Opening My Heart
Our son Jaziah was one-year old when his troubles began. After many doctor visits he was referred to Children’s (OCH). It was later that same day that our lives were changed forever. Jaziah was diagnosed with CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia). It was the worst thing I have ever heard in my life. A million thoughts flashed through my mind. I was angry, scared and worried. From that moment, all I could think about was Jaziah.
Jaziah responded well to his initial round of treatments and was discharged. But about 5 months later Jaziah took a turn for the worse. His CML transformed to ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) and he was once again admitted to Children’s. When we initially found out about his CML, I didn’t think I could be more scared. Boy was I wrong. For the next month we never left Jaziah’s bedside.
When Jaziah was discharged he needed to remain close to the hospital. That was when our social worker referred us all to the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House. When we drove up to the House I thought, “Man that’s a big old house, like you see on TV”. I come from the inner city, I had never been in a mansion before.
When Jaziah, Jessica (Jaziah’s mom) and I walked in the door everyone who greeted us was smiling. I’m not a real people person. I mean my mom taught me to be polite, but opening up to people is something I’m not used to. Now I found myself in a beautiful old mansion where everyone smiles, is helpful and as I discovered, genuinely nice. It was a breath of fresh air and a sigh of relief. It gave us a chance to balance, to focus entirely on Jaziah. To not have to worry about keeping the lights on or food on the table. Jessica was able to do “her mom stuff” for Jaziah, do his laundry, make his breakfast, cuddle with him every night and make sure all his needs were taken care of. It was like, “Yo!” Let me take this all in. I can be private if I want to, cry when I need to, and play with Jaziah as much as I long to. It was a wake-up call for me.
Jaziah is a happy, precocious and loving little man. For the first time in his short life he is able to really be a kid. To play in an amazing playroom, to run around, visit and play with the staff and volunteers and just be your typical 2-year old boy. This journey has changed me profoundly. It has made me a bit more grounded and accepting of other people and more compassionate to the next man. Being at the Ronald McDonald House and surrounded by support has opened my heart a lot more to life.
The Buffalo House is a home where I can breathe, sigh in relief, wake-up each morning and say “Good morning. I love you,” to Jessica and Jaziah. A home where you can still have home as your foundation when life is falling apart. Our journey is far from over, but with what I have learned at the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House, I have the courage I need to see it, hear it, take it and live it.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
– Gary Jackson