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I get some pretty stunned responses when I tell family and friends that I am grateful for hemophilia. They can鈥檛 understand how it is possible that I can be thankful that my son, Thomas, has unexpected, ill-timed, and painful bleeds.聽 How could anyone find good in dealing with a nonsensical insurance company? Obviously, I could do without the physical and mental anguish a chronic condition entails, but without hemophilia in my family鈥檚 life, we鈥檇 be much less blessed. In a season of thankfulness, I鈥檓 thankful for hemophilia and the bleeding disorders community it has brought me through the Hemophilia Federation of America.

I clearly remember when my husband and I heard the diagnosis that our newborn son had severe hemophilia A. A few days later, as the shock was wearing off and I cradled Thomas in my arms, I thought to myself, 鈥淭his will either tear us apart or build us up.聽 The choice is mine.鈥 Our family immediately reached out to both the local and national bleeding disorders community for advice and support. Those contacts became even more vital a few short months later, when Thomas developed an inhibitor.

Because we attended a local chapter event when Thomas was only six weeks old, we were able to see children growing and thriving with hemophilia. 聽Experienced parents were there to share their stories, offer advice, and to say, 鈥淚 understand what you are feeling right now.鈥 One moment stands out 鈥 the moment I knew could really handle this: I stood watching a gaggle of 5-6 year old boys run around, chasing each other, laughing and giggling during a fierce game of tag, as their parents watched from a distance鈥揷hatting about everything and nothing at all.聽 I won鈥檛 lie 鈥 I tightened the straps on the Baby Bjorn and tucked Thomas a little closer to me, knowing that one day I鈥檇 have to loosen the reins and let him live.

Over the years, we have experienced many highs and many lows due to hemophilia, but even in our darkest days, we still try to take a minute to be grateful for all that we have. We remind ourselves that there are educational programs like Dads in Action, and that HFA keeps us well informed about what to keep an eye on legislatively through alerts and webinars. We thank our lucky stars for Helping Hands and other patient assistance programs. We see our peers bond through Blood Brotherhood and Blood Sisterhood.聽 We know that as a community, our voice is heard. And what a community this is!

The relationships I have come to depend on have been nurtured by attending HFA鈥檚 Symposiums and local chapter events. These connections and networking opportunities are instrumental in both mine and my son鈥檚 acceptance of his lifelong disorder. Through these meetings, I am constantly reminded that you can conquer whatever adversities life throws at you 鈥 and that you can do it with grace, a smile and gratefulness. I’ve sat in many powerful moms groups. In those聽room, we all share聽a common, yet not-so-simple bond of mothering a child with a bleeding disorder and we immediately have a connection that can聽never be severed.

thomas_wheelchair_LCBut in this day and age, we don鈥檛 have to wait for the annual Symposium to network with one another. The use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have given me instant access to my friends. These sites are a place to vent and find support, and I鈥檝e found them to also be an effective platform to raise awareness and educate the general public about bleeding disorders. When I鈥檓 feeling down, I can always visit HFA鈥檚 website and view the 鈥淰oices and Stories鈥 to see others share their inspirational histories and their promising futures.聽 Sometimes you need to see and hear the voices of those people most precious to you, and having instant access to them helps tremendously.

It鈥檚 a constant battle to be on the winning side of the positives of a bleeding disorder, but when you look around and you see the benefits鈥搇ove, acceptance, understanding and kindness鈥 you can鈥檛 help but feel appreciative that hemophilia is what led to such a wonderful place of strength. Don鈥檛 flip the switch and be led into darkness. Choose to actively engage with HFA and be filled with gratitude and light!

My family鈥檚 advocacy work and participation in the community has led to powerful friendships and an endless stream of knowledge and information.聽 The enrichment you gain is far more than you can ever give. I can honestly say that if we had chosen the path of darkness, our family would be struggling. I would have no clue how to help my son at school when he needs an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504, and I certainly couldn鈥檛 have taught him self-infusion on my own. Without my involvement in the community, I wouldn鈥檛 know how to cope with the sibling issues that arise for my girls, and no one would be gently reminding me to take care of myself鈥搕he caregiver and the carrier.聽 I learned these techniques at Symposiums and other events and from the community that HFA helped to create.

HFA聽is family.聽 There is great empowerment in family and my appreciation for HFA, hemophilia and my 鈥渂leeding鈥 family. They are much more powerful than any physical and mental nuisance that the condition of hemophilia can throw at us.聽 By applying a little gratitude to every infusion, every physical therapy appointment, and every connection I make, the condition of hemophilia weakens, and, as a family, we become stronger and brighter.

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