What do you do when life throws you a curve?
What happens when the unthinkable occurs and your normal existence is shattered? Do you crumble and blow away like grains of sand or do you find that you are made of stronger stuff? Perhaps, like my friend Edna Pittman, you discover you are a woman of steel after all. Perhaps you discover that the faith that brought you to this moment, can bring you through it as well. In Edna’s case, when her son Demarion was injured, she not only found a way to survive the trials, but through her tireless work with the legislature, her foundation and now her book, she has helped countless other families as well.
It’s every mother’s worst nightmare. On August 2, 2007 Edna’s life changed forever. That was the day she received a call from her 3-year-old son Demarion’s home daycare. There had been an accident. Her small son had been left in the daycare van in the hot Oklahoma sun. For several hours he sat, forgotten, in his carseat. By the time he was found and rushed to the hospital it was nearly too late.
When Edna got to her son’s side, he was in a coma. The doctor’s news was grave. She was told there was very little hope that he would even live. If that wasn’t bad enough, she also learned that the home daycare that Demarion attended did not have insurance to cover his accident. Can you imagine? Yet Edna never lost hope. She never lost faith.
Edna Pittman is the founder of the non-profit group called B.A.R.I (Being a Real Influence). B.A.R.I provides books, toys and other gifts to the siblings of children in hospitals. Edna also works as a television director and public speaker and happens to be my dear friend. Edna Pittman has a heart of gold and a spine of pure steel. Tirelessly she worked to provide Demarion everything he needed to not just survive the debilitating accident but also slowly begin to thrive. She fought to get Demarion’s Law passed in Oklahoma. Demarion’s Law requires all daycares, home and centers alike, to carry liability insurance for the children in their care.
The video that follows is her own and chronicles what happened and the events directly after.
Just last year even more tragedy struck as Edna lost her husband. Overnight her life changed once again. She is now a single mother of three children, including Demarion, a son now coming into his teen years with significant special needs. Recently I sat down with this remarkable lady to talk about her son, her family and her journey.
Brandy: It’s simply amazing how far he’s come
Edna: It is. When this accident first happened he did nothing. There was just this body. I mean his eyes didn’t move, he didn’t move and it was almost like there was nothing in there. To see him now, his doctors are still in awe every time we come into the doctor’s office. When they speak to him he smiles and looks at them. He likes to lean in on them and he likes to give people kisses. You know, just the fact that he stands on its own 2 feet and I just have to hold his hand and walk with him. They can’t believe it because they did not think that he would be able to do that.
Brandy: He goes to public school, right? How is it dealing with the school system?
Edna: Sometimes it can be a little difficult because they’re in the public school system. In the public school system what they want is more educational, which I understand. But for child who has multiple disabilities like my son, sometimes those can’t be the goals. At this point to be honest with you I’m not looking for my kid to solve some sort of mathematic equation. If I can get him to go to the potty by himself then we are winning.
I’ve had some people that just really didn’t do anything. When they would come to IEP meetings I didn’t feel supported. I felt like they were trying to push whatever they wanted and it didn’t line up at all with what I want for him and his future. But, you know, I’ve also been blessed with some people who understand that and they find a way to make it educational.
Brandy: What is your biggest fear as a parent of a special needs child?
Edna: This was our biggest fear. We would leave this Earth and he would not have someone to care for him in the manner that we wanted. Now for me that fear is even greater. I have older daughters. But I don’t want them to feel that they have to take care him. It would be nice if they did it and my oldest has already told me that that is her plan. She’s included him in her life plan, which is awesome, but I never want them to feel obligated because he’s their brother. But it would be nice if that were what they’re able to do.
I just don’t know what their future will be. You know when they become adults they will get married and have their own families and things of that nature and I just don’t know where Demarion fits in with that. That is my biggest fear: that I would leave him on this earth and he would have to depend on strangers for everything. That’s scary for me.
