Friday, September 12, 2014

My Name is Andrea and I Have BECOME Fearless.


“The ads all call me fearless, but that’s just publicity. Anyone who thinks I’m not scared out of my mind whenever I do one of my stunts, is crazier than I am.” ~Jackie Chan

My name is Andrea and I’m…fearless.



















Let me explain. (This is REALLY going to make me look like a coward, but here goes!) 

I realize, now, that I spent a large part of my childhood and life being afraid.

Afraid of basements, especially dark ones.

Afraid of the dark, I appreciated an open door and a light on in the hallway every night as I fell asleep.

Afraid of storms, thunder and lightning in the darkness of night sent me scurrying into my parents’ bed.

Afraid of getting in trouble, which helped me make good choices (most of the time).


Afraid of the school principal (ditto).

Afraid of policemen, or getting singled out by one for any reason.

Afraid of pain, I dreaded doctor visits, vaccinations and was careful to not indulge in risky activities that might result in a broken bone.

Afraid of fire, which kept me cautious around campfires and helped me avoid the temptation some children have to “play” with matches.

Afraid of criminals, including robbers and “bad guys”!

Afraid  of “failing” or not being the best at something (which made me a pretty high achiever!)


Afraid of being financially responsible for someone other than myself (I was married and financially secure BEFORE I became a mother).

Afraid of feeling embarrassed (I still acutely remembered my embarrassing moment, IN 2ND GRADE, when the back of my dress accidentally got tucked into my white and pink flowered panties after I used the restroom).

Afraid of plane crashes, dying young or loss—financial or otherwise (not helped by the fact that my dad died in a plane crash when I was a teen, my family lost its wealth and had to move from our home as a result;  and my mom died when I was in my 30s).

And many other similar fears. 

(Ok, I was wrong. The above doesn’t make me look like a coward. It makes me look completely psycho! I promise I am not.)

In addition to the above-listed fears, one of the most disturbing movies I ever saw was “The Fugitive”, starring Harrison Ford. (You know, the movie where a happily married, successful doctor is wrongly accused of murdering his wife, loses everything, goes to prison, must rub shoulders with criminals and has to work incredibly hard, on the run, to prove his innocence.) I thought it was terribly unjust and wrong, rejoiced in the truth proved at the end of the movie and never forgot that plot—talk about a nightmare!

Fast forward to my 40's. 

I was a wife and mother happily married for 20 years to a good man and living my personal “happily ever after” as a stay-at-home mom to my four children ages 3-15. My husband had worked hard for many years to establish and build his own investment firm and by that stage of our lives, we were enjoying significant prosperity from his efforts. (We had a nice home surrounded by beautiful landscaping, ponds and waterfalls (plural!), a swimming pool and sport court. We had a beautiful cabin near Yellowstone. We had a motor home, a boat, ATVs and many other toys. We traveled the world as a family. Everything was paid for, we were financially secure—and I envisioned that our children and grandchildren would be, as well. Over the years I had watched my investments and interest compound to the point I thought I had $10 million dollars in investments.) While I knew life was full of challenges, and although I’d experienced challenges and loss, infertility, medical emergencies and the “usual” adversities of life, I NEVER thought finances, or the lack thereof, would be a challenge for me and my family!

Until the day I discovered it was all a lie. 

THAT EVERYTHING WAS A LIE. 

That my husband had lived a double life of lies, betrayal and perpetrated a sham of epic proportions for most of our married life. 

That life, as I knew it, was over. 

And that I’d never ever even had a clue. 

Here’s how it all went down. (Cue sounds of utter destruction.)

My children were at school and preschool. My husband said he needed to talk to me about something, I sat down across the table from him to chat, and without any warning, foreshadowing or emotion, he told me:

“My company, Market Street Advisors, is a sham.”

That while I (and everyone else—his business associates, his accountant, his employees, the federal government and IRS, his clients, our family, friends and neighbors—EVERYONE) had thought he was running an investment company for nearly two decades, he’d actually been running a Ponzi scheme.

Ponzi scheme? What is that?

