An Opportunity for Choice, Chance and Reward…
Some people wait their entire lives to meet their hero — I gave birth to mine.By Tammy Wilkins
On Jan. 3, 1990, I experienced a change that would forever alter my life, goals and future. I gave birth to my third beautiful daughter! Although all prenatal testing was normal, Sarah was diagnosed with Down syndrome soon after birth. I will forever remember that day and the extreme feeling of complete helplessness. Yet I soon realized I had just stepped into shoes that would lead me on a path of how to love unconditionally and appreciate life, though I still cry often.
I am a single mom. I work two jobs to support Sarah and myself. I have watched Sarah battle so many medical issues, the scariest of which was open heart surgery at 19 months old. But the most devastating, but uplifting was watching her battle cancer twice — and win! Sarah now has an immune deficiency that requires weekly infusions for the rest of her life.
Sarah’s diagnosis and life-long medical struggles also provided an opportunity for both of us. Despite all she has been through, Sarah is so full of life that I can hardly keep up. And although Sarah continues to battle health issues, she still challenges herself to be an active athlete.
We all are faced with choices in life. Sarah’s desire to be an athlete led me to become a certified aquatics coach for the Special Olympics of Iredell County, a position I have cherished now for many years. I recently became a certified bocce, bowling and basketball coach. I also assist other coaches in the sailing, skiing and golf activities. Sarah competes in all of these sports as well as the Spring Games every year.
Through my involvement with Sarah and others, I learned to love and appreciate life. I had no idea of the special blessing that had been bestowed on me when Sarah was born, until I made the choice to participate.
As I watch my athletes practice and compete, I remember the day Sarah was born and I wonder if other moms were as devastated as me when learning of a similar diagnosis. I often ask myself why we were chosen to be blessed with such a responsibility of raising a child with special needs. But I knew if it were by chance, I had to embrace what was given to me.
As I watch Sarah compete in various sports, I remember handing her over to the heart surgeon, scared I was kissing her for the last time. I remember Sarah losing her hair three times during years of chemotherapy. Then I witness Sarah’s and the other athletes’ faces light up the entire world when they cross the finish line or reach the other side of the pool. Then comes that contagious smile that is unforgettable as the official hangs the medal around their necks! This is when I cry often, but now with tears of JOY!
I have been blessed beyond measure. As Sarah battles her medical issues, I am by her side, fighting with her, as are her sisters and father. I am often told what a wonderful job I do holding myself together through hard times, but when I see that angel face, the battle becomes so much easier.
Some people wait their entire lives to meet their hero — I gave birth to mine. I’m not a superhero, I’m a mom.