30 August 2006, Camp Pendleton California, was a day that will stay with me until my heart no longer beats. It was the day that I found out that my gorgeous wife Jen had given birth to Superman, only I didn’t know his true identity at that time. Evan was set for a normal birth, but flipped at the last minute forcing a C-section. After the delivery, Evan was briskly taken to the nursery as my wife was put back together and stapled back up. I went to the nursery to take pictures of our little bundle of joy to show to my wife, since she was not able to see him very long. As I snapped away and talked to my newborn son, a doctor walked up behind me and asked “Are you the father?” Of course I told her yes. She told me he was beautiful and started making small talk. After a few minutes she asks “Have you ever seen a show called Life Goes On?” I said “Yes”, not even looking in her direction as I continued to stare at my son sleeping. Then she asks me “Do you remember the character named Corky?” I was getting annoyed with this woman now, so I said “Yeah, why?” infused with a great deal of sarcasm. The next statement she made caused me so many emotions at one time, that I’m surprised I was able to even function on my own. “Well, that’s what we think your son has. We still hafta run tests, but I’m fairly confident what the results will be. I’m sorry.” After staring at my son, trying to see this “Corky” thing she spoke of I asked a question. “Have you told my wife yet?” She replied “No, why?” I asked her to please wait until she was lucid and I would tell her. She didn’t listen and told her anyway.
As my wife and I cried, I wondered what kind of life Evan would have. I also selfishly wondered what our life would be like. The doctors then told us that his oxygen level was low and they would be flying him to San Diego Children’s Hospital. I prayed more over the next 2 days than I can ever remember. I asked for the strength to be a good father to my son, to allow him to have an easier life than I expected him to have, and for the world to be more accepting of him. I had known people with special needs and even grew up with my uncle’s brother, who had Down Syndrome. I still knew nothing about it. I spent a lot of time in the hospital chapel while waiting for my wife to be released. After her release, we went to SDCH for the first time. After testing was done, confirmed and explained, we focused on getting our son out of the NICU. We were told he would have trouble doing everything. He would have trouble feeding from a bottle; have low muscle tone, trouble learning everyday actions. We were pretty much told he would be a vegetable and his life would be extremely hard, as would ours.
Ev couldn’t leave until he could eat at least 2 ounces in a single feeding, and he couldn’t finish a single ounce. We received a call about 4 days later telling us our son was being transferred to Tri-City Medical Center, which was about 30 miles closer to us. We asked why and told us that they couldn’t keep up with his need for food along with the other babies there. He had woken up and was eating 4-6 ounces every 2 hours! He was doing better in Tri-City, but his oxygen was still low, and of course he couldn’t leave until he was breathing better. His heart test came back good, which was a HUGE relief, but we wanted him home. After 2 days of being there, the doctor told us that his oxygen was all that was keeping him there. He told us this as Jen held him. It was if he had heard him that afternoon because we received a call the next morning telling us he was ready! We asked how and we were told “No matter how much tape we use, Evan keeps ripping the nose tube out. When we checked after 4 or 5 times, his oxygen was above normal.
We took our son home that morning and he has surprised us every day, going against the odds one milestone at a time. We were told he wouldn’t drink out of a sippy-cup. They were right, he went from a bottle to a straw cup. We were told it would take a long time to use his own utensils. Wrong again. Crawling, walking, talking, stairs, and every other milestone. Evan has destroyed most of them and is ahead of his peers with Down Syndrome for his age in most categories. We gave him the nickname Superman after he fought so hard to leave those hospitals and he has lived up to the name for over 6 years, going through 6 surgeries and surpassing goals set for him. Living with a super hero has been rewarding to say the least. I see what my son goes through and know that my problems are so insignificant compared to day to day struggles. I can be having the worst day and a greeting from my son cures it all. Evan has a way of bringing people to together and having immediate impacts on their lives. Evan has forced me to be outgoing and has softened my heart from the stone it once was. He has forced me out of my comfort zone time and time again. I have a greater appreciation for life and I believe I’m a better father, along with a lot of help from my wife.
Superman has shown me that anything is possible, as long as you think it is. I have no idea what else he will do to surprise me, but I’m looking forward to the journey. I’m proud to say that my hero doesn’t stalk the shadows of Gotham or swing from the skyscrapers of New York City. My superhero eats Goldfish crackers and drinks Sweet Tea in Beulaville, North Carolina. He attends Richlands Primary School and loves to watch Chuggington, Jungle Junction, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Everyone should be so lucky to have a super hero like mine in their life. Superman is real and he quietly saves lives everyday. I love you Evan.
SSgt Don Toro