I sat on the sofa, window blinds drawn with Savannah in my arms. She was so small, so beautiful. I was so tired. Dead tired. I could barely function. I was depressed, confused, and hungry for help or advice of any kind. Why wouldn’t she eat? Why wouldn’t she sleep? Why wouldn’t she stop screaming for hours… days at a time? I knew she had a significant brain injury because I’d seen the MRI images. I knew she had out-of-control seizures without seeing them etched by an EEG because she jittered and clenched more often than I could count.
|David reading to Savannah|
I knew the clinical side of the equation. The doctors had described it, labelled, it, and examined it with excruciating detail. What I didn’t know was the human side. I hadn’t met other parents yet. We tried support groups, but neither my wife nor myself had the kind of personality that does well in a support group, so we remained isolated.
I looked for books, but the books people recommended, the best-sellers, so to speak, about disability, dealt with autism, Down syndrome, degenerative diseases, or mental illness. We found a few good books, but they often played it too safe, staying overly positive and inspirational. So, in the back of my mind, a seed was planted. I would write the book I wanted—surely someone else wants it too. I would write a book that dared to tackle the hard questions:
How do you care for someone year after year who won’t get better?
How do you care for yourself when you spend all your time and energy caring for someone else?
How do you deal with the conflicting emotions of grief and relief?
|The whole family|
I struggled with the manuscript for years. I couldn’t capture Savannah in prose. This vibrant, tenacious little girl who blossomed in her teen years stayed locked away from the reader because I found it impossible to create dialogue with her. Because she was non-verbal, I could only describe her reactions with smiles and eye movements so many times before these scenes became tedious. I abandoned the manuscript. The memoir had become just one more painful failure.
After Savannah passed away, just shy of her sixteenth birthday, her sister (eleven at the time), wrote me a touching letter. I didn’t know how to write her back. In my attempt to share her sister’s story, and my story, in an accessible way, I stumbled upon the idea of adding a visual element… make the book into a graphic novel (a long-form comic book that deals with serious subject matter). Suddenly, the book flowed and Savannah appeared in the pages.
And as far as I can tell, there is nothing like it out there. As one reader noted: “this book takes a difficult subject and translates it into an easy to understand format: a beautiful story with simple, compelling drawings. This is NOT a Hallmark Special. If you’re looking for fuzzy inspiration, this is not your book. This is the book that challenges you to think differently, but also envelopes you in love and compassion.”
I have been so pleased by the overwhelming response that I’ve received from the book. Fox 7 ran a feature story, I was interviewed on the One in a Million Baby pod-cast, and had a standing-room-only book release party at Malvern Books with my good friends of the Lion and Pirate.
Click here for more information on the book or to download the first chapter free.
|David with graphic novels|