Oct. 6, 2010
Miracles Really Do Happen;
They Come in Different Ways
By Duane C. Slocum
It was a warm August 1999 evening in Colorado Springs with only a hint of the coming fall season in the air. The leaves had not yet begun to change colors, especially those in our backyard. There was no indication of a frantic phone call, which set forth a chain of events to change the lives of our entire family.
As the phone rang, a nervous voice from my wife, Bobbie, said, “Karen has gone into emergency labor and they think the baby is coming now.” Normally such a phone call would not be a reason to panic, except our daughter-in-law was only 26 weeks into her pregnancy. Needless to say, I sailed through the Colo. Springs’ streets towards Memorial Hospital.
Shortly after arriving, we learned the umbilical cord had collapsed within the placenta, which was slowing down the oxygen and nourishment to the unborn child. Nurses were scrambling to keep Karen stable while a frantic call was made to call to a surgeon for an emergency C-section.
Forty minutes later, after a lack of oxygen, the tiny newborn arrived, weighing only 2 lbs 2 oz. She was wrinkled, red and so tiny. The neonatal staff worked quickly to get her breathing. Camryn Elizabeth Slocum arrived into mortality, much to the relief of our family, who were all gathered in the waiting room. That relief was short lived as they wheeled Camryn and then Karen into a larger room to join the rest of the family.
“It is likely this baby will not live through the night. We want the family to have a chance to see and touch her”, came the somber words from the doctor. “Oh, please don’t rub her skin, which is very thin and will tear.” Thus began a time of sobs and tears as the family gathered around the small bed to touch and bond with Camryn.
(Insert pic of Camryn 1 day old)
As the Patriarch of the family and her grandfather, I was asked to give Camryn a Priesthood blessing. Never in my life have I been as scared and frightened as I place just two fingers on each hand on that tiny head. In the blessing I reminded Camryn “she was sent into mortality and this family for a purpose; that she needed to fight to survive the trials of mortality and her Heavenly Father would watch over her this night.”
After the blessing and kisses on the hands and head of that tiny infant, the family was sent home as nothing else could be done. The neonatal staff was going to take Camryn into their unit and families were not allowed into that sterile area. With heavy hearts and many hugs, our family went home, expecting a dreaded phone call. Nothing came and several of us were back at Memorial to find Camryn hooked to tubes and machines to keep the oxygen flowing, while making the lungs expand with the lung machine.
Thus began almost three months of the Memorial neonatal being home to Camryn. Bobbie was there every day around 10 a.m. to relieve Karen. Camryn’s Mom was an active duty Air Force officer. I was working full time at SCI Systems heading up their Human Resource functions. Bobbie was the one constant in those early days of Camryn’s life.
After a week, Bobbie would sit in a rocking chair and the nurse would put Camryn in her arms so the newborn would feel and hear the connection. Bobbie told us, “One day a couple weeks later, I came in as I did each day and checked to see the readings on all her monitors. Then as I began saying good morning to Camryn, her heart rate and blood pressure numbers began to rise. She knew my voice and I began to cry for joy. I told the nurse, I think she knows I am her Grandma. The nurse replied, I don’t think she knows you are her Grandma, but she sure knows you are her person.”
Camryn came home a few days before Thanksgiving, weighing just over 5 lbs. She still needed an external oxygen tube, was on a heart monitor and doctors had surgically implanted a feeding tube directly into the stomach. We didn’t care as Camryn was home and we could all begin to hold her and talk with her. During this time, Camryn was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Karen used her persuasive powers to get Camryn released from the hospital.
Fast forward to her 1 year-old birthday, August 30, 2000. Camryn could not talk, walk, eat, sit up or even roll over. We took pictures and it was apparent; Camryn could not even smile for her pictures or enjoy her gifts. Karen and Bobbie, with us having raised four children and having 12 grandchildren by that time, decided this was not acceptable.
For the next year, Bobbie and Karen massaged her facial muscles and throat area. Babies who never nurse, suck from a bottle or use a pacifier don't learn to use those face and swallowing muscles. Hours and hours were spent massaging tiny hands, arms and feet; so as to teach Camryn how to sit up, then to roll over and then to crawl. The best time of all was when Camryn could stand up by herself. We cheered and made a big deal of her taking just a few steps.
The next 10 years were climaxed by Camryn turning 11 and being in the 5th grade at the Dist. 20 Discovery Canyon School. During those 10 years, there were additional surgeries to control reflux, weekly speech, physical and occupational therapy and to finally remove the feeding tube when Camryn turned five years old.
Today, Camryn still runs with a cute funny gait (Bobbie’s description), has some limitations using fine motor skills; but amazes everyone with her positive upbeat attitude on life. She is an inveterate reader and was tested at the 6-7 grade reading level. She excels at math, but struggles with writing. Camryn’s has excellent knowledge of the computer and loves reading Face book, using the internet and looking up things on Google and Bing.
Camryn knows she is different. It is most apparent on the playground at school. This hurts sometimes as other kids don’t take the time or want to play with her. Even harder is knowing Camryn never learned to play during her growing up years, as there were feeding tubes, surgeries, therapy and a myriad of others issues keeping her from doing “normal” kid activities.
Helping the growing-up process has been her best friend, Tahlia, who has diabetes. They both have limitations physically, while excelling in school.
(insert pic of Camryn and Tahlia)
Our family has been blessed to be part of Camryn’s maturing process. Camryn knows people throughout the city as she never meets a stranger. How grateful we are to still be a part of Camryn’s life each week as she stays overnight at our home on weekends. How grateful we are to have young school kids being so kind to her; to have such loving and kind Para-professionals helping Camryn during each school day and having her say, “Grandma, I am 11 years old. I can do it myself”!!
(Insert pic of Camryn & dog)
Least we not forget, one of the best therapies of all has been our Springer spaniel, Abbie. Those two are almost inseparable. Two years ago, we got Abbie from a rescue shelter as my dog. That quickly changed as Camryn and Abbie have become buddies.
Camryn considers Abbie “our dog”. Camryn lays on her, grabs her and generally can be a pain. However, Abbie never complains, but just gets up and leaves when she has had enough loving for the moment. It's therapy for both of them as Abbie was in a puppy mill setting and never got any loving. Today, they have rescued each other!