I am sure that I have mentioned time and time again how lucky we are to have so many amazing people in our lives over the past two years. One of Ciaran and Shay's most favourite friend is Riley. From the very beginning, Riley has been one of their biggest fans - and she continues to be! Riley often comes over to help look after Ciaran and Shay. She plays with them, reads to them, laughs with them, feeds them and helps bath them - you would never believe that she is only in Grade 6. Below is the speech that Riley wrote for school this year - I wanted to share because I felt it was so touching and so very amazing to see how much perspective someone so young can have. Take a look and enjoy.
I have also included a few pics of Riley and the boys. You can see in the pictures how much joy Riley brings to Ciaran and Shay's world and how much joy they bring to hers - how truly lucky we all are!!!
Strength and courage… what’s that first thing YOU think about when you hear these words. For some, it could be a warrior or a body builder. Maybe a king or even a super hero. When I think about strength and courage, I immediately think of two twin brothers who haven’t seen their second birthday yet.
Good morning/afternoon. Today I will be sharing a story with you. It is filled with both magnificent moments and sad moments. It is a very important story. It is not MY story, but I have watched it unfold…and I have learned. I have learned the importance of understanding when things don’t turn out as we plan; the importance of having faith in the face of fear. I have also learned the true meaning of the phrase, “All we can do is pray.” In sharing this story with you, I hope you learn too…
I remember, not long into 2007, the day my mom’s friend, Liza, found out she was expecting a baby. Everyone was so excited to hear the news. This excitement was doubled the day she found out she was carrying twins! Liza and her husband Cris could not have been happier.Liza’s doctors monitored her progress and her two babies were growing according to schedule. However, early in the morning, on July 6th we learned that the babies had been born the day before. They were four months early. There was no way of telling if they would live. We were scared. We were confused. We were sad. This was when I learned that things don’t always turn out as we plan. I also learned how it felt to know, “All we could do was pray.”
We learned that the tiny babies were born, by complete surprise. So small and fragile, they couldn’t even cry. Cris and Liza chose names not knowing if they would ever have the chance to actually call them and see their boys come running. Both boys just over 2 pounds, Ciaran arrived first and shay was born one minute later. You could practically hold each of them in the palm of your hand.
Incubators, ventilators, intubation, feeding tubes, blood oxygen saturation levels, Intravenous tubes, CO2 rising, O2 dropping, heart murmur, valve litigation, heart echo- this probably sound like a different language to you. This was the language that Cris and Liza would have to quickly learn and then speak for months to come.Many tubes were connected to the boys providing them with oxygen and nutrients, while monitoring their heart rates and blood pressure.
Their mom and dad could only talk to them and send their love through the transparent walls of their incubators. Friends, family, colleagues, were sending love and support to their new little family. They knew the journey would be hard and began to deal with everything minute by minute. And the boys began to fight!
As the weeks progressed the boys conquered many battles that forced Llza and Cris to waver between celebrating success and worrying about what the next hurdle would be. Shay remained strong and survived each storm. Ciaran met every challenge with courage, calmly facing each day, prepared for the next. Cris and Liza loved them more and more with every passing minute,On August 18th, Liza held both boys at the same time-allowing them to reunite. Ciaran looked and looked at Shay and he actually reached out to hold his little brother’s hand. Maybe it was at this point a silent pact was made between the boys-“We have come this far and together, we will go the distance!”
In mid November, the boys were strong enough to go home. Daily struggles would be replaced with ongoing appointments and more mountains to climb, but the boys had proven themselves to be fighters. Shay remains strong and incredibly stubborn-Liza wished for the day she could hear her boys cry-Shay delivers on a regular basis. He is intense with his plans, just as he was intent on recovering. He stacks blocks as though he is building a skyscraper-every piece has to be perfectly aligned. He is also very quick to let you know if his brother is getting more attention than him.Ciaran’s courage empowers him as he works with professionals who push him to strengthen and to grow. He motors around his house in his high tech walker, maneuvering it like a pro! He has a great sense of humour, rarely frowning- always jolly and he has the best belly laugh of all time. The only time he cries is when the food isn’t coming fast enough!
Somehow I always knew in my heart that they would be okay but I had not realized how much I would grow to love them. Ciaran and Shay have become like family to me. When I am with them, all my troubles disappear and I feel a whole different kind of “happy.” They are now just over a year and a half old. While they are not like other kids their age, they are incredible people.Liza and Cris believe that everything happens for a reason. They have two beautiful boys, they are truly blessed and they have so much to look forward to.
Strength and courage. In order to be strong, you have to be willing to fight, even if you are at a disadvantage. You can’t face a challenge without courage. My boys proved themselves to be fighters. They had barely opened their eyes when they began facing challenges. They faced death and they chose to live – their way.
Riley bathing Shay
Riles with Shay