He told me that two days before (when he’d told me he had a meeting with a client), he had actually hired an attorney to represent him as he prepared to turn himself in to federal authorities. That the day before that (when he’d told me he had another meeting with a client), he had actually turned himself in to federal authorities and confessed his crimes. And that the day before that (when he’d told me he had another meeting with a client), he had actually met with our church leaders, confessed his crimes and would shortly no longer be a member of our faith. 

He told me that everything (our homes, our cars, our savings, our investments, our retirement, our assets and everything of value) was GONE and that all of our assets had been seized by the federal government. 

He told me that he was headed to prison for 5-7 years and that I would be left alone to provide for and raise our four children.

With what? 

And, oh yes, that I would need an attorney to defend myself (even though I had done nothing wrong and had no knowledge of any crimes)—but that he had maxed out all of our credit cards paying for his!

Apparently he had been given 48 hours to tell me of the demise of our family and life before federal authorities would come to our home to begin inventorying our possessions for seizure. (The wife is always the last to know, huh?) My husband had waited until the last possible moment—had even come home the night before, after confessing his crimes to the federal government and to our church leaders—and had sat down with the kids and I and watched an episode of the then-popular “American Idol” tv show…like everything was fine and normal.

And then he destroyed everything—everything I’d ever known, dreamed of, planned for and worked toward—destroyed my entire life, and our family, with one conversation.

I couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I couldn’t comprehend the conversation. I kept thinking, “What in the world? This HAS to be a joke! Doesn’t he realize how not funny this prank is?” I kept waiting for a film crew with hidden cameras to pop out and yell, “Surprise!” But no one did.  And then my husband started to cry…and I instantly realized it was REAL.

I have no words to describe that moment, or the roaring, terrible, overwhelming feelings that washed over me in waves. 

I was drowning.

It was surreal. All of a sudden I don’t understand English anymore. Ponzi scheme? I don’t know what that is! Prison? NO! My husband? No way. Does he have his dates wrong—is this an early April Fool’s joke? It’s not funny! 

It was shocking. 

How can this be?

It was incomprehensible and unimaginable betrayal. Nearly two decades of lies—my husband revealed he hadn’t looked me in the eye IN YEARS, that he has looked only at the tip of my nose for as long as he can remember…and that the betrayals were numerous, FAR BEYOND “just” lies and crimes, betrayals of a personal nature, as well, all across the globe—New York City, London, AFRICA.

It was instantly and terribly lonely. My parents are dead. I’m alone in the world. Everything is gone, every asset has been frozen, and I’m a stay-at-home mother with four children to feed! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? No one can help me. This is too big. (The only picture I could see in my mind at this point, was a large cardboard box under a viaduct somewhere, with me, my four children and our two dogs huddled together for warmth as we starved to death.)

It meant prison. Wait! I don’t need to worry about being homeless, I’m innocent, but headed to prison anyway, just like that guy in “The Fugitive”! My children will be orphaned! They will starve to death, be abused by strangers, be split up into foster care, they will never see or hear from each other, or me, again. My babies! And what will become of my three-year-old? I’m INNOCENT!

It was anguish, agony, woe and despair. Now I know what a broken heart feels like. It is literally a physical pain. 

It was hell. Complete and utter hell. 

It was darkness and devastation. The blackest, deepest pit of destruction. How will I ever climb out of it? How will I ever survive this? Our lives are ruined.

(*DISCLAIMER: Ok, I know all of the above really does give the impression that I am psycho. I have siblings—my children would not have ended up in foster care. It is just impossible to comprehend or describe the shock and terror of a moment like that. You literally are not rational. How could I be?)

In a moment, I got all of my fears and more handed to me at the same time on a platter of destruction prepared for me by the man I loved. The man I’d thought loved me, loved us and loved our family.

Darkness? Check.

Storms? Check.

Trouble? Check.

Legal trouble? Check.

Pain? Check.

Criminals? (I’m married to one!) Check.

Failure? Marriage fail? Life fail? Complete fail? Check. Check!

Solely responsible for someone other than myself? Yes! FOUR of them! Check.

Alone? Check!

Humiliated? Check.

Loss? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Check! Make that “check” into infinity. 

