Friday, September 12, 2014

Keenan Arthur Galloway

When we first moved to Washington, Captain Midnight and I lived in a little rectangular tract house in the Renton highlands that we semi-affectionately called the Blue Shoebox. It was built during World War II, had crappy baseboard heating and a wood stove, no insulation, a tiny kitchen that seemed tacked on as an afterthought, and a leaking roof in an area where it rains some 9 months of the year. We spent a lot of time wiping the walls with bleach solution to stave off mildew, and didn't spend much time getting to know our neighbors. The sense of isolation was almost tangible.

Then we were introduced to the Galloway family, who became our first real friends in Renton. At the time, Garon and Dawn were a young married couple with a little boy named Keenan. I got to know Dawn by coming over to visit and help with Keenan's everyday health care. Keenan had been born with a number of serious health issues -- club feet, hydrocephalus, ataxic cerebral palsy -- and a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (essentially, a hole in his diaphragm) which had caused his digestive tract to float up into his chest cavity, hampering the development of his heart and lungs. So many doctors told Dawn her son would not live to see his first birthday, but she was determined to find a doctor who believed in Keenan's ability to survive and thrive as much as she and Garon did. And somehow, thanks to their care and Keenan's own determination to live, he kept befuddling the doctors who predicted his early death.

Keenan did a lot of things no one expected him to do. Not only did he live to see his first birthday, he just kept on living to see the birth of his five younger siblings, various milestones in school including high school graduation, participation in track and field events as part of the Special Olympics, and (unfortunately) necessary adventures in and out of the hospital for corrective surgeries and medical emergencies.

Because his lung capacity was never great enough, Keenan was mostly nonverbal, but he figured out ways to make himself understood. He used his body language to respond to verbal comments. He learned signs. He had a sound board. He used social media. More to the point, he often expressed himself through his sense of humor and his big, glorious toothy grin.

When he was a toddler, I used to call it his "lion grin" because his spiky hair and pronounced little canines reminded me of a lion.

(Funnily enough, Keenan adored musicals, including "The Lion King," and the Galloways went to see it when it came to the Paramount in Seattle.) Keenan radiated a sense of happiness and positivity, even on days when he didn't feel well. His infectious grin and the spirit behind it touched pretty much everyone who knew him.

And because he'd already lived so long, I don't think anyone really expected him to die.

Every night before bed, Keenan would come into his parents' room and sign "good night" to them. The night before he died, he went in three different times to tell them good night. Garon is convinced, and I agree, that Keenan had a premonition he would not be seeing them the next morning.

Keenan died on September 8, in his sleep. He was 19 years old.


Marci said...

Sounds like a remarkable boy. I'm glad you got to know him. Prayers and condolences to his family.

Dawn said...

Thanks for writing this. Made me smile today, though I don't have his giant toothy grin:)