TEN Years Later and TONS to be Thankful For….

I have never been a really big Thanksgiving fan, but for the tenth year in a row, and every year from this point on, this holiday will always remind me just how thankful I need to be. Here is why….

Anyone that has been with Rubio Long Snapping for over nine years knows about Damon Dale and his story. Damon is my 12 year old son who has had quite the journey in the past nine years. My wife, Jolie and I, are extra thankful during this time of the year because nine years ago we had to go through so much with the little guy.

I’ll recap for those that don’t know his story….

Ten years ago, Damon had not been feeling well, off and on, for a couple weeks. Jolie took Damon took to the doctor on the Monday of Thanksgiving week and found out he had jaundice. We were told it was not that uncommon and to just ride it out and come back the following Monday to see Damon’s doctor.

Like always, we went up to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. Damon is not 100% at all but we just figured it was the jaundice and he would be fine. Our local doctors didn’t seem to be nervous, so we weren’t either.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my family was still up at my in-laws in Harrison, ID. To put it nicely, Damon acted and looked like crap. Everyone agreed, we needed to take Damon to the hospital. We hopped in the car, went to the nearest big urgent care (about an hour away from Harrison in Coeur d’Alene, ID.) and the doctor ran some tests then said, “Something is just not right with Damon. You guys need to go to Spokane, WA. to see their Children’s Hospital.” Jolie and I both began to get a little nervous here. I mean we are just in sweats and thought we were going to the urgent care to hear “He’s fine, get him some fluids, some aspirin and wait until Monday.” We were going just to be pre-cautious.

We arrived in Spokane, WA (about another 50 minutes away from Coeur d’Alene, ID.) and they had a room set up for us to stay the night. We both started to lose it a bit more as we had no idea we would have to stay the night. They ran more tests on Damon. It is now about 10:00 pm and Damon is done with the whole process. They told us the major doctor would be in on the AM shift and she would be able to tell us a lot more.

Jolie began to come unglued. I assured her that that is just them covering their butts, all will be fine and, if all hell really was breaking loose, they would send us to Seattle, WA. (everyone in the northwest knows, it is truly a CODE RED if they say you have to go to Seattle…the big city)

Well, the morning came, the doctor arrived and said something is really not right with Damon and we were going to be flown to Seattle Children’s Hospital in the next twenty minutes.

Time stopped. Jolie and I lose it. Damon loses it. He has no idea what the heck is happening, but he is just done with all the poking and prodding.

In the plane to Seattle Children's Hospital

In the plane to Seattle Children’s Hospital

I got on the plane with Damon, the pilot and two nurses. Jolie, not in the condition to go, gets on the next flight with the help of the staff in Spokane (they were awesome). I actually only beat her by like 30 minutes.

First of all, let me tell you, Seattle Children’s Hospital knows what they are doing. There is a reason they are one of the top children’s hospitals in the world. Anyway, they run MORE and MORE tests on Damon. Blood test after blood test. If I remember correctly, Damon was getting “poked” every two to three hours for tests (yes, all day long).

We get fully admitted and they sit us down to talk to us. They proceed to tell Jolie and I that Damon had Acute Liver Disease and explain all that is going to happen to him. They told us how he got it was a mystery, and it is was caused by a virus that anyone could have gotten as well. We would have to wait and see how his “numbers” progressed. Getting out of the hospital quickly is becoming a luxury we won’t be seeing in the near future.

After a couple of days, maybe four, (it gets blurry here since so much was happening) we have to meet with the MAIN, MAIN doctor for Seattle Children’s Hospital in a meeting room. He tells us that we won’t be leaving Seattle anytime soon, Damon’s liver is not getting better at all, he will need to have a liver transplant, he will be #1 on the list for said transplant and this will all begin to take place within the next four hours. Jolie and I absolutely lose it. I mean lose it. He left us with “We need to do one more blood test in four hours. If those numbers keep going down like they have been, it’s a go and the surgery is happening fast. Be ready.