I had to get away, yet the loving and dutiful wife that I was, I remember feeling guilty, as I got up and rushed to escape my instant-stranger-husband and the life he had handed me, for leaving him at such a difficult time! I jumped in my car, drove away and made it less than ¼ mile before tears were flooding my eyes to the point I couldn’t see a thing, so I quickly pulled over before I hurt myself or anyone else.
I cannot describe the sound of the wails that burst from my body. I didn’t know my body could make sounds like that. I sound like an animal.

I couldn’t think.

I couldn’t talk.

I didn’t know what to do. 

All I could think about was that my parents were dead, I was alone in the world with four children to feed, and how was I going to do that? So I drove to a bank and withdrew some cash so I could feed my children for a little while longer. And then I eventually returned home. (Only because I didn’t know where else to go.) When I arrived home, my husband’s attorney called ME and said, “I am so sorry for the day you are having!” He added, “I know you have a lot to do—again, you’ll need to get an attorney right away—but whatever you do, DON’T TOUCH ANY MONEY!”

Don’t touch any money? That is the ONLY thing I HAD done! Clearly, I was not cut out to be a criminal. My instincts are all wrong! The one thing I should not have done is the ONLY thing I actually had done. I am headed to prison, for sure. But I’m innocent!

Throughout that terrible day, everyone (family, friends, my husband’s attorney, federal authorities, church leaders) wanted to know what I was going to do…and I didn’t have a clue! However, the worst was still to come: my unsuspecting children were living their last innocent and carefree day. They didn’t know anything—yet, and I had to destroy all of that with the day’s revelations! If I could have walked off into the sunset and dropped off the face of the earth, I would have. But I had children that I had to see through the experience successfully, so I couldn’t.

The coming days, weeks and months it was my privilege to live a nightmare, the worst version of the worst Hollywood movie you would never want to imagine. I learned a few things:

Yes, federal agents DO drive dark SUVs with tinted windows and caravan to crime scenes. 

Yes, federal agents DO wear sunglasses, carry weapons, and have jackets emblazoned with “US MARSHALLS” on the back. 

Yes, national media attention IS as terrible as it looks. (Thank goodness for those good neighbors who helped as much as they could—walked the media around our property to ensure they got the best camera angles, who volunteered every bit of speculation they could conjure to make sure the stories were as “informative”, make that juicy and entertaining, as they could be! Sorry, that is me dripping with sarcasm about this one, just in case you can’t tell.)

Yes, people really do go crazy in the face of crime—cars slowly drove past my home at all hours of the day just to be a part of the drama, to get an up-close look of the scene of a crime or one of our family members; one victim confessed he made it to the porch of our home with a loaded gun, ready to blow someone away before he had the good sense to turn around and go home without hurting anyone; angry neighbors yelled at me, yelled at my children, intentionally shoveled snow into piles in front of our driveway to block us in our home on snowy spring days after our snow removal equipment had been seized by the government, not to mention trespassed, entered our home and terrorized my teenage daughter when they thought no one was home; friends turned on us; strangers sought us out to persecute us; crowds even gathered in front of our house to talk about us and share their hatred of us. 
Yes, in an asset forfeiture everything of material value really is seized by the federal government, including your wedding ring, if it has been paid for with “tainted” or “co-mingled” funds. (Which after 20 years of marriage, pretty much everything is!)

Yes, stress really does take a toll on your appearance. I looked haggard and terrible. (I looked as bad on the outside as I felt on the inside! My heart literally ached with endless grief and pain.) 

Yes, you can not only survive trauma, you can triumph. I’m living proof that it is possible to overcome anything. We endured our nightmare, my divorce, the eventual sentencing and incarceration of my ex-husband (who got not just the 5-7 years he was expecting, but more than the max—12 ½ years! He will be in prison until 2020!)

And yes, in the midst of terrible challenge, there is also a lot of good. Things like:

Friends. Although some of my closest friends abandoned me, a lot of friends stepped forward and were there for me: close friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. 

Vindication. I was investigated AND CLEARED of any wrongdoing by federal officials. (In fact, my attorney told she’d never seen a spouse in my situation cleared as quickly and completely as I was. They know, and I know, that I am absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing or crime.)

