Leaving Home

Clifton_Family

Leaving home to travel for a family member’s medical care is a difficult decision to make, but for so many of the families who choose to make a trip to Cincinnati Children’s, the right care makes the decision easier.

And then it’s the leaving that becomes the hard part.

Teresa’s daughter Emma has a condition called Fanconi Anemia. Their family recently made the decision to travel from their home in Texas to Cincinnati Children’s for a bone marrow transplant.

Teresa recalled their departure from home in a post on the Facebook page where they are keeping family and friends up-to-date on their journey. The emotion she captured is absolutely beautiful and served as a reminder to me that so many of the families we serve have similar experiences – excruciating, hope-filled, tear-filled, one-more-hug goodbyes.

Here is that post:

It’s been over five weeks since we packed up our bags, packed up the van, gave hugs and kisses, and left our Texas home to bring Emma to Cincinnati for her bone marrow transplant.

Even the sky was crying that day.

Those last moments together with my remaining three children and husband were some of the hardest moments we’ve gone through. To know I had to give those last hugs and last kisses …on those tiny cheeks and *actually let go*. I didn’t know how to let go. I kept feeling like I needed to give them just one more kiss. One more kiss. One more kiss. One more hug. I wanted to leave as many with them as I could. I needed to give them six month’s worth of hugs and kisses because I didn’t know when, or if, I’d see them again while we were away. My arms were already missing them, and I hadn’t even let go yet.

I knew the moment I let go was the moment that we would start our new adventure, and I knew that our new adventure didn’t include us being together. I wasn’t ready for that. I wasn’t ready to start an adventure where I wasn’t there for all the little things and all the big things. I wouldn’t be there for *any* of the things. I knew that when they cried, I wouldn’t be able to hold them. I knew when they got hurt, I wouldn’t be able to comfort them. I wouldn’t be able to touch, feel, smell them. I wouldn’t be there, and nothing could ever give that time back to me.

I watched the last hugs and kisses from father to daughter, the not wanting to let go, the long holding, the tears. The hurt in his eyes that he *had* to let go. He had to let her leave. That he had to be separated from her. The way he held the baby, the way he looked at her, hoping she’d remember him. The way he looked at me, held me close, neither of us wanting to let go, knowing we would have to go through the hardest, scariest part of our marriage – apart.

I watched the last hugs from sister to siblings and cousins. I watched them cry, some understanding better than others and not wanting to let go. They didn’t want to say goodbye, but they knew why they had to. I saw them be brave in a way that doesn’t seem fair. I saw them embrace, then finally pull apart, then walk away.

I watched my sister give her daughter her final hugs and kisses, as she lent her to me, to help me at transplant with the baby, while my sister remained to help with our remaining children. I watched my other sister, who chose to temporarily leave her home and husband to help us, standing there with her five children, also extending her wing over my remaining three children. Then simultaneously, over five hours away, another sister was preparing to leave her home, to meet me in Cincinnati to help us through the transplant process, missing out on precious time with her husband who will likely be deployed before she makes it home.

We don’t have words to express our appreciation to each of them and their families. It has stirred emotions and feelings in us that we have never felt before. To see others sacrifice so much for our family is incredibly humbling (and more people in many more ways than this!).

We knew that Emma might not come back home, that it might be the last time we would see her there, the last time to see her walk out of her room, the last time to walk down the hall, the last time to hear her laugh there, the last time for her to be there, the last time our family would be like we were right then.

We did say our final goodbyes, we did leave, and we’ve been in Cincinnati for five weeks now. It’s surreal that we’re here – that tomorrow, Emma will start the fight for her life. Literally. Her immune system will be completely wiped out, and she’ll be given new cells soon. A chance to live.

While we don’t know the ending of this chapter of our lives, we know the ending of our story. We know that through Christ, and what He’s done for all of us, there is absolutely a “happily ever after” to our story…and that’s what we ultimately hold to and what brings us peace, as we prepare for all of what these next few months bring.

Thank you, everyone, for being there and extending your love and support! It’s meant so much…more than we can express.

I thank Teresa and her husband for their willingness to allow us to share these words and this small part of Emma’s story.

If you’d like to follow Emma’s journey, you are welcome to visit their family blog. Emma’s bone marrow transplant is possible thanks to a person who made the decision to join the National Marrow Donor Program. If you’re interested in learning more about bone marrow donation, please visit www.bethematch.org. Teresa’s cousin recently joined and wrote this blog post about the process.

Kate Setter

About the Author: Kate Setter

Kate manages social media at Cincinnati Children's, a role that she loves because it gives her opportunities to help families find stories and pediatric health information that they want and need. Kate is the mother of a four year-old and a toddler, you will probably hear about them and their antics from time to time as well.

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