Seriously Catherine – A Place of Yes & Losing a Child with Heather Straughter | Episode 25 – Palette
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Seriously Catherine – A Place of Yes & Losing a Child with Heather Straughter | Episode 25

Catherine engages in a heartfelt conversation with Heather Straughter, the visionary behind Jake’s Help from Heaven. Heather’s life took an unexpected turn with the sudden loss of her son, Jake. However, out of this profound tragedy emerged a beacon of hope in the form of Jake’s Help from Heaven—a non-profit organization established in 2011 to uplift individuals with complex medical needs and disabilities.

Heather’s story is one of resilience and determination in the face of unimaginable loss. You will gain insight into the raw realities of grief and the transformative power of channeling pain into purpose. Catherine and Heather navigate the complexities of grief, discussing practical strategies for coping with loss and supporting those left behind, particularly surviving siblings who often bear the weight of profound sorrow.

Together, Catherine and Heather shine a light on the importance of community, compassion, and unwavering perseverance in the midst of adversity. This episode serves as a testament to the unbeatable human spirit and the capacity to find meaning and hope even in life’s darkest moments. Tune in to be inspired by Heather’s journey from tragedy to triumph, and discover how one woman’s unwavering resolve is making a difference in the lives of countless others.

🌟Follow Jake’s Help from Heaven on Instagram HERE.

🌟Visit Jake’s Help from Heaven’s website HERE to find out how you can get involved.

🌟Take a listen to A Place of Yes podcast HERE.

HOT TAKES: Cowgirl style is here (thank you Beyonce) and we’re here for it!

SARATOGA: Saratoga county deemed the best county to live in in New York state… but also the drunkest.

FACE PALM MOM: School lunches, yay or nay?!

Don’t forget to check out Saratoga Living’s After Hours for what’s new and happening in Saratoga!

⇩ Find Catherine ⇩


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*This Transcript is Autogenerated*

Heather Straughter 0:00
So in the months prior to him passing, because people a lot of times will be like, Oh, well, he was sick kind of insinuating that we expected it or we’re prepared for it or that it was just going to be our path and it was not our path like you. I mean, like, yes, he had a lot of challenges like we did not think he was going to die for sure.

Catherine Hover 0:26
Welcome to seriously, Catherine, a podcast about taking your business seriously, but not yourself. I don’t know about you guys. But this week’s Hot take is all about my love for the cowgirl aesthetic that we are seeing on all of our social medias and all this labs, we can all agree that this is due in large part to Beyonce and her new album coming out. It’s titled act two and it’s supposed to be part two of her Renaissance album. She posted this whole like personal story on her Instagram that I just like felt oh my god, we’re friends. We’re officially friends now. Like I thought we were always friends. But she cemented the relationship with this authentic vulnerable post about why she’s entered the country music scene. And there’s a lot of people who are like, Oh, no, she shouldn’t be in country music. Beyonce is not a country music artists and I tell you, sir, or ma’am that you should keep your mouth shut because the music’s amazing. If we can allow Taylor Swift of all people to jump from different genres, we can certainly allow the Queen to do so the songs that have already been released have gone viral like I actually at the women conference that Bernie Burnham put on. A couple of weeks ago, we all learned how to do the Texas Hold’em dance and I’m so proud of myself that I could do it with Posey, I mean, she immediately felt like I was a cool mom. So I got cool mom status because of that. And again, this is all goes back to my thanks to Beyonce. She’s making me a better mom. Am I gonna go buy a new pair of cowboy boots and cowboy hat, I don’t need to because I already have these things. I’m actually wearing a pair of cowboy boots. They’re purple, which they’re like my favorite. And I also have several hats from the Saratoga, saddlery that I adorn when the occasion arises. And also the girls had to dress up like tourists for school one day like Doran spear week, and they chose to be Western tourists. And they wore the cowboy hats and the boots and the denim and I am here for that. That’s my take. On this week’s episode of seriously, Catherine, I’m joined by my friend and makeshift Big Sister Heather Stroud, or she is the founder of Jake’s help from heaven, which is a local nonprofit that I’m obsessed with. And she’s also a podcast hosts of a place of Yes, which is another podcast and the Brightside network. I’m so excited for you guys to hear her story. Meet her learn more about what makes her go. And let’s jump right in. Okay, so I want to talk about the first time I ever met you. What was okay, what’s so cool about this is like, you’re gonna have this vivid memory about the same thing, right? And I was trying to figure this out, was it right? You want to open paint and sip or was it after that? And how, like, Ethan is like a man now. 19. But his birthday was

Heather Straughter 3:18
at Penn said, well, it was it was second grade, so probably a seventh birthday.

Catherine Hover 3:23
So he was set. So seven plus 12. That makes him 19. Yeah, yeah. Well, there we go. We figured that out today. Morning. So you had Ethan’s birthday party at paint and sip that was like the first time that I met you and I was still working on payments about a time not that you’re not this anymore. But you were like this young, beautiful young lady. She was just like, enamored and even was like a beautiful little boy. Like I was just like, oh my god, the this family is like freaking adorable. And I made this really stupid comment. Oh, you did? I said something like, Ethan oh my god, you must be so you’re so lucky. You have these people all to yourself. But like, I didn’t know anything about Jake, I know anything about y’all.

Heather Straughter 4:09
I’m sure none of that even impacted us at all though.

