Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Death at Ten

Roo at Five

Roo was five years old when we headed to a summer family reunion. With both my boys being special needs, I didn’t let them run around on their own. Other, older, wiser family members said they would be fine playing with the other kids. I nervously let go and took a deep breath. I joined in the adult activities and started to relax. Little did I know, five years later my family would still be paying for not keeping the boys close at hand.

Oh, we had a great time at the reunion. I had thought everything had gone well. There weren’t any incidences with my kids that I had heard about, and I enjoyed seeing all the relatives. Both of my boys were diagnosed as speech-delayed around two-years-old, and they both still struggle to express themselves. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t heard about what happened at the reunion or even months later.

Roo’s sixth birthday neared. He started having anxiety attacks. I thought he was anxious about his birthday. I tried to talk to him, but the communication didn’t go well. He brought up the family reunion from a year ago, but I didn’t understand what he was going on about.

Another year passed. His seventh birthday. He hadn’t really talked about the family reunion but he brought it up as his birthday neared. Odd. He had sessions with a licensed clinical social worker. I mentioned the reunion and how he brought it up around his birthday. Why would he be upset? The therapist tried to talk to him with me out of the room. After, he agreed that Roo seemed troubled but he wasn’t clear enough to know why there was an issue.

Roo’s eighth birthday came. He had started to dig and injure the skin around his fingers until they bled. He’d dug at them so much, he deformed his nail beds. Therapy continued on a regular basis, but his anxiety continued to escalate. By now, he was seeing a speech-language pathologist in school. He had started to communicate more effectively.

My husband and I sat down with him to discuss the reunion, his feelings, and what might have happened. It wasn’t easy. Emotions were high. The events didn’t come in order. It took hours to finally piece together what had actually happened. To our dismay, we learned that the group of kids he had been playing with told him he would die on his tenth birthday because he drank bad water from the drinking fountain at the campground where the reunion was held.

Unbelievable! Could he really believe that it would take five years for him to die? My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. We tried to explain to him that he was fine. The water he drank wouldn’t kill him five years later!

No. He was certain he would die on his tenth birthday. Time after time, we discussed the impossibility of that happening, but we couldn’t convince him otherwise. We had many sessions with his therapist and therapists to follow. Roo was convinced he would die the day of his tenth birthday.

Honestly, it was hard to understand why he would believe these young cousins and relatives who he hardly knew rather than his own parents and therapists who had had training in dealing with children who had anxiety disorder, but he did.

The demons continued. His ninth birthday came and went with much anxiety.

I still can’t wrap my mind around how he could believe something would happen five years after the fact. I later learned that situations in his mind are blown up enough to cause him post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. With Roo, the actual event might not be terrifying, but in his mind, it becomes absolutely petrifying.

His ninth year was riddled with emotional issues, behavioral problems, anxiety, damaged fingers and bitten and bruised lips. The number of therapy sessions increased but did little good.

Roo at Ten

The night before his tenth birthday, he was inconsolable. He knew he would die. The kids had told him so…five years ago. He believed that if he stayed awake, he wouldn’t die. He forced himself to stay awake and stay up all night moving and pacing and worrying and crying.

What can a parent do but to help their child through a traumatic event like this? Yes, I was angry…angry that this incident happened, but I realized those kids had no idea what they had caused. How could I be mad at them? I was angry at Roo. How could he believe those kids and carry it with him for five years? But, that wasn’t his fault either. I was angry at the therapists. Didn’t they have some idea how to have helped him through this ordeal over the last five years? But, how often had they dealt with a situation like this? It seemed surreal that something like this could happen.

The night wore on. The sun started to rise. I had to find a paper bag for Roo to breathe into so he wouldn’t hyperventilate. There was no consoling him. He screamed he didn’t want to die, over and over again. All we could do is try to comfort him and wait for the day to be over. A day that should have been joyful but turned into an emotional nightmare.

He lived.

Is he still traumatized at times? Very much so. Has he experienced PTSD over other situations? You bet. But, nothing as colossal or over such a long period of time. It’s something the whole family still feels on an exhausting level.

Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at: http://www.dragonflyromance.com

Photos are the property of C A Christiansen and cannot be reproduced.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Christmas Past

With the recent auto/pedestrian accident of my youngest son’s girlfriend, it brings to mind another Christmas…

The snow laid over the city in a thick, lumpy blanket of pure white. Snowplows had done their job and left a pile of snow deep on the sides of the roads while vehicle exhaust left them covered in black, reminding passersby of coal and thoughts of naughty or nice. Christmas Eve had come. Lights on houses twinkled in the magic of red and green. Party-goers were rushing home to prepare for Santa to come.

Gloriously, my brother had come home that Christmas on leave from the army. Excitement filled our home to have him with us at this special time. He decided to spend the evening with a few old friends to catch up on all that had taken place in his absence. He’d sold his old Plymouth car when he’d went in the military, so he decided to walk and use his thumb. After all, his friend didn’t live far.

The bitter-cold, below-freezing air stung his face as he left his friends to rush home to us and what was left of the special night. He scurried along the road, trying to stay out of the path of cars and fighting for a path along the piles of plowed snow. His lungs ached from the cold. He wrapped his green, wool coat a little tighter around him and increased his step.

Do you really remember the moment of impact? Or do you imagine it in your head after someone has told you the millionth time in the hospital?

The snow had started to fall again that Christmas Eve. Randy was walking down the street when a drunk driver hit him from behind. The car’s antenna broke as he was thrown up and over the car. It ripped him down the back, through the buttocks and down his leg. Massive breaks. Massive injuries.  Massive bleeding.

The car screeched to a stop, and then bolted down the road in the falling snow. Who knows how long my brother laid there, bleeding and injured. Not a Christian soul stopped to help. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in a pool of blood-covered snow. He couldn’t stand. He couldn’t walk. With missing eyeglasses, he could barely make out a moving shadow at the window of a nearby house. He dragged himself up the driveway, up the few steps and banged on the bottom of the door, all the while as someone watched from the window.

They didn’t open the door. They didn’t welcome in the injured soul bleeding to death, if not for the bitter cold that stopped his blood from flowing so quickly. They called the police; not an ambulance.

Randy lie there with the snow falling thicker and thicker, in and out of consciousness. Halfway here; halfway there. Waiting. Floating. Pain. Cold. Wet. Frightened, I’d imagine.

The police finally came after a difficult slick drive and assessed the situation. They called for an ambulance that also struggled to arrive on the slick roads.

My brother was not to return to the military. He spent many months in the hospital after blood transfusions and surgeries and casts. I remember that next summer as he laid on a cot on our front lawn, still healing, still unable to walk. I was told that he might never walk again. He did, but only out of sheer determination. Many of his dreams went unfulfilled.

Need I say it? Take driving seriously; seriously drive. And, do the Christ-like thing and help others.

Oh, and how did I know it was a drunk driver? Eventually, a woman came back to see what had happened. Her husband was the hit-and-run driver, and he already had three DUIs. He didn’t want to get caught. All in all, there was nothing the police could do because he had left the scene.

Be safe, my friends, and remember the reason for the season,


Cindy A. Christiansen
Sweet Romance, Humor, Suspense...and Dogs!
Fly into a good book at: http://www.dragonflyromance.com

Copyright of winter scene: byrdyak / 123RF Stock Photo