In Memory Of
In Memory of My Son
My son Calvin came into my life when he was two years old. He was a foster child who was born with Kostmann's Neutropenia, a fatal bone marrow defect. Children with KN rarely lived beyond six years of age due to their high risk of serious infections, which their bodies cannot fight. He was termed "unadoptable"--but I'd waited all my life to adopt (as a single parent/nurse), had just finished adopting my first son at age 8 (Jason has CP) and I was determined I was going to adopt Calvin too.
His health was stable until he turned five, when he was hospitalized with asthma; he recovered from that okay, but a month later developed an ulcer which would not heal, even though he was hospitalized on IV antibiotics immediately. He went into the hospital in March 1988 and was in almost continuously until December 1988, finally the last few months being sustained on daily blood transfusions. I spent the year both praying for a miracle and praying for the strength to survive losing him. I was finally able to finalize his adoption that year, although I had to take him out on a pass from the hospital to do it.
In November 1988 he turned six--and the next month we were sent to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in NY to enroll him in an investigational drug program specifically for kids with KN. He started the injections (similar to receiving insulin--the missing protein needed to enable his immune system) on December 9, 1988, when his neutrophil blood count was 0-4 as usual. By Christmas, he had a normal neutrophil count, which he maintained on the injections for the rest of his life. It was like our own personal miracle.
When he was eight, however, he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, which explained his sometimes erratic and out-of-control behaviors. Eventually he developed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and at times bordered on schizophrenia. By the time he was nine, he was almost impossible for me to deal with and was becoming abusive to the younger kids (I'd by then adopted his baby sister and a 5 yr old boy with CP from NY--our souvenir of NYC)! Calvin was in and out of several psychiatric admissions, and finally spent 14 months in treatment foster care. It's probably hard to imagine, but for me, those months were more difficult that his death--to have someone else take over, parent him, make all the decisions, basically tell me I was no longer a part of his life--it was a horrible year, for me. For him, he did okay, the home was good and good to him, and eventually he re-stabilized and came home.
He was 10 when he went into foster care and 11 when he came home. He attended a day treatment program for fifth and sixth grade, was happy, stable, finally had a really good friend, Brian, who lived in the apartment above us, and things were AT LAST going our way again. The week after he finished sixth grade he was at a friend's overnight (a day after a check-up at the Dr.). It seemed like he had the flu, so they drove him home. He seizured on the way home, collapsed on the front walk, was barely conscious by the time the paramedics arrived, and died in ICU two days later of acute heart failure. He'd had EKGs through the treatment program--"every test know to man" through all his hospitalizations etc, and his heart was one thing that was never a concern. No cause of his heart failure was ever determined.
Brian told me after he died that he'd said once, "I just need to go home to heaven. I'm afraid I'll hurt someone and not be able to stop." Now I feel that the Lord took him home when life here was no longer safe for him. Watching the news, seeing what other parents must suffer when their sons do harm to others, I think, yes, as difficult as this was, this may be the grace of God. Calvin gifted me with so much--his warmth, his trust, his smile, his laugh, his strong faith, the great love he had for me and for all of us. His best friend Brian still comes over and watches every NBA game with Jason, who is 24 now. Calvin's spirit fills our home and I feel that more than anyone on earth, he has changed my life forever.
Carol A. Ranney