Edna: For me personally, the most rewarding aspect is waking up everyday and seeing his smile. On that day in August of 2007 I was told I needed to plan my child’s funeral. I know some people would say that, I mean, your life is so hard with him. But I would tell them I couldn’t imagine my life without him. To me, that would be a lot harder. I don’t know, he just makes me happy. If I’m having a bad day…
Here recently, with, you know, the passing of my husband, I don’t have great mornings sometimes. But as soon as I walk into his room or I hear his voice I am immediately happy because I think to myself – If this child who has been through so much. He’s had so many surgeries. He’s had set backs. You know, and he can still smile… Then I shouldn’t be worried about a thing.
Brandy: What is your hope for his future?
Edna: My goal for Demarion is for him to be as independent as he can. I mean, some people say that I am stretching because I am hoping that one day this boy will be able to walk on his own, feed himself, be able to communicate and tell his wants, his needs and things of that nature. That’s what I want for his future. I just don’t want him to have to totally depend on others for everything that he needs. My hope is that he would have some sort of independence. I mean that’s what I see in his future and that’s what I’m going to keep pushing for.
I don’t know what that would look like but I do understand that Demarion will probably outlive me. And so. You know so as long as I’m here on this earth I am going to push so that he can be the best Demarion possible.
Brandy: What has your journey taught you about God?
Edna: It has taught me that God doesn’t leave us. Sometimes you feel like He’s not there but I know personally when I get discouraged about some things… It’s funny to me how I might be discouraged about something and God says well I’ll show you. And, you know, within that same day Demarion would do something that is great and that we hadn’t seen before or that wasn’t expected of him.
I mean, I just know that God is basically carrying me through this journey. Because Edna couldn’t just do this on her own. I am not a super human. I don’t have any kind of supernatural powers. All that I am is a human who feels and who gets disappointed and you know I have even been mad at God. He just continues to carry us through this. We have been told that he can’t have this wheelchair or that bed. Then they just show up at our door. It is not because of me. I know that God answers prayer.
Brandy: What gifts do special needs children bring to their families?
Edna: I think that they teach us that it’s okay to be different. And that just because you are different doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a good life. I think that they teach us that anything is possible. You know, I’ve watched my son do what people have told me it would be impossible. I mean, just from him alone I have learned so much about being happy. Things don’t have to be perfect. They always have to be in order. Just cherish each day that you have with those that you love.
Brandy: What is the most important thing for other parents facing a journey with a child with special needs about how it will affect family dynamics?
Edna: You have to go with the flow. Don’t give up even when you really feel like giving up. You know, if you need to scream, cry or whatever, do it. But then you just have to get over it and think about the child. What is best for that child. I think, as a family you have to try… You know like I say, my daughters sacrificed a lot that I feel like they shouldn’t have had to sacrifice. But we’ve always tried to make an effort to have one-on-one time with the typical children in our family. So that, you know, they don’t have resentment towards the other child.
It really is a balancing act. I’m trying to find that happy medium for everyone and as you go through the journey you just eventually try to figure it out. And you know it might be rough in the beginning because you have so much thrown at you. But eventually it will even out. You’ll figure it out. And it won’t be as difficult. But you just have to stay the course. That is what’s important is that you just stay the course and don’t give up. Accept help. You know if you need the help, accept it. There are people who are willing to step up. You’re not going to get through this journey if you don’t sometimes accept help from others, whether it’s other people helping you with your other children or cutting your grass. Sometimes you just need help and it’s okay if you need help.
Only a Mother: The Demarion Pittman Story
Grab your tissues, Only a Mother is a true story of triumph over tragedy, the best I’ve read in a very long time. While the title may say the Demarion Pittman Story, this book is as much about Edna Pittman as it is about her miracle son, Demarion. This story illustrates how with enough love, determination and faith one woman and one little boy can change the world.
In Only a Mother, Edna chronicles the journey she and her son took from disaster to victory. In an easy, conversational tone she takes us with her and lets us share all of the ups and downs of her life from the time just before the accident to the signing of Damarion’s Law. We see her compassion in the midst of her own pain as she allows the owner of the daycare to visit her son in his hospital bed. Edna demonstrates her faith through the fire as she talks about going to God again and again in prayer. In Only a Mother we can feel her joy every time Demarion makes a stride or achievement that the doctor’s assured her could never happen.
