Dan Langlois and his family have been visiting the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for the past eight years. Last week, he left a note on their front door, apologizing to all the families who aren't coming back.
With his permission, the hospital shared his heartbreaking letter on Facebook.
"I have loved these doors and hated these doors," he wrote. "I loved these doors when my wife and I walked through them for the first time to meet our son. I hated these doors when I walked through them for his 20 surgeries."
He recalled hating the doors for the "180-plus-mile trip for a single 10-minute checkup," but loving them after learning that surgery or admittance was not required. And then, the mournful father explained his reason for leaving the note.
"The other day, walking through them again with my son,” he began, “I was struck with a different feeling: guilt. I’m not sure where it came from, but I realized I need to apologize.
"To every child that has walked in through these doors but never walked back out again, I am sorry,” he continued.
“To every parent that has walked in through these doors with their child, but left through these doors empty-handed, I am sorry.
"For every child and parent that has walked out through these doors with a final diagnosis, knowing that walking back in through these doors would be futile, I am sorry.
"To every doctor, nurse, PA, NP, surgical tech and other members of the medical staff that have had to walk through these doors after giving everything they had to saving the life of a child and have that child pass anyway, I am sorry.”
To every parent that has walked in through these doors with their child, but left through these doors empty-handed, I am sorry.
He then apologized to every custodian, caregiver and advocate that had to “ready a room” after a patient passed on, and to every member of the security or social services teams that had to escort their grieving parents out of the same doors he opened that day.
“I cannot begin to imagine what all these people go through, and I hope that I never will,” he concluded. “Until I do, I will love these doors.”
Evan Solochek, a representative for the hospital, told Mom.me that their staff is overwhelmed by the response his post has generated, adding that they are deeply thankful to those who have reached out and shared their stories.
“It sounds trite, but they really do inspire us to do the work we do,” he said.
This morning, we got a chance to catch up with Dan’s wife, Sara.
"We have been overwhelmed with the amount of comments and outpouring of emotions the original post my husband wrote has invoked," she said.
"I can say with full honesty that we never intended to adopt special-needs kiddos," Sara added. The couple has four adopted children, each of whom face different daily challenges. Their oldest is Alicia, 14, and the only one of their children who was adopted before they realized her needs. Alicia was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.
“The other three we had some knowledge,” Sara said, “but really without a crystal ball, you never can know for certain.”
Gabriel, 8, has spina bifida and is a paraplegic (so far, he’s had 21 surgeries). Hannah, 7, was only 2 pounds when she was born, but she is doing fine. And last, but not least, their youngest, Tyler, is 5. Also born prematurely, Tyler had heart surgery as an infant, has cerebral palsy and is somewhat nonverbal.
“Daily life is chaotic,” Sara told Mom.me. “We also do foster care for medically fragile infants and toddlers. So, on any given day, we have four to six therapists, social workers, repairmen, what have you, coming in and out of our home.”
Though things can get very loud, very quickly at their home, Sara said that it doesn’t stop them from doing what needs to be done.
“It's simply our normal.”