Seattle Seahawks Deaf Player Derrick Coleman Inspires Family – A Story of Hope

A couple of week’s ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and saw that The Mister had shared someone’s status update. It caught my attention, and I started reading. It was a letter that a mother had written to the Seattle Seahawks, to tell them how much the new Duracell ad featuring Derrick Coleman has inspired their son. The more I read, the more tears I got in my eyes – compassion for all that they’ve been through, memories of my own complicated pregnancy and then the scare when Abby was born, and the beautifully inspiring message she’d written. I had noticed that she was from the same city I live in, but assumed that The Mister had just shared it because he’s a huge Seahawks fan. When I mentioned to him how moving her post was, he told me that he knew her husband. We live in a pretty big city, but it’s always a small world, right? So I reached out to her, to ask if I could share her story, and her message, since it’s amazing. What follows is her family’s story in her own words, pictures, and video. Big thank you to Nicole and Jeff Wilkinson for sharing this. Grab a handful of tissue before you continue reading it, you’ll need it….

My son Samuel, is a true miracle, he is the greatest gift I have ever received. Doctors determined early in my pregnancy with him that something was abnormal. He was not growing at a normal rate and he consistently measured small. We saw many doctors and specialists in our hometown of Yakima, WA and also at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington. After many tests and scans they diagnosed him with a lethal form of skeletal dysplasia. Skeletal dysplasias are a complex group of bone and cartilage disorders that can affect the fetal skeleton as it develops in utero. The most common form of skeletal dysplasia is dwarfism, but there are approximately 300 different forms and a few types are lethal (meaning the child would be stillborn or die shortly after birth). It was explained to us that Sam’s long bones (arms and legs) were not growing, there was fluid around his heart and his chest circumference was below the 1st percentile. With the chest cavity being so small, it meant he would not have enough space to house fully developed lungs and a healthy heart.

Our baby would not be able to breathe on his own in order to sustain his own life.

After months of waiting and knowing that our baby was expected to die, Samuel Ross Wilkinson was born August 27th, 2008 in a scheduled C-section. All of the medical staff were briefed with his diagnosis and circumstances and the doctors estimated he would live anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes. The plan was to surgically remove the baby, clean him off and wrap him in a special blanket that we brought from home. My husband and I were to be able to hold him for however long we wanted. We had people flying into town a few days after the scheduled birth date because we were planning for a funeral.

Miracle Baby - Seattle Seahawks, Derrick Coleman

Everything changed the moment our obstetrician plucked the baby from the womb. He instantly began screaming! It was the best sound I ever heard, because I knew that instant, if he was screaming, it meant that he could breathe. He was 3 pounds at birth and 14 inches long. Sam needed oxygen for 10 minutes, but after that he was breathing completely on his own. He was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, where he stayed for three and a half weeks before he was released home with us.

Miracle Baby - Seattle Seahawks, Derrick Coleman

Sam was not expected to live at all, and here he is 5 years old now. He has faced many challenges in his short little life. Once he did come home from the hospital, he could only leave the house for doctor appointments until he was 6 months old. He had to have bilateral inguinal hernia (in the groin) surgery at just 2 months old at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Starting at 5 months old we began working with a Speech Therapist whose specialty was with feeding issues because Sam did not want to eat. At 6.5 months old he contracted Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) which attacks the nose, eyes, throat, and lungs and is particularly dangerous for premature babies with low immune systems. Up until about 2 years old, Sam met most of his developmental milestones on time. But once he turned two, his development slowed.

Miracle Baby - Seattle Seahawks, Derrick Coleman

He had some hyper sensitivity issues with his hands, feet and mouth. He was delayed in his speech, his motor skills and was hardly eating anything. We worked with the speech therapist, a dietician, a nutritionist, and his pediatrician for years and tried every supplement possible to try to get Sam to want to eat and gain weight. Unfortunately all of our attempts were unsuccessful and his weight was very low.

