November 02 2010

Sandra Kindel

“Being a caregiver will forever be the most rewarding thing in my life. “

For a parent, there is nothing more difficult, more painful than watching your child’s health deteriorate while being completely helpless to prevent it. My son Michael was 15 years old when cystic fibrosis took him from this world – but those 15 years were the most precious for both me and his three brothers and sisters.

Michael’s struggles with health started just one month after he was born and continued throughout his brief life. The doctors diagnosed him with cystic fibrosis when he was four months old, which shocked my entire family and completely changed our lives. Raising a child who is different for any reason can often be a burden on a family, but I am proud to say that all of my children loved and supported their brother and were always proud of his inner strength and positive attitude.

Growing up with CF, even when it prevented him from attending school, did not hinder Michael’s academic experience. He was always a straight-A student, graduated from middle school, and even received a scholarship to attend high school. Michael always tried to remain active when CF allowed - was involved in the Make a Wish Foundation and participated in walk-a-thons to raise funds for various causes.

Michael’s health deteriorated quickly and we were told by doctors that he would need a lung transplant by the age of nine. His health improved slightly and therefore did not go through with the transplant. The improvement only lasted for a short time, and eventually we all knew that there would be no more miraculous recoveries. I was Michael’s mother, his caregiver, but it was my son who truly gave us all strength. He told his siblings and me that he was ready to go with a smile on his face, that he was prepared, and soon after that, he left us.

Michael’s death introduced a very dark time in my life, but by remembering his strength and his optimism, I was able to come out stronger. I am now a respiratory therapist and work with many people who have cystic fibrosis. My story as a caregiver is not only one in which I cared for my son, but one in which I have been able to touch countless lives and make people’s individual journeys a little bit easier.

While no day is easy without Michael, I know that he has guided me to where I am today and will always help me in my walk through life and my calling as a CF caregiver.