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The Death of my Daughter, the Life of my Son

The Death of my Daughter, the Life of my Son

You’d think with my childish sense of humor and what we can charitably describe as my “maturity issues,” I must have been a frat boy in college. Hardly. Fortunately, I am living out my Animal House debauchery right now. I am living with the frat-brother I never had in college, my 12-year-old son, Chance “the Man.”

Living with Chance IS living with John Belushi and Keith Moon. He speaks mostly in grunts, trashes pretty much anything in his vicinity, occasionally is able to get his pee into the toilet, and basically acts like every moment is a drunken toga party created for his pleasure.

One moment I can look at Chance and he is sitting peacefully. I turn my head for two seconds and when I look back he’s dancing on the stove top, waving a revolver and trying to drink Ajax. And I don’t even have Ajax.

In other words, Chance is my role model.

Chance has Down Syndrome. In any other time in history and without Children’s Hospital, he wouldn’t be alive. Down’s is a chromosomal disorder which causes developmental delays (in a less PC time we would call this mental retardation) and a whole host of never-ending physical issues.

In his 12 short years Chance has endured 14 separate operations at Children’s Hospital. Yes, 14, the first being open heart surgery at only three weeks old.

Chance is the bravest man I know. He walks into Children’s knowing full well the discomfort and often severe pain that is to come. Yet often he’s the one dragging me in. I hate the place to the core of who I am.

Children’s Hospital is the place where my daughter, Parker, my only child at the time, was given her death sentence. Parker died mere days before her first birthday of a vicious cancer that ripped through her tender, perfect little body.

Children’s is the place where I watched my girl get strapped down by hideous machines, and punctured by tubes and wires. I was made to understand the full horror of the word “powerless.”

Children’s is the hell-hole where I held my baby as she screamed in pain and terror while tumors metastasized throughout her body, not understanding what was going on nor why I was failing to make it stop.

Children’s Hospital is the place where I went from being the happiest father in the world to being, again, childless. But unlike before I was a father, this time being childless was very different.

I prayed for Children’s Hospital to be wiped from the face of the earth.

And in the best way possible my prayers were answered.

People with more foresight and strength than I moved Children’s Hospital from the torture chamber it was in Denver to the sunny and hopeful Anschutz Medical Center. As far as I can tell these amazing men and women created this new hospital for the sole purpose of keeping my little frat brother alive and well, and to keep me from losing another child. I am so grateful.

My colleagues at Independence, spurred on by our graphic artist Tracy Kimball Smith, celebrate Parker’s memory and Chance’s chance for life by raising money for Children’s Hospital by riding in the Courage Classic. Every year “Team Parker” cycles through the Colorado Rockies raising money to give other children the hope for a good life.

Though not nearly as intense as my love/hate feelings for Children’s, you can imagine my mixed feelings on biking. With apologies to Gloria Steinem, I believe a man needs a bicycle like a frog needs a woman. Yet here are great people peddling to save young lives, including Parker’s little brother Chance.

Over the last few years Team Parker has raised more than $62,000 for Children’s Hospital. This year, we set a goal of raising at least $15,000. Would you please, right now, go to the Team Parker page, choose any team member, and donate.

For the first time ever I am willing to add my own dignity as an extra bonus. IF we reach $20,000 I will personally attempt to ride a bike during the Courage Classic and YOU will get the pleasure of seeing my doughy, well-pickled self, gasping for air while trying to balance on a bike. That’s a better image than Hillary on a pogo-stick chasing after one of Bill’s girlfriends.

But for the greatest reason of all, to help kids who will be going through what mine have gone through, would you please give to Children’s Hospital, right now? Please help my frat brother have a long and silly life. Please.