Posted by Magen Phillips on May 01, 2015
Parker is an energetic, blonde haired, little boy. Just like many boys his age in Vermont, Parker enjoys skiing, bike rides, grass-stained jeans, and his new puppy Bailey. During the summer of 2014 this perfectly healthy heart-throb of a boy was crippled with abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss. By the end of summer all of these horrible symptoms culminated in a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at the blissfully innocent age of 7. As his family was coming to grips with life with a chronic incurable illness, Parker’s symptoms got worse. He was quickly admitted to the University of Vermont Medical Center and received his first dose of infusion medications to fight Crohn’s.
“I don't want this for him, there must be a mistake, Parker is my rock” his Mom, Keri remembers thinking. “As a parent you go through the motions and the emotions of a diagnosis. I think the hardest moment for me as a mom, was being strong in front of him, for him, and the family, and then breaking down when I was alone. I remember one moment, late at night in the hospital walking down the hallway of the children's floor, and I stopped. I could barely walk any further. I had to keep telling myself, one step at a time, whatever it takes to move, feeling so isolated and alone, and from that moment on, that has been my motto. One moment at a time, one day at a time, and one step at a time, to just keep moving forward.”
After three long days as an inpatient at the UVM Children’s Hospital, Parker was discharged. He almost literally rode his scooter right out of the hospital. With a huge smile painted on his face, you could almost see the shackles of illness begin to release their grip. The energetic little boy that they knew was coming back to the surface with every giggle that squeaked out of him, and they kept moving forward – one step at a time.
As the ICN Improvement Coordinator here in Vermont, I first met Parker just a few weeks after his diagnosis. He was getting an infusion and I had come to talk with his family about ImproveCareNow. Whenever I approach patients and families about ImproveCareNow, my wish is that they will see this Network as a glimmer of hope in what is most likely a very dark place, and ultimately that they will want to get more involved.
Through the icy grip of winter, Keri and Parker continued coming to the Children’s Hospital every 8 weeks for infusions. During one of these otherwise uneventful visits, Keri asked about becoming more involved with Parker’s care. Although this question is short in length and easily rolls off the tongue, I feel it is one of the most powerful questions a family can ask. That uneventful visit ultimately lead to one of the most engaging and empowering conversations and relationships that either of us had experienced in a long time. Personally, I don’t think either of us could have ever imagined what was waiting just around the corner. It wasn’t what we were expecting but was exactly what we were hoping for, and certainly something we weren’t going to say no too. This project with Keri has evolved over time and has been a huge learning experience for everyone, but we’re going to keep moving forward – together – one step at a time.
I look forward to sharing more with you as our relationship, and indeed our adventure, unfolds.