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By Sally Bender All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter 1

Biography of Raven-Ashley M. Raia


My name is Sally Van Benschoten not many of you know who i am, but maybe thats a good thing. I am one of those fortunate mothers that have had the privilege to raise a child with a severe case of the VACTERAL SYNDROME. I know that it don’t sound like much but, it truly is and once you have read my whole story I hope you can understand what really lies behind the lines here of a child’s short life, and why my precious little angel was taken so early in life. This is my story and i hope it helps with an insight of how important a child’s life really is.


It was march 10,2003 I woke up with an awful feeling of nauseousness and over looking it I went on getting dressed for work by the time I was dressed I could feel it gurgling up in my throat and not realizing it at the time I had come to notice that I had missed my menstrual cycle for this month and last months was only spotting here and there.

I went to work and did my 6 hr shift at Dunkin’ Donuts and on my way home I stopped to pick up a pregnancy test at the drug store and at this time my boyfriend Joseph and I had split up and weren’t really speaking thanks to the lies and rumors of him seeing someone else while he was staying at my sister Loree’s house.

At that present moment the only two people that knew of my suspicions of me being pregnant were Joe’s mom Barbara and his younger sister Grace. I was to afraid to tell anyone else in case of a false test.

The next day march 11th Grace and I got up about 20 min earlier then we normally would to get ready for work and Barbara had made sure she was up as well. Grace had come into the bathroom with me while I took the test so there would be no disturbances and to my surprise it was a positive test a million things ran threw my mind and at that moment my heart started pounding in my chest and my body shaking with a nervous feeling that I have never felt before, my body shook at the thought of having to tell my father Floyd which he was never really easy to talk to about things like this and having to tell Joe about the news of him becoming a father.

I shook it off and took it one step at a time. Grace and I walked out of the bathroom with huge smiles on our faces and butterflies in my stomach from my nerves and when we got back to my room before I could say one word Barbara blurted out ” it’s true “. I’m guessing at this point she must have seen the expressions on our face’s.

Finally I told her yes and showed her the positive test and that must have really thrown her for a loop cause she collapsed on my bed, so the time came around and we left to go to work at Dunkin’ for my 6 hr shift and while at work my sister Loree had called asking me if I was really pregnant and being the bitch that I am I told her it was none of here business. About 10 min after I had gotten home Joe showed up and we were all sitting at the kitchen table and before I could say a word my father blurted out that I was pregnant and of course Joe acted as if it were a joke, once he was told that I had a 9 am O.B.G.Y.N appointment on the 13th to make sure it was real and not a false positive his tone totally changed and he asked if he could go along with me to my appointment shocked by his response I told him yes.

It was now march 13th and I had already gotten up and got ready for my appointment and left the house at 8:30 am with my first mornings urine sample when I got to the O.B.G.Y.N she tested the sample and it came back positive and she sent me down for my first ultra sound to see just how far along I really was. To my surprise I was 13 wk.s and 4 days pregnant.

It was the strangest feeling in the world watching that little thing that looked like a blob on that screen and seeing that I knew just what I had to do from that day forward.

I was now 18 wk.s pregnant and I already feel fluttering and movement except for that one day in May it was about May 9th or so I was at work I had already been there for a couple of hours when all of a sudden I had gotten a sharp piercing pain going from my sides to my back and then down my legs it was so painful that I had dropped a whole tray of muffins I just took from the oven and when I saw the blood I knew something was wrong so I screamed for my sister Terry who was manager of Dunkin’ at that time and she called the owners and explained the situation then got into and argument with her ex Chris who was the asst. manager they were arguing over who was going to take me to the hospital after I let out a big yell Terry had finally told Chris that I was her sister to let her worry about it and for him to continue to do what he does best which going threw my mind at the time was cause trouble.

When I had finally gotten to the hospital I was taken down for an ultra sound immediately the look on the technicians face was kind of scaring me he didn’t say anything to me he just brought me up to the birth place on the second floor of Columbia Memorial Hospital to a room my sister was waiting for me in and the nurse strapped me up to the machine that detected the baby’s heart rate and expressed to me that the doctor would be in to explain what was going on. A few moments later Doctor Marici came in the room and had told me that I was in luck I had only lost one of the baby’s and the other was doing fine shocked by this I asked him what he was talking about that he must have had me confused with some else and he expressed that he was not confused that I was definitely carrying twins up until I had just lost the one and I had asked him how it was possible and why it never showed on the ultrasound he claimed it was because one was hiding behind the other and the baby I had lost was to small to detect cause it wasn’t growing properly. After all the confusion I was given strict orders to stay off my feet for a couple of days and couldn’t return to work until i seen my O.B.G.Y.N in 3 days and got clearance to go back and being that my sister was there who was my manager there was no issues with that.

