A very special adoption
My name is Dominique Watts, and I am a mom.
I had thought about those words for years, since I was a child. When would it happen? How would it happen? What would he or she be like? All I knew was that I wanted a healthy child to whom I could pass on my love of sports, music, and words.
I always knew I would adopt. I have an older sister who was adopted, so it was always part of me.
Matt Shaffer of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries contacted me about a little boy who needed a home. Matt spoke about his needs and we agreed to meet. I was very hesitant. But to Maryland I went with my friend, Jenna. I had never really thought that I would adopt a child with special needs.
My life forever changed on March 17, 2010.
Dovid suffered from an injury at birth due to his parents' negligence. His primary diagnosis was Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy. This resulted in cortical blindness, respiratory failure which required a tracheotomy and a ventilator, autonomic storm disorder, seizure disorder, quadriplegic CP, profound mental retardation, hypothyroidism, autonomic disregulation, precocious puberty, temperature instability, central bradycardia, g-tube for feedings, chronic lung disease, scoliosis and severe contractures.
I think the biggest hindrance to any other family having an interest in him was the ventilator and that he is a total care child.
His equipment included ventilators (two, so there is always a back-up), suctions machines (two, one at bedside, one portable), T/Pump Heating/Cooling blanket system, pulse oximeter, nebulizer, ventilator humidifier, oxygen (a large compressor at home, tanks for going out), wheelchair, hospital bed and feeding pump.
I don’t know how to explain it. But the first time I met Dovid, it was over for me. I knew in my heart he was my son.
Caring and sharing
My medical experience to that point was that I had put on a few bandages. Obviously, I had a lot of learning to do.
I learned how to suction, change a trach, give medication, feed him and everything else I had to learn. I learned all those things from his nurses and from Jenna, who was extremely knowledgeable already. But all of that was nothing compared to what I learned from Dovid.
After months of back and forth travel to Maryland, I finally got to bring my little man home in January. He loved to cuddle and be held. It improved his heart rate, temperature and oxygen sats.
Most people would think all those dreams I had of having a child with whom I could share my love of sports, music, and words were not going to be realized with Dovid, given his extensive needs. But they would be wrong.
I sang Dovid almost every song I know, taught him how Prince makes me want to move, and that even though he was probably too young, everyone should listen to hip hop at least once—so I made an exception to his age and let him (the edited version, of course!).
When we were alone in the early mornings, I would read to him things that I wrote—and a few of my favorite pieces from other writers.
In March, Dovid became very ill. It got to the point where we knew it was almost the end for him. It was—and still is—the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, to watch my child be in pain and not be able to help; to know that we wouldn’t be able to do the things I had planned for us to do.
But I still had one more passion of mine left to pass on to him. March Madness was in full swing. So on March 27, Virginia Commonwealth University was playing the Goliath of college basketball, Kansas.
I joked with some of the nurses at the hospital that Dovid had picked VCU for the upset. So there we were watching the game. To every single person in the world’s surprise, VCU won. I had a sports moment with my son. But more than that, I had a sports moment that was a perfect metaphor for his life—his short life.
He died the next day.
Dovid was always the underdog. The struggles most kids face pale in comparison to what Dovid endured. Every day was work. Every breath was a fight. You know what, though? Dovid won.
In five years, he taught more people about love, compassion, and perseverance than I think anyone could. That is his victory. That is his legacy.
It breaks my heart that I can’t hold him anymore, but I carry him with me every day. Though it’s hard, I share his story with as many people who ask or will listen. My hope is that more people, people like me who had never considered special needs adoption, will open their minds and be taught that the “special” part of “special needs” is not at all what they think it means.
A lot of people think I chose Dovid. Dovid chose me. And I am forever grateful.
Dominique Watts is a mom and a Mass Communications Specialist Third Class in the U.S. Navy, stationed in Diego Garcia. When she adopted Dovid, she was assigned to USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier based out of Norfolk, Va. She had the full support of her command.