• Samantha Isaacs

CMV Spotlight: Andy and Sam

Welcome to Sunshine and Shattered Dreams! I am so glad to have you.

My world for the last few years has been advocating for Hank and for other families who fight for CMV awareness. The only story I have been sharing is mine though, which is not the only one out there.

This year, I have decided to use my platform to shine a light on the warriors who fight CMV and the parents who advocate alongside them. Showing our communities that we might be few and far between, but we are not alone. The fight is global.


Samantha: Please introduce yourself and your child. Tell us a little about your family:

Andy: My name is Andy Pudwill and my son, Sam, was born with congenital CMV.My wife, Alex, and I have two wonderful boys.Charlie is almost 3 and Sam was born in October of 2019



Samantha: Before your Sam's diagnosis, had you ever heard of CMV, how much did you know?

Andy: My wife and I both work in healthcare. As a respiratory therapist, I had heard of CMV, but my only experience was seeing signs and warnings for pregnant women. I did not know what CMV was, other than a virus, or how much it could affect the developing fetus.


Samantha: How did your journey begin? What was going through your mind?

Andy: Those first few moments after Sam was born are both unforgettable and hard to remember. My wife went into premature labor, but at the time I figured it was just some discomfort she was feeling as we still had about 5 weeks until his due date. I was wrong. I came back to the hospital because delivery was coming. Labor went fast, compared to our first. Sam came into this world on a wild ride, little did I know this was just the beginning. Shortly after delivery it was apparent Sam needed help. He was taken to the warmer and assessed by the neonatologist. She called me over and showed me Sam’s “blueberry muffin” rash and explained he had a large liver and spleen. She told me she suspected a congenital CMV infection.

It is hard to put into words how I felt. Disbelief. It felt surreal. Every clichéd emotion you can think of, I felt. Mostly I felt concerned and worried. I was worried about our new baby. I was worried about Alex with what she had endured, but later learned she went through more than I knew at the time.

Sam was rushed to the NICU and I followed, never more than a couple feet from him. The

first night was filled with concerned and fearful emotions. Later in Sam’s NICU stay anger, envy, and jealousy were included in my emotional roller coaster.


Samantha: Tell me a little more about Sam's conditions associated with CMV. For his age, how is he developmentally?

Andy: Sam has bilateral sensorineural hearing loss categorized as severe to profound. Aside from his tardiness to reach predefined “milestones,” so far this is the only deficit he has been diagnosed with.


Samantha: What has been the hardest moment for you as a father and husband?

Andy: As a husband and father, the hardest moment was my beautiful, loving, caring wife turning to me and saying, “This is my fault.” My eyes well with tears typing it. That thought had never crossed my mind. I know she still carries a lot of guilt for her perceived role in Sam’s adventure, and it breaks my heart.


Samantha: What is your greatest hope for Sam's life?

Andy: Plenty of unknowns still remain in Sam’s development, but my hope remains unchanged from the day I heard he was on his way. I want Sam to live a happy and joyful life. Happy and joyful can be achieved without a driver’s license or college degree. It comes from love and understanding. It comes from knowing different is special.


Samantha: This journey through special needs parenting can feel extremely lonely, even when we know we aren’t alone. There is often no physical closeness to other parents going through something similar. Where do you turn to fill your cup? How do you take care of yourself?

Andy: Through all of this, I felt I needed to be my wife’s support. Keeping my cup full was never a concern. I knew the guilt she felt. I knew she longed to hold her baby. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do other than to be by her. I wanted to take all the pain from her and my son and swallow it. I wanted more than anything to trade places with them. I knew they could handle it, but it was too unfair. I am supposed to be the protector of my family and I could do nothing to help either of them other than be there and let them know how much I love them.



Samantha: A life filled with hardness can teach us some amazing lessons on love, kindness, empathy, and joy. What are some lessons that you have learned through your journey that might be helpful to a mother or father who has just begun their path with CMV?

Andy: Take it one day at a time. There will be ups and downs. Each of these children are affected differently and develop differently. Don’t look too far into the future and take each small victory when they come.

Don’t let the guilt and despair take over. Rejoice in the good news. Celebrate every triumph, it’s a marathon not a sprint.


Samantha: What is a quote, scripture, prayer, or piece of mediation that you would like to leave us with today?

Andy: I filled Sam’s Caringbridge with inspirational quotes. Here are a few of my favorites:

"The best way out is always through."-Robert Frost

"Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you."-Walt Whitman

"So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed). Kid, you'll move mountains."

"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So...get on your way!"--Dr. Seuss


Andy,

Thank you, so much for this. Rarely do we hear from Dad's about what it was like for them. As a society, we focus a lot on how mom is coping and doing and we forget that dad is going through this too.

As a husband and father, the hardest moment was my beautiful, loving, caring wife turning to me and saying, “This is my fault.” My eyes well with tears typing it. That thought had never crossed my mind.

Andy and Alex have a CaringBridge set up for little Sam, you can follow them there to see what wonderful things he is up to.


To learn more about Congenital Cytomegalovirus and ways you can get involved to raise awareness, please visit the National CMV Foundation.


Take the time today to explore some other stories about CMV on Facebook, Instagram, and here on S&SD.


Light and Love,

Samantha

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