Just a few months into Kindergarten as a Chicago Public School student my youngest daughters’ teachers noticed that her energy had dropped, and she just didn’t seem to be herself. Things went downhill fast from there. My daughter’s bilirubin level shot up. She became extremely jaundiced. She wasn’t thriving. I was terrified. Every day it was another blood draw. Every day it was a new diagnosis. It went on for weeks with no real answers and zero relief. My daughter was suffering as much from her mystery condition as she was from the medical procedures being employed to diagnose it. When doctors continued to come up empty I said, “ENOUGH!”. I packed up my daughter and her siblings and took off. No good was coming from staying where we were in “no man’s land” of diagnosis, so I left. I drove 6 hours away to French Lick, Indiana. My kids and I had never been there before, but it didn’t matter, anywhere was better than home. We spent a week doing anything we wanted, talking about everything we could think of…except Jaedyn’s medical crisis. We came back when the week was over renewed. Jaedyn’s medical crisis was still there but our stress level was abated. We were ready to dive back in and start fighting. It took us two more years of fighting until Jaedyn finally got a surgery that took away her constant pain. We never did get a definitive diagnosis, and Jaedyn still experiences flare ups, especially when she is stressed. But I stand by the decision I made to run away in 2009.
Crisis, whether medical or anything else, takes a serious toll on your health, your psyche, your soul. Even the strongest amongst us can hit a wall. You have to step back or away to recharge your jets so you can shoulder forward. It’s hard though. It’s hard for us adults to remember to do that when we are in the thick of our personal crisis storm. But there is something about when the crisis is happening to our children that can spur us to take action more than we do for ourselves.
For the last 6 months of this year I have been embroiled in another crisis involving my youngest. In March she was the victim of harassment at school. Not by her classmates, but by her teacher and her principal. We filed a complaint with the Chicago Public School law offices and she was deposed by an investigator. Then she went back to school, very reluctantly. I got her to do it by assuring her that she would get justice, (which for us was at least an assignment to be a Chicago Public School student at one of three other schools where she would be able to safely pursue her education). Things went downhill fast from there. Her stress level shot up. Her immunity plummeted. She wasn’t thriving. I was terrified. Every day it was another infraction. Every day it was a new indignity. It went on for weeks with no real answers and zero relief. My daughter was suffering as much from the original harassment as she was from the weeks and months being taken to supposedly investigate it. When lawyers continued to come up empty I said, “ENOUGH!”. I packed up my daughter and her siblings and took off. No good was coming from staying where we were in “no man’s land” of injustice, so we left. I drove 3 hours away to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My kids and I had never been there before, but it didn’t matter. Anywhere was better than home. We spent 5 days doing anything we wanted, talking about everything we could think of…except Jaedyn’s school crisis. We came back when the trip was over, renewed. Jaedyn’s school crisis is still here but our stress level has been abated. We are ready to dive back in and start fighting.
I don’t how much longer it is going to take to get Jaedyn the justice she deserves. I don’t even know where she will go to school even though the year is set to start in a few days. But I do know that Jaedyn and I are strong for this fight with the Chicago Public Schools, all because we ran away.
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