Miracle Baby - Seattle Seahawks, Derrick Coleman

Just before his 3rd birthday, Sam was diagnosed as Failure to Thrive and had to return to Seattle Children’s Hospital to have a gastric feeding tube put in. What an amazing difference that made, he gained 5 pounds in 5 weeks! We had noticed that Sam was always very loud and was saying “what?” all the time and was still having difficulty with his speech so we saw an audiologist and an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. He had some hearing tests done and it was determined that there was so much fluid in his ears that he was having difficulty hearing. When he was 3, he had one of his ear drums burst and afterward he went in for surgery to place tubes in both of his hears. His speech improved a little bit but not as much as I would have hoped. This fall when his first set of tubes had fallen out, his ENT did surgery to place a second set of tubes in and while Sam was under anesthesia he conducted an Auditory brain stem response (ABR) test. It was only after having that test that we discovered how much of a congenital hearing loss he had in both ears.

Sadly, he passed his newborn hearing screen so we did not realize the extent of his hearing loss for 5 years.

In October 2013, Sam was fitted for and received a hearing aid for his left ear. What a wonderful blessing it has been. Sam’s speech is improving every day, his vocabulary has drastically increased, his sentence complexity is greater and he is making fewer nonsensical sounds. He is in a Special Ed. preschool class 4 days a week and he receives speech and occupational therapies at school. He is also now working with a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing who is teaching him sign language. Sam is picking up sign language easily and seems to be making good progress, now his mom and dad need to learn it! We also see a speech language pathologist every 2 weeks in a program outside of his school. One of the greatest moments of my life was shortly after Sam got his hearing aid.

Miracle baby - Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks player, inspires!

He came and sat on my lap one evening with a book that he had heard at school that day and told me he was going to read it to me. The most profound thing happened, Sam began reciting the book almost word for word (he doesn’t read yet). I just sat there with tears streaming down my face because it was the first time he had ever done that. I knew in that moment that my baby could hear, he was finally able to hear the words to a book! He has also begun singing the words of songs for the first time ever. I am so overcome with gratitude for Sam’s doctors and for his hearing aid which has been life changing for him. My son is heavily influenced by other people who are in similar situations as he.

When he sees that other people have feeding tubes and hearing aids, it makes a big impact on him. He understands that he is not the only one whose body needs such aids, that he isn’t ‘different’.

Sam was very embarrassed of his feeding tube at first, he did not want to show it to anyone. I wanted to help my son accept and cope with his new reality. Being the online shopper and book lover that I am, I scoured the Amazon website looking for a child’s storybook about feeding tubes. Thankfully I found one called, “My Tubey: A Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Boy” by Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue, who is a mom who also wrote “My Tubey: A Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Girl” after her daughter received a feeding tube. After Sam heard that book, he was a different child when it came to his feeding tube. He would happily show it off to whoever wanted to see it.

My husband, Jeff (who is an enormous Seahawks fan), found an article about deaf Seattle Seahawks player, Derrick Coleman, he forwarded it to me and we thought it was an amazing and inspiring story. Later he found the recent Duracell battery commercial featuring Derrick, and also sent me the link. Sam watches that commercial over and over and over. As soon as it ends he jumps up and down, claps and says, “Again, again!” He feels very proud to have a hearing aid now that he sees that Derrick Coleman, who is an incredible athlete, has them too. He yells out, “Derrick, you’re my hero!” Sam adores his hearing aid and willingly wears it every day.

Sam loves all super heroes and in my opinion it is Derrick Coleman who is a true super hero. His drive and determination is very inspiring and admirable. {Me again – I read an article that said when Derek was asked why he chose to do this ad, he told the Sporting News: “I just hope to inspire people, especially children, to trust the power within and achieve their dreams.” Which is exactly what he’s doing. In an amazing way.}He is a real role model that so many children can learn from and look up to. I am sure that Mr. Colemans’ story has touched many, and I am so thankful to him for how excited and happy he has made my precious boy.

He has allowed Sam to see himself as having no limitations, that he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to. Sam is also my super hero because in spite of all he has been through, he remains the most joyous, happy, easy going, amazing little boy.