Good people in the world, including those who serve as US Marshalls, US attorneys, the legal system and in other official positions. (Yes, there was that one rude US Marshall who ripped a toy out of my three year old’s hands and threw it onto the pile of seized assets as my little son stood there, shocked and crying…but there was also that other US Marshall who saw that happen and without a word, walked to the asset pile, grabbed the toy, and returned it to my son to keep.) My children and I were treated with absolute kindness and respect by almost everyone we dealt with as a result of my husband’s crimes.

New dreams. I lost my old life—and every single dream I had for my future. I seriously felt that every good thing that would ever happen to me had already happened, that I’d had my chance. I also believed I’d never travel again, fly again, stay in a hotel again, eat in a restaurant again, go to the theater again, dance again, or wear nice clothes or jewelry again. (I guess that’s what happens when everything of value, including your wedding ring, is seized by the government due to crimes your husband commits!) I didn’t even move any of my nice clothes or evening wear to my new life. I knew every good thing or dream was gone forever.

But I was wrong. 

It’s not easy to dream new dreams or build a new life, but it IS POSSIBLE. Here’s what happened.

We moved and began a new life. 

A friend helped us with a home to live in.

I went to work. 

At some point I realized I didn’t want my children to grow up in a home with a sad mother, so I made an effort to smile every day although I wondered if my smiles would ever be, or feel, “real” again. (Smile anyway, even if it’s forced, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s good for you, it’s good for your children…and eventually they DO become real again!)



















We healed. (It IS possible to heal from every trauma. It isn’t easy, but it IS possible!)

I re-entered the singles scene after a 20-year hiatus. (But THAT is another story in itself! My name is Andrea and I’m…a survivor! Haha!)

Nothing embarrasses me or humiliates me anymore. (Not after what I’ve lived through!)

I’m not afraid of anything.

I fell in love. I got married. And I HAVE traveled, flown, stayed in a hotel, eaten at restaurants, gone to the theater (a lot, I married an actor/performer!), I have one nice piece of jewelry (my new wedding ring). And this year, I bought a black evening gown!






























My name is Andrea. And I have become fearless. 

Because I have learned there is no darkness that cannot be overcome, no grief that cannot be healed, no life that cannot be rebuilt, and that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. 

“I think fearless is having fears, but jumping anyway.” ~Taylor Swift

*Please remember the purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow.  Andrea will be reading the comments and I know she'd love to hear from you... please reach out and give her your love today! 

She also has a BLOG you can follow called The Unexpected Life. Find it HERE.

*Andrea, when I first saw you on T.V. on American Greed, I was absolutely blown away by your resiliency and courage. So much so that I looked you up online, I emailed you, we ended up meeting up for lunch, you presented at The Togetherness Project's first event, and we've stayed in touch ever since. Thank you for being brave and for surviving. You've touched my life and the lives of so many. You're a shining star and I'm so grateful to know you! 

(Read more stories of inspiring women in the "My Name is" series, HERE)


 Follow My Name is Jacy on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM to stay up to date and for future posts :) 

XOXO


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Brightest of Days!

What a beautiful weekend it was! Our very first Bright Effects day happened on Saturday and I think it's safe to say that it was more incredible than I think any of us could have imagined. I love it when things just fall into place like that and I'm so grateful to be surrounded by such amazing people in this life.




















My comrade, the beautiful and talented Shay of Bright Stripes, wrote up a lovely recap... so instead of rewriting it and rambling on, I thought I'd go ahead and share our experience through her eyes and say that I echo everything said.

***

My heart is so full (and my legs are so sore) after our first Bright Effects Day on Saturday. We received so many amazing applications from incredible women that it was nearly impossible to choose just 2. But by random choice, we chose Sylvia and Suzanne and we couldn't be happier about it! We LOVED every minute spent with these amazing, funny, strong, brave and beyond beautiful women and I'm so excited to share our experience with you!















Our day started off at noon with a very healing therapy session with therapist, Angie Whitman. She is absolutely incredible and it honestly felt like 5 friends just sitting around and chatting about our lives. It was so humbling to get to know Sylvia and Suzanne on that deeper level. I look up to both of them and admire their strengths. 



















(Angie can be found at Family Strategies.)

Next, we headed off to our private Pilates class donated by Melissa Olsen, owner of Core Body Pilates in Gilbert, AZ. And can I just say, I'm in love!


