Catherine Hover 4:11
It was weird. Like, oh, no, it was a weird thing weird in your head that I said because I said to him, like, are you an only child like, oh my god, you’re so lucky. And then like, be like, Oh my god, lo and behold, I’m like, oh my god, they buried their son years ago. And this is so like, open mouth insert foot.

Heather Straughter 4:29
I feel like we have always been that couple through this that you know, and it’s probably interesting because people are also listening to like my podcast where all I do is talk about like grief and the horrible life it is. But it’s also just our life. Right? Like so. You didn’t know like we never took that stuff personally like sometimes it’s what sting like it staying and be like, oh shit, but usually what stung more was when people would ask me like, oh, you only have one kid? And I say yes, like that’s what stings it’s like an internal struggle. It’s not you like yeah, Can’t expect every like, we don’t wear a badge that says we lost a kid, you know, like, so people don’t know,

Catherine Hover 5:04
right? But then we became friends on Facebook. And for the long I don’t even know if this is still your photo, but for the longest time, your photo was you and Brian at at the grave.

Heather Straughter 5:15
Yes, a casket. Yeah, open casket too. And

Catherine Hover 5:17
so I was like, Oh, my God. Well, story about

Heather Straughter 5:21
that, because I did that, like, obviously right after he passed. And then I was like, it was years, like years and years and years before I changed that picture. Because I could not wrap my head around changing that, because I felt like it would hurt Jake’s feelings. Like I had my own like, and then I don’t remember when I finally did, but I felt like I was like, Okay, how they’re like, now you’re just weird. You know what I mean? Like, you’re like, you just gotta you gotta change the picture. Yeah, but yeah, it was my I felt like it was probably a little like if people clicked in because when it’s small, maybe you don’t know. But then when you click on it, you’re like, Oh, shit.

Catherine Hover 5:53
I mean, I vividly remember being like, Oh my god. Oh my god. What did I say that? Oh my god, this poor little boy probably went home crying the David’s birthday party because this branch was like, Hey, Lucky you only kid whatever. I was like, so mortified. And then I also discovered so so like, give me a task and I will get it done. Right. So but then I was like, Okay, how do I make this right? Like, I’ve really had like, no anxiety. I don’t know if you remember I called you because I realized that we went to the same hairdresser. Okay, and I don’t remember that was like, Do you think it’d be weird if I called and like apologize. I just feel so slight and I couldn’t let it go. So she gave me a number and I called you and you’re like, Oh my God. It’s totally no big deal. But by the way, can we do a fundraiser? Because

Heather Straughter 6:38
I like to twist any opportunity. I can.

Catherine Hover 6:40
I’m the same way I really am. Maybe I learned it from you. But I was just like, Yeah, anything you want beautiful people out?

Heather Straughter 6:48
I never say that was a super fun fundraiser. We had people from like Boston came up like that was fun.

Catherine Hover 6:55
Yeah, yeah, we did. Like a customer card. No. So have you covered the cardinal story like on your podcast yet?

Heather Straughter 7:02
Probably not. I don’t know. I don’t when you do this, don’t your conversations, like run together? Yeah. Well,

Catherine Hover 7:08
that’s why you have a person someone told me nowhere I where I absorb this information. But like when you start to sound like a broken record, it’s because like, you’re on point with what your purpose is, or what you’re passionate about what your focus you know, so

Heather Straughter 7:22
that’s a broken record. So I’m just,

Catherine Hover 7:25
I mean, I

Heather Straughter 7:26
their rabbit hole, where I’m like, This is what I’m obsessed with right now. And I cannot stop talking about it.

Catherine Hover 7:30
What is that for you right now? Because I mean, you are always talking about Jake’s, you know,

Heather Straughter 7:35
but it’s sometimes I want to say it’s something like benign, like do I mean like I like when I’m on a soapbox about something that is Jake’s related or advocacy or like important things of consequence. But sometimes I go down like a rabbit hole of just news. I can’t get out of my head. Where’s that boy who into Missouri and was in Nashville left? Luke Bryan’s bar? And now that you know, I mean, like, I can’t get that out of my head. What the hell? You know what I mean? Like so sometimes it’s just like, the rabbit hole can be anything and that is I know,

Catherine Hover 8:05
but to your point like who is that girl that went missing was traveling in a van with her? Oh, I

Heather Straughter 8:09
went down. Yeah, yeah, what was now I can’t remember her name. But I went down that route. But it’s like,

Catherine Hover 8:13
but we obsess over these people because we see ourselves or our kids. Yeah, because it’s so real.

Heather Straughter 8:18
Right? Like this boy was in with friends on spring break from college. He they all got drunk, he got kicked out and was like, Oh, I’m just going back to the hotel like a in my life. That’s happened, right? Like, you go out, you wander off even though you know you’re not supposed to you most of the time make it but there’s these times when you don’t and it’s just

Catherine Hover 8:39
yeah, well, I literally like I lived in New York City by myself when I was a hot 20 Stupid years old. I was in college and I was a shitshow there are vivid memories that I have. I’m like, I don’t know how I got out of that situation alive. and I both like it’s like a miracle. And also it’s before Instagram and social media and just like not we had 24 hour news but it wasn’t like it is now like it’s very us even knowing about these people is you know, Brian will

Heather Straughter 9:05
always say that he’s like, you know, is it that much worse? Or do we just know every single thing now all the time as soon as it happens, right? And

Catherine Hover 9:12
with that being said it’s a good thing right? Because now we can be more aware we can talk about it we can bring more we can you can handle

