A Real Life “I AM” Story
By Blake Harper
On Presidents’ Day weekend, 2003, while skiing at Mammoth, California, tragedy struck. My 10-year-old daughter Catherine, who appeared to have the flu and spent the day in bed rather than go skiing, couldn’t be awakened. I threw her over my shoulder and rushed her to the emergency room. She was given oxygen and flown to Loma Linda Hospital in San Bernardino County, and ultimately transferred to Children’s Hospital in San Diego. She was in the Critical Care units of the two hospitals for nearly 3 months.
Catherine was a special girl. She never received less than a A in school, and in Fifth Grade had all A+’s except for one A. We teased her about that A. In addition, she loved sports. She played on all the softball all-star teams and once blocked 4 out of 5 penalty kicks as goalie for a travel squad soccer tournament. At the time of her illness, she played on a recreation league basketball team, and frequently would score all of her team’s points for the entire game. Plus, she was sweet. She never said a mean thing, and was a great friend. She was soft-spoken, and loved to laugh, and to be the center of attention.
But in the hospital, she had to fight for her life. For all but 3-4 days of her hospital stay at Rady’s Children’s Hospital San Diego, she was sedated and on a respirator, as we waited and prayed for her lungs to improve, so she could breathe on her own. That meant that she could still think, hear, and move. She clearly could hear and respond, and while she was given medication to paralyze her so she didn’t fight against the respirator, the nurses would stop the medication every few days to check her responses. On those occasions, she could blink or squeeze your hand if you asked her to. When people would make negative comments around her, tears would come to her eyes.
At some point in time before Catherine’s illness, my wife Janice Deaton cam across the little book, The I AM! Affirmation Book by Steve Viglione. Steve had donated some of the books to our community center and made a brief presentation. I thought it was a great book for kids because of its empowering message of self-esteem and self worth. Janice read it several times to Catherine before her illness, and brought it to the hospital. While Catherine lay in the ICU, Janice and I read the book to her hundreds of times.
The book was a reaffirmation of Catherine’s attitude toward life. On the door to her hospital room, we posted an anagram she had drafted for school:
C is for confident for she is brave and true, she always believes in herself and has fun too.
A is for author because she is the best, she writes and writes and writes and never takes a rest.
T is for talent because she sure has a lot, she always gives it everything she’s got.
H is for heroic because she does good deeds, she helps her family with all their needs.
E is for exceptional because that is what she is, she does not procrastinate and takes care of all her biz.
R is for rapid because she goes fast on her snowboard, she gets down the mountain nice and safe, thank the Lord.
I is for infinity because that’s how many years she hopes to live, she loves her life so much and has a lot to give.
N is for nature because it’s one thing she loves, she likes the ocean and all the plants and even the pretty doves.
E is for emotion because she expresses it a lot, it’s sometimes sad but mostly happy, and nothing can be forgot.
H is for ha-ha because she loves to laugh, she thinks the funniest thing is a short necked giraffe.
Catherine struggled for her life several times during her nearly three-month hospital stay. I read to her The I AM! Affirmation Book on many of those occasions. On each occasion, she would somehow pull through. I believe the message of strength and purpose of The I AM! Affirmation Book helped her during those hard times.
Finally, despite exceptional medical care, Catherine’s body failed. I don’t think her spirit ever did. Her spirit kept her going for those many weeks, perhaps so we could ourselves be ready for her to leave us. We miss her enormously. Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of her passing. She still Is. But we will always be grateful for her final months with us, battling infections, squeezing our hands and blinking her eyes to us, letting us know that, yes, she was confident and brave and believed in herself.
Thank you, Steve, and The I AM Foundation, for giving us that message.
Blake Harper and his lovely wife Janice Deaton have generously sponsored tens of thousands of I AM! Affirmation Books for children of Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, The San Diego School System, the children of Tijuana, Mexico and children around the world.
About The I AM Foundation…Founded in 1998, The I AM Foundation is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit whose mission is publishing and gifting books and music from The Love~Wisdom Series. The I AM Foundation also gifts books and music from other authors and musicians who donate their products for gifting to the world. The I AM Foundation has gifted and distributed over 1.1 million books and products to children around the world since 1998. The I AM! Affirmation Book: Discovering The Value of Who You Are is their signature book which has over 177,000 copies of various editions in print. The book has been translated into over 40 languages for book gifting to children worldwide. To make a financial or product donation please visit www.iamfoundation.org