This incident was the start of all my problems with my pregnancy. A few times a month I was in and out of the hospital with the Braxton Hicks and a couple times I had come awfully close to losing her. When I had finally reached my 6th month I was feeling all the pain and pressure of my stomach expanding and stretching. One day in particular was the worst I was at work and I had received a phone call from my O.B.G.Y.N Dr.Pearl he called to inform me that he had some bad news about my baby he said there was something wrong with my baby that she had an enlarged head, after hearing that I just froze with tears swelling up in my eyes from the fear I felt and my co-workers must have saw it cause they were all looking at me with that worried look in their eyes. Then I heard the Dr. speak again he had told me I was scheduled to have an amnio done in Albany Med. to find out what was going on and how severe it was.

The day had come I was heading up to Albany with my father, Joe, Barbara, Phil (Joe’s younger brother), and my little sister Shelly, I was extremely nervous at this point but I knew it had to be done so I could at least find out what was going on the technician prepped me for the procedure and when I saw the size of that needle my heart flinched and jumped up into my throat it was huge it had to be at least a 6 to 7 inch needle and as he pieced it into my navel with the wand from the sonogram machine on my stomach I could see a curious little baby swatting at the needle which only made it hurt worse almost worse then when he stuck the needle into my navel and I was squeezing Barbara’s hand so tightly she thought I was going to break it. The test was finally over he removed the needle and asked me if I wanted to know the sex of my child and I said yes and that was the day I found out I was having my little girl. Once hearing that I knew exactly what I was going to name her.

I honestly didn’t want to tell anyone the name I had chose, afraid everyone would hate it but, when my father decided to have a barbecue that’s when I spilled the news I told everyone that I was naming my daughter Raven-Ashley Mae Raia and to my surprise no one objected to it not one bit. At this time I was given a due date November 9th and when September rolled around I had to go for another amnio which this one wasn’t so bad cause I knew what to expect. After I was done with the amnio the doctors had told me that I had to have a c-section cause I couldn’t deliver naturally cause her head was to large and would possibly kill one if not the both of us. I went to my appointment with Dr. Rios in Albany birth place where I was given the most horrible news a mother could have ever been given I was told that my daughters condition was so bad that she may not even survive the birth and if she did she wouldn’t live to see a year old. With that devastating news I had gone home to break it to the rest of the family which was one of the hardest things I could do.

It was the end of September and I had an O.B.G.Y.N appointment with Dr. Dexter who had told me there was a possible chance that they would have to take the baby earlier then planned they had planned to do it on October 22 but with the results from Dr. Rios advised other wise so they gave me the date of October 10th and when they had finally read the results from the second amnio he said never mind that and left it at October 22 and as of October 17th I was pulled out of work cause I was in danger of getting Pre-eclampsia. When October 21st rolled around I went in for my final amnio and that’s when the due date was decided after my amnio was over I had to go and wait in the waiting room while they put a rush on the test and got the results back that same day I was informed that they couldn’t do the c-section on the 22nd cause the baby’s lungs weren’t fully developed and I was given the date October 31st for my c-section I had to be there at 7 am for a 7:30 am appointment.


It was Friday October 31st the big day and I hadn’t slept well the night before cause I was so nervous and Joe wasn’t there he was in Buffalo on a job trying to get home to see his daughter be born, but 6:30 am rolled around I was up and dressed and completely stressed out my dad Floyd, mom Paula, and sister Shelly pulled up Barbara and I had gotten into the van heading up to Albany Med for my c-section and to welcome my baby girl into this world and as soon as we got to Albany Med and as I was getting myself registered my dad was on the phone with my sister Terry letting her know that we were at the hospital getting registered as they called me back to go get prepped I could see the worry in every ones face my dad had come in as soon as they had me ready and gave me the epidural which hurt like hell after the med.s kicked in all i could feel was some pressure and pulling then all of a sudden I had heard all the commotion in the middle of them doing the c-section I started hemorrhaging i was already on the table for about 50 min and your only supposed to be there for 45 min.

