We got the word that we would be able to bring Elijah home as our foster child 12 hours before his discharge from the NICU. As a nurse in the NICU, I had taken care of him and knew the extent of his illnesses. We had never been parents before and had no idea what we were doing. We just knew we would do whatever we could to make his life as happy and peaceful as possible. As soon as we got Elijah home, we started inundating him with every therapy and developmental intervention we could find. At one of his first doctor's visits (and he had 150 appointments in the 1st year we had him) we were told that he would not live past the age of 12 months because of the severity of his brain injury. Once we digested this devastating information we made a decision to keep loving and believing in our sweet baby in the hopes that he would prove his doctors wrong.
Elijah continued to progress in his development, although a lot slower than other kids his age. For 2 years, we endured the long legal process involved in adopting him. On September 4, 2007, Elijah officially became a Sprague. I always joke that every day of those 2 years was boot camp for poor Elijah. I quit my job as a nurse and became his drill instructor! He worked hard every day at scooting, crawling, talking, eating, interacting with other kids, and surviving new environments. Because of his initial brain injury, Elijah had, and still has, some major sensory integration problems. It took several years and A LOT of patience for him to be able to be out in a public setting and not be terrified of all the different sounds his poor brain was having to process. His stress would manifest as severe tantrums, some of which involved him hurting us and himself. Not long after these tantrums started, we began to suspect that Elijah was autistic. In 2014, we officially received that diagnosis.
Because Elijah was never expected to live, it was difficult for us to find medical personnel who were willing to help us in our quest to grow Elijah into a productive, well-adjusted boy. Through research and travel, we have put together a team of people that love and care for Elijah in ways we never could've imagined. Over his 10 years he has had multiple brain surgeries, a feeding tube placed, bowel revision surgeries, eye surgery and a very dangerous and invasive back surgery. He has spent multiple months in the hospital and countless hours enduring the therapies and treatments that would eventually help him to function at his current level. He started talking at 5 years old and now has over one hundred words! He attends a school that is specific to his needs and is thriving in his classroom environment. Elijah's official diagnoses include diplegic cerebral palsy, autism and intellectual delay. He is able to walk short distances with canes but requires his wheelchair to go long distances. He is incredibly social and loves meeting new people. He takes hip hop dance class, plays t-ball and loves horseback riding. He is in love with his dog Pete and is extremely close to his siblings Henry and Lucy. He thinks burps are hilarious and loves seeing motorcycles. Most importantly, he will never have to understand prejudices or hatred because all his sweet brain understands is love and acceptance.
Many people throughout the years have told us that we "saved" Elijah. The awesome truth is that he saved us. He has helped us touch so many people's lives that we never could've or would've done on our own. He has taught us the real meaning of unconditional love and showed us how strong we are... as individuals and as a family. Although he requires a lot of care and patience, we wouldn't change anything about him...ever.