Heather Straughter 9:18
it quicker. You can you know, but it also I think it’s why everyone is anxious now, right? Like because you know all like, there was some ignorance is bliss, right? Like when I was young 1000 years ago, like you could just be like young and stupid. Yeah, you know, my dad always said like, you know, growing up, you got to be smart, but it takes a little bit of luck and it’s absolutely true. You know, two people can do the same thing and one can have a really much worse outcome. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 9:41
yeah, no, absolutely. So the reason why is because the cardinal store I our podcast, the Cardinals So okay, so why like,

Heather Straughter 9:51
So, right after Jake passed? I was 100% loss like right Ethan would go to school at that point, and I don’t regret member The timeframe is much we were trying to go back to normal life like Ethan was in school all day Brian was going to work. And for me, you know, I was Jake’s caretaker 24/7. Like I was

Catherine Hover 10:09
you a timeout. So So also, I want you to sort of like, I don’t know, you have your own podcast, and you’re sort of like going through your entire journey and experience being Jake’s mom losing Jake. But up until he passed away suddenly, right. Like, suddenly, you just expected to live with this child 1,000%,

Heather Straughter 10:28
like we had talked about, like in the months prior to him passing because people a lot of times will be like, Oh, well, he was sick kind of insinuating that we expected it or we’re prepared for it or that it was just going to be our path. And it was not our path like you. I mean, like, yes, he had a lot of challenges, like we did not think he was going to die for sure. And at that point we were looking at and I think I did talk about this, we knew that we were going to need like an handicap van. And I was always such a pain in the ass about cars. Like I always have a very specific car that I want to drive or like what I like and I was kind of being a punk about like, I don’t want to get a handicap van. I don’t like so I was looking at different vans that I could get that would be like a happy medium, like, what could I have converted into a van. That’s not like driving a minivan, but that is also appropriate, where we could wheel his wheelchair in like that we were thinking about those things. So we certainly were not prepared for him to pass away. We were also beginning the talks about like, even in my house, you know, it’s an old Victorian, it’s got three floors as he was getting heavier, you know, are we going to have to switch things around and have everything for him on the first floor? Or would we need to put in an elevator like we were having real conversations about as he grew and got older what we would have to do? Yeah,

Catherine Hover 11:41
like you were thinking longevity, like he total longevity. And

Heather Straughter 11:44
we were starting to have those talks about you know, what is this impact going to be? If anything happens to Brian and I like whose responsibility you know, like kind of we would have those talks. So all that to say that it was completely out of the blue. So he passed away unexpectedly. I had done all of his care, right. You know, I was 24/7 with him. I had to give up any career that I had once he got sick because he required 24/7 care. So when he was gone there was like this void, right? Like it was kind of like, I didn’t know what to do with myself and frankly, parenting a kid that like Ethan, who is a healthy kid is easy. You know what I mean? Like not that it wasn’t challenging, but it was not. Everything’s not life or death. You know what I mean? Like, like, I felt like with Jake, it’s like you had to make sure he ate like everything was just heightened.

Catherine Hover 12:31
And Ethan is six at this time, Ethan

Heather Straughter 12:35
Yeah, so Ethan was five when he passed away, like it was the month before his birthday. So turn six. I know poor baby. So in those days, I remember just sort of like some days, I just was like a zombie, right. But other days, I was like, I need to do something I need to fill these days until Ethan gets back home, you know, and it was kind of tempting, like, I’d have friends would be like, Okay, let’s go to lunch. And we’d have like a drinking lunch or we’d had and I was like, This can’t be my, you know, this is okay. But this is not where I want my life to be. So I started running like, I’d always been kind of a runner. But I just started going on these really, really long runs to kind of fill my time. And I would see like, I’d go through the state park, I’d go like eight, nine miles, like I was running decent mileage. And I kept seeing this Cardinal. And it was just kind of funny. Like it was just noticeable. And I didn’t really think anything of it, but it just kept happening. And then I you know, we’d be at the grave and we’d see a cardinal or we’d be driving I just was seeing and at one point I said to Brian, I remember this super vividly. I don’t know if he would remember it. But I was like, I don’t know what’s going on. But I’m being stalked by Cardinal like I just like and I didn’t know that it meant anything. Like I knew nothing about it. But I just was like, everywhere I go. There’s this Cardinal shortly after that. I just started being like, Hey, Jake, and we just all sort of adopted it. Like we’d see that like Ethan would see a cardinal like at the playground. He’d be like, I saw Jake today. Like, we just became like this family. Yeah. And then I would say like a year later, like a long time had passed. Someone was like, you do know what a cardinal means, don’t you? And I was like, I have no idea what it means. And they were like, well just look it up. So then I googled and it’s funny because I Google everything. I guess that time maybe we didn’t Google things as much but it didn’t even occur to me to google it but if you Google Cardinal it is one of the things that people think is a sign of someone who’s passed like it’s either them transitioning into you know the next life or whatever you believe but it is commonly recognized as how people kind of come back Yeah, never Yeah, so we still to this day, like I still have friends who will send me a picture in the morning of like a cardinal in their backyard. Oh, or like you know, like, like Susan Halstead will like the first Cardinal she sees is her dad the second Cardinal she sees is Jake so she sees two she’s like, Oh, Jake and my dad are hanging out and I love it. I could bring me to tears now. Like, there’s so many. Like, it just means so much. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 14:46
yeah, no one ever told me anything about Cardinals

Heather Straughter 14:50
like I just I didn’t know either. It just it literally I was like I’m being stalked like I could not not see the Cardinals. Yeah. And I’ve never been like a bird person or anything. Like it’s not like I’d be like, Oh, look at that blue day over They’re right.

