Tatum has had more surgeries and hospital stays in his first year of life than most people have in a lifetime. And when Tatum wasn’t in the hospital for feeding tube surgery or jaw surgery or a tracheostomy, he and his parents, Bridgette and Tory, were busy visiting doctors and specialists who are still trying to find a diagnosis for this little fighter.
“We just take it day by day,” Tatum’s mom, Bridgette, says about her son’s lack of diagnosis. It can be confusing and frightening to watch test after test come back with no answers. But Tatum has helped his family come to terms with his unknown illness. “If he was a miserable baby and not happy, I think it would be more difficult for me,” Bridgette says. “But he is always happy.” Tatum is fighting the unknown with a smile. And since his last surgery, he's had Aveanna fighting alongside him.
Tatum is at home now, learning more and getting healthier and happier every day. Tatum’s nurse Peggy says, “He’s the perfect baby. I was so lucky to find him!” But Bridgette feels like she is the lucky one. When asked if she has a support group to help her deal with Tatum’s undiagnosed illness, Bridgette simply says, “I have Peggy.”
As she plans his first birthday party, Bridgette can’t help but be a little disappointed that Tatum won't be able to open his presents or smash his birthday cake. She admits that there is a sort of grief that comes along with Tatum's developmental delays. But Bridgette has also seen how much Tatum has overcome in the past year and can't wait to celebrate all of his successes.
Tatum’s progress may not be what his parents expected. They may face setbacks and uncertainties. But they have learned to celebrate success even when it’s not what they expected. And they have found reassurance in the face of uncertainties in Tatum’s fighting spirit and their nurse Peggy’s dedication and care. Today, we celebrate Tatum’s first year of life and look forward to what he will do next year with Aveanna by his side.