Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jonah's Home!!!!

After ten months and fourteen days, we finally brought Jonah back from Kennedy Krieger yesterday.

We admitted a child who was plagued by constant chemical surges in his brain that made him agitated, aggressive and sad. When he was discharged, Jonah's disruptive behaviors in academic settings had decreased by 99.7%. His rates had dropped so low that his psychiatrist determined there was no need to try adding a new medication, as was the plan the last time I posted an update.

As you can imagine, it was a very emotional day. Not quite as emotional as the day we dropped him off, but pretty close. I cried, Jonah's aides cried. We videotaped fond messages from everyone on his team and snapped pictures of him being hugged by his speech pathologist, his behavior therapists, his psychologist, and his aides.

It's hard sometimes to figure out what Jonah's thinking, but I'd say he was pretty happy. He wasn't thrilled that we had moved his room while he was gone, but once we showed him all the markers in his cabinet, he adjusted fairly quickly. Today, he started his new school, and we started re-adjusting to life with Jonah. And it will take some adjusting, even though we're all, down to the two-year-olds, absolutely thrilled to have him back. This morning, for example, was pretty frenetic. You wouldn't think getting eight kids up and ready for the day would be that much more work than seven, but it is. Especially when you have to make sure that eighth kid eats his medicine-infused peanut butter sandwich and doesn't take advantage of his new freedom to fall back into old habits, like writing on the walls.

But, if there's one thing I've learned as the parents of a child with a disability, you can adjust to anything. I adjusted when my beautiful baby grew into a toddler, then a boy, who would come after me every day in a blind, unreachable rage: biting, punching, scratching, grabbing, then five minutes later crawl into my lap for a hug as if nothing had ever happened. I adjusted when he stopped eating anything but pretzels and peanut butter and had to spend a month as an outpatient at CHOP's feeding clinic, where I watched therapists force feed him, after which I was taught to force feed him myself. I adjusted when my nine-year-old son went to live in a hospital two hours away, and now I get to adjust to having him back. I think, now, there is nothing that could happen to me that would simply stop me in my tracks.

And I don't mean to suggest there's anything special about me. I think, for the most part, people cope. Period. That's why it always bugs me when some well-meaning acquaintance says something like, "I don't know how you do it. I could never handle it." I think most parents in my position feel similarly: none of us thought we could do it, but we did it. We do it. And if you had to do it, you would too. I'll never forget something Andy said once, about seven years ago. Jonah hadn't been diagnosed yet, but the writing was on the wall, and one day while we were riding in the car, Andy said, "It would be okay if we had a special needs child." This was Andy talking, super over-achieving Andy, who had already decided that all our kids (3 out of 5 of which hadn't even been born yet) were going to go to Penn and become investment bankers. But what he was really saying was, "I love Jonah. Nothing can change that."

But, hopefully, all that bad adjusting is behind us, and we can look forward to more good adjusting: adjusting to a child who's finally thriving in school, who can carry on a conversation, who plays with his siblings. Jonah's teachers had always said that once his behaviors were resolved, there was no ceiling on what he can accomplish. Now, after a seven-year-struggle, we're so excited to find out how high he can go.


Roni said...

WELCOME HOME JONAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hugs 'n' Love,
"Aunt" Roni

Lauren said...

Happy day! Welcome home, Jonah! I can't wait to see you.

meredith said...

Hooray! Welcome home, Jonah, and we'll look forward to meeting you!

Best wishes to all!