Silent Darkness: George and Liz

"A Battle Ground"

"I have the world's only deafblind triplets," Liz says. "My first husband and I were already talking about divorce before we found out that I was pregnant with triplets. Our daughter, Sarah, was 3 years old during that time. I wasn't on fertility drugs. Twins and triplets don't run in my family. It was just a fluke. After the triplets were born, and we found out they were going to have problems, our marriage just crumbled and dissolved."

Liz explains what happened to her daughters after they were born. "The girls were premature and I knew that they had problems, but I thought they were going to come out of the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) unscathed. After Sophie and Emma came home, we noticed that Emma wasn't tracking objects, so I took her to a doctor and found out she was completely blind. And that same doctor saw Zoe in the hospital, and she told me that Zoe was blind as well. It was like getting hit by a Mac truck. I just fell to the floor and just wanted to disappear. I just couldn't believe that this had happened to my babies. They had been through so much and to know that the rest of their lives they were going to be this way was just " it was too much.

[AD]"The early years were really difficult. Caring for the girls, I completely lost my identity. I focused on them, and I disappeared. I was so, so busy with the girls, if I had any time to think, I felt like I was going to lose my mind. My daughter, Sarah, she was an afterthought. I'm surprised she even got fed. She just had this maturity about her; that she understood they were sick and they needed the care, and she was going to take care of herself," Liz says.

Liz had no idea that her daughters' plight was worse than she thought. "When they were 2-and-a-half years old, I found out that Sophie was deaf. I scheduled an appointment for Emma, and I found out that she was deaf. And Zoe had no response to the test; she couldn't hear anything," she says. "There were a lot of things that could've caused it. They think it was from a combination of medications that they got in NICU. The way the girls lost their hearing is they lost high frequencies first, and then low frequencies second. So, that would mean that female

voices would be harder for them to hear than male voices, and it's been one of my worst fears that they thought Mommy just stopped talking to them."

 

Liz begins to cry. With her voice trembling and tears running down her face, she continues, "I couldn't sleep. I used to just go down on the couch, and hold my stomach

because it hurt so bad, and just say over and over again, ‘Deafblind, deafblind, deafblind. How am I going to talk to them? How am I going to talk to all three? What am I going to do? I can't sign in three children's hands.' You know, it's just, I was coping with the blindness. I could deal with the blindness. I could give them what they needed with the blindness, but with deafness and blindness, there was no way I could give them what they need. You just want them to know how much you love them and when you can't communicate with them, I just …
I just worry. I want them to feel what I feel for them and just know that I'm going to take the best care of them I can."

Liz tries to stop her tears. "I don't dwell on stuff that happened because I don't have time. I don't have time to sit there and have a pity party. I have things to do. I have children that need me. I can't do this. I can't "" she breaks down, sobbing.

 

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After years of taking care of her children as a single mom, a new man stepped into Liz's life.

"I married a woman who has the world's only deafblind triplets," George says, admitting, "I had no idea what I was getting myself into."

Thirteen years ago, George and Liz dated for a few years in college before losing touch. After her divorce, Liz contacted George. "I was in a pretty fragile condition. I called George just to talk to him," Liz says.


"She tells me about the triplets. She doesn't tell me they're deafblind," George recalls. "She tells me they look different than other people's kids, but all I had in my mind was I'm not letting this girl go a second time. She brings the kids into my office. Sophie bounced her head on this table, and she giggles, shakes it off and comes over and hugs me. And I was done. That was it for me. Liz and I dated for a year and a half, and I proposed."

"I felt like George was too good to be true and definitely too good for me," Liz says.

"I think she thought this was temporary, like nobody in their right mind would marry a woman with four kids and three of them handicapped," George says.

 

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George has had a hard time adjusting to married life the past two years. "I went from the single guy to a house with six," he says.

Liz and
George say their biggest fight is over the cell phone because sometimes George doesn't answer. "Liz thinks it's OK to call me with any problem about anything," George explains. "There are times where I just don't want to be around anybody, but that just doesn't work in our life."

"George had a lot of friends and after we got married, no one came over," she says.