The epidural only last’s for an hour and after the Dr. abruptly said “oh shit” I saw my dad stand up and go over to the other side of the blue curtain and I could hear the Dr.ask my father what he was doing and my dad tell them that I was his daughter and he had the right to see what they were doing to me and a few moments after that everything started to blur and I was going in and out of consciousness as I had a few moments of awareness I heard the Dr. tell my father not to let me fall asleep cause if I did they would lose me and I swear on my life for as long as I live I will never forget that look on my father’s face when the Dr. told him that his face went pale white as if he had just seen a ghost and those sad eyes, like the sad puppy dog eyes you see on a frightened puppy and tears swelled up in his eyes and his voice was so shaky that it scared me when he had touched my arm I could feel his hands shaking and could hear the fear in his voice as he told me not to fall asleep to focus on him and talk to him while he was talking I saw a swarm of nurses circling my daughter not letting me look at her, I had asked why I couldn’t hear her crying and asking why they wont let me see her and just then I felt the sharp pain one that I didn’t want to feel again I felt the last 10 stitches and all 42 staples being pierced into my skin it felt worse then getting a tattoo or a shot it was horrifying and then I finally heard the faint sound of a baby crying over the Dr. ordering a double dose of morphine.

A few moments after I was given the morphine I had passed out and an hour and a half later after I woke up I found myself hooked up to an I.V with blood in it my father had authorized a blood transfusion a few moments later i fell back to sleep about a half an hour later everyone was in my room waiting for me to wake up everyone but my dad he was out on the phone calling Terry letting her know that I had a baby girl whom I haven’t gotten to see yet and the nurses and Dr.s refused to let me see.

My family was all bragging about how beautiful she was and perfect she was and honestly it had kinda pissed me off that everyone else got to see her before me and they wouldn’t allow me to see her. Finally the Dr. came in and asked me how I was feeling I said I was sore and pissed off the expression on his face was sorta funny then he asked why and I demanded answers I asked him why I wasn’t allowed to see my daughter after she was born and why have I still not seen her yet his response was because it wasn’t healthy for me being my present condition to see her at that moment due to the fragile state I was in. Then Barbara had spoke up and said that Joe was on his way home he should be home later that night or early Saturday morning. It came time for everyone to leave and I was in my room my little sister Shelly had stayed with me till I was able to come home. That night at 9 pm Shelly and I were in the room when the nurse came in and asked me if I had seen my baby yet and when I had told him no they wouldn’t let me he said he would take me up.

As I was getting up to go see my daughter I was in so much pain and when I finally stood up it was like Niagara falls had given away so I had to get cleaned up and changed then when that was finally done I was on my way up to see my little girl and that’s when my sister hit me with it she said to me that I shouldn’t be frightened of what my daughter looked like cause regardless she was beautiful and I didn’t understand what she meant so when I finally got to nursery 4 I went in the room and right there in the front incubator laid a beautiful little girl with a blanket covering her head so I had removed the blanket and was kinda shocked at what I had seen her head was huge it was like the size of a water melon only in the shape of a witches hat and was a deep blackish purple and her eyes were a purplish color as well I became instantly scared but not because of how I saw her but scared for her life I didn’t know what to expect.

The nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her and silly me replied will it hurt her and the nurses response was no. So I got to hold my little girl for the first time and I was shaking like a leaf and I was so nervous that I was going to hurt her. Her head was so heavy it felt like it had to be an easy 5 lb weight but it wasn’t I had asked the nurse to take her and I had left the room crying like a baby cause I was so scared that i would wake the next day and she be gone.

As I got back to my room Dr. Waldman and his residents were there waiting for me they broke the news that my daughter had to have a major surgery done on Monday they were going to put in her first shunt which is a tube that goes from the brain down behind the small intestine to drain the fluid off her brain. It was 3 am Saturday morning and the nurse came in to bring me upstairs for her first feeding once I had gotten upstairs I noticed her color was normal the nurse handed her to me and I attempted the first breast feeding but that went south as soon as my daughter started choking on the breast milk and turning blue.