It was not only the most fun I've ever had working out but I am crazy sore today so it most definitely works! And honestly, what better what to clear your mind than working out with a bunch of amazing women who can completely relate to you? Pilates really targets specific muscle groups yet it's low impact, leaving little room for injury. 

If you live in Phoenix area then check it out! 

















And who wouldn't want to eat a sandwich the size of your face along with a cream cheese brownie after you get done working out? Well we were definitely not above the idea so we headed over to Kneaders for a delicious lunch donated by Josh Tycksen (owner of the Ahwatukee location). It hit the spot and I probably could've eaten the entire pan of cream cheese brownies. Delicious. :) 




















This next part was one of my most favorite parts of the day!

Our stylist, Thom Hlavin from Epic Salon, and our independent make up artist, Nella Scivittaro, gave Sylvia and Suzanne a full make over and they looked absolutely stunning. Seriously. I honestly couldn't take my eyes off of them and Jacy couldn't stop running her fingers through their hair! Sylvia decided to cut off a couple inches and came out with an entire new haircut and style. She was practically a new woman walking out of there and it was so fun to be there with her to experience that. And to watch Thom and Nella do their work was mind blowing. They are two of the most talented beauty professionals and we are so lucky they were willing to share those talents with us. 


























A picture is truly worth a thousand words and this is where our incredible photographer comes in to play. Shannon from Shannon Worley Photography offered her talents to capture Sylvia and Suzanne and all of their beauty. When Jacy and I first started talking about the idea of doing Bright Effects Days for women, the photography was one of the most important pieces in our eyes. We wanted these women to truly see how beautiful they are as JUST them. Not a mom, wife, friend, daughter or co-worker. But just them. They were glowing and we hope they will be able to look back on these pictures and always remember how amazing they are. 

Sylvia…






















Suzanne…


 





































I am so glad that Jacy and I have decided to start Bright Effects and we are already planning our next Bright Effects Day. I feel like this is what I was meant to do by starting Bright Stripes. I love fashion but was really craving something more real and genuinely rewarding. The feeling of love and compassion that I have for these women is indescribable and I feel so lucky to have met them. And to see their faces at the end of the day made everything that much more special to me. 

Lucky to call them friends. 

**If you live in the Phoenix area and would like to apply or nominated someone for our next Bright Effects Day then please emailbrightstripesblog@gmail.com**


HUGE thanks to all of our sponsors. We love you all and truly couldn't have done this day without you!


To read Shay's original post, go here.
To read Suze's experience, go here.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Simple Things on a Sunday





























This is like my motto in life right now: to patiently let my pile of good things grow :)

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Some Prayers and the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge



I love the people here. Have I told you that yet? Because I do…. and I know I can come to you for support and love-- even for perfect strangers.

So, today, may I ask a big favor of you?

My friend, one who've I've known nearly my whole life, one is has always been so supportive of me, this blog and Togetherness, needs your prayers. Even though you don't know her… will you pray for her? And if you don't pray, will you send your positive vibes and healing and hope to her?

About a month ago, her mom was held up in a freak hostage/ home invasion situation in Las Vegas and was shot. She has been fighting for her life ever since.

Last night, life-support was removed and my dear friend has lost her mother.

I cannot comprehend it. I cannot fathom it. She lost her mother because of another person's grave and very reckless choice.

Please pray for my friend Rhianon. 

Please pray for comfort during a time when comfort is probably hard to find.

I know it will mean a lot to her…. and if you can leave a comment here, I'm sure she'd appreciate that too. I'm going to email her and tell her people everywhere are praying for her.






















I love you Rhianon. May angels surround and carry you and your family during such a devastating time. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

***

Also, for anyone who is interested, I accepted the Ice-Bucket challenge :) The water was absolutely FRIGID and Little Dude loved every single minute of dumping it on my head. I actually plan to donate, too, because I know that even the smallest amounts can help the lives of so many people. You see, last year, another dear friend of mine lost his father to a short but very CHALLENGING battle with ALS… so for my friend, and all those fighting, I will donate.

