Thirty-eight years ago I made the best and wisest decision ever I married my best friend and sweetheart – Robyn Marie Buntain Wilkerson and our love produced four amazing sons: Jonfulton, Rich Jr., Graham, and Taylor. I’m the proudest dad on the planet! My boys are my JOY and they have given us two gorgeous daughters, DawnCheré and Ashley.
Our third son was born on December 29, 1986; little did we know that the birth of Graham would change our lives – forever.
She said she could hear emergency team members screaming and yelling. Some wanted to quit, but the intensive care specialist, Dr. Martha McCravey, would not give up.
I’ll never forget the evening of July 2, 1987; I was speaking at a conference in Daytona Beach, Florida. it was late when the phone rang and Robyn was crying on the line. She was at the Emergency Room of Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington with our 6-month-old baby, Graham, and he was in a coma. Graham had been stricken with spinal meningitis.
Robyn was distraught as she told me that on the way to the hospital Graham had gone into a seizure. When she had arrived at the hospital she rushed Graham into the E.R. and the medical team screamed
“CODE BLUE.” Graham was dead. The nurses and physicians dashed into action to revive him.
They ripped off Graham’s clothing and performed cut-downs on his ankles and wrists as they inserted tubing to begin intravenous therapy. Another tube was inserted into his belly and another into his carotid artery in his neck. The team was intense and committed to bringing baby Graham back to life. Robyn prayed and cried as they worked on him. She said she could hear emergency team members screaming and yelling. Some wanted to quit, but the intensive care specialist, Dr. Martha McCravey, would not give up.
Graham was without oxygen for many minutes, but then miraculously he began to breathe!
Graham’s fever was high, and his infection was critical. The doctor told Robyn that although they had stabilized Graham, she should pray that he would die because he would most likely live in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. Their prognosis was that Graham would be deaf, blind, severely retarded, and unable to speak.
I remember how broken Robyn was that night. Praying constantly, I took an all night flight from Orlando to Seattle. now in critical condition in the ICU, Graham was again in a coma. Every hour we didn’t know if he would live or die. The infection was overwhelming. A neurosurgeon was called in to insert shunts into Graham’s skull to ease the pressure on his brain. After the surgery he remained in a deep coma for several days.
A few days later in the ICU, I was standing next to Graham’s crib as he laid in a coma. A hospital orderly came in and accidentally dropped a tray of dinner plates. The resounding crash startled Graham and he began to cry. The nurse standing next to him started sobbing because she knew what it meant. Weeping she told me: “Your son can hear!”
People around the world were praying for Graham. We stayed at the hospital for 16 critical days. improved. Finally, on July 18, 1987, Graham was released from the hospital.
Little did we understand what was ahead for us. it was just the beginning of a life-time journey that we would experience together – we had become the parents of a “SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD.”
Six months later we celebrated Graham’s first Christmas and his first birthday. Our baby boy was now officially considered “SPECiAL” He was so cute; I remember he had a full head of blond hair and cried most of the time. Thank God, he’s never had a seizure since that one in the car that day, and undeniably, to this day he is the healthiest child of the four.
However, in our new journey as “Special needs Parents” we had to learn to adapt to the unpredictable. We never knew what would become of Graham or how he would react. His continual screaming and agitation impacted every family event. Don’t get me wrong, Graham did get plenty of loving discipline, but it was very DIFFICULT after his brain injury. I remember Robyn walking the halls at about three in the morning while he was crying. Sometimes she would go in the living room where we had a big rocking chair and turn the television on really loud because he would be screaming so loud. She was trying to balance out the noise while she held him and prayed over him.
This screaming went on for about a year and the doctor told us that Graham was screaming because he was experiencing unimaginably painful headaches. We always prayed and believed that God would take these headaches away from our boy. After a year his crying stopped and he has never, ever complained of having a headache since.
Through the years we all faced unusual challenges as a family because Graham’s behavior was chaotic. But little by little, he began to improve. The episode in Graham’s early life resulted in a brain damage that made every single developmental milestone an effort in perseverance for him and our entire family. Walking, talking, and speaking were tremendous hurdles for Graham.
Next, “learning challenges” became apparent immediately. After being tested at the public school in our community, we were told in no uncertain terms that Graham would never learn to read. However, we were determined to defy the odds and we believed that our God was big enough to make the impossible – Possible!!
We researched and investigated all our options and we found a learning specialist, Margaret Haskins, who was very encouraging and mentored Graham with the “right educational tools.” We set him up on a personalized educational road map. The power of FAiTH and speaking POSiTiVE was invaluable here! Graham was taught to read by a mentor who believed in him and the greatness buried deep within him.
Graham successfully graduated high school and has even received certificates of merit. His story has been an inspirational case study for educators – his journey gave them strategies and skills to help students that are challenged to overcome previous educational failure and have a personal pathway to success.
It took Graham years to fit into his own skin; he’s had years of speech and physical therapy and special education but Graham is a walking miracle. Today, at 24 years of age, our boy talks, runs, sees, and hears – in fact, sometimes we even believe he has bionic hearing because we’ll be talking softly at the table and from his bedroom you’ll hear him respond with things like, “not true, that’s not true.” Graham has defied every prediction that every doctor and educator has made about him. This young man who goes by “G Money” has a driver’s license, dances, texts, e-mails, and communicates very well. He even has his own website: www.gmoneywilkerson.com.
With Graham I can tell you firsthand that God is still in the miracle working business. Sometimes a miracle is only inch by inch or word by word. Graham is indeed our MiRACLE BOY!
We knew that God could see us through anything!! instead of running from our pain and discomfort and questioning God, we decided to change our focus from what we thought was to be the amazing future and purpose God has always had planned for our family. We made a life-changing decision to be joyful no matter what our current circumstances were. Our Miracle-son Graham is a testament to that, too. There are so many things that happen in life. if we can get through the death and rebirth of our son, then, by the grace of God, we can make it through anything!
You may be facing a hopeless situation today and are further down in the dumps than you’ve ever been, but I want to remind you that: You Can Make it! You Can Recover! You Can Keep Going! I encourage you right now to Pray, Work, Believe – change your mind and get going again!
Your choices and obedience to God are setting the stage for your future generation’s success and blessing.
We’ve always believed that one generation stands on the shoulders of the previous generation. That’s why we believe that in our family we are experiencing exponential blessings. Already my sons are more blessed and prosperous than I ever was at their age and I was more blessed than my dad.
We believe that as we honor our parents, speak well of them, and care for them, not only do we have long life (as the Ten Commandments promise) but we also have exponential blessings! This is the true meaning of legacy.