May 18, 2023
As a parent, how would you respond when told that your young son had severe hearing loss along with other symptoms eliminating his quality of life?
When Jeff Seitzer was younger, he thought he was struck with bad luck. He had encephalitis at age four leaving him with major residual effects. At ten years old he was in an accident that left him partially disabled and as a teenager was diagnosed with a congenital nerve disease that put him into leg braces. Did it stop there? No.
His son was born with major internal organ defects and severe hearing loss and was tragically killed in an accident.
Later in life, he began to see how responding to such life challenges helped him grow as a person. Hyperactivity from encephalitis prompted him to be very active, which made him prone to depression. The mental and physical disciplines I developed in response to encephalitis and the degenerative condition helped him not only achieve a lot personally and professionally but made him an effective caregiver for his son's special needs.
As a caregiver and stay-at-home dad, Jeff learned how to put others' needs ahead of his own. Accounts of Jeff's on-the-job training as a caregiver and stay-at-home dad have appeared in the Omaha World-Herald, Adoptive Families Magazine, and many others.
As an award-winning teacher, he has authored a number of books on law and philosophy and now teaches at Roosevelt and Loyola Universities.
His interview is compelling, heart-warming (and heart-wrenching), and encouraging for anyone who has been a caregiver.
"Our son Ethan and I shared a special moment just before he underwent emergency surgery as a newborn. Standing at his bedside, feeling helpless, I prattled on about some issue in German philosophy while he held one of my fingers tightly in his only free hand.
When someone arrived to conduct a preoperative test on his heart, I stepped out for a moment but was called back almost immediately. Ethan had become so agitated, they could not continue. He calmed right down again when I placed my finger in his wee hand and resumed my monologue. At that moment, I felt like he had chosen me to take care of him. I will be forever grateful to him that in my hour of need, he chose me."
Compassionate new memoir proves kids are our best teachers
Stay-at-home dad shares the powerful story of how
his special needs son changed his outlook on life – for the better
self-involved academic struggling to cope with his own neurological
problems, Jeff could hardly take care of himself, let alone a child
with special needs, when his son, Ethan, was born. But despite
multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, serious breathing and
swallowing problems, hearing loss, and a challenging social
environment in his first months of life, Ethan thrived—all the
while teaching Jeff to take things as they came. And eight years
later, the arrival from China of adopted baby sister Penelope took
Jeff's on-the-job training to a whole new level.
Ethan's instinct for fun proved the perfect complement to Jeff's determination to live life fully. He died too young, but not before he, Penelope, and their mother, Janet, taught Jeff that the true path to happiness was putting other people's needs before his own—and living in the moment rather than trying to control it.