic Center was right next to our home.

As luck would have it, he fell in love with an endurance sport that would slowly build his body and his confidence. Parents of rowers know all about the grueling, daily work-outs and the necessity of a strong body.

Fast forward a few years.


Last weekend we picked up Patrick from school and went to watch Michael’s boat row at the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships. His boat has had an incredibly successful year, consistently beating their college competition and was ranked #1 entering this Regatta.

However, in the final race they came in second place.

Although they qualified for the Nationals next month, by the looks on their faces and by their own expectations there was nothing to celebrate. It was considered a disappointing loss.


But afterwards, when I watched Michael standing over the boat discussing the race with his team-mates, my focus wasn’t simply on this single race, as big and as important as it was.

Perhaps mothers have a unique perspective in times like these. But I find it impossible not to see faint images from the past superimposed over his big body and to remember where we’ve come from. Embedded in my warm, fuzzy memories are also those worried, sick feelings from the hospital days. Those memories of a fragile body and clothes that hung from a skinny frame. And missed parties and games.

So even though Michael’s body may have healed… my mother’s heart will never be the same.

I will never forget those dark times and I’m glad I won’t. Because it keeps me grateful for the most ordinary moments. Like the joy of watching my son gliding across the water on a sun-drenched day with a body that is strong and healthy.

I see his determination and his work ethic and yes, I now realize that something powerful and good came out of all those difficult months.

But don’t misunderstand, I’m not implying that everything’s “perfect.” Because that’s not real life.

Real life (and real courage) is about keeping up our hope day-to day.

If you are struggling in some way, or if you have a child that is hobbling along though a tough time, I hope you find hope in this post. It’s dedicated to you.











Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Wow Leslie, what a moving post! You have a very special young man there, but you already know that. Michael made a difficult decision at a young age, but clearly he was ready and determined to do the work required to regain his health and strength. He knew he could do hard things and he did. And standing right there next to him was his very special momma!

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Great post and your son is quite handsome!

Calypso In The Country said...

Leslie, you have a very brave son and you must be a strong mom to have gone through that. Thanks for sharing your very inspirational story. Life is never perfect but being able to be thankful for every moment we have with our children makes it all worth it! It looks like I will spend a little extra time with my boys tomorrow since we have a 2 hour school delay due to flooded roads. It's a monsoon out there!
Take care - Shelley

Sarah said...

Another inspiring post, my friend. I'm glad Michael's journey was one of success. Hard work and determination pays off. He is one handsome guy, too!

Linda said...

Wow!! I know what you went through. Our middle son was hospitalized at a very earl age to have his skull reformed. A birth defect. Now he is a very handsome outgoing man, just like your son. Thanks for this great post.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing this very moving post. How very brave Michael is. You must be so proud of him. Hope all is well with you. xoJennifer

Unknown said...

Such a heartwarming post, Leslie...your son looks every bit the athlete now and the last photograph of him has been captured to perfection...did you take it? xx

Pam Kessler said...

Great post, Leslie. How brave of your son to have made the decision to have the surgery and endure the recovery so well. It sounds painful to just think about it. And I am so glad he found another sport he could submerse himself in. My son is starting a special baseball league this Saturday and I'm so excited for him to get to meet some new kids and enjoy some camaraderie.

Art and Sand said...

You didn't mention the early morning practices on the cold water.

I am so glad that Michael found a sport to be involved in because it is hard to watch an athlete be sidelined. Steve and I walked on the perfect beach on this HOT day and he looked wistfully at the few men out in the water surfing. His two shoulder surgeries keep him from surgery - the doctor fears him falling and breaking his replacement parts.

You are such supportive parents and it is no wonder that Michael overcame his issues with sure determination.

Karen said...

Thank you for sharing this. Your son is brave and strong for making the difficult decision to go forward with what sounds like, a grueling procedure. I have 2 adult male friends who were rowers in college and still, at their (our) age, enjoy the sport.
Such a wonderful reminder of life's ups and downs.

Carla from The River said...

Thank you. What a strong young man you have. Not only to make a decision like he did. But to WORK so hard after.
Great inspiration!
Thank you.
xx oo

Custom Comforts said...

You write so eloquently and with such wisdom that only comes with experience. I always love reading your posts as they always inspire me to think and examine life. Thanks for all you share.

karen@somewhatquirky said...

