From the editorThe huge blue eyes with long dark lashes catch you first. Three-year-old Billy Rogers can’t talk or move his arms and legs much. How much he understands of the big world around him or how much he feels remains a mystery, trapped behind those captivating eyes. His mom, Lynn, gazes toward them as he turns his head toward the winter sun streaming into the family’s dining room. She considers the goals she has for Billy and wishes aloud simply that one day he’ll be able to tell her where he hurts.
Jeff and Lynn Rogers, of Downers Grove, dreamed of having three or four children. When their oldest child, Brigid, turned 2, those dreams neared reality as Lynn became pregnant with identical twins. At 30 weeks, Lynn remembers the thrill of hearing Billy and Matthew’s strong heart beats at the doctor’s office and scheduling a routine stress test for the following day. Yet the next day, routine turned to nightmare.
Only one heartbeat.
Overnight, a blood clot killed Matthew and greatly weighted the odds against Billy. Two weeks later, Lynn gave birth to Matthew, then Billy.
Tests showed shadows in Billy’s brain, a bilateral brain injury. "You couldn’t imagine a worse scenario," Lynn says. As a pediatric physical therapist, Lynn understood more intimately than Jeff what that meant. "I could see his future, what struggles he was going to have."
They immediately sought help from Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. Slowly, Billy made progress, nearing where he was supposed to be in his development. Then at 8 months old, Billy, who has cerebral palsy, failure to thrive and a host of other issues, started having epileptic seizures. His progress faltered.
"People think it’s a sad story, but it’s not," Lynn says.
Their Billy is a gift, she says.
Yes, it took years before they began moving past grieving losing Matthew and grieving the loss of the life they envisioned for Billy, she says.
"It was very hard, I mean just unfair," says Lynn, who sees twins everywhere. "Gosh, I just wish we could be one of the lucky ones. We did feel that. Why couldn’t we have both of them, or Billy, be healthy? But then, God works in mysterious ways and you just start finding people … you feel like you are not so alone."
Lynn and Jeff can’t imagine life without their sweet-natured boy who Lynn says has taught them what really matters in life. Without Billy, she says, they would never have understood the struggles of parents with children with special needs or appreciated what it was like to have a healthy child.
Lynn knows Billy is happy. She sees it in Billy’s huge eyes and in the wide smile that often spreads over his tiny face. As if on cue, as she talks about Brigid helping him make a snow angel in the backyard and about Billy lying on the floor with his new baby brother, Jack, Billy flashes a smile that reaches all the way to his eyes.
"He’s just a little boy who’s doing the best he can," Lynn says.
Billy is one of the children featured in the annual Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region’s photography exhibition "Transitions." I hope the photos (on page 56) touch your heart as deeply as they do mine.
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