Sam is a ray of sunshine who has the ability to light up a room and make everyone smile. To see my son feel confident and proud of himself warms my heart and brings me much hope for his future. Over the last 5 years Sam has had numerous tests and examinations, all of which come back normal. He does not have any form of skeletal dysplasia (yay!) He is still small for his age, but is expected to eventually be of normal stature one day. He is now eating and drinking all on his own and maintaining his weight so he will be able to have his feeding tube removed later this year sometime. Sam is a fighter, he has proven that time and again. He is destined for great things and I hope he can be an inspiration to others too. I am proud to be his mother and blessed beyond words. Miracles happen every day…

Kid inspired by Derrick Coleman from Seattle Seahawks

Amazing, right? This little guy – and his parents! – have faced enormous obstacles, and have overcome them with an abundance of positivity, hope, energy, and optimism. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult their journey has been. But it brightens up my heart to know what a happy bunch of milestones they are able to keep hitting. And – it’s a wonderful reminder to all of us: Life is hard. For everyone. Some more than others. But if you believe, if you strive, if you work hard, if you ignore the negative voices that tell you “you can’t,” – well, amazing things can happen.

Please take a minute to leave a comment here for the family. To give some inspiring words for Sam, or a virtual hug or high five for his mom and dad. And share this – there’s an easy peasy retweetable box above, or post it to any other fave social media site. I’d love to share this story and message, and would love little Sam to know how many people are rooting for him!

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Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is beautiful and inspiring, not only because of the miracles that have occurred for Sam and his family, but for the hope it offers to anyone lives with special needs or who loves a child who has them. ♥

  2. What an amazing story that you have shared with your blog…Thank YOU. Maybe I should cheer for the Seahawks, because of the amazing player they have! Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we find that inspiration in the most unusual places…Sam this Sunday you can cheer your hero on!

  3. Go, Sam!! Cheering for you and your family!

  4. Paula Lee says:

    Beautiful!

  5. Mike White says:

    Super Sam is my grandson and I am so proud of him for what he has achieved. I am also amazed at the roller coaster ride that is parents have endured and the strength they had to have. Sam is like a ray of sunshine when he comes into a room or when he sees me, which is not to often as we live about 2100 mile apart. When we do see each other he just runs and jumps up into my arms and I get lots of big squeezes and kisses.

    I love that boy!!

  6. I too, know this amazing family. Sam is truly a miracle! I tell this story over and over to anyone who will listen. A wonderful testament to God and His grace and mercy! This is one strong family and Sam couldn’t be with better parents. Thank you for putting this story out to even more people.

  7. What a remarkable story about an amazing little boy. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. What a beautiful story about a special little boy who is so strong & doesn’t give up – and amazing parents who have done so much for him! I love hearing how well he’s done with the help of the Speech Therapist, too, as I’m a Speech Therapist as well, so that’s so cool!

  9. Wow a remarkable story thanks for sharing.

  10. I have chills reading this! It is parents like this that are a blessing to so many! To think that the doctors said he would live only 5-60 minutes after birth. That these parents knew that ahead of time and moved forward and have been blessed by such an adorable little boy who at the young age of 5 is going to go places! This story was so touching! Congratulations to you all! xo

  11. What an amazing little boy. This is such an inspiring story and one I’ll definitely be sharing!

  12. What an amazing miracle life is, and how strong your family is for going through all of this. Sam is already an inspiration. I hope to see many more photos of that beautiful grin he has. Some truly spectacular things can come in small packages- it’s all what is on the inside that counts. Thank you for sharing your story, and props to the whole family for persevering through and continuing to be so positive and determined to live life to the fullest!

  13. Oh my goodness what a truly wonderful story. Crying tears of hope and joy at my desk!

  14. Thank you everyone for your kind and touching words! I am blessed beyond words and will forever be grateful that God gave my son life instead of taking him back to heaven. He is a little angel on earth. We would never have made it through without the love, encouragement and support we received and continue to receive throughout the years. Thank you Meagan for taking the time to read my initial post (even though you didn’t even know us!) and then featuring our Miracle Sam on your blog. I have so much to me thankful for. My cup runneth over. XO

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