Gabriel (Nathaneal Lewis)

Originally from the blog, Nathaneal Lewis: Written Rambles

Growing up, I never knew the experience of being an only child. When I was born in 1994, I was the third child born to my house. By 1996, I was one of four; and by 1998, one of five. Quite frankly, the number just kept growing and growing. Finally in 2002, my mother gave birth to her final child, making me one of six children: four girls, two boys. Being one of six was fun, hectic and just plain normal in my mind. Now, jump to 2007. I bet you think my parents were quite busy and comfortable in the situation they were in. After all, my father was busy being the VP at his company and my mother was a full-fledged home-schooling stay-at-home mom. I can definitely tell you that their six children were quite comfortable with our situation. Then the bomb dropped. 

Now, by bomb, I mean child; and by child, I mean a foster child. That’s right. My parents were no longer satisfied with just the six children they had – they wanted more! And so it was that in 2007 my siblings and I found ourselves in a Children’s Aid Society building in an Ontario region with our mother looking to talk to a representative about the possibilities. I didn’t want to be there.We were already at six children in my family. I had finally got my own room. I did not want to change my situation. But, someone else had different plans. I still remember the lady sitting in a chair, asking my mother questions about our financial situation and what type of child we were looking to help. This was not my idea of fun.

Finally, the social worker got around to asking my mother her maiden name. During this conversation we learned that my aunt and uncle had also been looking into the prospect of foster care. Before many weeks, they were looking after a majorly ill child at one of the local hospitals. Well, without boring you with all the details, two weeks later we were in the hospital taking care of that same little child. He was the smallest child I could remember, and he was really sick.

To sum everything up, his mom had been on some major drugs while she was pregnant with him. He was almost dying when born, with a grade 4 degree brain bleed (the worst possible), retinal hemorrhaging, cysts on his kidneys, a pulmonary artery stenosis, a rare chromosomal disorder only documented in 6 other children around the globe, vocal cord paralysis, and clubbed feet. These were all this little boy was met with when he entered this world.

I feel like a jerk in retrospect, but when my parents told us they were taking in a child who was so sick that he would probably never walk, talk or eat properly – I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t until my mom dragged me to the hospital that my heart was changed. I entered the room, and there was this little child – only a couple of months old – being fed an N-G tube. N-G stands for Nasogastric, meaning the tube passes through his nose, down his throat, and into his stomach. If you remember, I mentioned earlier that this little boy had something called vocal-cord paralysis, which sometimes can mean that making noise and swallowing is impossible. He was flustered. They had just hooked him up to the machine again for another feeding and changed his diaper. He couldn’t cry, he just made a screeching sound. I broke down. I couldn’t let this poor child not have the chance for a better life with my family. I held him for hours and didn’t want to let go.

Eventually, we were able to take the little boy home with us once he had an operation where they implanted a G-tube into his stomach for easier feedings. G just sands for Gastrostomy, meaning the tube now passed through his abdomen, straight into his stomach. According to the nurses and doctors, this little boy would be deaf, would never talk, he would never walk, he would never eat by himself, he would probably never see and he would not live very long. Gladly, all those doctors and nurses were wrong.

I’d like to tell you about my brother Gabriel. Gabriel joined our family when he was 2 years old, after years of us fighting to adopt him. This coming April, Gabriel will turn 7. Gabriel has a small scar right under his rib cage from an operation when he was little. He is well known at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto because of his many, many visits and, since moving to Brantford to attend school, he has been getting more familiar with the doctors at McMaster Children’s Hospital. He is there often because his vocal cords, ears and eyes do not work as well as they should. Gabriel is also one of 7 documented children in the world with a rare chromosomal disorder where he is missing part of his first chromosome.

Gabriel attends a school for the deaf and blind. He is one of the fastest runners I know. He always wants to talk to new people, asking them who they are and about their day. He has a  good appetite, and his favourite drink is ‘du lait’ (which means ‘milk’ in French). He’s not the best coordinated, usually spilling something during a meal, but he eats well. He wears dark blue glasses that have a stretchy strap that goes around the back of his head. Gabriel also loves singing. He especially loves the songs ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and the song by Michael Bublé, ‘Feeling Good,’ which shows his attitude toward life perfectly. You see, Gabriel was sick. But when we adopted him, he had hope. He was loved to bits by my family and we welcomed him in as one of us. Gabriel has come a long way, and so have we.

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