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November 1999

 

Last Word

Someone To Look Up To... - John Milton Fogg

Fogg The older I get, the more I seek out extraordinary stories of ordinary people. (Too many years in Network Marketing.) What I like about them is how they move-- as in motivate-- me. This one arrived all by itself from Upline Subscriber Matt Patterson. There's a great lesson in it-- a number of them, actually. But I don't care all that much about that-- the instruction bit. I'm just addicted to being moved, touched on the heart. That's when I feel the most alive.

You, too?

Fine. Here...

Almost 12 years ago, I became a father for the first time. We had a daughter and named her Emily.

When "M&Ms" was born, my wife Bonnie and I were obviously very proud. We made the initial excited phone calls to family and friends, but suddenly "Life" threw us a curveball that we weren't looking for.

While in the birthing room and being a worry-wart first-time father, I'd wanted to ask if "everything was, you know, all right." Most parents want to know if their newborn is healthy, both physically and mentally. But sometimes we just don't know how to ask. I didn't.

The following morning we were told that Emily was born with Down syndrome, a genetic chromosomal disorder.

As time passed, our lives changed no more than that of any other couple experiencing the trials and tribulations of parenthood. Emily was your typical little one. She got into everything. She also loved anything and everything that had the likeness of Mickey Mouse on it.

Of course, she had many of the physical characteristics associated with Down syndrome, such as slightly slanted eyes, some chubbyness around the cheeks, belly and hands, plus her muscle tone was quite weak. But her motor skills were quite good and she was only a few months behind children her age that were considered "normal."

Although she didn't have the capabilities that other children her age had, she did possess two characteristics that many Down children are blessed with-- a never-ending smile and a heart so very full of love.

To be honest, we felt very lucky and blessed to have her.

One evening, while still serving in the Air Force, my wife and I were attending an awards banquet. At this stage, Emily had just turned 2. This would be the first time we would leave her with a baby-sitter.

Everything went pretty smoothly. It was a long night and it was close to midnight when we got home. I went to check on Emily just to make sure she was covered and okay.

She was running a very high fever. We took her to the base hospital and figured the normal Tylenol and antibiotics would be prescribed and we'd soon be on our way home. We would never leave the hospital that night.

After a couple of blood tests showed some very abnormal numbers, it was revealed to us that our daughter had leukemia.

The next morning, Emily and I were flown to an Air Force medical center in Mississippi that was equipped with a pediatric oncology unit. We were scared beyond belief. Any parent would be.

I didn't think she'd live through the flight. Tubes were stuck everywhere and she had an oxygen mask on her face. I thought I was going to watch my daughter die on an airplane, but she didn't. This was the first of many battles she would win in her war with this disease.

Our family was reassigned to the base in Biloxi and thus began a seven-month lesson in the reality of Life.

Doctors acted quickly. She started a 100-day course of chemotherapy that would not only make her long blonde locks fall to her bedside, but would also leave blisters on her esophagus, lips and throughout the interior of her mouth. The chemo made her vomit and caused continual pain. She would look at her mom and me, crying for help, but there was only so much we could do to comfort her. At times we felt so helpless. That made it all the more agonizing for us.

"M&Ms" became the floor favorite among the nurses and medical assistants. The majority of them would make their rounds to collect their morning kisses and high-fives.

At the 100-day mark, Emily would be checked to see if she was in remission. We were told if her body had not defeated the disease at this point, she would more than likely lose her fight in this war which only allows one loss.

She won this battle. We were told her leukemia was in remission. We celebrated big-- chicken nuggets and fries-- one of her favorites.

A couple of months passed and things were going pretty well until I got a phone call at work. My wife was crying and told me to get home immediately. Emily was sick-- very sick.

We rushed her to the emergency room. There we were told that the leukemia had returned. Emily had relapsed.

Plans were quickly being made for a bone marrow transplant. Lauren, our newborn (now ten), was an exact donor match. The plan was to give Emily even heavier doses of chemotherapy to rid her body of any leukemia and rush her to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore (my hometown) for the transplant.

But the increased doses of chemo were just too much. Emily began to lose the final battle in her war.

Almost every night, starting from day one when we brought her home as a newborn, I would rock Emily to sleep in a rocking chair. It was something we looked forward to. It was our special time together. This night would be no different.

Emily died in my arms as I was holding and rocking her.

The impact that Emily had, not only on my family's life, but on the many others she came in contact with was remarkable.

Nurses would come to her room after their 12-hour shifts and spend almost all of their off-duty time helping to comfort her when she was in intensive care. The doctors, nurses and assistants not only lost a patient, but a close friend-- a sister of sorts. For someone so small, she had a heck of a lot of fight. But more importantly she was filled with a great deal of love.

For those of you who are searching for someone to look up to, just try looking over your shoulder. It could be a brother, sister, cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, preacher, teacher or parent.

A role model doesn't have to wear a certain sneaker. They don't have to hit home runs or have a 40-inch vertical leap. Big bank accounts, expensive cars, clothes, and lavish homes do not necessarily represent the true meaning of success or happiness.

I'm fortunate. I didn't have to look far for my hero.

Neither should you.

Indeed!

-- JMF

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Reprinted with permission from Upline, Last Word - November 1999, 888-UPLINE-1, http://www.upline.com

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