Strolling down the Naples City Dock, I remember my younger days of living onboard our sailboat. From the age of three to the age of twenty-one, I had sea legs. My family traveled extensively sailing to many exotic ports of call. I’d even ventured to Europe all before I was thirty years old.
After Samuel’s birth, travel was out of the question. He didn’t even like going in the car to visit the doctor’s office. Many times we would have to manually ventilate him so he would be stable. By the time we’d arrive, I felt like a wringed out towel.
Anytime my husband would suggest we go out of town, my fear of the unknown held me captive. I’d purse my lips together and shake my head. Where had my adventurous spirit gone? I’d rather stay at home knowing we were only thirty minutes from a hospital at all times.
Then the day came when Make-A-Wish came to our house. Volunteers, Maria Mendivil and Joe Pearl, sought to discover which wish would best suit Samuel. Going into his room, they saw a mural painted by my niece, Cathy Berisford. The scene depicted a dolphin jumping out of the water chasing a toy ball. That settled it, he would go to SeaWorld and see a dolphin up close.
But that would mean we’d have to go out of town. What if he needs to go to the hospital? What if his ventilator battery dies or his suction equipment quits? What if we run out of oxygen? I stuffed down my fear and took a leap of faith so my son could see a dolphin. Samuel got his wish with no complications. (And, visited Disney.) But, I must admit, I figuratively held my breath most of the time. I kept a close eye on Samuel for signs of distress. And though I enjoyed the trip, I can’t say I completely relaxed.
Five years later, Samuel came off the ventilator. It was a total surprise. He was never expected to come off the ventilator. I call this his second miracle. From this turn of events, we gained a new freedom I’d previously not contemplated because it seemed so impossible, so far-fetched.
Not having Samuel attached to a machine opened doors for us to show Samuel a world outside Florida. To our surprise, he loved riding in the van. So, we ventured out. We drove to Niagara Falls, Washington, D.C. and Cape Cod, just to name a few places.
So when the opportunity to travel to Naples, Florida for a Memoir class came up recently, I didn’t hesitate. Even packing, a previously stressful event, was somehow easier this time. We still needed to make sure we had all of Samuel’s supplies and medical equipment, but the check list my husband created took out the guess work. When we were sure we had everything, off we went.
I found myself relaxed on this trip. Fear of the unknown wasn’t yapping at my heels taking away my joy. Instead, I could enjoy each precious moment. We were just a normal family on a mini-vacation. What changed, you might ask? Perhaps, it’s experience. Or, knowing our little guy is healthy. Or, it’s that I have come to appreciate each smile and every giggle my son brings whether we are at home or away. Maybe, it’s all three.
How do you cope with traveling with children, whether special needs or not? Do you fear the unknown of what could happen? What helps you keep calm and enjoy each moment?
Written By: Evelyn Mann
Author, WIP, A Miracle In My Living Room