Friday, May 13, 2011
Find My Family Friday - Denis
On the first day that they brought all the special needs children outside, he was the first one I noticed. He was the first one I held, the first one I sang over, the first one I prayed for… the first one to capture my heart.
There he was, lying amongst the others in the outdoor crib. Tiny, frail, ribs protruding from his chest. You have to remember that I had never spent any real time with special needs kids before. I didn’t know what to do with a child like this, he looked so fragile I was afraid I would break him and yet I was drawn to him… I picked him up and he squirmed in my arms, so unfamiliar with what it felt like to be held. He was clearly uncomfortable and to be honest, so was I but I rocked him, I sang, I prayed and by the time I placed him back in that crib, he had taken a piece of my heart with him.
The workers couldn’t remember his name and it took a week or two before someone bothered to look it up for me. His tiny frame made him look like a baby but his features told me he was likely a lot older than his size would suggest. Several weeks later, when I had my translator with me, I found out that he was indeed four-years-old however I was not prepared for the news that followed. The worker told us that Denis had a disease where his organs were not growing and that as a result, he would not live very long. I know to take what the workers say with a grain of salt. They are often not fully informed of the child’s situation and even if they are, doctors over there are not exactly known for their proficiency. Still, their diagnosis made sense and it broke my heart.
Denis was one of the most challenging kids for me to work with. He did not like to be held and he spent most of our time together sitting on the floor rocking back and forth while I sporadically stroked his back, etc. He liked to hold a ball or balloon in his lap and bounce off of it as he rocked back and forth and I discovered that if I had a ball/balloon he would be content to sit on my lap, rocking and bouncing. Then one day I decided to try something new. I lay down on my back and placed him on my stomach, curious as to what he would do. He wasn’t a big fan but for reasons I still don’t know, I decided to lift him up in the air and sort of “fly” him back and forth over my head. That’s when I heard one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard – he laughed! He loved it! I kept going and he kept laughing and smiling. He still didn’t really like to be held but I had finally found a way to interact with him.
While in his group, Denis spends his days in either the large communal playpen or alone in the small, soft playpen (if you look back at this video, he’s the one by himself in the playpen off to the side). When I first started volunteering inside the orphanage, Denis didn’t seem to care or even notice whether I was there or not. After some time however he would occasionally make his way over to the side of the crib when he saw me coming. A couple of times he even reached out his hand towards me and it melted my heart every time.
Our biggest breakthrough however came just a couple weeks before I left. I took Denis downstairs for our one-on-one time and it quickly became clear that he had a fever and was just generally not feeling well. Because I knew the workers wouldn’t do anything about it until the nurse made her evening rounds I decided to keep him with me so at least he wouldn’t be alone. I placed him on the floor as usual but he was fussy and as I started stroking his back, he actually crawled into my lap. I decided to try holding him and much to my surprise and delight, he actually let me, just relaxing into my arms. For the next hour I held him in my arms and paced back and forth across the room, singing to him, praying over him and hiding my face from the workers passing by so that they wouldn’t see the tears trickling down my face. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my entire trip and I am confident that I will remember it for the rest of my life.
After that day, Denis allowed me to hold him more often, no longer fighting to get out of my arms. But the days passed by too quickly and before I knew it, it was time for me to leave. He was one of the hardest for me to say goodbye to and in the days and weeks after I got home, he was the one I thought of most often, the one I shed the most tears for, the one I most longed to have back in my arms. This sweet angel boy had finally learned to accept love, had finally experienced what it felt like to be safe in loving arms and all I could think was, would he ever get to experience that again?
I don’t know if the workers’ diagnosis is right. I certainly don’t know how much time Denis has left on this earth. What I do know is that he deserves so much more than the loneliness and neglect he is living right now. He deserves a mommy who will hug him and kiss him and hold him close, showing him what love is. He deserves a daddy whose strong arms will make him feel safe, secure and protected. That’s where I need your help. Would you help me spread the word about this tiny angel? He needs a family now. The day after he was listed on Reece’s Rainbow he already had $36 in his grant fund; looks like I’m not the only one whose heart he has captured. The more money in his grant, the more attention he will receive and the faster he will be able to come home once his family steps forward. Every dollar donated, every prayer uttered, every person you tell about this sweet angel, it all makes a difference. For more information or to donate, click here.
Denis is listed as “Ryan” on Reece’s Rainbow;
In order to protect his identity, when sharing about him on your own blogs, facebook pages, etc. please use his Reece’s Rainbow name