Catherine Hover 15:02
Yeah. But do you want to see Cardinals? Like, I don’t think anything other than Jake. It’s like, it’s part of the whole brand now. It’s like everyone

Heather Straughter 15:07
has become a thing. And yeah, and that’s where we’re like we went with like, so we then took it further, right? Like, it was like, okay, it has to be read. And then I was like, Well, every car I drive has to be read. Like, I mean, I make up these weird rules in my head, right? And then I like if I ever want to break them. I have like this crazy guilt complex. So I’m like, okay, every car I have from now on will be red. Oh,

Catherine Hover 15:26
my God. And but but everyone plays ball. Brian has a black car, right? Yes. But you all have the Jakey license plate.

Heather Straughter 15:33
That was also my thing. I was like, Well, when I get the red Jeep, we’re gonna have like, I’m gonna change my license plate. Brian was kind of like, well, I want one too. And then he did. So I’m Jakey. And then he was Jakey, too. And it was kind of funny, because he was like, oh, I should have been JqI one. But then I was like, No. And this was, you know, Ethan was very small. So him driving seemed forever. But I was like, oh, whenever Ethan drives, he’ll be Jakey one. And then my parents are Jakey, three and four. But then when Ethan got his car and his license, we got him. So he’s Jakey one.

Catherine Hover 15:58
Oh, I love this. Okay, so I’ve always kind of wanted to ask you this, you know, when someone loses a child, and they have another child, right? Are they like, in your circumstances? You have Ethan Jayegi passed away. He was younger than Ethan. So you still have this, this kid that is healthy and needs love and attention? Have you ever felt like? Well, he had to have been a purpose for you to sort of like carry on.

Heather Straughter 16:23
So I would have said this very much. Like, people

Catherine Hover 16:26
say like, oh, well, at least she has Ethan or at least she had like my so I have a I have a cousin that passed away when I was very, very young. And I remember they used to just always say like, well, at least, you know, Aunt Eva has the other kids. And it’s like, okay, but like that child’s purpose is not to be the purpose. Yes.

Heather Straughter 16:43
100%. So I totally, I feel like I didn’t get that very much. Or if I did, it just went over my head and didn’t like I didn’t absorb it. And I think that is as I’ve gotten older to like, people can say things, but I’m very much able to let them go now. Like things that used to like really piss you off his me off and like, have me spiral. I see it as a reflection of them. Not me. Like I’m much I don’t know, like, whatever. So I have two things to say about that. One is that what people would say that I did not handle well, and still don’t handle? Well, although I’m 50. So they don’t say it as much. But they’d be like, Oh, so you’re gonna have another kid? And I just was like, I’m not having like, what a replacement child what? Like no, and I see now that I think it was for them more than me, it wasn’t that they wanted me to have another child. They were uncomfortable. You know, death is uncomfortable and death of a child is uncomfortable. And some people really were able to like go with the flow and rally around me and other people just froze. And I especially now but even then, like I never held it against them. But sometimes what they would say would still be hurtful. Like I remember Kelly height, you know, Kelly height. She for whatever reason was one of these people like right when Jake passed, like just everything she said was right. She just and she will always be so near to my heart because of that. But she gave me this one book to read about, you know, having past lives and all this stuff. And I’d never been into any of that. But it was exactly what I needed at the time. So you know, I had some other friends who were like, oh, everything I say is wrong. And I was like, don’t make me feel bad about it. Like, I would joke with Kelly and I would be like, Well, we were obviously best friends in a past life because like, you know what to say? Like you’re I mean, like some people just knew what to say. She knew Jake because you know, Ethan was to and I’d be like picking them up or down. He’d be in a stroller and he you know, you kind of could tell Jake was sick. So remember when she’s like, why is he always sleeping? And I was like, well cow, you know, but again with her it didn’t bug me like she you know, we became great friends. And you know, there’d be times I’d be at her house and one time Ethan got like, I don’t know what was what you know, kids. So out of nowhere, we’ll be fine. Then they have something of like 105 Fever. Yeah, so we were over at her house like the kids were playing. I was sitting with Jake. Ethan spikes as crazy fever. I take him to the doctor. She stayed with Jake. Like, you know, I didn’t trust anybody with Jake. But she was someone who would just sit with him.

Catherine Hover 18:50
And yeah, so yeah, like just people saying stupid shit. Oh,

Heather Straughter 18:53
and then the thing about Ethan and so I have said this. It’s not that Ethan was like the purpose child because he was there first, right? He’s my firstborn. And you know, like your firstborn. There’s all those stupid memes out there. But they’re also like, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I always find it so funny. Like Brian and I were like, 30 years old. We bring this baby home. You know, Brian and I were kind of a world when we like met in March. We’re engaged in May married in July, and Ethan was born in January. Like, that’s a whole lot happening in a short amount of time.

Catherine Hover 19:22
He was the principal right?