Brandy: Why did you decide to write a book?
Edna: Because I think my son’s story needs to be heard. Point blank, the journey itself, I believe it can inspire others. I just hoped that people would become aware of what happens to children when they are forgotten in cars, first of all. Second, I wanted to say – Hey things happen by but you can still live your life. You can still go on. You can sometimes turn something tragic into a positive. I mean, you can find something positive to come out of a tragic situation.
Brandy: What was your writing process like?
Edna: It took me a while to write that book. The accident happened in 2007. I did not publish the book until 2016 and I started writing in 2012. It took a lot of nights that I couldn’t sleep, honestly. Sometimes on the weekends, when I would have time, I would work on it. There were sometimes when I was so energized, I would just keep going and I would knock out a couple of chapters in one sitting. There were other times where it absolutely exhausted me because I was reliving things that were painful. I mean, it would exhaust me to the point that I would be writing and tears would be falling down my face. Honestly, I would have to stop because I would dream about it for weeks. It would just continue to replay in my head and I would have to step back from it.
Brandy: Tell me a bit about your publishing journey? Why did you choose to publish your book in the manner that you did?
Edna: I actually was offered a publishing deal for it. However, they wanted some of the rights of to the book and things of that nature, so I actually self-published. I published it through Create Space Amazon. The reason I did that is because it’s my son’s story and I felt that if anyone should benefit from it then it should be him. That was my reason for going the route I did.
I didn’t want to receive a one-time deal and I believe that my son’s story could me a movie – you know a Life Time movie or something like that. So I wanted to make sure I retained all rights to the story. Would I do that if I published another book? I don’t know. But that particular book, I wanted to make sure that he always has rights to that book. Anything that is made from that book goes to Demarion.
Brandy: What are your tips for other writers during writing process, the revision process and the publishing process?
Edna: During the writing process, write. Whenever you find the time, write. Point blank, period. If you’re a writer, write. Because its not going to get done if you don’t write. So that would be the biggest tip during that process.
The editing process, I would just say, have an open mind to change. Because some things may need to be changed. But even though you have an open mind, stand firm on what you want the outcome to be. Just be open to changes, because some things may be necessary for whatever reason and if it’s not compromising whatever it is that you’re wanting to come from that book, then be open for change.
And the publishing process, I’d say just have patience and decide what is important to you because it’s hard to get book deals. People are not just knocking you down to give you a book deal and so if you get shot down just take it for what it is and keep pushing. If you believe in your process or your book then you may not go the route of trying to get a big publisher to publish it. There are many outlets to self-publish that are affordable that can help you in every process if you’re not able to come up with a marketing campaign and things of that nature.
Don’t over extend yourself. Do what you can and then if you have to wait on some things you can wait. It’s just that if you think it’s a great piece of work that you want to put out there, and you believe in it, than do whatever you can to get it out there.
Brandy: Have you considered or are you working on additional books?
Edna: I actually already started on another book. I have 2 books that are finished. Whether they’ll ever be published I don’t know yet. But I am working on another book and it is about the things that have happened since Demarion’s Law passed. And there’s been a lot. And that book, I actually just started working on it when I published Only a Mother. I had plans on doing another book, because I didn’t think I could fit it all into one. So Now I’m in the process of starting that and figuring how I want exactly how I want that to come out. I love to write so …
Through the power of her words and her story, Edna took me on a journey that, by the end of the book, made me love her son as if he were my own. While not a very long book, the imagery was clear and powerful. Only a Mother is a must read for mothers, fathers, grandparents and really anyone who ever loved a child.
You can learn more about Edna Pittman and her son Demarion as well as find information about B.A.R.I and Demarion’s Law at her website at http://www.demarionslaw.com/
“…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1: 8-11
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