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Special needs child truly needs a ‘buddy’

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on August 18, 2011 with No Comments

by Daniel Moran

This is an article that needs to be written. It is about a 13-year-old kid. Hey, don’t leave yet! This kid needs you. This family, or what is left of it, needs you. His first name is Bud. His last name is being withheld, but his story is one that will give each and every one of us a chance to truly impact a person’s life.

I met him when his mother and two sisters came to the office to design a simple marker for his older sister who had died just months before. She was only 20. Her name is Ashly. The fact that this girl died at such an early age is a tragedy in itself, but her passing is just the beginning of this story.

This young man sat patiently, smiling, as his mother made her everlasting decisions as to what would go on her daughter’s grave marker. We all had tears. The oldest daughter, 22-year-old Angie, wanted a certain design included, and my heart was breaking as we signed off on the marker.

I promised I would make some special laminated bookmarks for the family and I would put the young lady’s photo on it if the mother would bring one in. During the course of our conversation, I was told that the boy was autistic, which was something I did not pick up on. He seemed a little too happy for the occasion, but that was my own ignorance for not picking up on his reality.

I had an idea to enlarge whatever photo I was given and, through the magic of my PrintShop, I would surprise the family with a framed enlargement. I asked the boy what his sister called him and was told she always called out “Hey Bud”.

The marker was hardly in place when I got a call from Bud’s mother, Diane. There was a hollow, distant pain in her voice as she told me that her oldest daughter, the one who needed to have the “certain design” included on her sister’s stone, was just killed in a car-wreck. My heart sank. I have two daughters about the same age as these two young girls, and I get to go home and see them. This poor, single mother was now faced with burying a second child. Neither she, nor the father of these girls, was in a financial position to pay for another funeral. Emotionally, they were all bankrupt at this time while experiencing a financial catastrophe. All of them were scared, and scarred, forever. Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville helped with the financial side of this challenge, but the bigger need is to find help for this family … and for Bud, in particular.

It would be nice to say that this double, horrifying tragedy could be put behind them and that these people could try to find at least a small iota of peace somewhere in their faith. I had little to do with the father, so I reflect only on the bits and pieces that have been shared by Diane. What I do know is that a short time later, this boy’s grandfather died too; his mother’s father.

It was a while after this third blow to this family that Buddy’s mother said she would like to come to work at Calumet Park. She felt a need to help people through their losses even as she is trying to work through her own heart-crushing year of the loss of two children and her dad. During her training, she shared some other details of her life, which is so intense that the author’s of the Greek tragedies could not devise such sadness and despair from their imagination.

What is left of this family was living back with the grandmother during this period. The grandmother, 70, is still caring for a son of her own who has been wheel-chair bound nearly his entire life. There was a time when he was young that he could walk some, but he was born with cerebral palsy and severe mental retardation since birth. He can’t speak or feed himself or do much of anything without his mother’s assistance. She refused to “send him away”, but she is now getting older and frail herself, beaten up by the loss of two granddaughters and her husband in a matter of months. She opened up her small home a year ago to her daughter, to Buddy, and to three lovely, vibrant granddaughters. And almost overnight, like the title of a dime store, sad novel, “Then there were five”, the family was decimated.

Now, the sad part of the story …

What’s that you say? Remember, I told you that Buddy is autistic. In the few months that have passed since I first met any of these people, he has grown and he is strong. I am not educated enough about autism to try to tell you what other problems go on in his mind. What I do know is that he has the emotional and intellectual capacity of a four-five year old, but the strength of a teen. He was in school, but the school didn’t know how to handle him. They had him in “in-school suspension” on more than one occasion for disruption of classes and for fighting in response to other kids picking on him and wishing he would “just go and kill himself.” Nice, huh? But they are kids and should, but don’t, know better.