Heather Straughter 19:24
Not at my school. Wow. Not at my I

Catherine Hover 19:25
made that up. You made that Gandel out of that. No, no, no,

Heather Straughter 19:28
he was a teacher. He was the prime was a teacher at different schools. We met at like a, like a conference teacher conference teacher conference. But um, and so Ethan has, oh, you know, he’s my firstborn. And it’s like, we were buddies when I didn’t know what I was doing. You know, like, it’s just there’s a connection there. Yeah, he was a five year old boy when his brother died. He called 911 because it was just the two of us home in like a split second. His world blew up like my world blew up. But his world blew up too. And I just remember in those days afterwards, no I had to put the burden on him. But I was like, I need to get out of bed because I can’t wrap my kid right? Like, I have to take care of this boy. I don’t necessarily always think it was people are like, Oh, you’re so strong. Whatever. Like I don’t I think all that’s bullshit because I think you don’t know what you’re going to you I would never be able to do that. Well, you don’t know. And hopefully you never have to know. Right? You know what I mean? Like you don’t know. But I knew that like I had this little boy and I he deserved his mom, you know, he deserved the best version of his mom. And some of that was wrapped up. But yes, he was the reason I got out of bed. He was the reason I didn’t get sleep all day and take pills and become a hot mess Express like, Yeah, I had a responsibility. And yeah, you know, and I wonder sometimes if he didn’t pick up on that, and if sometimes that’s not a little bit as he’s a young adult where he has, I don’t know, you know, just a little bit of the weight on his shoulders. Like, you know, I mean, I think, what do we do as parents? We tried to do the best we can but you still managed to?

Catherine Hover 20:53
Yeah, well, they need something to talk about the nature. It’s the nature of parenting. Right? You I always just think, too, it’s like, he’s still got that sibling rivalry. You know what I’m saying? Right? Yeah. Still competing, competing

Heather Straughter 21:05
against us. Yeah. Like it and it’s, it’s the attention or it’s the, you know, and I think some of that had to be really hard because yes, I mean, I think that’s a really good point. And a lot of people don’t bring that up. But he was, you know, like, it wasn’t just like, Oh, who’s better at sports? It’s like, wait, you can never compete against the kid that died. Yeah, but you kind of are

Catherine Hover 21:26
well, and it’s just like, if you did have two living children, they would be sibling rivalries. I’m bracing myself for the when the girls get older. Ruby’s gonna just destroy everybody. She’s my girl. I love her. Do you have the same birthday or same switches the story? So I’m

Heather Straughter 21:41
the third and she’s what? Oh, she’s

Catherine Hover 21:42
the second. Okay. Yeah, and Lizzie’s birthday is the second if she will correct me. So Lizzie is was one of your first guests on the podcast very

Unknown Speaker 21:53
first guest.

Catherine Hover 21:54
What did I mention? Yeah, I was like, Oh, my God, I had no idea I had such an impact. But yeah, I mean, I remember those when when CeCe was young, and she wasn’t like hitting those milestones. And at the time I had, Ruby is like, maybe just about a year, maybe a little bit. Under CC. So it was tough for me, just and I definitely felt like, okay, like, snap out of it, let’s do all the things. What do we need to do, like, get all the tests talking

Heather Straughter 22:25
with her because I didn’t know a lot of that, like, you know, a lot of times with some of our earlier Jakes families, when we were a much smaller organization, right. Like, before, we had as many applications as we have. Now, before we grew to what we are, it just I had connections in a different way with all of our families, like, you know, just because there were less of them. And, you know, I just knew more. And so Lizzie, we’ve worked with for quite a while, but a lot of it, like we talked about was travel reimbursement or different kinds of stuff. So I didn’t always you don’t always know the backstory. So it was really fascinating. Talking about it. And one of the things that I liked is it doesn’t matter if your kid is on like, one end of the extreme, like Jake was, or if you’re like CC, who is like, meeting milestones just a lot slower. But you know, I mean, but still a forward, like, a lot of those early fears and conversate they were all the same, right? Yeah. It’s like you worry about the same stuff.

Catherine Hover 23:15
Right. Right. And from a, and you’re in denial about

Heather Straughter 23:20
the same stuff to like, like her and I, the questions that we asked, and we’re stubborn about hearing the answer about we’re very similar, even though it’s it was kind of on opposite ends of the spectrum. But it was that same thing, right. Like it’s,

Catherine Hover 23:35
yeah, well, and I just I’m, I remember, like having these, like serious conversations with Mark, like, I’ll never forget, we were at a birthday party. And Lizzie was there I was there with with Ruby. And because because her oldest daughter and my oldest daughter Posey and Daphne, are our friends are in the same grade. And same class. Yeah, we did baby yoga together when we were like pregnant, like, they’ve known each other since birth. Yeah, so we were at a birthday party. And she was sort of like, she had just come back from Boston. And they had gotten the diagnosis. And it was like, it was just a general developmental delay. And I was like, let’s see, this is bullshit. There’s something more we have to dig in further. And I think, and I remember, like, coming home and telling mark, like, Oh, my God, she’s probably never going to talk to me again, because I was so aggressive. And I was like, but at the end of the day, I like I wouldn’t be able to live with myself without saying, like, Lizzie, like, you got to dig deeper here, you know, because

Heather Straughter 24:26
everyone needs those friends. Right? Like, and it’s kind of a little bit like my Kelly height story. Like, I had friends who, and it was different. It wasn’t about like diagnosis or whatever. But like, I had friends who were asked or pushed in a harder way. Like he asked different questions. And you need those in the same way as you need the ones that let you continue to live in like lala land lala land like you need both. And I think that, I don’t know, at least from my perspective, and I think from hers to like you and like Kelly’s like will always have like a very special relationship with because you need that, like you need that energy from someone else from someone who’s not family from someone who’s not, you know what I mean? have

