Thursday, 24 October 2013

31 for 21 - Day 24

I thought I'd take today to write a little bit about someone very special to me. Sari and her daughter Sydney, live in VA Beach. Sari also has a son, Sam, who is 7 and has Ds and ASD. Sam was removed from his home just over a year ago, and custody was given to his father. There is no rhyme or reason to their story. Somehow, this amazing woman pushes through each day surviving solely on the faith that Sam will come home someday soon and that there has to be a reason, a testing, for all these happenings.

I met Sari online just after Everleigh was born. I do not remember how we met, but looking back now, it doesn't even matter. It doesn't happen often in life, when you meet someone who just fits so perfectly with your situation. Sari is in her 40s, her daughter is 18, and her son is 7. So technically, I should get along better with Sydney than I do with her mom...but the truth is, this woman is just so...SARI...that the age difference does not matter.

Last Christmas (just before actually), I finally decided to fly down to Virginia Beach and meet this woman who I had connected with so well. I was nervous. Nervous about getting off the plane, her not being there, and me realizing a horrible mistake had been made. Nervous about meeting (and living) with someone with autism for a week...because people with autism are SO different from one another, it is impossible to say "this is how they will react to -insert situation here-". Worried about flying with Everleigh, getting through the airports, security, customs etc.

Let me tell you. I got off the airplane in VA Beach, gathered our carry-ons and stroller from the bins/gate, and headed up the runway. I was scanning the crowds for a familliar face, when she saw me, walked over cautiously, and asked if I was Amanda. When I said yes, she wrapped me in this bone-crushing hug that never wanted to end. Seriously, it was like coming home to a loved one you haven't seen in a long time. She then introduced me to Sam, who was fidgeting with his beads, refused to make eye contact, but did say "hi" and then grabbed my hand. My heart melted instantly.

The week was a lot of the kids getting to know eachother, us having heart-felt talks (with tea!) on the couch, some shopping (for me), but mostly just vegging out at her house and just being together. Everleigh and Sam got along very well, as well as a then-6 year old and a 20 month old could. They grew on eachother. Everleigh took her very first steps there (!!). She also came down with a nasty case of something-or-other that landed us in the hospital (thank you travel insurance!).

Shortly after we left, things transpired (it's a long, drawn-out, bullshit story), and Sam was removed from his mother's care and placed with his father. It has been a downhill slide of never-ending lies and deceit on his father's part that keeps Sam with him, even now. Sari has been allotted one visit a week, supervised, which she must pay for (she does not work currently, due to a heart attack brought on by stress from this whole situation). But even then, sometimes she does not see her son. It has been court ordered that she be allowed to Skype with Sam twice a week...she does not get this priviledge, and if she does, it is a rarity. Her ex-husband sits just out of range of the camera, and will cut the call short if he hears anything he doesn't like.

Did I forget to mention that Sam is non-verbal? Part of me wonders if this is why her ex is doing what he is. Because Sam can't speak up and tell us exactly what is happening. Breaks my heart, I tell ya.

Sari has been keeping notes since the beginning of all this (and even before), and not one professional has listened to her. Yet she daily continues to fight for her son. To bring him home, and away from the hurt and sickeness he is enduring with his father. She keeps notes of EVERYTHING she observes when she has her visits with Sam. She makes notes based on his appearance when they Skype. She has doctor's notes showing that Sam is enduring medical neglect because his father refuses to keep appointments that are scheduled for Sam's well-being (he is supposed to see a Cardiologist, a Gastroenterologist, an Ophthalmologist, he is supposed to recieve ABA therapy etc). 


It breaks my heart that these pictures are from the first and last time I saw Sam. I can't imagine what Sari goes through on a daily basis not being able to hold her son. To touch him, smell him, breathe him in. 

Being in Canada, I have no way to help her. She has tried every avenue she knows of to try and end the nightmare, but nothing seems to be working. This beautiful little boy does not see his mother, and it must be slowly killing his mom (and sister) to have him ripped from their lives. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Sydney is not allowed to attend these supervised meetings. Her ex-husband won't allow it (Sydney is not his daughter, but this is beyond the point. Syds is Sam's sister).

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will just leave you with this one last picture. Sari has a heart of gold, and I can't imagine anything like this ever happening. It's one of those situations that you hear about in the's so unbelievable, appalling that this is happening. And that I am powerless to help her.

For anyone who wants to read more about Sari, Sydney, and Sam....Sari keeps a blog over at Normalcy Challenged. She does not update often, but the whole account of this nightmare is. Head on over and read. Send her some love. Find her on FB, Twitter, IG, etc. and just let her know we are all thinking of her. I know I do this daily, but it would be nice to know she has others thinking of her too.

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