Saturday, August 6, 2011

Do We Care, or Do We Just Say We Care

Part of this blog is going to be about working through some issues both personal and theological regarding our motivation (and hopefully yours) behind working to support preemie families. So bear with me and you might find that you have thought some of the same things I have or something I say may cause you to think.

I have never been one to shy away from emotions or passion toward an issue and I have been accused of being overly-passionate about things. Supporting preemie families is something I am passionate about, but often it seems that my passion exceeds my ability to get things done or exceeds others willingness to step up when called upon to help.

First off, let me say, I can't help it. If anyone knows me, they know that when my son was born at 30 weeks, it radically changed my outlook on almost everything. It strengthened my faith in God, it made me aware of just how precious life is and it made me take notice of the hurt all around me in regards to those families affected by prematurity. From the start, I knew that realization would shape my life and my family's life from then on for the rest of our lives. I soon began talking to Ashley about the love and support we had received from our family, our church family and from Hospitality House of Tulsa, which was our home away from home while Isaac was in the hospital. I started saying, "Man, it would be great if they could get that building across the drive and open up more apartments." and "Ashley, how can we give back to this place that has been so good to us during our time of need?" I also began dreaming of trying to help preemie families like ours in concrete, as well as spiritual ways.

When we came home from the hospital with Isaac it was rough. We were scared. No doubt about it. He was a pretty needy baby and we poured ourselves into watching him and caring for him around the clock. We also struggled with the trauma of what had happened to cause Isaac to be born so early. We struggled so much that our marriage struggled and we both found ourselves being treated for depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). As Isaac grew and we began to com to the realization that he was going to be just fine, we were able to begin to think about things more clearly and what surfaced was this thought: "We have a wonderful family, a wonderful church (2 churches really as we switched churches around the time Isaac was 1) and most of all we have our faith in God. If we struggled this much with all of the support around us and if we felt alone and afraid, how must others feel who may not have such a great support system in place? How must single moms feel who have preemies? How must preemie parents feel who lose their child or whose child has a disability due to prematurity? How must someone who is lost, who does not know the saving Grace and Comfort of Christ?" We came to the conclusion that they must feel even worse than we do. We came to the realization that we had been blessed by God because Isaac was healthy and because our family was held together by His loving hands. We came to the realization that it was time for us to share the comfort that we had received with other preemie families.

So, in late 2009 we started talking and praying about what we could do. We started trying to make contacts with people closer at hand to the hospitals in Tulsa where there were NICU's. We started trying to reach out to preemie families that we heard about through family, friends and other avenues. We knew they were out there, we just wanted to find a way to let them know we were here and we were here to help.

Since then, our efforts have seen some success. We have successfully participated in 2 March of Dimes March for Babies events and gotten some publicity for the group. We have also been able to reach out to some preemie families to let them know that we are praying and we are standing by to help. Still, we have also seen some disappointment and discouragement. I have to say that it has not and is still not as easy as I had dreamt it would be when God gave me a vision to start this group. Most discouraging of what I have found is that many people (myself included at times) want to say that they care but do not do anything to show they care. On the flip side of this, many people want to say they want support and help, but most seem to think that it is strange that anyone would want to help them. It is something I don't quite understand, but it is a fact we have seen play out several times. I think the problem with both not actually helping and not actually wanting help is one in the same.

When it comes right down to it, we are selfish. We go about our day every day thinking mainly of ourselves and only ourselves. Our world is fine as long as no one comes along to rock the boat or to point out anything that we are doing wrong. Bottom line, we don't take the time to care or allow ourselves to be cared for. We think that if we ignore a problem it will go away. I hate to be negative at all on this blog, but the reality is, prematurity is not going away any time soon. What we are left to deal with is it's aftermath. I have seen it in some small way firsthand and many times it is not pretty. A large majority of preemie parents, both mothers and fathers will report when asked that they suffered from depression, PTSD, and other types of mental anguish. This is on top of all the physical challenges that a preemie may face themselves. There is a laundry list of ailments, defficiencies and disabilities associated with prematurity and having someone who has been there and seen their way through it by your side is something that I think many, even when in the situation don't see as being as valuable as it could really be. As a believer, I am called to use my experiences like being the dad to a preemie to comfort those going through similar situations. I am not going to apologize for reaching out or for calling on others to reach out, to get out of their own comfort zones to make a difference in someone elses life.

If you are a preemie parent, then much of what I have said is not new to you. Still, if you are setting there thinking, "I really think he is right. I should do something to help other preemie families," then I have good news for you. YOU CAN. All you have to do is let me know you want to help. One thing that can be a help (to you and others) is for you to write your story down. I would be happy to publish any preemie stories I get on this blog. Another thing you can do is take an active part in reaching out to any preemie families you know or hear about. That could be through this group or on your own. Finally, I need help. If someone would like to share the responsibilities of running this group from the blog to Facebook to making contact with families, hospitals, and those who might be able to help us fund our effort, I would be more than happy to have the help. It is a large undertaking, but I promise you it is worth it. Preemies and their families are special and precious. You will never be sorry for reaching out to someone in need. Through it all I have never once, no matter how difficult or awkward been sorry I took an extra step to contact a preemie family, and I don't think I ever will be. God has seen to it that this will be a part of my family's life from now on, and it can be a part of yours too.

One last thing. Hospitality House of Tulsa got that building across the drive last year. They have since remodeled it and opened up 7 more apartments for those families who have extended care patients at Hillcrest. Many of those families are preemie families. I wish I could say that I had more to do with them getting this done, but one thing that we did do was pray for them all the time. You can find out more about Hospitality House of Tulsa and their mission at http://www.tulsahospitalityhouse.org/

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