Catherine Hover 25:00
an even like, I remember calling you and being like, Heather, I need you to call the Z. And you’re like, I’m not gonna call this woman who I don’t know, and doesn’t know, do you actually remember this? She doesn’t know how to meet her. I was like, she’s definitely going to be a family, a Jake’s family, like, I just like had this like, visceral feeling like we were you were gonna be able to help them, you know? And, and you told me you were like, you just need to slow your roll. I understand your girlfriend, but like, you can’t you gotta be a little more delicate about this. And she got to call me. Yep. And she did. Yes, eventually. And here we are. And then I mean, the other part, too. It’s like, the feeling of like, oh, well, we don’t, not only would we not qualify for help from Jake’s, but like, we’re not that family. Like, we’re going to be okay. And I was like, that you should go out and get as much help and as much support as much resources as much equipment as you can possibly get like. So

Heather Straughter 25:54
that was a really hard lesson for for Brian and I right. Because, you know, we were very much like, you know, so I mean, we were a family of four, we were healthy family. We had two healthy boys, we, you know, live a decent life, like all is good. Then all of a sudden we’re in the hospital. 117 days, we come home with a child who is in therapy five days a week, multiple therapies, five days a week, has lost all his milestones, like I quit my job, like all of the things. And we were adamant about not asking for help. We didn’t need help, like, we’re fine financially, we don’t need to do anything. And we had, we were assigned a case manager, social worker from the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeast during New York. Her name’s Laurie Kidd, God said like I still connect with her. I still like will meet her for breakfast occasionally, like just one of those people who comes in your life at exactly the right time. And she sat us down and she was like, No, I am going to give you programs that you are going to apply for I am going to apply on your behalf. It does not matter how much money you have or don’t have. You are raising a child with so many issues. You do not know what’s in the future. You have to like these services and programs are there for everybody. And I remember we were still like, no, no, no, not us. And then eventually, I was like, Screw it. We are going to Boston every two or three weeks, we are there for three nights a week, like we are hemorrhaging money, we started applying for some stuff. And literally some of it was like a $50 reimbursement for something or this. But it helped me like her words helped me and that’s what I always say to people about Jakes, it has very little to do with what your tax return says it has to do with the life that you are leading and what you’re trying to do for your child that has not a broken leg, but that has this like lifelong debilitating illness, that is never going to end and you are going to need support, you know, and it just, I think it’s hard for people because they’re like, no, no, no, I can afford it. And maybe you can, but it doesn’t mean you can forever and it doesn’t mean that then you’re not sacrificing things that you wouldn’t otherwise not. Do.

Catherine Hover 27:58
I mean, yeah. And then also, like with the affordability of it again, I didn’t grow up as a person that had experience around people with disabilities, you know, no one in my family, you know, so I didn’t have any of that. But it was when I started sort of volunteering with Jake’s and recognizing that a lot of like the insurance doesn’t cover because that’s that’s the thing was like insurance will take care of it. It’s like but no, that doesn’t it doesn’t cover the tub for an eight year old.

Heather Straughter 28:25
It’s it’s it doesn’t cover the stuff and some of the stuff like one of the things that Jake’s does now and I always say this because it’s it’s not glamorous, it’s not pretty. But once so if you are a child with a disability, a young adult, an adult with a disability, and if you need diapers, you know, I mean, because because whatever you have, you have not gone through the cycle of being able to go to the bathroom. What Medicaid provides is honestly it is like, it’s like a piece of copier paper. It is thin, it doesn’t fit, it’s uncomfortable. These families have you know, a young adult, an adult that they are having to toilet and diaper and all of these things. And the product that insurance gives them is total crap. So we have a ton of families that that’s what we do. I mean, it’s not pretty, but we buy a quality diaper for adults, that their families can you know that they can have some dignity and that the family can be comfortable in doing it and not have hundreds and hundreds of dollars per month out of their own pocket to do something that frankly, insurance should be doing a better job of Yeah, you know what I mean? Like Medicaid should be doing a better job of they’re just what they give is shit.

Catherine Hover 29:35
But like tell me like once you have a diagnosis of a child with a disability dude, automatically that child becomes a Medicaid kid. So I

Heather Straughter 29:43
don’t know again our you know, this was, what 13 years ago 14 More than that. I don’t know my problem like When did he get sick he got sick like 2007 So a long time ago, so that I don’t know that what the process entirely is. But so when we came home from the hospital, we were at the hospital had connected is with the Epilepsy Foundation in northeastern New York. And that was kind of our organization. We had our case manager, and then you apply for a waiver, which he clearly got approved for. And then you have Medicaid, our family insurance was our primary and Medicaid was the secondary so whatever cdphp didn’t cover Medicaid was supposed to swoop in. And then once you become a certain age, like Medicaid is your primary insurance got it? But you know, so another example of like Medicaid, in my opinion, not doing a great job is sucking sucking is like so for instance, a wheelchair, they will get you a wheelchair like the wheelchair that you need very expensive wheelchairs, right 568 $1,000 For kids like Jake are for cerebral palsy, or, you know, like things where you need all of the supports, but they will give you one every five years. Okay, you know, if that’s 20 to 25, that’s probably okay. But when it’s two to seven, it’s obviously not okay, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, when you are a toddler, and then you’re an elementary school age, you know, I mean, so we come in, that’s a little bit where Jake’s comes in. And we’ll buy though that wheelchair or something else, they will also say, like, oh, we won’t approve this, because you have this. And I always think about, like, imagine telling, like, imagine telling Posey, she can sit in one chair all day. That’s it. So even if they did sit in there all day, and could do it, like Jake, frankly, could sit there all day, because whatever. But then you get sores, you have to move, you have to have different, you