Yours is a special story. Isn't it amazing that our children learn and grow in so many ways that are better than anything that we can plan for them.

Jeanne Henriques said...

Dear Leslie..

What an amazing son you have, to have made that decision early on and steer you both towards the surgery. It has been a long road with what looks to be a wonderful outcome.

Your gorgeous boy is realising the dream he had all those years ago. What a relief to have it behind him rather than facing him with a busy future ahead of him. Not an easy decision to make but to look at him seems to have been the best all around.

As always, you tell your story with grace and eloquence... it is heartfelt and strong. Having been a rowing parent of three of my four children (my husband is a rower)..I can totally relate. We have one more child to go, at 14 he is nearly 6' husband is beside himself!

Row On!..wishing your son many success's in life.

Jeanne xx

Leslie said...

Leslie.. once a mom, always a mom. I don't think we can forget what we have experienced raising our children. I've had my share of issues as well and my heart holds those thoughts. It's a mark that will always be there and no one gets it until they experience it. Your son.. handsome young man with so much ahead. You must be so proud! What a difficult and mature decision he made at such a young age and now.. he is thriving. good for him:)


Van@Luxuria said...

Wow Leslie! What a moving post. Not being a mother myself I guess i can never really know the pain you have gone through. But I felt your pain and Michael's resilience in every every word you wrote. I can just tell how proud you are of him and the painful scars you still carry are just a gentle reminder of what you have gone through xx
p.s what a "chunk of hunk" ;-)

cindy hattersley design said...

Oh Leslie this is such a lovely post. My daughter, a promising water polo player had a bad car accident the spring of her junior year and broke her neck. Water Polo was her life. That summer was the summer that all of the coaches would be watching. She was unable to get back into the water until late September. Her options were limited. She went on to play for a really good club team in college. She didn't have her spark. Finally her senior year of college she got back her game. The learning experience (such as your sons) was worth four years of playing at a great college. That experience taught her a lot about life. Hooray for your son and for his mom for standing by him!!!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Leslie, the perseverance and HOPE that it takes to see a child through such dark times...and come out BRIGHT with not just hope, but FULL of miraculous reality. What a journey, but bravo to all who continue to work toward building the strength it takes to carry on and LIVE FULLY! And I thank you so much for coming to visit and leave a message. Much love to you, Anita

Leslie Harris said...

OH Cindy. What a emotional journey you’ve been through. A broken neck? Oh my god, I can only imagine the rehab your daughter went through to even get back into the pool, let alone return to her former glory. What a test of her character and you also must be so incredibly proud. As mothers I think it helps so much to hear these kind of stories in which our kids weather their storms. I know what you mean about the inner strength that is gained too, I’m sure your daughter and Michael now have a certain confidence that will carry them through the ups and downs of their lives. Thank you for sharing this, looks like we have another experience in common.

Unknown said...

Leslie dear-I am just catching up today and am touched by the inspiration of this post. Despite the loss of the race there is also so much gain in the health and wholeness that now exists. As a mother you will never forget that time of worry and care....and this post is a beautiful reminder. I enjoy your blog tremendously girlfriend.
xx, Heather

chillcat said...

I dread anything to do with children suffering. When I was fourteen we had a car accident where my eight-year-old cousin died so I cope really badly with car-related worry. Fast forward to late last year when it comes out that my daughter was in a car written off by a brief friend, in Brussels ie her father's stamping ground. And I wasn't told ! They knew I would crack up, so daughter and ex decided not to tell. Of course I went even more crazy. And felt robbed and sidelined and hopelessly inadequate.
I think that the pain and worry you are still holding onto all these years on is something we need to experience, it's the twisted sort of reality of motherhood that penetrates so deep.
Thanks for a wonderful, thoughtful post. Xcat

Leena Milligan Lanteigne said...

Hi Leslie! What a beautiful post of courage, love and dedication! The maturity of your son to take on such a painful surgery at such a young age is inspirational! I am so glad that it went well and that he has now found a new sport that he can excel in! The hardest thing for a parent is to see their child in pain, be it physical or emotional. Your love made all the difference in giving him the strength to keep going when I'm sure he had moments of doubt and weariness. Thank you for sharing this experience. Hugs, Leena

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...