If you want to see the video of me being immersed in ICE WATER, PLEASE go to The Togetherness Project's FACEBOOK page, watch it, and see who I nominated :) And if you appreciate what we do, will you LIKE Togetherness's Facebook page, too?

Pretty please? 

It's not embarrassing.

It doesn't label you or your husband.

More than anything else, it's about WOMEN EMPOWERMENT and HEALING!

So please, help us grow by LIKING our page :)

***

Some tough stuff today… I know it's heavy… and my heart hurts for all those who are hurting… from ALS, to freak hostage/ home invasions, to addiction, to divorce, to depression, to the loss of a loved one, to cancer, etc.

Life is so hard at times.

And it seems so unfair.

But we are all in this together! I believe that with every fiber of my being! And together, we can help support and heal one another. Even if we don't understand completely and maybe we don't even relate at all? But finding that innate compassion and love for others in their time of need, in their difficulties, in their hurts, is what life is all about, I think.

Have wonderful weekend everyone.

xoxo

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple Things on a Sunday





























As my wise 6 year old said on our walk home from school on Friday:

"Life's meant to move forward, not backwards."

Smart little man. 

To always moving forward!

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!

xoxox

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brene Brown's Shame Resiliency Class

Arizonians!

I am so excited to tell you about something! In the last 8 months or so, I have become really good friends with a woman named Angie Whitman.


She's smart, she's funny, she's beautiful, she's been through her own hard times so she is 100% relatable, oh, and did I mention she's a therapist who specifically deals with betrayal trauma right here in Arizona? Because she is! :)

She presented at The Togetherness Project's Phoenix event in April.



She's GIVING BACK with Bright Effects.

Everyone who has her as a therapist have told me that they LOVE her!

She's just an amazing person and friend.

Annnnnd, now she's offering Shame Resiliency class (based off of principles of the beloved Brene Brown) that will no doubt be life changing!

SO! For anyone who is looking for something like this (shouldn't we ALL be?), please check out the details on the flyer below or you can email Angie at awhitman@familystrategies.org  :)

Wishing you all a wonderful Thursday today!

It's going to be a GREAT DAY!




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Name is Emily, and I am the Mother of a Miracle





























It was Tuesday, August 13, 2013.

The late morning sun was hot in the cloudless blue sky. The water felt cool and refreshing. Shouts of joy and laughter could be heard in between the almost constant splashing.


Trips to the pool were a regular thing for me and my 3 kids. It helped to pass the long, hot summer days, allowed the kids to play with their friends, and provided us with an ample dose of Vitamin D.
My oldest boy, Krew, was a good swimmer. He had graduated from the trusted floaties, and I was confident in his ability to navigate our neighborhood pool which, at it's deepest point, was 5 feet. My second child, Sway (who was 4 years-old at the time), was still dependent on floaties. In fact, if I ever suggested that he try to swim without them, he would get nervous and hang on to me for dear life. He never got into the water without floaties. My youngest, Nixyn, was only 1, so of course she required my constant attention during our pool trips.

Krew and Sway were good about looking after each other, usually stayed together, and more often than not had a handful of friends with them. I was ALWAYS there with my children. I would never leave them unattended at the pool. Granted, my eyes weren't constantly glued to all 3 of them every single second we were there, but I always made sure that I knew where they were.

On this particular morning, I had 2 girl friends with me, and we were hanging out in the shallow end with our littlest kids who still needed our constant supervision. I remember looking over at the hot tub to see my 2 boys having a joyful time with their friends Once I knew where they were and what they were doing, my attention went back to my youngest and the conversation I was having with my friends.
It's amazing how fast your world can fall apart.

Just a few short minutes later, I hear "SOMEONE IS DROWNING!!!" 

I look over to the deep end of the pool just in time to see a boy pushing a lifeless body out of the water. All it took was a quick glance before I recognized the print on Sway's swimsuit. He was the lifeless body. I grabbed my little girl, screamed at the top of my lungs "THAT'S MY BABY!!!!", and ran as fast as I could to the other side of the pool. That was my child, lying limp and completely blue on the deck of the pool... shock and pure terror coursed through my body.

