How having a disabled sibling has impacted my life.

Before he was born, we knew that he was going to be special, but the moment he arrived changed my life, even though I did not yet know it.

Before he was born, my mom’s ultrasound showed issues with his heart. Test after test finally revealed the problem: he was missing one whole wall of his heart and he had Down Syndrome.

I was 12 years old and excited to be a big sister again. My siblings and I were told that he was going to be special, he was missing pieces of his heart and that he would need a lot of attention.. Really that was the only way to tell us something was wrong because we were all too young to understand. I remember being in English class, writing in my daily journal and writing about him and wanting to volunteer to read my journal, but not being able to make it through the reading without tears streaming down my face.

We took him to get his hearing checked when he was a few weeks old. He was so upset and my mother was unable to calm him down. I took him and tried my hardest and he stopped crying in seconds, this was the moment that our connection developed and he became such a special gift to me from God.

At 7 months old, Ryan had open heart surgery to replace the wall in his heart and to repair a leak on his mitral valve. I don’t think I have ever been such a nervous wreck in my life compared to when I was that day. I remember hugging my other siblings and crying after we got the call saying his surgery was successful. But from that moment on he spent a ton of time in the hospital–first with an infection in his sutures from the surgery and then frequently afterward with many illnesses over the years. This was the hardest time for my family because my mother spent all that time with him in Detroit Children’s Hospital, and I was home with my other two siblings and my father. I just want to say I had to grow up quickly.

I know everything changed because he was born, but I am unsure when I as a person changed. By change I mean my purpose changed. I found myself trying harder at everything. I found myself going outside my comfort zone and applying to college although I felt that I wasn’t very smart. But it was him pushing me without him knowing it. I found myself wanting to strive for the best person I could be for not only him but also for my other siblings. My drive to be successful is all for them.

I watched Ryan go through sickness after sickness, therapy after therapy, with all those cords and machines connected to him. Yet, that didn’t scare me away. Today, I am a semester away from graduating and pursuing Occupational Therapy in the future, specializing in working with special needs children. Ryan has influenced me to love disabled children and want to see them grow and overcome their disabilities.

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