Friday, July 22, 2016

A Glimpse

Dear Life,

Kalani and I worked together to create a video that shorts a very small amount of what he has felt and been through in the past year.  He wants to be able to show other teens dealing with mental health issues, that their lives are worth getting help.  He is such a huge example to me!  He is not afraid to share his journey in the hopes of helping others.

Last year, Kalani was unable to go to basketball, unable to practice with his team, unable to even watch their games.  He was unable to go to school or leave the house.  He was trapped in fear, and anxiety and depression took a toll.  He gained over 30 pounds in three short meals, he wasn't sleeping and he was not acting like the same kid I was used to.  He was either angry or sad.  Every night he turned into a very angry person who couldn't be around anyone.  He couldn't sleep in his room, he slept in mine.  He started hearing voices, and seeing people that didn't exist.  He thought he was crazy and thought he had to go to the hospital.

As a family, we were determined to help him while he stayed at home.  We got him into a special outpatient program through the county, and he was assigned to a psychiatrist and therapist.  It took many many weeks for Kalani to trust his therapists.  He was given medication to help with the depression, anxiety, and voices he was hearing.  It was a very scary few months, and honestly, we never expected him to play basketball again.  We were so sad that our boy had to fight so hard to just live, and often times the voices told him to quit. He got so tired.

He had a major breakthrough three months ago.  He was able to talk about something that has plagued him for years.  He is still working through this, but he was able to complete a semester of school, a session of summer school, and summer basketball.  We are so proud of him and all of his hard work.  He still has work to do, but he's in a completely different place than he was last year.

He created this short video to show a little of what he has been through. Thank you for everyone who supports our family, for those that have been kind and supportive to our boy, and to those that share his journey in hopes of helping others.  #ItTakesATeam


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Marathon

Tears.

For months on end I cried every single day.  I fell asleep with tears on my face as I prayed and prayed for my son.

I dreaded waking up.

Our family was living a nightmare.

One of our children was living in a nightmare.

He was not sleeping, unable to go to school, even unable to play basketball.

He was paralyzed.

By fear. Anxiety. Depression. Voices. Only he could hear them. But they were horrible.

You're not good enough. You don't deserve anything. Quit. Die. Just STOP.

He withdrew from life.

He wasn't the same.

We didn't know how to get him back.

Dark.

Scary.

Sad.

Lost.

We did the only thing we knew how to do.

Love him.

We loved him every day, even when he pushed us away.

We fought for him, even when he gave up on himself.

And we found a team. A group of people in various positions, a high school coach, a school psychologist, a teacher, a therapist in a county program, and we all loved him.

No one gave up.

Even when he pushed us all away.

It took a full school year to find my boy.

He has some serious work left to do.

He has some deep scars from the battle.

But he also knows that he has people on his side; people he can trust.

People that care.

We smile more now.

We watch him play basketball again.

We see him find success at school.

We give our thanks to a Father in Heaven who heard our cries, and I'm sure He wept when we wept.

And then he helped put these amazing people in place to help him.

To guide him.

To find my boy in the broken shell he had become.

I think back at the last year and I wonder how we survived.

I remember not too long ago I was so weary I just wanted to lay down to sleep and not do it anymore.

But we kept pressing on. I know now that God was lifting us up, pushing us forward, putting angels on earth in place, so that our boy would make it.  

He still has many many things to work on.  But he will be ok.  As the coach says, it's a marathon.  A long, tough, steep marathon.  But a marathon worth running.  We see the light at the end of the tunnel.  And it's oh so very bright.

