I blindsided my poor husband in 2009 when I informed him that I really wanted a fourth child. We were done. I was pushing 40. We had sold all the baby stuff. We would need a new house. I begged. He bought me a puppy. I love puppies. But I wanted a baby. He finally caved. Getting pregnant this time was hard. It took what felt like forever. I was on bed rest for 7 months with three other kids under the age of 7. In August 2011, I had my fourth child; a boy that I named Rudy.
The morning I was to be induced, we went to the hospital and it felt routine. This was my fourth kid. I knew what to expect. Well, it ended up being the worst day of my life. Rudy was born completely blue, not breathing and with a really rare birth defect. They rushed him off and no one knew what was wrong. I was told he wouldn’t live very long. It was awful. The nurses and doctors tiptoed around us. I freaking loved that boy so much; I couldn’t quit crying over what would not be. He developed meningitis at 8 days old and we had to go to another hospital. I felt like they were treating him like the side show at the circus the way doctors and nurses paraded in to look at him. I finally checked him out of the hospital at 3:00 AM when his treatment was over rather than wait until the normal rounds in the morning.
After a few weeks we figured out what was going on and it wasn’t as dire as we originally thought. Not great, but he had a shot at living a normal full life. It was determined he would need some surgeries. After interviewing multiple surgeons, we went with Shriner’s Hospital. After his first 16 surgeries, they asked if I would be interested in running the 2013 Chicago Marathon and raising money for their hospital. I was a runner growing up, I made it to state all four years running in high school, but I burned out. I still ran some post-high school…not a ton, but I enjoyed it when I did it occasionally. The Shriner's Hospital did so much for us, I figured this was the least I could do. So I signed up…with a full time job, four kids, one of who needed massive amounts of care, and a husband who traveled. What could go wrong?
I ended up raising $15,000 for the hospital and earned a BQ in the race. That started off a passion. I fell in LOVE with running again, it was my “me time.” Fast forward to 2018 and the Shriner's surgeries for Rudy did not go well. We started a whole new process with a whole new hospital. It went south quickly. Rudy had 36 surgeries in about 6 months. It was HORRIBLE. In order to come home between surgeries, I had to be willing to inject him full of saline, stab a flap of skin to cause it bleed, apply leeches to the flap of skin, pack a wound (stuff a rubber glove and a roll of gauze in him twice a day), remove his staples…things I never ever would imagine myself doing, and certainly not to my own son. Plus I had busy teenagers, my job was crazy, I started a rabbit pet rescue, and we adopted another new puppy. (I really love dogs and rabbits.)
During this time, I developed a terrible limp….it was completely painless. I didn’t even know I was limping until the local police department stopped and offered to drive me home twice. (“Are you SURE you don’t need a ride? Because it hurts me to watch you run.”) The doctors didn’t have a clue. They tested me for everything under the sun. ALS, MS, Lyme disease, Lupus, cancer, lead poisoning, everything. We learned the nerves to my glute med were not functioning…at all. They finally decided it was probably due to the stress of Rudy’s six months of surgeries, lack of sleep, and chronic worry. I started seeing a PT because the limp started causing hamstring pain. We walked through everything and determined there was no reason to stop running at this time. This PT eventually became my best friend. I am so grateful to her for keeping me going.
I still road run, but due to the limp, trails are much easier on my bum leg. The lateral movement is a lifesaver. I find so much joy on the trails. Just pure happiness and peace. I trust my body and I know I can run for hours. I know I am freaking strong. Trail running is new to me. it has only been since mid 2021 but I love it. I have learned I’m pretty darn good at it too and I am excited to see where I go with it. I’ve managed to set a couple course records in local trail trail races.
Without Rudy, I would not have any of this. I am so grateful to be his mom. He brings our entire family so much happiness, and he has made us all more compassionate people. I worry about him; he is much more likely to develop a rare and fatal cancer, but I can’t focus on the what ifs. I need to live in the moment and just find joy in whatever I am doing. I am so grateful for my limp; I wouldn’t have met my best friend or taken the chances on the trails.
Rudy taught me that I am so much stronger than I ever thought.
Rudy taught me that I can do things I never ever thought I could do.
Rudy taught me that even if someone is different, they are just like everyone else.
Rudy taught me everyone has bad things happening to them. So be kind always.
Rudy taught me that I need to choose joy every single day. You just don’t know.
Little did I know the worst day of my life was the best thing to ever happen to me.