The moment I reached him I knew I only had 2 options -- I could let my little boy die (if he wasn't already dead), or I could use what little CPR knowledge I had and try to revive him. The first option was out of the question. It was actually more of a fleeting thought than an actual choice. I wasn't confident in my ability, but I knew what I had to do. I dropped to my knees. I lifted Sway's small chin with one hand, plugged his nose with the other, and used my shaky breath to try to breathe life back into his fragile little body. I could hear his lungs inflate and then deflate. I had no idea if what I was doing was working, but I couldn't give up. My friends gave me strength and encouragement, and called 911 while I desperately tried and pleaded for my little boy to breath again.

As you can probably imagine, I wasn't really aware of anything going on around me as I was performing CPR on Sway. The only things I noticed: a lady I didn't even know holding and trying to comfort Nixyn, and Krew screaming and crying behind me, "THAT'S MY BROTHER!!! MY BESTEST BROTHER!!" I can still hear the heartbreak and fear in his desperate voice. And I can only imagine how horrified he must have been to witness his brother in that condition.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally received my first ray of hope. I heard it -- a small, raspy intake of air come from the small body in front of me. It was so faint that I was unsure it even happened. So I gave him one more breath. And I heard it again. YES! He was breathing. Barely. It was at this point that the police, paramedics, and firemen arrived. I was quickly pulled away as they took over. In a split second I went from crouching over my sons lifeless body to having him completely blocked from my view by 4 men who had much more knowledge of what they were doing than I did. The gravity of the situation started to sink it. This didn't feel real. My body was shaking, despite the heat. I quickly called my husband, Mikel, and with a shaky voice yelled into the phone that Sway had drowned. I didn't know for sure if he was alive or going to be okay. Thankfully, Mikel was available to come home immediately, and he arrived just as Sway's body was being loaded into the back of the ambulance. He quickly jumped in, and we were off. It wasn't long before I heard commotion in the back. Sway was screaming, and his little body was thrashing all over. I felt a slight glimmer of hope -- he was alive! And he was obviously breathing if he was able to throw a fit like that. But I still had so many questions in my mind... Yes, he was alive, but was there anything wrong? Would there be lasting affects? Would there be brain damage? Would he still be our Sway... that bouncy, stubborn, independent, animated, full of life little 4 year-old that we adored??

What I didn't know at the time, and thinking back - it was probably a blessing that I was pretty clueless - was that it's very possible and likely for children in serious drowning incidents to die, even after their bodies begin to breath again and they regain consciousness. As we would learn later, the doctors and nurses at the hospital didn't think Sway would make it.

When we arrived at the hospital, Sway was still screaming and thrashing, but he wasn't conscious. He had no idea what was going on. Soon after our arrival the Bishop from our faith joined my husband in giving our son a blessing. There was a moment during that blessing where Sway's body relaxed, and he was calm. He was still unconscious, but he was no longer screaming and writhing around.























Tests were then run -- a CT scan, chest x-ray, and blood tests. Thankfully, the CT and x-ray came back mostly clear. There was a little bit of water in one of Sway's lungs, but there was no visible damage to his brain. The blood tests on the other hand, were not so hopeful. All of the levels that they checked were off... way off... indicating that Sway's body had pretty much shut down because no oxygen was available. Medically, Sway shouldn't have survived and recovered like he did. 

He is a miracle.

He remained unconscious for the next few hours, while Mikel and I pleaded with him to wake up. To hear us. To come back. For a moment, my fear switched from Sway's condition to my husband. I could see the undeniable grief and despair as he watched his middle child lay lifeless on the hospital bed. I knew Sway had to come back. If not for me, then for his dad. If I would have lost one, I would have lost both of them that day.

As the afternoon progressed, and Sway still remained unconscious, we were told that he needed to be transferred to a hospital with a pediatric unit. There was little more the hospital we were currently at could do. The decision was made to fly him up to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. Because of my husbands background in the medical field, his ability to keep calm in stressful situations, and the special bond he's always had with his son, we decided he would fly in the airplane with Sway. That left me with a very hard task -- I had to leave the hospital without them. Without knowing what was going to happen. But it was time to return home, collect my other children from my dear friends who took them without a second thought, and drive up to Salt Lake to meet Mikel and Sway at Primary Children's. Thankfully I would have some help. My mother-in-law had left her home and made the 2 hour drive to us when she heard the news. She drove me, Krew, and Nixyn to Salt Lake.






















