I Have This Scar…
Andrew Falco shows what he’s made of…
Imperfect But Unstoppable
This is probably one of the most powerful mantras I have ever come across, and until recently never really appreciated what that quote would mean to me. We are all flawed, no one is perfect, and each of us has struggles. In accepting our struggles and flaws, we are empowered to inspire and show what we are truly made of. My middle son, Andrew (age 11), is this inspiring person for me. I have mentioned him in past articles, but I want to share more of his story and what makes him Imperfectly Perfect.
My son Andrew was born a very healthy, happy & gorgeous baby. When Andrew turned three weeks old, his entire life would change forever. At that young age, Andrew would be hospitalized with RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) and scare the life out of me. My lil’ baby almost died, and there was nothing I could do but watch and wait. Thankfully he survived, but he would suffer for the next six years with two very rare undiagnosed conditions. Andrew and I basically lived in and out of hospitals for the first seven years of his life. When he was six years old, he was finally diagnosed with severe left bronchomalacia & tracheomalacia, as well as Hypogammaglobulinemia. Andrew was born missing 9mm of cartilage in his bronchus, essentially deforming and compromising his airway, causing breathing issues and susceptibility to major respiratory infections. This is a very rare condition and would require two open-heart chest reconstructions to correct the airway (which will never be completely right), and on top of that, Andrew also suffers from a Primary Immunodeficiency. This essentially means he does not have a working immune system. Of course, he would have a very rare form of this as well, making it very difficult to diagnose. For the rest of Andrews life, he will have to endure weekly immunoglobulin infusions to keep him healthy.
Andrew has a scar on his chest from his surgeries that we planned on having removed, but he decided that it was part of him and he wanted it left alone. Andrew is proud of his “warrior wound” and doesn’t hide it. I have always been extremely proud of how strong and resilient my Andrew has been, even at a very young age, but he would prove to be even stronger than I could ever imagine.
This past winter, Andrew and I started working with Imperfectly Perfect, (www.imperfectlyperfect.org) a non-profit 501c3 organization that embraces being proud of who you are and what you have gone through in life and using your journey to inspire those who are going through the same or similar situation. It is about finding the positive in situations, even the difficult ones, and teaching others how to do the same. It is about wanting to be part of a movement to change society’s interpretation of “perfect” and help create an improved definition, a definition which deems perfection as an inner quality that can only be developed through life struggles. Andrew is the epitome of what it means to be Imperfectly Perfect. My Andrew bravely shared his story and bared his scar for the T.H.I.S. (Together Helping Improve Self-Esteem) campaign that benefitted the Cardiology Unit at Cohens Children’s Hospital. For a child his age to see the importance of sharing his story to help other children is not only brave but very mature. On March 11th, Imperfectly Perfect held their annual fundraiser gala and Andrew was presented with the “Man of Steel” award (named for him). Andrew was having an anxiety attack and was begging me to take him home, he didn’t want to receive his award, but he then had a conversation with one of the co-founders, and he was fine. Jaime Lynn is an amazing woman who has had multiple heart surgeries and has a special connection with Andrew. Jaime Lynn was giving her speech and then invited Andrew up to receive his award. He then surprised 400+ people in the room with the most empowering speech an 11-year-old can give. He overcame his anxiety and gave not only a speech but also a toast. Andrew is now a youth ambassador for Imperfectly Perfect, and when needed speaks with other children who may be scared or needs a pep talk. My Andrew is so inspiring and empowering. I don’t know if it is possible for him to make me any prouder, but he does every day.
“I have this scar on my chest from the surgeries, and I proudly wear it as my warrior wound. It is part of me and what I have been through. It is proof of how strong and brave I am, that I truly am the “Man of Steel” – who can overcome any obstacle and do it with a smile. I have learned so much about what real strength is, that it comes from what you overcome and how you handle your life. I know I can do anything and be anything I want. Nothing and no one will stop me.” – Andrew Falco
My son not only inspires and empowers me, but he has taught me so much. Usually, the parent is the teacher, but in this situation, he is the teacher. I would love to take all the credit for his being so such an amazing child, but I can’t. Andrew is a very special and unique child. He is the most caring, kind, grateful, intelligent and incredibly humble person you will ever come across.
He is the “Man of Steel,” my own superhero, but doesn’t like to be called that. It is in being himself that he inspires everyone he meets. He plays baseball, wrestles, is on the honor roll, plays the drums and proves every day that nothing will stop him. If my son can see the positive in what he has and will continue to go through, then there is nothing I cannot face head on and overcome. It is this strength that I use to motivate me and continue my journey to better health and happiness.
Andrew is the reason I use the hashtag “#Unstoppable.” I use it to keep me going when I get frustrated and may be feeling a bit defeated. Currently, I am six weeks into the Fantastic Four 2017 contest and have been a bit frustrated with my progress, but I won’t let it stop me. I fight harder, I push myself further and do what I need to do to get results. This year we are the “Weapons of Mass Reduction,” and we are a very strong team of four incredible women. We empower and motivate each other, and have become great friends. This is my third time round in the annual contest, and I think this has been the hardest year for me yet. I have so much going on with my boys, running here, there and everywhere and worrying about Andrew, that I have had a hard time focusing. Right as the contest started, Andrew came down with the flu, even though he had gotten the flu shot in September. It was so scary; he was fine, no symptoms of illness and in less than an hour he went into full respiratory distress, and the doctors were preparing me for the worst-case scenario, because of how bad he had gotten. Andrew was about to be intubated to assist his breathing, but he fought back and showed us how strong he is. So, being as focused as I usually am has been a very hard task for me, but I am a fighter like my son and use his strength as well as my own to power on. I plan on being in the winner’s circle at the end of the Fantastic Four 2017, but no matter what the outcome is, I am a winner.
I am very honored to be Andrew’s mom, as well as my other two boys. Andrew is a true inspiration, and I am proud to share his story. If you would like to know more about my son or about Imperfectly Perfect, please feel free to talk to me about it. In sharing Andrews story, I hope to inspire and empower others to accept their own struggles and see the
About the Author
Dolores Falco is a long-time FI Member and a regular contributor to Fit to Print.