#ItTakesATeam





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grant Dreams


Dear Life,

Ten years ago, Stuart and I went to the doctor to find out what the gender was of our fifth child.  
We were so excited!
After having four boys, we were secretly hoping for a girl, but absolutely knew that having a fifth boy would be awesome!
Driving to the ultrasound, we talked about names, and about the vacation we had planned the following week.
I was asked to come in by myself by the ultrasound tech so she could do measurements.
Stuart sat outside and waited for that.
With my full bladder, I waited, and waited, and waited.
I didn't suspect anything, although I did wonder why she wasn't showing me the monitor.
After quite a long while, she said she would get Stuart and the doctor.
Stuart came in, sat next to me, held my hand, and watched the doctor move the ultrasound camera all around.
He watched him take extra care around the baby's heart.
The doctor was silent, and I started to get a little nervous.
I didn't understand what was going on.
Stuart squeezed my hand, and kept watching the monitor.
Finally, the doctor put the ultrasound camera down for a moment, and said those fateful words "I'm sorry to tell you this, but the fetus has a birth defect called Spina Bifida.  There are signs of hydrocephalus as well as club feet on both feet."
The gender was quickly forgotten by the staff.
They were only worried about one thing.
Letting us know that if we moved quickly we could terminate our pregnancy.
We were shocked.
He let us know what to expect with a child with this disability.
Words like retarted, disabled, poor quality of life, possible shorter life span, multiple surgeries, multiple hospital stays, infections, the words burned our souls.
We wept for our child.
The child we wanted desperately.
We still didn't know the gender of our child at this point.
Through my tears, I said "We are keeping our baby.  This is our BABY, not a fetus.  Please tell me if the baby is a boy or a girl."
He said "The fetus is a boy".
I had to ask the doctor for a photo before he left.
They printed one.  Of his face.  As if we would be so disturbed by the baby's disability.





We were never told what our child would be able to do.
Just a lot of what he wouldn't.

Thankfully, we didn't listen to that doctor.

We did research Spina Bifida online. (Not our smartest choice)
We educated ourselves the best we could.
We reached out to others that had children with Spina Bifida.

And then we had our baby. 

LUKE KUMAKALEHUA JENSEN
(Kumakalehua is Stuart's Hawaiian name, and means strength or foundation of the home)


He defied the odds at birth.
He left the hospital after six days.
There were times of difficulty, surgeries, casts, infections.



But there was also JOY. HAPPINESS.


At three, Kumaka was working hard in therapy and watching videos of Aaron Fotheringham on YouTube.

At four, he had a pivotal moment in his young life.
He had hip surgery on both hips.




We reached out to Aaron Fotheringham who came to our house to visit our boy.

Aaron told his friend Christiaan Otter Bailey about Kumaka, and they met that summer.









Christiaan saw the big heavy chair Kumaka was in and said that wasn't going to do.
He asked Mike Box if Kumaka could borrow a Mini Box chair to see what he would do.




What wouldn't he do?

Over the next four years, Kumaka would ride the skate parks, surfing waves, shooting at the basketball courts, wheeling 5K's, sliding down the slopes on a monoski, riding a bike with his brothers, even playing soccer.  


He has become an athlete, a doer, a go-getter.
He tries everything.
He is brave, fearless, and JOYFUL.






How does he do all of these things?
Because people believe in him.
People like his mentor Christiaan.




People like Mike Box.















Organizations like Challenged Athletes Foundation.  


This October, Kumaka is wheeling the running leg of the Challenged Athletes Foundation Triathalon.  Daniel, a Marine Veteran and an amazing surfer and monoskier is swimming on his team,  and Tracie, a wonderful athlete and teacher is doing the bike.  Their team has set a lofty goal....to raise $10,000 for Challenged Athletes Foundation.  WHY SO MUCH?  Because they grant dreams.  They allow kids that are in wheelchairs, kids that have prosthetics, Veterans that have come home after tragedies,  to be athletes...TO BELIEVE THEY CAN DO ANYTHING.  There is NOTHING more valuable in life than that. Below you will find the link to Kumaka's page.  ANY AMOUNT YOU CAN DONATE will grant DREAMS. #TeamCAF





Be a life changer.

Grant dreams.



We were told all the things Kumaka couldn't do.

We were never told the possibilities.