The nurse took her and handed her to the resident who then took her down for an emergency M.R.I they found that she had a blockage in her throat. Dr. Cohen was called about the situation he immediately came in and ordered a die test to be done and once it was done they found out she had 3 cm missing from her esophagus separating the top half from the lower leaving each one dangling freely inside her body it was then that he placed the feeding tube. I was then informed by the Dr.s my daughter was born with the Vertebral anomalies, Anal atresia, Cardiac defects,Tracheoesophageal fistula and/or Esophageal atresia, Renal anomalies and Limb defects. and severe congenital hydrocephalous with porencephally (fluid on the brain) this occours in 1 in 10,000 to 40,000 new borns and her head weighed 2lbs alone and her body weight was 6lbs 14oz. It was Saturday afternoon and my father had brought Joe up to see his daughter but they weren’t alone my aunt Carol and uncle Bob had followed them in the room along with Barbara, Philip,Stacey and Terry it was then I had explained what was going on with Raven and my uncle Bob goofy as ever made a joke about the extra rib calling it a spare rib.

It was now Monday and Raven was having her surgery and I was extremely nervous about 2 hrs after her surgery Dr. Waldman came to my room and told me everything went well and she was back in her room if I wanted to see her. Being that she had almost died at birth they were very cautions on what they had done with her. The Dr.s had called a meeting 3 month before she was able to come home they expressed their concerns and we had expressed ours and out of no where Dr. Rios had come out and said that I wouldn’t be a bad mother if I wanted them to take her off of the life support and stop her feedings and just let her die a slow and agonizing death and that’s when my dad blew up my father had demanded that they keep her on life support and her feedings and they do what ever possible to keep her alive and so they did. Every day for 4 months I made the trip to Albany and stayed there all day with my little girl and had endured the pain of watching her go threw 8 surgeries the first 4 months of her fragile little life then finally the night before I had received a phone call stating my daughter could come home tomorrow so I called my father and he was so excited so we went up to Albany and went to pick her her up I swear I never seen a child so spoiled from her nurses in my life I think I had walked out of Albany med with like literally 10 bags filled with stuff the staff and nurses had bought for her while she was there.

chapter 3 : Going Home

Before I was able to take my daughter home I had to sit and talk with her Dr.s and nurses about her up coming appointments and her medication and her care taking. I had asked the Dr,s to better explain what my daughter had in English not doctors terms and this is how they explained it, my daughter was born with a severe case of fluid on the brain and being that your brain is like a sponge it gets hard and stiff when dry and pliable and soggy when wet well her brain was smashed up against the back wall of her skull due to all the fluid and due to that she was labeled legally blind and deaf. She was born with a hole in her heart 2 right aortic arches and no left her veins were criss crossed just like a grape vine in her neck she had 3 cm of her esophagus missing she had to have a spit fistula placed in the side of her neck for the saliva to escape so she didn’t choke her right kidney was inflamed she had an extra rib and extra scull fragments she had scoliosis and she also had an extra thumb{which was removed later on}. Before they let me walk out the door with her they took her and replaced her feeding tube so she had a fresh one in to go home with. We were home no more then 6 days and she ended up getting lethargic and had a seizure and that’s when we found out there was a blockage in the shunt and it had to be changed she also got an infection from it which caused the seizure. She was in the hospital for two weeks she ended up missing her urology appointment good thing Dr. Simon was notified by the hospital she was there cause he came there to see her and so did Dr. Cohen so I guess I got lucky there she really didn’t miss her appointments after all.

