Ashley had surgery today – surgery to remove a cholesteatoma tumor between her ear and her brain. She’s had this same surgery three times before and it never gets easier for her or for me. But today was different. It did seem easier at least for me because I had help from a special and dear friend.
I adopted Ashley when she was two years old, just weeks after spending a week beside her bed in the hospital for the removal of a brain tumor. Since that time, I have lost count of all the other surgeries she has had. There have been ear surgeries, eye surgeries, tonsil and adenoid surgery, surgery to remove more tumors and surgery to remove her gall bladder. I have been by her side through all of this, but I have always been alone. I’ve stayed strong and tried very hard to not let Ashley see the worry in my eyes. When I was exhausted from the stress and having to balance my time at the hospital with both my full-time employment and being a good mom to my other children, I had to keep going and tell myself that I would catch up on sleep later. Unfortunately, I never did catch up on that sleep, and the toll of that lifestyle has become increasingly more difficult each year. But today it got a little easier. Amy was with me.
Amy is Ashley’s personal care assistant, a person employed by the Department of Medical Assistance Services to help Ashley. She helps Ashley with activities of daily living – bathing, tooth brushing, grooming, and learning the things she will need to master to become an independent adult. She helps Ashley with her homework, and helps her with her physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy assignments. And while all those things are very important, what Amy really brings to Ashley’s life and to the life of our whole family is love. She has become such an integral part of our lives that it is hard to imagine our life without her.
Amy is like a big sister to my two teenage sons. She is not much older than they are and they can relate to her in ways they can never relate to me. She stands as an example of success, compassion, and the value of commitment and caring to them. She is the fun big sister who buys them baseball caps and takes them for pizza. She counsels them on school dramas, and helps them learn how to treat other people. She insists they show respect for me, and will call them down in a split second should they ever display negative behavior. And although both boys would never admit it, I think they really enjoy having her as a confidant and advisor.
Amy is also probably the second most important person in Ashley’s life. I like to think that I am the first most important person to Ashley, but Amy runs a close second! I know that Ashley feels Amy’s love and under her care, Ashley has progressed in ways that I sometimes find hard to imagine. Ashley’s kisses on Amy’s cheeks, her sign language “I Love You’, and her snuggles on Amy’s shoulder give testament to the fact that Ashley and Amy share a very special and close bond.
To me, Amy is a friend unlike any I have ever had. Though decades apart in age, we have grown very close as we have discovered how many philosophies we share. I would be so proud to have a daughter like Amy, and I am very proud of the person she is and the decisions she makes for her life. I look forward to the times we share whether those times include Ashley or not. I am very grateful that Ashley brought Amy and me together, and I feel so blessed to have her as a friend and a part of our family.