Let me start this out by introducing myself. My name is Savanna Tate. I am an artist, a photographer, a wife and above all, I am a mother. When I was growing up, there was one goal that remained a constant for me, I knew I wanted to be a mom one day. I come from a family of 8 children. We were very close and loved to be with each other…literally a big happy family. Every Sunday at dinner we would do a big toast where we clinked glasses and said, “To a Big Happy Family.” Slightly weird in hindsight, but, big and happy nonetheless.
While growing up I always knew I wanted a big family and I craved recreating that bond for my future children. Fast forward to marrying Steve and he viewed 4 kids as a big family. That was his vision, his goal. So, when we got pregnant with number four and our final, finding out that they were triplets just made sense. Steve got his wish of four pregnancies and I got my wish of a big family! It was magic!
Being a mother to six children completed me. Our day to day life far surpassed what I had envisioned as a child. My children were happy and the babies were the happiest additions. Life was perfect. When our babies were nine months, Hayes, our youngest triplet started getting sick. Nothing outrageous at first. I remember taking him to the pediatrician, not being able to put my finger on any one symptom, just explaining that something seemed off with Hayes. He was sleeping much more and he was irritable when he was awake. I was sure he had an ear infection and when the doctor said he was fine, I decided that my once happy baby must just be going through a grumpy stage. But, it got worse. My mom gut was screaming at me that something was seriously wrong. Mom gut is a real thing! I know that now. Within weeks of that pediatricians appointment, Hayes began to use his left hand less and less, he could no longer sit up and he slept almost constantly. What finally pushed us over the edge was when he could no longer hold down food. He would drink an entire bottle and then immediately throw it up. Not just a little spit up, like projectile vomit his ENTIRE bottle! It was horrifying.
Three weeks after his first signs of a problem, we took him to the ER. Driving up to Primary Children’s that day was devastating. Steve and I knew we were headed into a life changing event. We were silent as we drove and tears flowed. I didn’t know exactly what we were going to face, but I knew that our life was shifting and that our sweet Hayes was in desperate need of help.
The ER doctors were amazing. They took our worries seriously and had compassion in their eyes. They knew something wasn’t right either. We took Hayes in for a CT scan and then waited in the room for the results. I was holding Hayes in my arms, stroking his soft cheek as he slept; every once and a while letting out a little moan of pain. A few minutes later the doctor walked in and told us she had an answer. She pulled up an image on the screen that I will never forget. A large mass was growing inside of my babies head…a monster that was making an entrance and shifting our lives. I screamed. I am a very quiet person. I don’t like attention, but in that moment I let go of every inhibition I had ever created and I cried…I wailed. I held Hayes and rushed for the door, as if escaping that room was going to save him. But, there was no running from the monster. It had made its entrance and it was the beginning of the fight.
Over the course of that eleven month fight, Hayes had 8 major surgeries, 6 rounds of the most intense chemo humanly possible, a stem cell transplant, countless MRI’s, CT scans and so many blood transfusions it is impossible to count. I don’t regret one moment. There were devastating moments, but also the most joyful times of my life. Hayes taught me the depths of a mothers love! “Love gives you a crazy kind of brave.” Never was there a more true statement.
Hayes passed away on December 3, 2016. But, he lives on. We started the HayesTough foundation to honor him and all children and families that experience the same devastation we experienced. He has given me a more profound purpose and I am carrying on his legacy through this work. I don’t particularly know the purpose of writing this blog, but I hope to show the world that life is beautiful, despite the pain, even with the pain, it is a beautiful journey that I am honored to go on.