Once she was discharged from the hospital we went home everything went fine for about a month then she thought she was going to be smart and pulled the feeding tube out and then we had to go back to the hospital they admitted her and to find out the reason she pulled it out was because there was an infection on the inner lining of her stomach wall from the irritation of the balloon rubbing on it so they took her to the OR and place the Mic-Key button which i found a whole lot easier to use then the tube. She was sent home after a two week stay in the hospital and things went pretty smoothly for a few months then she contacted pneumonia which was always a joy not her seizures were a lot more worse she had to be placed on two different types of seizure med.s and a few others just to keep her alive. Finally her 1st birthday rolled around I woke up feeling extremely nauseous Grace came over with a pregnancy test and to my surprise I was pregnant i didn’t let that ruin her day though, I had her dressed in a white long sleeved onsie that had pumpkins all over it with matching pants and when it was time to take her out trick or treating she was dressed as a pumpkin for her first birthday she just looked so adorable.
The very next day I had to go out and buy one of those big blue tubs for all the toys and stuff my daughter had gotten for her birthday the day before. She was always a very happy baby she never let anything get to her really and if she was feeling a little ounce of pain no one knew it cause she was always full of smiles always laughing. One of her greatest joys was her swing and her I can sing baby animal songs video which I still have well I don’t but, her little cousin’s Philly and Howie have it now. Her favorite song on that tape was Rockin’ Robin I swear I must of played that song about a thousand times when she was awake cause once that song went off she threw a fit screaming and yelling until you rewound it and replayed it then she was happy as ever cooing and swinging her little arms and legs to the beat of the music until she fell asleep then I was able to SHUT IT OFF thank god cause it drove me nuts.So when she finally went to sleep i called up my O.B.G.Y.N which was Dr. Ernie this time after Dr. pearl had screwed up on my daughters pregnancy I refused to go back to him so I made my appointment to see Dr. Ernie, Joe was actually very excited about this pregnancy but I wasn’t I was actually a little scared.
It was the day of my appointment with Dr. Ernie and I had found out that I was a little over 5 wks pregnant and I was due June 26 2005 which wasn’t so bad at least I didn’t have to carry this one threw the whole summer like I did my daughter which was brutal. It was Christmas time and we were heading over to Grace’s house for Christmas dinner by that time I looked like I was carrying a beach ball and Raven was doing really well no seizures and no infections no nothing but a happy little girl. That night when I had gotten home about 20 min after Grace and Chris had left my house it hit I started getting labor pains which weren’t good Barbara called Grace immediately and Grace freaking out made Chris turn around and take me to the hospital Barbara,Phil and Joe all stayed up until I got home from the hospital that night and on the way home Grace and I kinda were joking around to our selves about that night being a jinx. That night at the hospital I was 1 cm dilated they had to give me a shot to stop it thank god I went when I did cause I probably would have lost the baby. By the time my next appointment came along Joe couldn’t go with me this time cause he had an appointment himself so my sister Shelly filled in for him and that’s when I found out I was having a boy and immediately after telling my dad he insisted that I give my son his name which I had always promised my dad if I had a boy I would name him after my father.
The next day I talked it over with Joe about what to name our son and he came up with a solution that worked out great we decided to use Joseph-Floyd as his first name Benjamin as his middle and Joe and I being pleased with our choice we called my parents and told them what we decided on and my father repeated the name “Joseph-Floyd Benjamin Raia” and to our surprise he was happy with it himself. I can promise you this Raven wasn’t happy about the new baby at all every time her father mentioned she was going to have a baby brother she cringed at the thought and she would give him the dirtiest look and grind her teeth and let out a yell that let everyone know she wasn’t happy about it not one bit. My next appointment came up with my O.B.G.Y.N and we discussed my c-section this time I got to chose the date she told he I could chose any date between the 20th and the 23rd of June so I chose the 21st which falls between Phil and Shelly’s birthday’s. I went home and broke the news to everyone about the date of c-section and when I got home my dad and my nephew Brandon were at my house Brandon was laying on the floor with raven while she played as he always did I swear I never seen anyone get so attached to a baby the way he did my daughter just looking at them there on the floor it dawned on me that they could pass for brother and sister cause Raven was a spitten image of Brandon same hair color, eye color, facial features and the same exact crooked smile god it was scary. Josh on the other had kind of shied away from her only cause he was scared he was going to hurt her but, little did he know with that head of hers and how she loved to swing it around she would hurt him before he could hurt her and I could swear my daughter had SPN or something cause she could always tell her grandpa was coming before he even pulled in the driveway.

