Middle Arm man celebrates milestone no one thought he’d ever see
Marilyn Rideout remembers the fateful day in February, 20 years ago, all too well. So do her daughter, husband, family and friends.
For her son, Adam, however, his memories are lost in the tragic after-effects.
That day in 1994 began like every other, but before it was finished the lives of Adam, and the rest of his family, would be changed forever.
“He was less than two months from his 10th birthday,” says Marilyn. She sits in her living room, her daughter and grandson on the couch opposite, a personal care worker to her right and, to her left, her eldest child, Adam. He’s confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and still suffering from brain damage and injuries sustained two decades earlier.
The Rideouts are fresh off celebrating Adam’s thirtieth birthday – an occasion Marilyn didn’t think she’d see all those years ago, when her son was involved in a car accident, and her world was turn upside down.
“No,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d see it at all – not a way.”
While her memory is still fresh and vivid, she says her son’s is not.
“He doesn’t remember any of it,” she said, pointing at Adam. He pushes a button on his wheelchair that produces a noise, signaling he wants their attention. With the one hand he has use of, he begins to form letters in sign language to spell out the message he wants to convey.
“I remember before the accident,” he says.
Adam suffered a severe hit to the head, among other injuries, when he was struck by a car. Following the accident the young boy spent the next several months at the Janeway Children’s Hospital in St. John’s, undergoing care, and unsure of what the future held.
“The doctor’s didn’t give us much hope,” recalls Marilyn. “Not much hope at all. They told me to put him in a home, or an institution, and forget I had a son.”
At the time, she admits, she didn’t think her son would be sitting next to her 20 years later.
Rideout says doctors told the family that Adam would be in a permanent, progressive vegetative state for the rest of his life, unable to feed himself or provide for any of his own needs. However, as time went on, his mother began to realize her son was making progress.
“I spent every hour of every day by his bedside,” she recalls. “I would see him react, or move, or smile, and no one would believe me because he wouldn’t do it for anyone else.”
Rideout says the doctors had accepted the grim fate for her boy, but she refused to give up; insisting that Adam was more than physicians made him out to be.
“I still remember the day,” she recalls with an air of exuberance and satisfaction in her voice. “They were going to do the surgery to put the feeding tube into his stomach, and I didn’t want them to do it, but they were going to do it anyway. I remember going up to the floor in the elevator and when the doors opened, the nurses came running telling me Adam was awake and responding to them. I just told them that he’s been doing that for weeks, but they wouldn’t believe it.”
Rideout says doctors decided to cancel the feeding tube surgery then. While the road ahead was still going to be rough and trying, they at least had more hope than before.
Seven months later, Adam was finally released from the Janeway. When he came home he was paralyzed on his left side because of the damage to the right side of his brain and unable to speak because of loss of air to his lungs.
It took a lot of hard work, dedication and determination by his family, personal care workers and Adam himself over the next while to ensure his condition of life was as good as it could possibly be, given his circumstances.
Despite it all, though, his mother says she’s proud of what he son was able to accomplish.
“It’s amazing, really, because we were told he would be nothing, and not able to do anything at all,” she explained. “But he can communicate, he can read, he has use of his right side – he came a long way from what the doctors said he was going to be.”
Adam still faces his challenges, however. The unusually harsh winter has meant that his enjoyment for fresh air has been minimal.
“His chair isn’t suitable for winter,” explained Rideout. “And he’s having trouble with his (wheelchair accessible) van since last August, so it’s been a rough time for him not being able to get out and enjoy the outdoors like he wants to.”
In fact, outside of close family and friends, Adam hasn’t seen many other people in several months. It was with that thought that his family got the idea for his surprise party this past Saturday.
“He didn’t know anything about it,” explained Rideout, “because I was scared no one would show up and then he would be disappointed.”
Adam’s family decided to plan a surprise open-house event to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
Guests started arriving around 1 p.m., much to Adam’s surprise and delight, and kept coming for the next several hours.
“There were well over 100 people here,” says Marilyn with excitement. “Oh he was so happy to see everyone. They all came, wished him a Happy Birthday, stayed for a while and had some food; it was fantastic.”
Adam’s face still lights up when talk goes back to his special day. For the young man that doctor’s gave up on it was a rare special treat to interact with so many people.
“I think he had a good time, to say the least,” his mother says, looking at him for reassurance.
Adams face goes into a big smile, and he nods approvingly.
His attitude is one of positivity and love – and as he listens to his mother describe his challenges and set-backs, that prevents him from doing things others sometimes take for granted, he makes it known he doesn’t feel any different.
His hands begin to sign the letters once again to form his words.