When He Became a Knight in Shining Armor for My Child With Special Needs


Swat! I got the fly. It’s summer time  it’s also fly-time. It’s also my-4-year-old-doesn’t-like-flies time. It’s OK, I’m totally cool being the fly exterminator. I’m terrified of spiders, but flies, I can do. Unfortunately, when I took down Mr. Fly, I also took down the curtains with this extermination. I guess I gave it too much Mommy-sassiness, much to my little one, Addie’s, dismay. I took down the fly and I took down her sparkle curtains.

This was not part of the plan. She likes plans. She’s on the autism spectrum, she’s very verbal, she’s happy and she knows what she likes and definitely doesn’t like. In order to put these lovely bedazzled curtains back up, it would require a drill. She does not like drills at all. She doesn’t like power tools of any sorts and the noises they emit. She’s cool with my hairdryer and the vacuum. Not the lawnmower. It’s a variable. I totally get it.

So as you can imagine, when she broke her ankle last summer and had to get her cast off, I was indeed stressed out about this process because I know how casts come off. She did not. How in the world was this going to work? She has special needs along with a host of medical problems. Because of this, she goes to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and sees all the best doctors and specialists there. But she hadn’t had a cast before. Surgeries, yes. Cast, no.

So as her adorably “stinky” (sorry, honey) hot pink cast was ripe and due to be cut off that day, I was worried. I brought a present for her to open. Her 70-pound Golden Doodle service dog, Data, was in tow as usual and ready to be by her side. What I wasn’t prepared for was her knight in shining armor.

We checked in and they told us to go to the cast room. As we went to the cast room, there’s a little waiting room in the corridor with chairs. I was so nervous for Addie that as the door opened, I wasn’t expecting the charming presence of Mr. Leroy on the other side of the door. And there he was. One bright white smile from ear to ear. It was like Addie met Mr. Leroy and all bets were off. The other people in the room were smitten with Data, but Mr. Leroy gave all his attention to Addie and she loved it.

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“Addie!” he exclaimed. “You are beautiful!” I was immediately put at ease. Addie giggled and said as if on cue, “Say it again! Tell me I’m beautiful. Who are you? What are you?” (She meant, “What do you do here?”) I lifted her out of the stroller, onto the bench and onto my lap. Data took a spot on the floor after giving a sniff to Addie, Leroy and the machinery. “All is OK,” Data seemed to say before lying down.

Leroy was now on a chair facing us and had her cast in his hands. I looked at him and mouthed, “How are you going to get that off of her?!” He didn’t answer — still all smiles. He and Addie were planning their courtship apparently. Addie was all laughter and again saying, “Tell me I am beautiful, Leroy! Tell me!” Now everyone in the room was laughing. It was downright infectious, I tell you. Even I started to belly laugh.

I see him grab the saw. He had the headphones and put them on her. She didn’t flinch. I couldn’t believe it. “Wait wait wait, Leroy. You take that off me now?” “‘Yes, Addie.” She stopped and thought about it. He let her think. He started the saw. I held my breath. But something amazing happened: nothing. Nothing at all. He cut that cast right off of her. She completely trusted Leroy. For the love of Leroy. I was in awe. Unbelievable.

When we left the cast room, it was all she talked about the whole way home. Little did we know it wouldn’t be the last we’d see of Leroy, as unfortunately, Addie started to have issues and re-breaks — three more, to be exact. The growth plates just couldn’t re-heal. As we’ve seen specialists over the past year and tried to navigate how to keep her safe, the saving grace of coming and going from the hospital is her knowing she’ll see Leroy. It was as if an angel was sent to make the tough road ahead easier for him. And I believe Leroy is that angel.

Addie is now at the point where she doesn’t even need the headphones. She lets him cut off the cast. She tells him, “I will marry you, Leroy. Let’s get married.” It’s the cutest thing to come out of 4-year-old’s mouth” because she adores and trusts him. She will yell (sorry, CHOP) down the hall for him, “Leroy!” and somehow, Leroy hears her.

In the world of long trips from the Jersey Shore to Philly for many appointments— back and forth, no-fun casts, no-fun medicine, no-fun lots of things — it’s awesome to know someone like Leroy exists. 

Now if he could only help make me a braver/less destructive bug-killer at home for the girls.

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