June 21st finally rolled around and the whole family was finally heading up to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson Joe was supposed to go into the delivery room with me but he chickened out and asked my father to take his place but that never happened my little sister Shelly took his place instead all cause she wouldn’t stop hounding my dad to let her go. Finally it was time to go back this time it wasn’t that bad or so I thought my sons big ass was stuck under my ribs and they had to use forceps to pull him out. After the c-section was over and I was closed up I ended up going into hypothermic shock they had to wrap me in warm blankets and hot packs when my temp was finally back to normal they brought the baby into me and the whole family followed and of course I got to hear the gory details of big sister meets little brother which didn’t go over to well cause she threw a major fit when she saw her daddy holding another baby that wasn’t her. As it started getting late Grace and Chris were the first that left and my little girl was going home with them while I was in the hospital thank god for Grace that she knew how to do all the medical stuff that had to be done or I would literally be screwed. Everyone had left the nurses took the baby to the nursery so I could get some rest and while I was sleeping my son had gotten circumcised. When I had woke my son was still in the nursery when the nurse saw that I was awake she assured me that she would be right back with my baby.
I was glad that this c-section was so much easier then my daughters i was up walking around with in a hour of it being done and with Raven I couldn’t walk till the next day cause it hurt so bad. The 24th had rolled around and I was released to go home kind of in a hurry to get home to see my baby girl I missed her so much and couldn’t stand to be away from her for that long but, my dad decided to take a detour and go to my grandmothers (Pearl) and my aunt Carol and uncle Bob’s so they could see the baby. After a half an hour we left heading home I couldn’t wait. When I got home Joe had met me in the drive way with Phil tagging behind him as usual and Barbara followed shortly after Joe carried little Joey in while Shelly helped mom in the house and dad, Phil and Barbara grabbed the bags. I was already in the house standing over my little girl listening to her snoring it sounded like an entire lumber yard had kicked off in my living room I never heard a 1 1/2 year old child snore like that ever. No sooner then every one had gotten into the house Joe decided it was torture his son time by rubbing the bristles of the stubbly facial hairs all over his sons face well that didn’t play out well cause he got little Joey crying and woke Raven up. Joe thinking he was so smart decided to put both the kids on the bed together which wasn’t a good idea being that little Joey was just brought home and Raven hadn’t grasped the fact that there was another baby in the house and that’s when the war started between brother and sister the moment he laid little Joey next to Raven she head butted him and he kicked her this went on till she got bored with it and decided to start playing with her feet lifting them in the air and swinging them back and forth. Joe had decided it was nap time so he took both the kids to bed with him it was so cute thank god I had a camera at the time so I snapped a picture of it.

Raven had gotten sick again shortly after that she ended up in the hospital with a urinary tract infection and pneumonia again for the 3rd time. October rolled around it was Ravens second birthday and I thought it would be cute to have the kids dressed in matching costumes so I had bought them both matching puppy costumes they looked so adorable.

