By Dianne Kemp BA, RN
On July 22, 1982, I gave birth to my third child. This was before the days of routine ultrasounds, so I did not know that this child had multiple congenital anomalies including a soft cleft palate defect and club feet. Over the next weeks of his life – which were spent at Children’s Hospital in Detroit – we found out that he had a rare syndrome called Moebius. Three of his cranial nerves did not develop – he had no lateral eye movement, facial paralysis, club feet, and many other anomalies. We found out later he also was autistic and non-verbal.
You can imagine that the lack of facial movement was painful as he could not react with the smile that most people wait for when they talk to a baby. And with no speech, he could not share his emotions.
That changed when he met an amazing woman. Deb was a pretty blond aid who worked in Matthew’s classroom at Woodland Developmental Center. Matthew took an immediate liking to her – she was caring and kind.
Deb heard of a new technique for non-verbal children. It was a laminated board with letters. Deb would gently hold Matthew’s hand over the board to steady it and he would move and touch letter after letter. No one thought it would work – except Deb. The first note I received – transcribed from Matthew to me was “Tell Mom, no Diet Coke, just Pepsi”. Diet Coke is my beverage of choice and I drink it daily. I did not know that Matthew liked Pepsi!
The next note simply said, “Tell Mom I love her”. It still makes me cry when I think about that note – and I still have all the notes. When you have a child who is disabled and cannot tell you he loves you, or show that with facial expression, it is difficult. I started to wonder if he even knew I was his mom. This was an affirmation – he was nine years old.
We had a window of about a year that Matthew used the language board and then that window closed. He just stopped. I treasure that years’ worth of correspondence and I treasure Deb.
I lost touch with Deb over the years – but she found me recently on Facebook. What joy I felt to hear from her. It has been about 25 years. And then, yesterday, we ran into each other at a local grocery store. We hugged, and I did not want to let go. All those memories of Matthew rushed back.
Deb will always be a very special person in my life – she gave Matthew words – and she gave me a very special gift.
Dianne Kemp was born in Detroit and moved to Lexington at age 9. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing Science in 1972 from SC4 and a Bachelors in Healthcare Psychology from Graceland College (Iowa) in 1996. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to, “Like” us on Facebook!
Dianne’s career developed from her love of babies. She was a Maternal Child nurse for 45 years – developing and teaching childbirth and parenting education classes, working as an RN in Mother Baby Care and was the first lactation consultant in the county. She is now volunteering as a chaplain at River District Hospital since losing her vision in her left eye due to a retinal detachment in 2010.
Dianne is the proud mother of three children (one who was disabled and passed away in 2007) and two grandchildren.
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Dianne Kemp was born in Detroit and moved to Lexington at age 9. She received her Associate Degree in Nursing Science in 1972 from SC4 and a Bachelors in Healthcare Psychology from Graceland College (Iowa) in 1996.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to, “Like” us on Facebook!