Catherine Hover 31:24
can’t like blood pressure on same thing. Right? Like bed sores are a real thing. Their body isn’t in there and no muscle mass, right? So it’s like, it’s

Heather Straughter 31:31
very, and it’s like, and then they can get infected. And and I always would say with with Jake, it wasn’t his seizures, or those things that were going to it was like a secondary infection, right? And that’s what it was, he had aspirated. Like, that’s what happens, like, or it’s an ear infection that goes bad, or it’s a pressure sore that gets infected. Like, those are the things that these that kids who are medically fragile. It’s a slippery slope with so we buy the stuff to just make life more comfortable. Yeah. You know, and yes, there’s the thing, should insurance do a better job? 100%? I think it should. But the fact is, it doesn’t. So that’s why we exist. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 32:06
I want to like circle back to like, when you’re in that position, like, what do you what do you even need? What can anybody do? It’s just, it’s so absolutely heartbreaking to even, you know, I can’t imagine, this is so annoying to hear. But like, I can’t imagine myself being able to, to carry on. And that

Heather Straughter 32:27
I think is, you know, hopefully you never have to you know what I mean? Hopefully you never have to know, right? Because it’s you won’t know it until you’re in it. And then you will like I mean, you will or you won’t, right? Like some people survive it. Some marriages survive it, some don’t like I don’t know, it is what it is. But in my opinion, there’s no like, oh, do this, and everyone will be better. But what was important for me was the people who just showed up. And it was the people who let me be like, you know, so I wasn’t talking about it. But I wrote those letters to Jakey. And some of them were pretty raw. And they were pretty angry. And they were pretty harsh. And some people would be like, Oh, you’re so angry. And I’d be like, well, then I read it. Like you’re I mean, like because the hardest part for me was people trying to judge my grief when they didn’t have a clue. And I think the best thing you can do is just, it’s so cliche to say, but just be there. Like if the person’s pissed off, and like, it’s hard to hear, suck it up and hear it or don’t. But yeah, don’t just just don’t like just disappear. Yeah, but be able to hear where they’re at. Because there’s nothing more isolating than being the mom or the dad, who has lost their kid because everybody whether they know it or not, treats you different for ever, like I’m still treated differently. Like I have made sort of a professional living out of being Jake’s mom. So I think that makes people more comfortable. But you know, I’ve said this before, like someone, there was a girl who I was not even great friends with, honestly. But she showed up a couple of days with like, two coffees and was like, Let’s go for a walk. And I was like, Okay, let’s do that. And I looked back all those years later, and that person made a difference in my life, right, like, and we didn’t I don’t know that we even talked about Jake, I don’t know what we talked about on these ones. But it was just someone who cared enough to realize that I haven’t. It is the most isolating lonely feeling ever breaking that and it doesn’t have to be talking about your kid. It can be literally like, call and be like, Hey, this is the funniest thing just happened or hey, do you remember Middle School with like, like, just breaking that rut of being like, Yeah, I’m stuck in it. And

Catherine Hover 34:26
it’s just like life. The world keeps spinning right? And and that’s

Heather Straughter 34:31
really hard for a parent who’s lost their kid, right? Because there’s this period where everybody is in your face. And then there’s this period where life has gone on and what then is the next tragedy? It’s like, it’s kind of like we talked about right like, yeah, we worried about the girl last? Yeah, we’re in. Like, like, you just you move on to the next thing. And it just sucks when you are the thing that has moved on. Like if people have moved on from you. Yeah, like it’s inevitable. Like it happens. We

Catherine Hover 34:56
could be here all day for weeks and weeks, or whatever you could ever own podcast. Just the show. Yeah, maybe you should. So tell us more about how people can get engaged with Jake, some help from heaven. So

Heather Straughter 35:07
a couple things, if you’re looking to apply, like, if you are a family that has an individual in it that was born, you know, congenital or childhood onset diseases, really where our focus is, but we are always accepting applications on a rolling basis. And people always ask like, what exactly, you know, should we apply for it? And we always say, whatever is going to improve quality of life, you know, we want to create opportunities for those with disabilities and medical challenges really, to thrive. So bring it.

Catherine Hover 35:36
Yeah, and it’s a rolling application processing applications.

Heather Straughter 35:38
We meet quarterly as a board of directors. So we have deadlines every quarter, but we accept applications and then they kind of go into the pot for that quarter, up until that deadline, right. You know, so but when we get applications, I mean, every day.

Catherine Hover 35:50
Yeah. And what what would you say like on a quarterly basis, you’re given away like, 100 $100,000. So

Heather Straughter 35:58
So now so like, we we do probably between 250 and $300,000 per year, our March, our first quarter application, we did 66, grand, which is a lot of money, you know, we are 100% volunteer based organization, it we run entirely on donations. So it’s really, you know, we always say like, no amount is obviously too big. And But no amount is too small, like everything makes a difference. We’re super fortunate that we have a donor that covers all of our expenses, which we do keep to a minimum, but we say that because if you give five bucks, five bucks is going to our applicants, if you’d give 50 grand 50 grand is going to our applicants, like it doesn’t matter no matter what your donation is, none of it is going towards, you know, I don’t take a salary. Like I’m just going to

Catherine Hover 36:42
point that out like you say you make a living out of being Jake’s mom, but you’re actually not getting paid for it.

