Adam Dzialo

Adam Dzialo
Our son, Adam Dzialo, age 30

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

13 Years and Remembering....July 24, 1998

       Adam nearly drowned (25 minutes under water) on July 24, 1998...13 years ago.  We honor his new birth every year at this time and recommit ourselves to his continued recovery.  The following is Chapter 1 from Sharon's book "Ceramic to Clay" which was published last October.  


     I awoke to a beautiful summer morning.  I had an eight-week break from my job as a high school counselor.  A long to-do list awaited me, most of the activities related to my younger child, my son, Adam.  On Sunday, he was to leave for a hockey camp at Providence College in Rhode Island.  A large duffle bag was lying open in his bedroom, overflowing with clothes, supplies, hockey equipment, and a few surprises.  This would be his first week-long experience away from home.  He was excited and nervous, and I was an anxious mother.  Sleepovers were difficult for him.  I half anticipated checking into a hotel near Providence College so he would feel safer.  I shouldn’t have been so worried, because he was attending this camp with his good friend, Stephen.  Both had been playing hockey for at least five years.  Adam had chosen the position of goalie and demonstrated great skills.  Just that year, we had customized a helmet for him with the words “no fear” and a tiger’s roaring mouth.  
     I planned to pick him up later that day.  He had been attending an adventure camp at the local community college and was just returning from an overnight camping trip.  After the pick-up, we were going to head directly to a baseball tournament.  He was playing for an all-star team, and though hockey was his favorite sport, baseball was a close second.
     I was filled with thoughts of my boy this day, missing him and wondering how tired and cranky he would be after this adventure and more adventures to come.  Adam liked to keep busy, so this kind of schedule was nothing unusual for him.
     The day was proceeding according to schedule.  My 14-year-old daughter, Aimee, was working at the YMCA.  She called to say that she needed a ride home.  I left as my husband, Philip, arrived home from work.  He then received the phone call that all parents dread with every fiber of their being.  Adam was at Baystate Trauma Center.  He had been in a swimming accident, and his condition was critical.  Phil was told not to come alone.  He got in the car and searched for me as I was driving Aimee home.  We delivered Aimee to a friend's house and headed to the hospital.
     I drove.  I don't remember what we did with the other car.  I remember thinking that I was in better shape than Phil.  He just kept repeating the words, “Don't come alone. Don’t come alone.”  I focused on driving and was distracted by only a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I wasn't sure that I could make it to the hospital without vomiting.
     Minutes before we arrived at the hospital and I could actually see it directly in front of us, I experienced a strange feeling. I felt “flooded with calm.”  I looked at Phil and said, “Adam is still with us.  I would know if he was not. . .”  I could not have been more certain of anything. 
     We parked the car directly in front of the emergency room, where a social worker was waiting for us.  She explained the seriousness of Adam's condition and the circumstances of the accident.  No one from the camp was there.    The doctors at the trauma center were attempting to stabilize him.  It was critical; he had been underwater for a very long time.
     The social worker then left us alone in a closed room—no one to talk with, no one to question.  Phil and I just kept looking at each other, repeating what we knew.  We could not make any sense out of this incredibly frightening turn of events.  I remember feeling intense cold.  I could not warm myself.  I kept asking for blankets, wrapping myself as I paced back and forth.
     Finally, the social worker returned.  It felt like many hours had passed.  She informed us that Adam had been stabilized enough to move him to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  He was on a ventilator and had been placed in a medically induced coma.  We didn't and couldn't understand any of this.  Adam was going to his baseball tournament; he would be late.  We were invited to accompany Adam in the elevator with his doctors.
     My son, my Adam, lay on a stretcher.  His eyes were closed, and he looked puffy and gray.  He was receiving oxygen, and two doctors were monitoring his transport.  One doctor was very kind.  He spoke compassionately and encouraged us to touch and kiss Adam.  I was screaming silently, No, no, this is not my son.  My son is not on this stretcher, not in a coma.  I need to leave now to pick him up at the community college.  He's going to be late for his game.  This child on the stretcher was Adam, but he wasn't Adam.  He bore little resemblance to the wiry, hyper, athletic 12-year-old we had said good-bye to yesterday morning.  He felt untouchable—too cold, too gray, too far away. He was freezing; I was freezing.
     Phil leaned against the wall of the elevator and crumpled over, weeping.  Those tears poured out for days.  He would look at me and say, “I can't stop crying. . .”  He felt totally out of control; he was inconsolable.  I had never before witnessed this depth of emotion in my husband. 
     We settled in with Adam in a private room in the ICU.  Our watch began; we were afraid to look away from the monitors that registered continued signs of life in this pale, silent son.  Machines were holding him steady.  I heard the words, “The next seventy-two hours are the most critical.”  The doctors were most concerned about fluid building up in his brain, the “secondary assault” so common in brain injuries.  Several CAT scans were done.  Adam missed that second assault.  What did all this mean? 
     Phil, Aimee, and I settled into a huge chair at the foot of Adam's bed.  Aimee was to begin high school in a few months. None of this made sense to her.  She did not want her brother to die, and she questioned us constantly.  We could not assure her with answers.  We held each other, watched the monitors, watched Adam breathe, and waited.  I remember sitting there, closing my eyes, and reaching deep inside to search again and again for that “flooding of calm.”  Each and every time, I found it.  Though I shed many tears and I felt intense anxiety, I never spiraled down into the deepest place of grief and unimaginable fear.  As long as I could find this “calm,” I believed that Adam was with us and would stay with us.  I did not, however, have any idea what to expect from his brain injury.  When he opened his eyes, what would we see? What would he see?
Adam at a public hearing regarding the accident
four months after the near-drowning


