From 2000 to 2004 I wrote over 50 true life stories about people who live in Cibola County, New Mexico. They have been previously published in one form or another. The one with the most “heart” is “Mother and Child”. When this story was written I was a columnist for our local newspaper. I also worked as the Resource Development Coordinator for our nursing home, who’s Administrator told me I couldn’t write the story. I followed my intuition and wrote it anyway, knowing my decision could have caused me to be fired. It has been slightly shortened due to space, please enjoy.
What if eye contact was the major means of communicating with your child? Because of a tragic accident, that is basically how Jan reaches her son, Dustin. When he was 16 he survived a freak hang glider accident. The accident caused a severe closed head injury to his brain stem, leaving him with extremely limited motor skills. While still holding on to the hang glider, Dustin was carried thirty feet down Mt. Taylor.
Doctors informed his mother he had a one in ten million chance of living through the night. The prognosis was that he would be a vegetable if he survived at all. Dustin did survive and spent time in several facilities that didn’t work out before coming to Grants Good Samaritan Center in 1990.
To watch his mother one would not suspect that she has such a tremendous challenge in her life. Her positive spirit is reflected in her smile, her manner and the joyful music she plays on the activity room piano. Jan and her husband make three long trips a week to visit and help care for their son. From day one Jan has believed that God will heal Dustin.
Some people think she is in denial or that she is just plain crazy. She doesn’t know how or when he will be healed, just that he will be. Jan gives her son an enormous amount of credit for his positive outlook and sense of humor. When given a choice between Mom, Mickey Mouse or Godzilla, Dustin blinked that Godzilla is his hero.
Dustin’s room is quite unique. On the ceiling above his bed is a large picture of Tyra Banks with a small amount of clothes on; a birthday gift from his nephew. It also contains a special wheelchair, a gift from the NM Hang Gliding Association and an even more special Eyegave System Computer made by LC Technology. The computer allows Dustin to use his eyes to manipulate the keys, allowing him to talk. It also gives him some recreation with programmed games. His mother thinks he cheats!
Jan made it quite clear that she gets upset with people who think Dustin is stupid. He is bright, funny and understands everything that is said to him. She wants people to realize that those who have trouble communicating, for whatever reason, still have a need to be recognized.
It is hard to separate the spirit of this mother and child. They both have strength beyond measure. Children can sometimes be a pain in the neck, as well as other places. Perhaps the next time your children annoy you because they are making too much noise you will remember this mother and child and just be grateful that they can.
(Dustin is still a resident of Good Sam and a few years ago his mother obtained a job there too, making it easier to keep her eye on her son.)