He recently is showing signs of a combination of mental and physical illness that even the doctor’s are baffled by. He has thrown his grandmother to the floor as he acts out his toddler-like tantrums, without an understanding of his early teen strength. He hit his 12-year-old sister so hard recently that she is now afraid of him.

I am told that, just before the second sister died, she confided in her mother that it scares her to look into Buddy’s eyes. “He” is not there sometimes, and it is getting worse. He recently, and I cringed when I heard this and cringe as I write these words, he recently pulled his own fingernail completely off his finger. Not biting a nail to the quick … pulled his nail off. Physicians bandage the bloodied part, the part that even anyone would be smart enough to clean the wound and bandage it. But, getting any kind of help for his deteriorating mental state without insurance is almost like a death notice. There are waiting lists, as much as 10 years, for some programs.

Buddy does not fit into any box that doctor’s like to put their patients into. Psychologists have an even more difficult time of labeling him. Unfortunately, without a label, they don’t know what to do. In Texas, where this family just came from, they said they would attempt to figure things out, but it would cost $800 per day. At least you can see a bleeding finger, and know how to treat it. How does one treat a 13-year-old boy who can’t speak out for himself? A 13-year-old boy who’s mind is like a true schizophrenic four year old?

As gently as I could, I suggested to Buddy’s mother that maybe he needs to be in some sort of facility where he can have full time care. Her reply was that she cannot give up another child. Wow, we complain about the weather messing up our cook-out, and here is a lady who has nowhere to turn, is getting the run-around at every attempt to get help, and has no money to “bribe” any part of our health care industry to toss out what they think they know and just help! Think about coping with the loss of three important people in your life and not being able to find rest for yourself because of the ongoing needs of your remaining two children.

I don’t have any answer to this problem. I do know that there are people of influence within the readership of The Chronicle, people with money or medical and sociological/psychology degrees that could volunteer their knowledge and a few dollars to do something for an actual living, breathing child. I know there are readers out there who have tons of money in the bank and who have nobody or nothing of real importance to either leave it to or to spend it on. How many big TV’s and trips to the islands and fancy cars does one need?

Here is a family that has been absolutely decimated by grief who needs your prayers and who needs help. The mother has kept herself from total despair through her faith in God. She cannot understand why God would let all of this happen, and yet, she amazingly maintains her trust. I see her as a sort of modern day Job from the Old Testament. Read Job and you’ll understand.

I do not have the answers for this poor soul. I do fear for the life of the remaining sister. She has lost much of her family, and is now afraid to go to sleep in the same house as her unintentionally dangerous autistic brother.

This country, and probably many of the readers of this article, takes pride in helping others. We send money to every part of the globe when disaster strikes. Well, here is a chance to do something for an individual family. I would like nothing more than to have one of you affluent and influential members of this region decide that you want to “adopt” this family. Not for the publicity … not for how it might make you feel good and special but rather because you are truly good and you are truly special and you truly can make a difference, and you want to make a difference right here at home in our own backyard.

If you feel you were put here to do more than accumulate wealth for the sake of wealth, contact me. If you are like me, hardworking and struggling to get by yourself with the high price of gas and with the fears our economy is smothering us all with but still feel you can do a little, contact me.

This is just an idea right now. I know that you are out there waiting for the right cause. You can still protect the environment, and help the poor and starving children overseas, and give to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. I do not want any money. However, if you feel you want to help, and if you feel you want to use the talents and love for your fellow-man that you hold in your heart, email me at dmoran@calumetparkcemetery.com

If we need to set up a trust of some kind with a local bank, then we need volunteer legal help on how to do so. If you want to volunteer your time, your energy, your assets, your desire to make a difference, I will be glad to help match your kindness with this need. Buddy does not know how much he needs his fellow man, but we all know in our hearts how much we need to help the “buddies” of this earth. Thank you for your kindness. If you cannot do anything except pray, that’s a start.

For more information, contact careforbuddy@yahoo.com.

Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Calumet Park Cemetery or The Chronicle.

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