I wasn’t home much with my son cause I was always in the hospital with my daughter and my son was with his father and grandmother and not to mention the constant trips to Shriner’s Hospital for children to see her bone specialist and the trip to Connecticut to cranial tech. for the doc band. So I didn’t get to much of the mommy baby bonding time that I wished I had and being that I was always being contradicted on my parenting my kids it came to the point were it was utterly impossible for me to get a word in on how things get done with my kids especially my son I was in Albany so much that I think it became an implant in Barbara’s head that my son was hers and not mine and some how I had to figure out away to fix it. I had finally got a few months break between hospital visits that I was able to do so thank god for that. Joe had finally spoke up and told his mom to back off and to let him and I raise and handle our kids the way we see fit and thankfully she did. The months had flown by after that with almost a year of Raven being free of hospital visits. April rolled around and it was the week of the 1st of April everything seemed to be normal until the 5th of April when I got a weird chill run up my spine and something had told me to go to my fathers early that week so I called my dad to come and get me and the kids we got over there the night of the 5th and something just didn’t feel right my dad didn’t look right he had this grayish look to his skin and I had asked him if he was alright he shook his head and said yes. Friday rolled around my dad had been enjoying the kids along with my mom and Brandon barely left Raven’s side and Josh well he was more up little Joey’s but then anything my dad had made a discovery that my daughter thought the sound of banging dishes and loud flapping of a trash bag opening was hilarious to my daughter she laughed so hard that she had to have a breathing treatment cause she couldn’t catch her breath. It was around 11 pm Friday night and dad was having trouble breathing he called me out to the living room and asked me to give him his inhaler and some cold water so I did after that I kept a close watch on him 5 min later he went into the bathroom and I know my father and bathroom routine it never takes him very long in there at all but this time he was in there quite a bit he finally came out and stopped directly by my mom and bent down with his hand on her arm and looked her dead in the eye and said this was it this is the night I yelled for Shelly and Loree to run and get Terry and of course Loree expressed she had the baby so I told her to put him down in his bed and go get Terry and of course that night Loree had to play baby hog not knowing this would happen and not let my father rock him to sleep like he wanted to. By the time Terry was on her was up I had already called an ambulance and had dad standing in the door way and me struggling to hold him up it wasn’t easy tryn’ to hold a 200 and some odd lb man up alone Terry rushed over to my side as fast as she could and we managed to get him down the steps and had him sitting. Finally the ambulance showed up and of course they took there sweet time and me being my bitchy self I jumped all over them and all the had to say was ” are you telling us how to do our job” and my sister and I responded with um hell yea now get over here then of course big mouth Patty Dombrowski had to show up thinking she knew everything I basically ignored which was something I was good at drowning out the people I didn’t care to hear from. The ambulance took dad to the hospital and Terry,Shelly, and Loree followed behind them in dads van i stayed behind with my kids and my mom. Not that long after the phone rang it was Loree she asked to talk to mom and I demanded to know what was going on and refused to give the phone to mom until she told me what was going on then there it was the cold chill down my spine and she said it she told me dad died and that’s all it took to make me drop to my knees in shock and my mom wanting to know what was going on unable to speak cause I was in shock I just gave her the phone and that’s all she wrote. After mom hung up the phone I had called the house looking for Joe but he was sleeping and Barbara could tell something was wrong and when she asked I hesitated then I told her and she let a loud yell I mean it was loud enough to wake the neighborhood I know for sure it woke Joe and Phil up cause I could hear them in the back ground and I hung up the phone and she had told Phil and Joe what had happened Joe didn’t show much emotion but Phil had punched a hole in the wall of his bedroom Barbara must have called Chris and Grace and toll them cause they showed up not long after that I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette when they got there.
It was one week after my dad died that my daughter got sick she started coughing up blood and I had to rush her to the emergency room she had gotten pneumonia again for the 4th time she was badly anemic and had to go down to surgery to have a trache placed to help her breath. I finally went home when i did Raven had a couple new machines i had to learn how to use which they weren’t too bad they were pretty easy to learn. June rolled around and it was soon Little joey’s first birthday we didn’t have much of a party just a little barbecue with the family cause none of were really much for celebrating. The months passed by quickly and before you knew it Ravens 3rd birthday was here and by that time i was feeling a little better I dressed Raven up as a princess and little Joey as the frog prince and I swear I could kick myself for not getting a picture they looked so good. The months after that rolled by even faster and Christmas was here before you know it Raven dressed in her red velour dress with her brown leather shoes and little Joey was dressed in a 4 piece suit they looked so cute thank god I took pictures Cause at that time I had no clue it was going to be the last major holiday with my precious little angle. February 28th rolled around it was her appointment with the urologist and not one ounce of good news did I get from that appointment. Dr.Simon had informed me to enjoy the time I had with her cause there was no was that she was going to make it to see 5 yrs old and I asked if there was something that could be done and I just couldn’t or I didn’t want to believe it Raven had beaten all the odds the doctors had given her before they said she wouldn’t live threw the birth when she did it was she wouldn’t live to see 1 yr after that it was she wouldn’t live to see 3 yr and now she wont see 5 yrs. Well the doctors nailed this one they were right. Two weeks went by quickly Raven was fading away slowly she was losing weight and a rapid rate she went from 45 lbs down to 23 lbs.

March 13th the dreaded day I heard my daughter gurgling her saliva around 4 am I got up to clear it and made sure she was OK before I went back to bed 6 am rolled around Barbara was the only one up and usually Raven would get up shortly after Barbara walked over to her crib cause she had a feeling something was wrong walked back to get Phil and he checked her that when I was woke up they both said something was wrong I got up and went over to the crib Ravens color and changed from pink and rosy to a blueish gray I touched her and she was ice cold and lifeless I instantly called an ambulance and Barbara called Chris and Grace I tried to reach my sister but couldn’t get threw cause little did i know Chris had already gotten to her. Terry had called me a few seconds after in disbelief she asked me if it was true I mumbled yes threw all the tears and screaming that was going on and her my mom and Shelly rushed to my house by that time the coroner and the paramedics and state police were already there not allowing anyone up the drive way me being a total wreck I demanded they let my family up and they only let them walk up not drive terry had to park on the side of the road. When Terry got to the house they wouldn’t let anyone in cause they were working on her but I forced my way threw and got Terry in and when they finally announced Raven dead I totally lost it I knew it was over my precious baby girl was gone they were laying a sheet over her and me not in my right mind yelled ant them and pulled it off thinking they were going to smother her the state police had to pull me out of the house they took the whole family down to the barracks for questioning.

