The message from Mike stopped my heart.
“You need to rush home. Something has happened with Braden.”
It was an ordinary Thursday. I was finishing up a meeting at school. Mike was in downtown Bangkok for a conference he was helping to host. Braden’s school was still on holiday, so he was at home that day. We thought about hiring an assistant from his school to spend the day with him, but then we thought how silly that was. Braden likes to sleep late, and he loves our helper, Khun Tim, so why not have her watch him for the rest of the day once he was awake?
Khun Tim was excited. She always says, “Braden is a good boy. I can watch him.” Decision made, we prepared a schedule for her to follow:
- Eat breakfast
- Watch iPad
- Take Chappy (dog) for a walk
- Eat snack/lunch
- Go swimming
That would be all they needed for the schedule. As you know, Braden loves to swim and can spend hours in the pool. He is so good in the water, so there is no need to worry about his safety.
“What happened?” I asked as I’m running to my classroom to get my things so I could rush home.
“I don’t really know details,” Mike explained, his voice trembling. “I just know he jumped.”
“He jumped? From where?”
And that is when I felt as if Earth was spinning too fast; when I found out just where he had jumped.
I’m generally one who can remain calm in stressful situations. Braden has done some unpredictable things in his lifetime, and I’ve managed to take them in stride. But this one? This one terrified me.
And I didn’t want to face it alone.
My friend Cindy (who was in the middle of a meeting) called her husband, Cyril, and another friend, Colleen. They, dropped everything to come home with me.
As we were driving into our apartment building, Colleen’s husband Graeme, came out from the workout center. “We saw him. We saw someone falling past the window.”
We arrived at the apartment, Braden is laying on the couch, looking ashen and afraid. He says, “Braden jump…lake.”
“Why did you jump, buddy?”
“Jump lake.” A smile. He then closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I hug him, tell him I love him, and thank the heavens he’s still in one piece and seemingly unbroken, and pour myself and my friends a beer.
Braden jumped in the lake.
I asked my helper to take me outside and explain it all to me. She speaks only Thai. I speak only English, but we were able to piece together the story.
Braden was swimming in the pool. He was happy and having fun. For reasons unknown, Braden climbed over the edge of the infinity pool onto a walkway. Khun Tim saw what he was about to do and screamed, “No, Braden, no!” But, Braden continued.
He climbed over the railing (about 4 feet tall) and
into the lake below.
30 feet down.
Braden has always had a fascination with throwing things out windows. It is for this reason that when we rented the apartment, we immediately purchased padlocks for all of the windows. I definitely had a fear of him not only throwing things out but also possibly climbing out and jumping.
But that fear of him jumping was pretty unfounded. Throwing? Sure. Jumping? Nah…
And he’s so content when he swims, that the thought of him even considering jumping didn’t seem plausible.
I’m so thankful Braden is a strong swimmer. Because he had to swim F-A-R once he found himself
unable to simply climb out of the lake. Our apartment buildings have a straight face, shooting straight up into the sky. There are no ledges…Nowhere to get out.
Our helper was still on the 3rd floor yelling to Braden. She told him where to swim, and miraculously, he listened! He swam and swam as she directed him, finally arriving at a platform. Some of the guards went out on the platform, threw out a life-saving ring, and pulled Braden in and up. For video of what this looks like, click here: IMG_4179
Mike, meanwhile, receives an email from the manager of our apartment complex which reads:
Please be aware that today your son jumped into the lake from the 3rd floor Vista Terrace.
As you will appreciate, this is extremely dangerous and as such is not permitted. I ask that you emphasize the risks to him in doing this and ensure that there is no repeat.
Many thanks and best regards,
Okay, sure. We’ll make sure we have the conversation with him. We’ll emphasize the risks.I’m sure that will work. Good advice.
Have I told you about the enormous fish in this lake? A long time ago, this lake was a quarry. They filled it with water, and someone had the brilliant idea to import a species of fish here from the
Amazon River. These fish are called Arapaima and are the freakiest fish I’ve ever seen. They can grow to 9 feet and must surface to breathe. There are also HUGE catfish in the lake. When I heard Braden jumped in there with those monsters of the deep, I felt sick.
And, what is in that water? Thankfully, our helper took Braden straight to the showers and scrubbed him down. Who knows if he has any lingering little parasite friends in his body from this experience.
The cycle of life with a child with severe autism continues and on and on. Just when we think, “We’ve got this. Braden is in a good place,” something like this happens.
This event is particularly hard on us. Now we don’t feel like Braden is safe in the pool area. Swimming was our sanctuary. We could take Braden to the pool and relax for a while; nearly every day. We now fear Braden will try to jump from other places like the car park or the restaurant. We have to make sure that Braden is either holding onto one of our hands or walking in between the two of us.
Our helper was not able to sleep. She keeps waking up with nightmares and reliving the event. I kept reimagining it and the “what could have happened and what-if” scenarios plague me.
So now, with just two weeks left of school before summer, we are moving. We have to move. We just have to. And I have to say; we’re not real happy about it. We loved our apartment/ the swimming pool, the beauty of looking out at the lake and catching the sunset, the friendly guards, our neighbors, our friends, the gym. There are so many reasons not to move.
And yet…there is one reason to move…so it’s not really a choice, is it?
So we found a small house with a small neighborhood pool (ground level) and our things will be moved over the summer. It’s the only way we can manage it, as another fun part of autism is that
Braden hates change, hates suitcases, packing boxes, and the thought of something being different.
When we return to Bangkok after summer vacation, we have to look forward to Braden being very stressed for several weeks…and the behaviors he will demonstrate due to that stress; shoes and iPads thrown in the lake, ripping up his mattress and pillow, hiding important items in small places around the house…yep, he’s done them before and we know he’ll do them again. Fun times ahead!
There is not much more to add to this post. I have no words of wisdom or deep learning to share. This is just one of those “To be honest, this moment in our lives sucked…big time,” type of moments.
We just have to move on, right? We’ll make jokes about his jump to make ourselves and others feel better. We laugh to hide our sadness, but also because… well, what else can we do?