” I’M IKE AND I AM FAMOUS !! !”
Those are the first words you hear when you meet Isaac (named so because it means “the one who laughs”) AKA “Ike” and let me tell you he is bigger than life. His infectious smile and personality both radiates and fills whatever room he is in. So of course the question one must ask him is, “so, tell me why are you famous Ike?” He immediately answers back with, “because I was born in a New York City hospital on the same day as Samuel L. Jackson’s daughter and that makes me famous.” He then adds “and my mom wrote a book about me.” And this is how my introduction to Ike began.
We arrive at his room to find him dressed in his New York Yankees jersey and baseball cap, surrounded by Yankees memorabilia. (No one can question where his sports loyalty lies!) He has been living here at Annandale Village for the last 7 years. (This is an amazing nonprofit facility that provides and assists adults with intellectual disabilities the freedom to maximize their independence.)
Upon meeting the staff and seeing the facility it is easy to see why his parents have allowed him to stay here, even though it is so far from them. He being the youngest resident at the age of 33 and the oldest one being 90. Never have I witnessed such love and compassion from both residents and staff, all the way to those who prepare the meals for someone leaving a facility.
The hallway is lined with wellwishers, hugs, kisses, smiles and tears fill their eyes. An outpouring of emotions and I found myself welling up with tears at the privilege of being a witness to it. What an amazing family Ike has here, so much so that one of the staff Brandi who he calls “mom # 4” will be making the flight with us.
Allow me to fill in a few gaps. At the age of only 14 Ike began showing some signs of spastic paraparesis meaning his legs became very stiff and he was unable to move them below his knees causing him to get “tangled up” and fall. Not knowing what caused this to happen his parents began searching for a diagnosis and possible treatment. Over several years they would take him to specialist in New York, Boston, Ann Arbor, and Philadelphia to name only a few places.
The diagnosis they finally had to settled on was “degenerative neurological disorder of unknown genesis”. After high school Ike left for college that fall, by this time he was using a scooter to get around and arrangements had been made there for the learning support he would need. Only a few months into his first year he became confused and disoriented. Enter a new diagnosis….”Dementia”….. at the young tender age of only 19.
And so it is as his disease has begun to progress more quickly, it is now time to bring him closer to his mom. He is very excited about the flight and going to North Carolina where is mom lives. We board Nellie in Atlanta with both Ike and Brandi and as conversation and laughter fill our time without even realizing it we have already arrived in North Carolina. Ike’s father Noah was unable to meet us but sends a “welcome” text as we land and his mom Madge is waiting on the tarmac.
She has both flight followed us and watched us as we land and cannot wait to hug her oldest son. We all ride together in the ambulance to what will be Ike’s new home and a new family whom I am sure will come to love him immediately. As we place in him in his new room it is clear that his parents have chosen such a place for him. I asked Madge if she might have a copy of the book she wrote and to my surprise she did. She was kind enough to sign it to “Grace on Wings.” We prayed for Ike and hugged him, Madge and Brandi as we left. What a great day it had been.
I think about Ike often and I hear him say, “I’m Ike and I am famous.” I would most definitely agree that he is famous, however, not for the reasons he gave but for the lives that he has touched, mine being only one and I am grateful that God allowed our paths to cross.
ABRAHAM WAS A HUNDRED YEARS OLD WHEN HIS SON ISAAC WAS
BORN TO HIM. SARAH SAID,
“GOD HAS BROUGHT ME LAUGHTER, AND EVERYONE
WHO HEARS ABOUT THIS WILL LAUGH WITH ME.
Thank you to Hal, Ethan and Matt for sharing this mission with me. Many Blessings and may the God of peace and grace be with you.
Shelli Engle RN
(If you are interested in reading more about Ike and his family’s journey through his illness the book is titled: “Blue Peninsula”.)