Unexpected Life Changes
I graduated from The University of Toledo in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a double major in Information Systems and Ecommerce. I got married to my high school sweetheart in June and got pregnant in October. On Father’s Day, June 18, 2006, my husband and I were blessed with a beautiful baby boy, Kaiden.
I often say I received more surprises that day than any other day in my life. I ended up having an emergency C-section due to my blood pressure sky-rocketing and Kaiden’s heart rate dropping. Before I even could lay eyes on Kaiden, a neonatologist was standing beside my head as the OBGYN started telling my husband and me that there was a 50 percent chance that Kaiden had Down syndrome.
Tears immediately streamed down my face dripping onto the floor. I was finally introduced to my precious little red-haired Kaiden. This ended up being one of the best and hardest days of my life. I wish I would have known then that this was the beginning to an AMAZING life changing journey.
The first few months were extremely difficult for me as I did not expect my child to be “different.” Life didn’t seem fair.
What did I do to deserve this?
Why did God think I was strong enough to handle this?
Were people going to make fun of him?
Would my family love him the same?
What does his future look like?
How “severe” will he be?
What won’t he be able to do?
The emotions went on and on. Now I know, that this was just the natural grieving process that I had to go through to get to the point I am at now.
My Journey of the Unknown to Advocacy
For the past 8 years, my life has changed in so many ways. My husband and I decided it would be best for me to be a stay-at-home mom to assure that Kaiden had every opportunity to meet his potential. This is one thing I never could have imagined myself doing. I would go on to have two more children by the time Kaiden turned three and half years old.
At this time, I went back to work not using my degree but into the world that Kaiden introduced me to — the disabilities world. My mother said, “I am so happy that you are going back to work, your college is finally paying off.” What she did not realize is that I wouldn’t be doing anything that I am today if it wasn’t for Kaiden.
I am Kaiden’s biggest advocate. I advocate for him to be accepted and included in everyday life. Kaiden gave me so many amazing gifts the day that he was born: Compassion, acceptance, drive, patience and dedication. It is amazing how I once dreamed of working on computers for the rest of my life to dedicating my life to individuals with disabilities and special healthcare needs.
I have been the president of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo for five years. I have made numerous trips to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. and the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome.
Practicing the Patient and Family Centered Care Philosophy
My career at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital as the Patient and Family Care specialist allows me to help transform the culture to a Patient-and Family-Centered Care focus. On a daily basis, I work with staff and families to improve the patient and family experience by promoting Respect and Dignity, Information Sharing, Participation and Collaboration. I speak regularly to college students, professionals and physicians about the importance of including individuals with disabilities and special healthcare needs and their families as we would anyone else.
Kaiden has exceeded my expectations numerous times. He is in 2nd grade, has friends, is very social, communicates well and is more “like” any other 8 year old than “different.” Even though I had many fears of the unknown in the beginning, my goals for Kaiden are the same as they were from day one and are the same for all of my children — grow up to be a happy, independent adult that meets his or her potential. I also hope that he will get married and make some woman out there as happy as he has made me.
Sherri Rogers is the Patient and Family Care specialist at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital. She is a proud wife and mother of three beautiful redheads, Kaiden, Keegan and Kayleigh. Always the biggest advocate for her son, Sherri is the President of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo. Her family is part of Beyond the Frame, a permanent exhibit in the main entrance of ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital. To connect with Sherri’s family or other participants in the Beyond the Frame exhibit, please use #BeyondTheFrame to share an inspiring message.