Robert John II, more affectionately known as R.J., was born on October 30, 1995. He was considered a “postie”, as I was nearly two weeks past his expected delivery date. The original plan was to induce labor. They ended up doing an emergency C-section. RJ was pretty much born…well, dead, quite frankly. His original Apgar was one. He was immediately whisked away and I was taken to the recovery room, where the hospital chaplain informed me that if we were going to baptize him, we should do so immediately. RJ was not expected to live more than five minutes.
After nearly an hour, RJ was stabilized enough that he could be flown via the Flight for Life helicopter to a better equipped hospital. Before they left, I was able to see my son for the first time. During the time they were stabilizing him, his lungs collapsed twice. When they flew him out, they needed to fly at tree top level so as not to jeopardize him more. When he arrived at the hospital, the pediatrician called me at my location and informed me that if he made it through the next 48 hours, we could then feel more optimistic about his survival rate. RJ’s first ten days of life were in NICU. I lived in a Ronald McDonald’s house across the street from the hospital for that time.
When RJ was about seven months old, I mentioned my concerns that he was not reaching milestones that typical children his age did. We were referred for chromosomal testing and first learned of Williams Syndrome. We immediately started therapies to help him catch up. The words told to me by his well-meaning therapists broke my heart. It was felt at that time that he would never walk or talk, or sign his name. During these early years, we were also given the secondary diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder/Not Otherwise Specified (PDD/NOS). In other words, RJ is also on the Autistic Spectrum.
Throughout RJ’s younger years, he attended a wonderful elementary grade school. We continued all three therapies and worked diligently to help him be the best he could be. During this time, my husband – RJ’s Dad – passed away from cancer. RJ was six years old. Despite the devastating loss, RJ and I kept on working towards his bright future.
RJ’s high school beginnings were a bit tough. Williams Syndrome is not that common and needs a different type of learning structure. RJ needed to be placed on psychotropic medications in order to “fit in”. We dealt with regression in behaviors. I was informed that maybe I should consider having more medication prescribed to him to help him adjust better. I chose to find a different school. I think it was one of the wisest things I have done for him.
Current day finds RJ in a wonderful high school setting. Since we have moved, I have been able to get him off of the psychotropic medications. He is free to be who he is…a caring, loving young man with a few quirky behaviors. In addition to high school, RJ has recently started attending classes in college to further prepare him for his future. He is loving every second of it and enjoys telling me of where he will live when he is done with school.
RJ is very involved with Special Olympics. He competes in Track and Field, Bowling, and Snowshoeing. He has earned himself several Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals; along with numerous ribbons. His favorite pastimes include watching ceiling fans, listening to music, and trains. He loves messing up a finely-combed ponytail. More than anything, RJ loves to give hugs and make people happy.
Robert John Schmoll II, more affectionately known as RJ, is one of the most successful young men I know. I am honored to call him my son.