Not wanting to grasp how severe the whole situation was and not being able to talk from crying so hard, I remember specifically looking at him and saying “Um, I can’t stay here even this weekend, I have a camp in NC and GA that I need to be at.” His response, “You aren’t going anywhere until March.” Time stopped. (First camps I missed but I can’t tell you how great my instructors were that stepped up for Rubio Long Snapping. Thank you again Jeff Abraham and Corey Adams).

The next four hours are a blur. We met with countless people that were beginning the process of telling us how Damon’s life would be different for the rest of his life. How our life would be different. Where we would need to stay for the next couple of months (FYI: If you don’t know about the Ronald McDonald House, you really need to check out this amazing organization and what they do).

Well, fours had passed and Damon gets “poked” again for the final test. The blood test comes back and Damon’s numbers didn’t move. They didn’t go up and they didn’t go down. The doctor and the entire staff were confused. He said, this isn’t necessarily good, but it isn’t bad either. We would need another blood test in another four hours.

Another four hours go by and the next test stayed the same again. And the next. And the next. Hope?

Our room where Damon, Jolie and I stayed for about two weeks.

Our room where Damon, Jolie and I stayed for about two weeks.

Then, a blood test came back with numbers that rose. Then, again, another blood test came back with better numbers. Then, again.

The staff (and I mean staff, they had about ten doctors alone working on Damon’s case since it was so unique for his age) didn’t want us to get anxious but you could even see they sensed something was happening.

They told us that we would have to stay in the hospital for at least another week to see how the numbers progressed but, very cautiously, said this was a good sign.

After two weeks of more tests and nonstop monitoring , we were allowed to leave the hospital but had to stay very close as tests needed to be done every couple of hours.

Then, on December 17th,  after countless days in a hotel, Damon had a doctor visit and they told us we were allowed to go home!

It was a MIRACLE. An absolute MIRACLE!

I re-tell this story since this is the time of the year when it all happened and I want everyone to know just how thankful Jolie and I are for Damon’s health and for all members of the Rubio Long Snapping family. That was a ROUGH month and I wish it on no one…ever. Seeing your child in the hospital is terrible. Absolutely terrible.

Bottom line….

  • Damon Dale is perfectly healthy now. The doctors call it a miracle. The doctors told me they call this type of cure a “OGK” (Only God Knows)
  • Damon was part of a study through Seattle Children’s Hospital since his care was so unique (the study actually concluded three years ago). For a child his age, to get liver disease that quickly absolutely baffled them. They simply don’t get how he got it or how it stopped. His liver went from killing itself to fixing itself within hours. 
  • We can’t thank our neighbors back in Lewiston, ID enough. I call them “The Triangle” since our houses form one. They are the best neighbors you can ever imagine. By the time we drove home (how did we get a car to Seattle? Oh, they drove one out to us….like I said, the best) we walked into our house and they had our Christmas tree up and our house decorated. We lost it again. They are the best.
  • I wrote a blog when this all happened explaining the situation and that I wouldn’t be at the NC and GA camps (I would link to the blog, but due to our old blog company, that blog got “lost”…yes, they have been fired) and on that blog, I wrote how Damon (cough, cough, I) would be updating everyone on his situation through his Twitter account (@DamonDaleRubio). The outpouring of love from everyone (we had random people stopping into see us that were friends of friends of friends) around the country was amazing for the little guy. I highly recommend going to his Twitter account, searching back to November and December, nine years back, and reading his account of what happened.

Please, remember this time of the year to be extra thankful for what you have and tell someone what they mean to you. Have a great Thanksgiving weekend….I know I will.

Damon's first walk in the hospital

Damon’s first walk in the hospital

Damon Hospital 4

Long Snappers at the GA Camp giving Damon a shout out.

Damon Hospital 3

Damon in the hospital

Damon Hospital 5

Damon in the hotel

Damon Hospital 6

Minutes after we found out we could go home!