The good news is that my son, David, now 37, is an amazing, well-adjusted adult. The bad news is that he had to overcome severe and consistent adversity to get there.
He started life as a preemie. He was born eight and a half weeks early, at 4 pounds 2 ounces, with Hyalin Membrane disease – his lungs weren’t working. At 36 hours old, his lung collapsed and had to be surgically re-inflated. He spent one week on oxygen and six weeks in an incubator before he could come home at 4 pounds 15 ounces. I got to watch his eyebrows and eyelashes grow in!
He had an amazing disposition as a child. He was happy, outgoing and friendly. But he was also hyperactive. He had behavior problems at school from day one. Teachers didn’t know what to do with this delightful kid who couldn’t sit still or keep his mouth shut and was often a distraction to the other kids.
At nine and a half years old, David had a tonsillectomy. The anesthesia didn’t work properly and he woke up during surgery. He was totally paralyzed but he could see and hear everything going on around him! This was a traumatic enough event to trigger PTSD. He was never the same after he came out of that surgery. One child went in and a different child came out. It was that dramatic!
David started getting sick all the time and missed a lot of school. His behavior problems got worse. The private schools in New York City didn’t have the resources, or the interest in dealing with children with ‘issues’. We moved to Connecticut and put the kids into a public school. This school had a Special Ed Department, a school psychologist and a Guidance Counselor , all of whom tried to help David as best they could.
David was diagnosed with ADHD. The only medication of the day for ADHD, Ritalin, had terrible side effects for him so he had to stop taking it. We tried numerous other drugs and therapies and some helped a little but not much.
David was also diagnosed with learning disabilities. And he had mood swings. He could function adequately for a while but then he would crash and not want to get out of bed or go to school. Everything was a struggle for him. His school years were a nightmare for the whole family.He somehow made it through High School, with the highest absentee record his school had ever seen. He went to a wonderful two-year college called Landmark, which is specifically for kids with various learning and behavior problems. For the first time, David was taught how to manage his ADHD and his learning disabilities. He was given the tools to help him handle his work and regulate his behavior. Landmark was a wonderful and transformative experience for David.
At 23, while finishing the remaining two years of college, his kidneys began to fail. He took a year off from school to recuperate. During this time, David taught himself about the stock market and switched his major from education to business. He graduated college and became a financial analyst, and is now also a portfolio manager.
At one point he had to be rushed to the hospital in kidney failure. He was told that his condition was chronic and that his kidneys would continue to fail until he needed a kidney transplant. His kidneys didn’t hit bottom till he was 32. But it was pretty rough on the way down. On April 12, 2012, I donated a kidney to him.
Unfortunately, David is still not symptom free. He has side effects from the immune suppressants which all transplant recipients must take to avoid organ rejection. In addition, his kidney is not functioning at full capacity, so he has days when all he can do is sleep.
Fortunately, his attitude is amazingly positive. He is grateful to be alive. He uses every day to fight his demons and make a happy and productive life for himself and his loved ones. He is one of the most self-aware people I know. He had to fight to get here, but the fight itself is part of what has made him into the person he is – caring and empathetic, upbeat and funny, loyal and giving. I could go on and on.
He says that he wouldn’t change anything in his life, however awful much of it was. Because that was the path he had to take to get him to the wonderful place he’s in now. I would love to be able to change his past, but I wouldn’t change a thing about who he is now and where he is in life.