Deven was a very active, athletic child who was involved in many activities, mainly sports, such as football, baseball, and soccer. He was your normal 8 year old healthy boy. Until July 12, 2012 when our once “normal life” was flipped upside down. After returning home from football practice on July 11th, Deven began to complain of a sore throat and had a slight fever. We made arrangements for the following day for Deven to see his family doctor. Upon arrival, the doctor saw something very alarming with Deven’s health and sent us straight to Hershey Medical Center. By this time Deven was very lethargic and unable to walk, so my husband had to carry Deven into the hospital. From that moment on the whole scenario played out like a bad dream that wouldn’t stop. For the next two weeks, the hospital staff battled to keep Deven alive and stable, and the odds were not in his favor. He had contracted Neisseria Meningitides also known as bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal to patients, and a lot of times, as in Deven’s case, end up causing one or more of the limbs to be amputated.
After the doctors exhausted all options to save Deven’s legs from the disastrous effects of the infection, it was determined that he would lose both legs just below the knee. We were devastated. How do we tell your son who dreamt of becoming a Pro football player like his hero, Victor Cruz, that he will not be able to walk for a long time, let alone play football? Thankfully, my family and I took the news harder than Deven himself. Though, I am not sure if it was for lack of comprehension, or just his sheer relief to know that he wasn’t going to die (which was his first question after hearing the news). Needless to say, we were grateful for his positive attitude and sheer strength at a time when we couldn’t be as strong for our little boy.
The following year (2013) was extremely humbling and a learning experience to say the least. We have learned everything from how important a good support system is, to how much out of pocket expenses are incurred when a medical tragedy strikes.
This past year (2014) has been nothing short of amazing. I would have never thought two and half years ago that Deven would be where he is today and none of that would have been possible without being able to attend different amputee camps, meeting new people, most importantly, those whom understood and lived the situation we were facing and living daily. My husband and I were able to vent, and Deven was able to open up and tell his story; talk about his feelings. The emotional support and knowing that we were not alone in this journey helped us all heal both emotionally and physically.
In addition, this year Deven returned to his favorite place, the football field with his team! Number 29 was taken out of retirement and he excelled! Deven scored his first touchdown since being back on the field, and the smile on his face was contagious. He also had the opportunity to meet Tim Tebow and be on Good Morning America. He signed up for wrestling (even though my husband and I were hesitant) and made it to finals. He taught us that even though he may be a little different than his peers that nothing was going to hold him back. He decided early on that he will accomplish his goals with humility and a smile each step of the way.
We were fortunate enough to attend a camp in Florida where our family met another mom whose son had an above knee amputation at 11 months old. We bonded, our kids bonded and in getting to know her she spoke of starting a non-profit “Giving to Fly” to help with the cost of attending camps and other activities for children whom are amputees. As a stay at home mom (due to Deven’s multiple therapy/doctor’s appointments), whose family lives paycheck to paycheck and has been inundated with medical bills, we cannot be thankful enough for organizations as compassionate and giving as Giving to Fly. We, as all parents want our son to know the sky is the limit and he can do anything he puts his mind to. Thankfully, he has the drive and determination to accomplish everything he puts his mind to. Unfortunately, without groups like Giving to Fly and others it would be impossible. We are so blessed to have met so many people to help making so many “impossible” possible for our children! We are grateful for all of the help that we have received! In the beginning of our journey, a dear family friend started a group on Facebook, entitled Deven Jackson’s village. She hit the nail on the head when she stated that “it takes a village”!
– Michelle, Deven’s mom