Heather Straughter 36:46
No, I am the hardest working volunteer you will ever know. Yeah,

Catherine Hover 36:50
you’re running a campaign right now. So we’ll be running it. Yeah,

Heather Straughter 36:54
we you know, so we added an anonymous donor, but a capital region, like business leader gave us a very generous donation and encouraged us, like challenged us almost to do a match program. So we are doing that. And we decided to do it as part of Jake’s 18th birthday. So on May 4, he will be turning 18. You know, it’s unofficially started now, but it is running officially April 16. Through may 3, where we are taking, like all donations will be matched. And we are hoping to raise a ton of money so that we can keep so that we love to say that we come from a place of Yes. Which Yes, it’s the name of our podcast. But it’s also it’s what I’ve always said, because we want to be able as long as you fill out the application and do what we have, you know, kind of the simple things we’ve asked, we want to be able to say yes, we never want to say no, because we don’t have enough funding. So funding for us is huge. We are trying to raise as much money as we can for Jake’s 18th birthday.

Catherine Hover 37:45
Oh my god, it’s just so exciting. So are we gonna have a birthday party for him? I

Heather Straughter 37:49
don’t know. Yeah, so we are on May 4, we are going to like do a the announcement of how much we’ve made. But I feel like Brian and I are a little like deer in headlights. I can’t believe he’s going to be 18 right like it just because he’s still four. Like, that’s another I mean, that’s a whole different topic. But it’s weird when your kid passes because I picked him as four but he’s 18 Like, I know you got to do something

Catherine Hover 38:09
we can get AI to. That’d be weird.

Heather Straughter 38:12
That’s weird. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m

Catherine Hover 38:14
ready. Like at 18 He would look like Ethan I think they look so much alike. And Ethan is so he’s a good boy. He’s a handsome. He’s a handsome guy.

Heather Straughter 38:25
He sure is.

Catherine Hover 38:26
Whoever he’s dating is a lucky lady Leah. We love her. Okay, well, well, she is she the one?

Heather Straughter 38:31
I used 19 I have no idea. I’d be I mean, I

Catherine Hover 38:34
mean, I’m married to the one that I had a 19 just saying it’s a possibility. It is a

Heather Straughter 38:39
possibility. I mean, they are I’m here for it. They are happy, they are great together. I’m here for whatever. It’s so wherever the

Catherine Hover 38:46
journey has got to be so much fun. Like I can remember being like 1920 like hanging out with my parents and like just having a different type of relationship with them. So that’s gotta be wild. I

Heather Straughter 38:56
love it. It is um, you know, there’s parts leading up to it like 15 Like, I would say 15 to 1714 to 16 I found hard parenting like just you know, well,

Catherine Hover 39:06
it was also the time right?

Heather Straughter 39:09
Like, you know, they’re sneaking around they think you don’t know anything they think they’re pulling a fast one on you like I wasn’t born yesterday. You know that shits happening? Yeah, I’m just going to be on top of it. And

Catherine Hover 39:18
this could be a totally different episode because we you came on to like the time we were doing the here for it live. Yeah. So I was gonna burn someone else because you were like, you know, you were in the thick of it and you had a bite. You have a biracial child who is not trying to never discriminate that I was like, well, hopefully I don’t go there. We’ll go there another another time because we have so much more to unpack. But thank you so much for being here. Thank

Heather Straughter 39:40
you for having me. This was great.

Catherine Hover 39:45
All right. This week from Saratoga living after hours. There’s good news and there’s bad news. So ESPN Radio deems Saratoga as the number one county in New York State for a place to call home, based on home stats on median income, home values, education and crime rates, Albany, Rensselaer and Warren County also cracked the top 10. So that’s interesting, but in the same breath, ESPN also deemed Saratoga County as the drunkest County in New York State, which is, I mean, not really something to be proud about, but certainly something to toes to. So this is all based on county health rankings and roadmaps. So we are the number one Drunkest County in New York State and also deemed Saratoga County as the very best County in all of New York to live. This is interesting to me. I obviously, love living in Saratoga Springs, and I’m also a regional so I’m proud that Warren County, Rensselaer at Albany, were also on this list of great places to live. I think the capital region is like, amazing. It’s a bad thing to have lots of options of bars to go to and I don’t know, I just don’t know if I am very skeptical of how people put these lists together. That’s all I have to say. And leave it to me to move from New Orleans of all places to the drunkest County in New York state. That’s something that I am certainly proud of. This week’s facepalm moment revolves around my loathing of packing school lunches, so I only have to do this for z. She’s my four year old, she’s in pre K. And she and I only need to do it on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but I absolutely hate the experience of packing school lunch. I feel like a failure because I’m never packing like homemade, super healthy anything. And then when it comes home, it’s like it’s not really she doesn’t eat any any of it anyway, you know, so I do the yogurt, and I do the cheese stick and she’s obsessed with meat sticks. Oh, I don’t eat that. I think they’re gross, but she loves them. So like if you have tips for me, please send them I’m failing miserably at packing school lunches. And I am just really counting down the days until they’re all in elementary school. And I don’t do this anymore because then they can eat lunch at school, which I am a cafeteria connoisseur. I love cafeteria lunch. I don’t know I just I can’t stand packing school lunches. That’s my face. My mom sent me help. Thank you for listening to this podcast. And if you want to connect with me slide into my DMs on Instagram. My handle is Catherine hoever

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