Those few hours that Mikel was on the plane with Sway were torturous. Since I had no communication with them, I tried to keep busy. I put out a plea on facebook for prayers, faith, good vibes, thoughts, etc.. for our darling little Sway. And I have no doubt that the response I got played a part in the miracle we witnessed that day. Friends, family, and strangers everywhere were pulling for our son. The response was overwhelming. A few days later I would share the story on my blog. It reached more people than I thought possible. Days, weeks, and months later, we were still hearing stories of prayers and acts of service offered in our behalf. It was truly amazing and humbling to know that so many people would care enough to take a second of their day to think of and/or pray for the recovery of my baby.

During our drive up to Salt Lake, I remember looking out the window at the mountains, and I said to my mother-in-law, "I don't know why, or what's going to happen, but I feel calm and at peace." It was not long after that that I received a text informing me Mikel and Sway landed in Salt Lake. It said that Sway was awake and responsive!! After being unconscious for 7+ hours, our boy was awake!! I was thrilled!






















As we neared the hospital my anxiety levels rose again -- I was so anxious to see my son and husband, but I also had so many unanswered questions running through my mind.

When I walked into the hospital room, my darling little 4 year-old - weak, confused, tears in his eyes - looked up at me and said, "Hi mom." My heart just about burst. I knew he was going to be okay! There we were, all together, our family of 5. Sway was alive! I was beginning to realize that what had happened that day was truly a miracle!!

Sway only had to stay one night in the hospital for monitoring. During that night he experienced some short term memory loss that caused some worry, but it never became a huge cause for concern. His blood tests looked better and better, and 24 hours after the horrific experience occurred, we were cleared to leave.

As I tell this story, it wouldn't be right to leave out one very important person -- the boy who found Sway and pushed him out of the pool. To our family, he is a hero! The day after we returned to our home, we had the privilege of meeting this brave boy and his family. I didn't know them before this incident. The fact that they were even at the pool the day it happened was a miracle itself. They were able to answer some of the questions I was still unsure of, and provide that last little bit of calming peace and reassurance that I needed. My heart will forever be grateful to this family, and especially the boy who noticed Sway in the water, realized something wasn't right, and yelled for help while pushing his body out of the pool. 


Sway hugging the boy who found him in the pool




























After surviving (literally on Sway's part) what could have been a horrific tragedy  we still had to recover. Sway's behavior regressed quite dramatically for the first few weeks, and Krew was quite traumatized from witnessing this whole terrifying scene first hand, but we were beyond thankful for all of the love, support, and miracles that we had witnessed.

I still don't know, to this day, why Sway survived. I often question why we were so lucky?  Especially when I hear of other stories where children die tragically. My heart hurts for these parents. Yes, I experienced pure horror on that day that Sway drowned, but he survived. I still have my son. And I thank God every single day that he is still with us. He lights up our life and completes our family. My heart is full of gratitude.



Today, exactly one year later, Sway is a vibrant, talented boy full of energy. From what we can tell, there are no lasting side affects from his drowning. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that life is so fragile and can change in the blink of an eye.

Tragedies can happen so fast! 

Every single second that I get to spend with my children is a blessing. 
























*Please remember that it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to share our stories. The purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow.  Emily will be reading the comments and I know she'd love to hear from you... please reach out and give her your love today! She also has a BLOG you can follow HERE and a most recent post HERE (that discusses her healing, anxieties of summing again and flashbacks of that difficult day).

*Emily, I remember this exact day last year. I was terrified for you all, absolutely terrified (a mother's worst nightmare, really), but so so so grateful and relieved when I learned that he lived! But what I remember the very most was reading your blog in the days to follow and how much strength, humility, gratitude and love you carried with you during such an uncertain, vulnerable time. Thank you for sharing your story and for reminding me that every second is a blessing. Every single second! May God continue to watch over you and your sweet little family ;)

(Read more stories of inspiring women in the "My Name is" series, HERE)


 Follow My Name is Jacy on FACEBOOK or INSTAGRAM to stay up to date and for future posts :) 

XOXO




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