"I thought it was going to be hard, but I didn't know it was going to be this hard," George says. "They are a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, full-time job. It never ends. There is no free time. There's no time off for good behavior. There are no sick days." The stress in their daily lives is tearing apart their marriage. "It becomes a battle ground," George says. 

"When we have arguments, it just becomes unbearable," Liz says. "I remember we had been fighting, and he had been talking about how I ruined his life."

[AD]"I don't have to be here," George says. "I brought this all on myself, and I'm putting up with all this mess for what? It's a thankless job. Liz is mad at me. The kids don't even know I'm here helping them."

"I'm afraid that he's beginning to resent me," Liz says. "He took all this on and what does he get? I'm afraid George is going to look at me one day and say, ‘You're not worth it.'"

"An average day for us looks like this: The alarm clock goes off at 5:30. I try to get out of bed," George says.

"When we get up first thing in the morning, there is no, ‘Hey, is it raining outside?' or ‘I love you,' or ‘Did you sleep OK?'" Liz explains.

"Running on no sleep, Liz and I can get up, open their bedroom door, and the first thing that hits you is the smell," George says, "and you realize that they've managed to get out of their diapers, and the entire room is brown. So one of us goes to the bathtub, and it's off to the races."

"He usually does the diapers first " which I think is great " and I do the hair," Liz says.

"We start getting the clothes out. We have to get out shoes, and socks, and pants, and shirts, and sports bra, and backpacks, and batteries, and glasses and hearing aids," George says.

[AD]"Then it's breakfast time. I usually make a bunch of different food because I never know which thing they want, and they can't tell me which thing they want," Liz says. "They can only tell me what they don't want when I present it to them."

"I live two doors down from Liz," their neighbor, Andra, says. "Sometimes I watch the girls for George and Liz. Unless you've done that for them, it's impossible to imagine how difficult it is."

"When one of us is bringing them down for breakfast, the other one will be cleaning their room because they like to destroy it at night," Liz says. "Then we get the kitchen all cleaned up. Then we try to figure out what we're going to do. Most of the time we go to a park."

"One of their favorite [things] they like to do is go to the park. They love to swing. I think it's some sort of stimulation for them, that they just have that feeling. They love it, love it, love it," George says.

"Then we eat lunch. Wherever we eat lunch is a complete disaster by the time we're done," Liz says.

Andra agrees. "When they eat, it's all over the table, it's in their hair, it's on the walls," she says.

"Since the triplets have no determination of day or night, they can get their schedules flipped very easily, and then they want to sleep all day. So then we have to keep them up all day, and that means we have numerous baths, walkings, feedings, bouncings and all kinds of things that have to go on for us to keep the kids awake because we have to get them back on schedule," George says.

[AD]"In the evening time, we have to feed them dinner, we have to take them all upstairs, and we have to get all this gear off of them again and we have to get them in the bath. Then while we got them in the bath, one of us has to bathe them while the other one helps Sarah with her homework," Liz says.

George continues, "Then we get out of the bath, one at a time, then we have to put diapers back on them. Then we have to put them in these special suits that we've made so that they zip up in the back, which solves the diaper problem. Then we put them in their room and hope, hope, hope that they're tired enough to go to sleep because if they're not, they will literally be up in their room, dancing, and singing, and playing, and banging and crying from nine at night until nine in the morning."

 

"The triplets affect George and Liz's marriage deeply on a daily basis," Andra says. "Liz feels very guilty about not being able to spend a lot of time with Sarah, that her time is taken up by the triplets who desperately need her."

Sarah says, "I never get to go to the mall with my mom or anything like that. I'll just be in my room and do nothing. I do feel lonely." 

"I started entertaining the notion of how am I going to get out of this? I started thinking about the process of how do you escape? I think for me, it's a matter of killing myself in the situation. I'm going to just destroy myself trying to do this. I don't think a day goes by that the devil doesn't sit on my shoulder and whisper in my ear that I could just go, I could get out of this thing."

[AD]Liz says, "It hurts me to hear that he's so miserable because I feel like I invited him into it."