A Single Mom and Sassy Warrior

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“They’ll remind you what it’s all for”

Photo by Chris Glenn

“I work two full-time jobs as a single mom. Monday through Friday I’m a teacher in the two-year-old program on Tinker Air Force Base, and on the weekends, I work in the surgery center at The University of Oklahoma (OU) Medical Center from 5am to10 pm. This is the second year I’ve dealt with this schedule, and one day soon I hope it will allow me to save up enough for a house. I make it work, but there are days where I feel like quitting, where I’m just sick of being tired all the time and not getting to do the kinds of things I used to.

But when I feel like this, all I have to do is look in my locker.

At both jobs I have a locker I use every shift and taped on the inside of the door are pictures of my two little ones, Maliki and McKayla. One look at their faces is all I need to go another day. I remember they are why I do it. It’s all for them.

Then McKayla was diagnosed with E. coli. At home she had been throwing up constantly and had blood in her diaper, and while the medical professional in me said it could just be a small intestinal tear or other common issue, I just had a feeling that she needed to see a doctor.

Our trip to the hospital turned into a month-and-a-half stay. For the first week there was nothing that could be done until she stopped throwing up, and during this time she developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a condition that affects the blood and blood vessels. Her entire body swelled to the point where we couldn’t even see her eyes. When the nurses came in to draw blood, they pretty much had to go in blind and find veins wherever they could — ankles, toes, legs, anywhere.

I know kids can sense when things are going wrong, so, outside I was always hopeful, but inside I was freaking out. I was by her side every moment, and when she was asleep, I would cry. The worst part about an ordeal like this is you really have no idea what was going happen, and no matter what you do you are powerless to help.

I work in the medical field, I help people every day, but I can’t do a thing to help my own daughter. I genuinely felt I was going to lose her. I just knew it.

During the whole stay I couldn’t even see Maliki, who stayed with his grandparents and godparents. That was very hard to deal with, too, but I know it was just as hard for him, if not harder. He felt just as powerless as I did. He missed me, he missed his sister, and every day he only could know what he heard from us.

But here’s the interesting thing: while you may feel alone and helpless during your darkest days, you really aren’t.

Between God, my family, and my amazing extended family at OU Medical Center, I was never alone. The entire time I never left McKayla’s side, but while we were over there my family and co-workers would always take time to come to see us. One day my father-in-law brought McKayla a little doll that was made to look exactly like her. It even had a little catheter in her neck!

I wouldn’t go as far to say that McKayla’s infection was a blessing but getting the opportunity to see the good in the people around us was. There was always someone there to give me and McKayla a reason to smile, and for that I will be forever grateful to all of them. Even after the hospital stay, these people helped us experience some things we never would have otherwise. We got to pet and feed the rhinos for free at the Oklahoma City Zoo, for example, and we even got to go to an Oklahoma City Dodgers baseball game.

In fact, it was one of them who were responsible for getting us to visit Give Kids The World. Someone at the hospital nominated us for the opportunity, and even though I filled out the paperwork, I never actually thought it would happen. I was so thrilled when I found out and keeping it a secret from the kids until the “big reveal” was really tough. Right from the beginning, McKayla told me what she was looking forward to the most at Disney World, and it was getting to cut all the lines! Without such wonderful people in my life, she never would have had such an experience.

Photos by Chris Glenn

Today, McKayla still has to go to the hospital for regular blood work and an annual checkup, but other than that she’s made a full recovery. She’s a sassy, tough little girl, and while I wouldn’t call her a people person, she doesn’t back down from anyone or anything. Arguing with her is like arguing with a grown adult. One day she got into it with her cousin Jenesi, who’s 16 and likes wearing wigs. “At least I don’t have to wear wigs,” McKayla told her, “my hair is real!” They love each other dearly, I promise.

I learned through this that we are never promised tomorrow, or even another hour with those we love. Instead of wondering what might come, I prefer to be grateful for what I have now, for that one more moment to let my kids know how much I love them.

And just to make sure these moments last a lifetime; I make sure now to take lots of pictures. Moms and dads with sick children, don’t forget to get yourself in the frame occasionally, and make sure you put them up where you know you’ll see them.
When you feel like quitting, look at them. They’ll remind you what it’s all for.”

Photos by Chris Glenn

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