The Cheevers Family - Apple Pick of the Month
Ever since I was a very young child, I always wanted to adopt. My husband and I initially fostered and loved it but having lost 7 of our own children in pregnancy, we wanted to do more. One day I found a website that listed children in Texas who needed forever homes, and printed pictures and bios of the children I fell in love with. I convinced my husband to go to an orientation meeting at an adoption agency, and less than a year later Tyler came home; 3 months later Hailey came home, 6 months later Justin came home, and after many challenges, Ava came home just over a year ago, completing our family.
Three of my children are shaken baby survivors. All four are trach dependent, feeding tube dependent, are non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and have daily seizures. Justin, my youngest son, has multiple genetic issues and a brain bleed in infancy that resulted in additional brain damage. Tyler, my oldest, is ventilator and TPN dependent. He and my youngest daughter, Ava, have a life-threatening form of epilepsy, called Lennox-Gastuat syndrome, and have 100+ seizures a day. Hailey came to us in a persistent vegetative state and has been waking up over the last 5 years. Though she faces serious medical challenges, we are so happy to be learning about her personality!
None of my children should have survived their injuries. None of them! Hailey and Ava have over 85% brain matter loss, meaning most of their brain was destroyed when they were abused. Tyler has 50-60% brain matter loss and has the most severe outcomes, with life threatening GI issues and respiratory failure. All of their issues are a direct result of the abuse they suffered as infants. Tyler, Justin and Ava were seriously neglected in foster care. They lacked affection, attention, and exposure to what we consider normal things: being held, played with, going places, watching movies, etc. They were kept in a bed for years, and despite that these three are incredibly social and adore being around people. Hailey is my diva, and despite the extent of her brain injury, she has THE most attitude of any of the kids! They each have very distinct personalities and adore each other as well. My greatest joy in life is seeing how happy they are!
Tyler is my sweetheart. He’s 10 and is a mommy’s boy in every sense of the word. He loves kisses, hugs, and being cuddled and sung to. Tyler loves Batman, Pitch Perfect, and his homebound teacher, Ms. Mollie. Justin is my class clown. He’s 8 and is the silliest kid ever! He giggles until he loses his breath, plays nonstop, and is affectionately called “psycho baby” because he plays full out, wild boy. He loves Mickey Mouse, Peppa Pig, and everything electronic. He studies how everything works and wants to figure things out on his own. His best friend is his nurse, Luke, and they are a perfect match. Both love to play and be silly! Hailey is also 8, and LOVES horror movies, coffee, and avocados. She is a bit reserved around unfamiliar people, but she loves dance music, being silly, and adores being in the water. Swimming is her favorite thing on the planet! She likes having her nails painted and will pretend to sleep when it’s time to do her hair so I’ll leave her alone. She has many nicknames, mostly ladybug or lil’ mama because she enjoys yelling at her brother, Justin, when he bugs her. Ava is my princess. She’s the baby at four years old, and she has quite a princess personality. She is quick to flash a big smile if she gets her way (play her favorite music or give her ALL the attention), but she will pout or pretend to cry when you stop or don’t do what she wants. She loves sweets and princess movies like Frozen and Moana.
My biggest challenge is coordinating all the kids’ services and getting all the moving parts to function as they should. It’s a full-time job making sure they get all their needs met, such as supplies, medications, nursing, therapies, equipment, medical appointments, etc. I’m so incredibly thankful that I have amazing nurses who adore my kids to help me maintain some sanity, most of the time. With four kids who are medically fragile and require constant close supervision, having people who want to be there for the kids and not just a paycheck is so important. Apple HMS has literally been a life saver, on more than one occasion. We get amazing customer service and never have to wait for needed supplies. Our primary contacts in Houston are amazing, and when we need something they help us get it quickly. We are an Apple family for life!
The hardest part of being a mom is balancing four kids, but families with typical kids have that issue as well. Medical admissions are tough, since I can’t leave any of them inpatient alone. But with our nursing crew I can usually make it work. Now sleeping, that’s a whole different story. But I adapt to their needs, rather than trying to make them adapt to meet mine, which is impossible.
We go on family outings as much as possible, and just do normal family things together. That helps a lot. A lot of people assume we’re a school or “facility” when we go places and are in awe when I explain we’re just a family. It’s a lot of work, but what kid isn’t work? Mine are just a different KIND of work, but no less special than any other child. I just wish more people in general understood that they are just kids… but some assembly is required!