Sunday, August 21, 2016

Racing Dreams

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The moment that those doctors sat Chris and I down in a room with a couch and two chairs, I knew before they even said it.  I could tell just by the look in Noah's nurse's eyes and their intentional avoidance of me, that the news about Noah's diagnosis wasn't going to be good.  But even when you think you've prepared yourself for the worst news possible, you haven't.  You can't.  It's impossible to do. 

It's as if a giant tsunami hits you without warning from behind, and you are literally drowning, you can feel yourself choking, struggling to breathe, inhaling water and at times just wishing you could succumb to the pain.  Then you realize that all the hopes and dreams that you ever had for your life and your child's life are drifting back out to sea, forever lost.  Gone. 

With each passing year I've felt like I'm walking the shoreline trying to find where all of it went.  Did it all sink?  Is it all just rusting away at the bottom of that endless ocean? Occasionally, I'll find a piece of a shell on the shoreline - a piece of our dreams floated back waiting for me to find it, just hiding beneath the sand's surface. 

This summer I found two broken shells; we won tickets to Thunder Mountain Races from The Chelsea Hutchinson Foundation's fundraising benefit and we were able to take Luke to the race track for the first time.   And then we found our second broken shell when Luke and Noah's grandfather donated his Mile High National Tickets to us so we could take Luke again.  But the shell wasn't whole.  Noah was still missing from the races.  At home with his respite care provider he couldn't join us.  The hot temperatures, lack of shade, only porta potties and no real space to handle his incontinence care, and his ability to handle direct sunlight and regulate body temperature, sprinkled with Noah's sensory challenges,  we simply had no idea how to make that work.
Our love story before we ever had children started over the race track and racing cars.  We always thought we'd share that passion with our children and that they too would enjoy the sport just as much as we do.  But when your dreams are washed out to sea it all changes.  Everything just changes.  Neither of us have raced in a decade, and it's been 9 years since I even last stepped foot at the track even as a spectator.   But I finally found a complete sea shell on the shoreline, that dream we've been looking and hoping we would find for a very long time.  It meant our entire family unit could be together and experience that dream. 

On a whim I reached out to Bandimere Speedway to explain our difficulties with Noah to see if there was anything at all we could do to make it work to take Noah to the track with us so he could watch the races.  I honestly expected that they'd say while sympathetic towards our situation that they simply could not make accommodations for Noah's unique needs. But they found the perfect situation for Noah and extended us an invite to come up to the track.  We went up for the Chevy Show, which couldn't have been any better.  Chris used to race a Chevelle so his passion has always been rooted in Chevy cars. It was also a moderately low-key event with less traffic and people, a great combination for Noah.  We used Suite 203, which was so nice because we only had to lift Noah's wheelchair up just a handful of stairs.  And Bandimere staff was so kind to allow us to park next to the tower so Noah would not have be exposed to the heat of the day for any extended period of time.  Noah had access to air conditioning and a fantastic view from his wheelchair on the top deck of the Suite.  We arrived around 11am in the morning and weren't sure if Noah would like it or hate it.  We anticipated we'd be lucky to stay maybe a couple hours with him, but we didn't leave until after 7pm and were the last to leave the track.
We bought concession stand food and brought it back to the suite, Noah comfortably ate food pureed pouches we brought while watching cars go down the track.  It was simply amazing.  The Jet Cars were also at the Chevy Show - and they are loud and they are fast, but Noah loved feeling the light rattle in the Suite and thought it was exciting.  We all did.  It's a really rare view of watching Jet cars from behind when they literally launch and take off down the track.  You see this giant smoke cloud coming towards you engulfing the tower, and then they're just gone, like a flash of lightening.  For me it's a really close tie between Nitro and Jet Cars for a thrill.

We had the most amazing hosts, that checked in with us through the day.  John and Christy, the ticket managers, were so sweet.  I really enjoyed seeing them throughout the day.  They felt like long lost friends that you finally were reunited with, they were so attentive and loving.
John (Ticket Manager)
And we received the ultimate visit from John Bandimere and his wife.  It's been years since I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Bandimere.  To us he's the equivalent of a celebrity.  We were in awe, and so honored that he took the time out of his day to visit Noah and our family while we were there.  He embraced Noah in a loving kiss on his forehead, and looked at him as if he were the biggest blessing of his day.  Mr. Bandimere shared how his best friend was currently in the hospital and struggling to get well. He went in for a heart procedure months earlier that led to complications like pneumonia and now a tracheotomy.  I could feel his pain and worry for his dear friend in his voice.  Mentioning that he had gone and prayed for him and that he had a report he was having a better day.  We know the power of prayer because a gentleman by the name of Bill, came and prayed for Noah when we took him off life support.  It was the turning point for Noah and he never looked back.
John Bandimere, Jr.
I'd ask that all of you send your well wishes for Mr. Bandimere's closest friend and offer him prayers and support during this difficult time.  There is nothing worse than watching someone you care so deeply about not doing well.  My hope is by this time next year, Mr. Bandimere will be able to tell us that his friend fully recovered and that they are planning new adventures together.

After the races were over we all played on the tracks and showed the boys how sticky the tracks can be at some races.  It's a substance that kind of makes your shoes feel like human fly paper, you just really stick to it and can even walk right out of your shoes.  The van parked just past the tower close to the tracks.  It was a surreal moment.

Certainly spending the entire day at the race track made us feel like us again.  A huge part of what we loved was restored.  I know that Chris is still itching to one day race again.  Yet, when I told him we could race Noah's van he laughed and thought I must have been serious and exclaimed "No, we can't.  What if we blow the engine?  It's all we have for Noah."  There used to be a day we'd race anything we were offered, but now we're very protective of Noah's ride.  I do hope that one day the boys will get to see their daddy race again. One never knows if I found this sea shell on the shoreline nearly eight years later, then one never knows what all other dreams we might recover someday.
I hope we can make it out to the track again with Noah.  He enjoyed it - really how could he not?   It's in his DNA.  It was such an incredible event in our lives and something we'll treasure always.  A big thank you to Bandimere Speedway and everyone who helped coordinate this special day for us.


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.