Connor's Legacy

Connor, our beautiful, intelligent, wonderful son died Sept. 2, 2016 in the hospital at the age of 23. Our lives now clouded with constant sadness.   Where do we go from here, what do we do?  Connors cancer journey so terrible.  He was diagnosed Feb. 5, 2016 with colorectal cancer.  Mistakes made along the way.  Mistakes in treatment,  In the beginning we were told he would live to be an old man.  Then 5 months later we were told the cancer tricked them and the cancer got away from them and they were not going to treat him anymore.  He had 3 major surgeries, 5 chemo treatments and then after he endured so much pain to survive they just gave up on him.  On July 15th we started contacting other hospitals to seek treatment elsewhere.  The palliative team  said they would do a nerve block on him to help cut his pain before he was discharged.  It was planned for July 18, 2016.  On July 18th they wheeled him away.  I said "bye buddy I will see you in a few hours and then we can get out of here. "  Proper precautions were not taken and Connor aspirated.  When the aspiration first happened they didn't realize how much liquid he had aspirated and they told me they had to put him on a ventilator but it would only be a couple of hours.  Then a bit later we were called to the ICU to be told that he would be dead in an hour due to the low oxygen levels. Can you imagine?  So horrific, really no words to describe the shock.   the doctor asked my husband what funeral home do you want to call to come get your son.  I mean in minutes we were suffocating with grief. They told us even if he survived he would be brain dead, his organs would fail.  It was horrific.   But Connor wanted to live so badly.  He was strong and he held on.   Two days before the aspiration he told his Dad “ I just need to keep hanging on.”  And after the aspiration he tried so hard to hang on, but due to the aspiration he developed multiple infections, pneumonia, his kidneys stopped working and he went on dialysis.
We prayed and prayed for a miracle.  For him to come home.  Over the days and weeks that followed in the ICU there was no compassion, no understanding that we were on the verge of losing our son and we were grasping for a miracle.  We were made to feel we were bad parents for holding onto hope that Connor would recover.   Almost every day they wanted us to withdraw life support. at one meeting the doctor said "so how much longer are we going to continue this? We had to give him 3 units of blood yesterday.”  Through the infections etc. Connor did regain consciousness, he was able to communicate with us through blinking his eyes, wiggling his toes, eventually he got to the point where he could raise his arms to get our attention, he could squeeze our hands and was able to point to words on a poster board.  These were gifts to us.  Connor typed on his computer to let us know he wanted to live and to fight.  So how in the heck were we suppose to just withdraw life support.?    WE are still in shock how this all played out. With the aspiration our chance to fight the cancer was taken away from us, our chance to bring our son home taken away from us. We never heard his voice again, could not have a conversation again. His future, hopes, dreams, and life taken away from him.

Connor graduated from Magna  cum Laude from Ohio State in 2015 with a degree in Public Health.  He was  going to start grad school Fall of 2016 to get his masters in Public Health.  Instead we buried him.  I have been an advocate for colorectal cancer since 2004 when my dear friend passed away in 2004.  i have been fighting and trying to raise awareness for the early onset of colorectal cancer since 2004.  I started a 5k race that has raised 1000's of dollars for colorectal programs in central Ohio.  So the fact that this cancer occured in our 22 year old son is just crazy.  Connor and I were suppose to travel to D.C. in March 2017  for FIGHT COLORECTAL CANCER Call on Congress.  He was with me in spirit.  While there I met one of the speakers who was with The Colorado School of Public Health.  I asked her if there was any way I could get his essay that he had submitted for admission.  I was just desparate to find anything with his thoughts and feelings.   That request made in March, and with a follow up email a few weeks later.   July18, 2017 was one year that Connor aspirated.  A year that our world fell apart with the aspiration.  That day last year so so hard for me.  That day in my email was an attachment from Colorado School of Public Health.  It was Connors essay.  That was his sign to us to keep going.  to keep living for him and for us. To keep his hopes, dreams, legacy alive.

Connors essay.....
For most of my life I have wondered if I have ever made a difference or if it is even possible for
one person or a group of people to make a legitimate difference at all. I have volunteered
frequently throughout my life but still wondered what I could do to create real change. Even
when, with my church group, I worked with Habitat for Humanity building homes or helped the
Mid-Ohio Foodbank collect canned goods, food and shelter being vital public health
components, I wondered if we were changing anything or just pecking at the symptoms of
greater problems. I didn’t doubt that we were helping people with their problems, just that we
were actually solving the root causes of the problems. I didn’t see how the work I was doing
would or even could make a lasting improvement in our society. It wasn’t until I began my
education at Ohio State that I saw the first glimpses of my path forward.
I bounced around from major to major for most of my first two years until I discovered the
College of Public Health, which had just begun to allow undergrads to pursue public health
degrees. I chose the Sociology specialization as it piqued my interest and seemed like a degree
that could allow me to engage in life improving works. I quickly learned that I made the right
degree choice. Public Health was a field that would teach me about the root causes of many of
today’s most pressing health problems as well as ways to combat them. Specifically I learned
how social factors, such as race and income level, can have a massive impact on an individual’s
health and how social factors influence, both directly and indirectly, positive and negative human
behavior. For example, it is far easier for a wealthy individual to afford healthy food and
adequate medical care and it is far more difficult for an impoverished individual to gain reliable
access to. I learned that to change human behavior for the better that social factors must be
addressed and that health interventions must be built from the ground up with the cooperation of
the target population. For example, to encourage exercise in a certain neighborhood one would
have to ensure that there are safe spaces available, which can be difficult for low income areas,
for exercise to take place and that the population is enthusiastic and dedicated to improving their
health. Basically, without addressing social factors and without the support of the community
any health intervention is facing very long odds for success.
I thoroughly enjoyed completing my degree and set out to start a career in the field of
Public Health, preferably at the Ohio Department of Health where I worked as an intern for my
capstone project or any work in a similar capacity. However, I soon discovered that to even be
eligible for the kind of position that I wanted a bachelor’s degree simply wasn’t enough. I need
to earn my Masters of Public Health in order to reach my will give me the knowledge and standing to have a legitimate impact on the world. 

So  Connor wondered if he ever made a difference . He certainly made a difference in our lives.  He was a wonderful son with a beautiful sweet soul.  In his short time on this earth Connor  also has made a differnce in so many  other lives and we hope to continue his legacy.   We want to honor his passions, hopes and dreams.  We started  honoring his passions on June 1st 2017 for his 24th birthday.   Connor began donating blood in high school.  So we celebrated his first birthday in heaven by holding a blood drive in his memory.   We collected 47 units of blood that day.  

W are in the process of starting  a foundation to continue his goals to have a legitimate impact on the world.    
Connor worked out all the time and was physically in great shape.  In his essay he talked about ensuring there are safe places to exercise.  We have been fundraising to help a local after school community center in a low income neighborhood furnish the tumbling room so the kids can have fun, physical activity in a safe environment.   

Connor suffered from depression and found so much peace in reading.  He read hundreds of books.  Every child should have access to books.  fun books, educational books, inspirational books.  Money has been raised in Connor's memory  and donated to Brookside elementary school to update the reading program.   

  No parent should watch thier child suffer from colorectal cancer. No parent should watch thier 23 year old son take his last breath as the ventilator is turned off.   We should still have Connor.  His 3 brothers should still have Connor in their lives.  The support in continuing Connors legacy would really mean everything to us. To see Connors hopes come to fruitation. To continue helping others in Connors name. Seeing that Connor is still making a difference in this world would bring a bit of peace and hope to our broken hearts.


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Carleen Taylor 
Columbus, OH
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