On February 27, 2009, my niece Zoe was born more than three months premature. Today, she suffers not only from being a micro-preemie, but she was also recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It has been slow for her. Her hearing has been a problem, but she has very adorable hearing aids. He speech has been slow, but she is now starting to share a few words with the world. Her motor function has been behind as well, especially her ability to hold her head up, but she is in therapy and working on it all.
When Stephanie and I were blessed to see her this June, she was a very content baby, just small and behind for a girl of 16 months. I’ve tried to study up on CP to understand it better and we get regular updates about her progress. She and her older brother Noah are two of the biggest reasons why being in Turkey is difficult.
I don’t talk to my students about this. Not for any particular reason. I tell them about my family, but it hasn’t really occurred to me that I should share that Zoe is disabled.
One of the classes that I particularly enjoy right now contains a myriad of characters, mostly business men and women in their late 20s or early 30s.
One of them likes to go to the bar with me. One of them likes to make fun of us for going. I think they’re both pretty amazing people. I had no idea how amazing at first.
It is no secret really to any of my classes that I like to go to the bar from time to time and if they wish to join me, they are welcome to.
I always ask my classes what they did the previous day and they always ask me in return. One time I said that I went to the pub and one student decided that I must go to the pub every day and from then on when I was asked what I did, he answered for me. “He went to the pub.” It became something we all could laugh about and enjoy. It was an inside joke. It was beautiful.
One day, I asked one student if he would like to go. His face lit up and he said “Of course, let’s go tonight.”
I arranged that to happen when the student who continually made fun of me found out he said, “I don’t drink. You and (other student’s name) always drink, always pub, but I never drink.” This was getting quite a laugh from the rest of the class and from me and then he said, jokingly, “I will go to heaven. You will go to hell.” And he smiled a wide smile at me that I knew meant he didn’t truly mean it, so don’t get worried about that.
In class as we talked and learned from each other, I learned that this student who made fun of me used to drink, but now, he didn’t. I asked him why and he never really answered. He made it seem as though it was because of his marriage. His wife had somehow reformed him.
Tonight I learned that wasn’t the case. We were chatting on Facebook when he revealed to me the real reason was because his daughter, born in 2007, was born with a disability. This shook his life and turned him around. He stopped drinking, smoking and fighting.
He told me that his daughter still could not eat, talk or walk. His daughter’s disability. Cerebral palsy.
Care for children or anybody with a disability in this country isn’t great. Sometimes parents are so embarrassed by their children that they won’t even let guests know that they have a child with a disability. They are sometimes embarrassed by it, shamed by it. That being said, children often don’t get the necessary treatment or therapy. They could be helped in some cases, but there is a general lack of education on such things. People don’t realize help is available, so they don’t ask.
This man has asked for help. It has been difficult for them. The doctor told him that his daughter doesn’t have long to live. I’m not sure if that means into adulthood or that she won’t make it through another year, but the story caused me to cry for this man and his family.
He is a very joyful man, a man of smiles and jokes. But his life has undoubtedly been wounded by this difficulty, by this suffering.
I shared with him before any other student about Zoe, but he understand the suffering better than I do. And he knew I understood, to the tiniest degree and I think that helped. I have offered to do what I can to help him with his daughter. I have a few connections to people here who may be able to help and may not.
When we come across people like this, when we know their story, I don’t know how it is even possible not to help as best one can. To share life, love, hope and faith.