  1. You're continued devotion to his recovery is an inspiration to anyone. He could not have two stronger parents helping him through this journey. I love you guys and I truly have the most amazing family!

    Love, Aimee

  2. To relive those moments, the tragedy of the loss, the triumph of the return to life. "Of mice and men" (and women).
    Those moments are known to me, hated yet revered. Triumph that few can feel in their quivering bones.
    The master stroke of fate that brings you to you knees just to see if you can get up again.
    Up and running.
    So very very proud of you all.
    I'd let myself cry but my son has not been well, apparently pancreatitis and I need the focus.
    All the best,

  3. Aimee,
    Yes, you do have the most amazing family!

    Phil and Sharon,
    The newspaper clippings made me cry, but after looking at Adam's beautiful, happy and content smile, I smiled. He is so very lucky:)

    Hugs and love to all,

  4. Forever in Awe of you all. You are my heroes and an inspiration to everyone.

  5. I have experienced that fear of nearly losing your child and the inner strength that keeps you intact- just. However, the circumstances through which you had to endure this were incomprehensible. You have really been through the worst extreme that parents can imagine. I know to lose them would be the worst scenario. Now you give of yourselves in a way that we feel is what any parent should do for their child - but it is really quite extraordinary. I get it though and could not imagine living any other way. We're here for a reason and so are they. Their quality of life depends on us and we will go to any lengths to make them happy and fulfilled. It's a beautiful thing.

  6. Sending all of you many blessings for continued strength and recovery. It's an honor to know you.

  7. The news clippings made me cry too. I think it was the photo of Sharon and Adam at the hearing, the love, you can just feel Radiate from the photo.

    Aimee, you are one very lucky lady. You're parents are such a positive influence in my life and my Oaties, for sure an I am so honoured to have met Adam and your parents and have them as friends. One day I'd love to give you one of my legendary bear hugs too.

    Phil and Sharon, you know how I feel about you guys and of course Adam. Both of your beautiful children are so lucky to have you as parents. I am lucky to have your friendship. Your love and your capacity to love others, and be there for others too, with sincerity and genuineness is something that I really appreciate.

    Adam looks healthier and happier on each new photo you've posted. I just love his smile, it's magic.

    Well I'm sorry for going AWOL, the typing on my ipad for 2 weeks (while not being able to speak) gave me mild RSI (well you know how much I talk lol!) so I tended to avoid my computer.

    We will be lighting candles on the 24th and sending you a special Mel hug too.

    Sending you one of my special hugs to you all.



  8. I am sitting here, silent, at my computer. I don't really have words -- this is the first time I've read this, and it's just so powerful to see the photos. I know your Adam from that glowing, beautiful photo that graces the top of the blog. I am continually amazed at the resilience of people, of you -- it's all quite stunning.

  9. I have no words either. The emotions I feel are just hard to describe. I really need to read the book now. I think you are all amazing. Even though I only know you through the blogging community, I am really thankful to be able to share some of your journey with you.
    Thankyou for sharing your story with us. It is one so many people need to hear and learn from.

  10. Dear Elizabeth and Anna,

    Please read Sharon's book, it is the best book written that I have EVER read.

    I started to read it at bedtime and I stayed up till 3ish in the morning as I couldn't put it down.

    I ordered mine from Amazon and it arrived really fast too.



    Sending everyone some more hugs! xxxoooxxx

  11. Aimee,Kardian, Eric, Mel, Lisa, Mel,Rachel, Pam, Elizabeth, Anna, mhk and others who posted on FB and our friends in cyberspace: Thanks for commenting and remembering.

    For us, remembering means recognizing the gift that the universe has given us (life) and it also means recognizing how far we have traveled in this journey. It means a clear acknowledgement that we are not alone and that others share similar experiences and embrace them with love and determination.

    When faced with the realization of what life has brought to us; the travails, the pain and joy, the human comings and goings, there is NO other experience that we would have chosen or preferred in life. It's OK. Please light a white candle of energy for Adam on the is that energy which sustains life.

  12. Lighting a candle for you on the 24th. What a powerful story! Much love to you.

  13. Carolyn, thank you so much for the gracious and kind gesture and for your comment!

  14. Phii,
    It is so nice that you posted the pictures from the newspapers. I will be thinking of all of you on Sunday and praying for Adam's continued healing.

  15. Sue..thanks so much for all your kindness and good wishes

  16. It is good to remember the day on which life took a turn that could not be anticipated by anyone. Phil., Sharon, Adam, July 24th 1998 was your day. And now the anniversary of the moment life asked that you live differently than you had before. Most of us when faced with that moment want to run from having to say yes. Most of us when faced with that moment wail, "Why Me?" Phil, Sharon, Adam, in that moment you all went forward without hesitation into the not knowing of what yes meant, just assured that there was no other answer possible.
    I honor that great love in you three that walked into a life so different it challenges my very conceiving of the day to day commitment to love that it requires. For that I bow in great honor to the magnificence of your spirits. I bless you for being the humans I cannot be, since I have not been asked to demonstrate this magnitude of human love possible . I look up to you three and respect the dignity of your spirits for showing us what is indeed possible in being human, despite the meanness being paraded before us by our so-called leaders.
    I bless you and ask that you are given all that you can imagine is possible for your son and yourselves and even more than that, in this your 14th year of this new life.

  17. Jennifer
    Thanks for remembering and the very kind and inspirational words! It has been our small and very close circle of friends, like yourself, which always remember and always provide that support that sustains us with the light and the strength to go forward. We look forward to our coming 14th year and envision continued progress for Adam. Our warmest regards to you....

  18. I'm stunned. It wasn't the newspaper clipping, it was Sharon's narrative that made me cry. I really have to read her book. You have an amazing story and an amazing family. Happy new-birth day, Adam! You are a miracle and a gift.

  19. Thanks know, 13 years later and I still have the hardest time getting through chapter 1. It's surreal and like it happened in another universe!

  20. I am catching up on the blog entries....and I find myself with tears in my eyes...anniversaries have cellular, emotional and spiritual impact..and this one, everyone of them for years in a
    and years out
    now are adding to the depth of the tremendous and courageous healing set in motion long ago, and never relinquished.
    My love and respect for all of you is profound.
    It is an honor to know you
    me ke aloha


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