After leaving the state police barracks i went to Richards funeral home to make arrangements for my little girl this was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy no parent should have to bury their child at any cost. The funeral was set for march 16th my birthday of all days the reason I don’t celebrate it anymore. When we got to the funeral home the was this beautiful ivory/white marble casket with a rose garland lining the coffin a Jesus plaque and brass cross with praying hands and a heart shaped pillow with a little bouquet of flowers pinned to it and a verity of large flower bouquets everywhere. Raven was wearing her light pink Easter dress with the white lace and her tights with the white lace ruffles on the but and her white tennis shoes her father daughter, her white lace beanie hat on and she had her favorite piglet tucked in next to her right by her side. I had a hard time leaving the parlor that night I didn’t want to leave her alone I didn’t want her to think I had abandoned her.

After the funeral i literally snapped I let myself go it got the point to were I let my son go as well until he fell sick I had to rush him to the emergency room he had pneumonia and so did I. I snapped back into reality and realized I had another child to take care of and I refused to lose him as well. Things weren’t going so well after Raven died they got worse Joe and I did nothing but fight and argue we started drifting apart. Then one day in may the 28th I used the excuse I had a job interview just to get out of the house cause by this time Joe had gotten very controlling and abusive and didn’t really let me leave the house much except to go to work I was basically prisoner in my own home and not only by him everyone in the house treated me this way as if to say i wasn’t any good anymore now that my daughter was gone and I know they blamed me for it they tried to blame on my sister saying she blamed me but I always knew it was a lie. Instead of going to the interview I went to my sons school to get help to get my son and myself out of that home cause I couldn’t iv’e like that anymore at all. My sister Loree the one who told me in the first place to leave Joe cause I didn’t deserve to be treated that way turned her back on me and sided with Joe and his family I got a court summons Joe was taking me to court for full custody and I was damned If I was going to allow that to happen but, in the long run I got custody and he got weekend visits and that was it. June rolled around and little Howie was born of course I didn’t meet him till later on.

After listening to my son begging and pleading me to go back to his father I finally did august of 2010 we got back together under the condition we get our own place cause I refused to live with anyone else and he agreed. February 2011 rolled around and little Philly was born. It was now November 2012 and I had finally had enough of Joe’s controlling and his abuse I made up my mind and walked out never to return even though I was no longer with him I couldn’t fully turn my back on him like I wanted to cause that’s not the kind of person I am I tried to be there for him and be his friend but I guess that wasn’t good enough for him. Christmas flew by and then it was march before you knew it and then something I had never expected in a million years I received a phone call from Grace at 1 in the morning telling me Joe had died that took me by surprise I went over there only because I had to find out If it was true and to my surprise it was everyone was outside drowned in tears Howie come over to me and all i could to was look at him and he asked me if I wanted to see him and part of me was screaming no cause I didn’t want to see the man I had once been in love with and a part of me still loved him laying there dead.

I told him yes and Howie dragged me into the house and they had already placed him in a white body bag and Howie demanded they let me see him they looked around the room dumbfounded like Howie spoke in a foreign language then they finally opened it and that was it I lost my footing and Howie literally dragged me out of there.
Life hasn’t been the same after that to this day my son hasn’t been right he wont talk to anyone about it he just keeps it bottled up inside I know that’s bad but, hell I do the same but, are moving forward a little I guess my son still has his moments but that’s to be expected.

It’s not easy living the life I have been dealt but to be honest I don’t think I would change anything about cause it was well worth it and note to some of you men and women out there who think they have it worse then others well I seriously think its about time you open your eyes and take a look around you and start realizing that there are people out there worse off then you. Well with all that said I think I have to end this here I have given you all I can give you there’s not much more to say I pored my soul and tears into this cause i can promise you it wasn’t easy to write and yes on some parts I did cry cause it was memories I had locked away not wanting them to surface again so until next time this is me say good bye and I hope you like what you read. And always remember its always good to have so old friends to talk to, to help you get threw it like I did I just want to say thank you to Brandy, Terri, Daniel, John, and Jamie I appreciate you all being there for me when I needed you and I love you all.


- I can still remember the sound of Joe and my mom laughing over the orange seed he spit into her mouth.

- The first time I heard Joe call my father “dad” when they came home from fishing and caught that huge catfish.

-I was getting ready to take the kids over to my parents and Joe was holding raven and tripped over a bag cause he wasnt paying attention.

-The day Raven bit her fathers lip and nose and drew blood.

- The day of the lightning and thunder storm a tree fell and you could hear it crack Joe jumped up off the couch leaped over Raven and ran in the kitchen like a little kid I had to move Raven cause chicken shit didn’t.

-The day Raven was in her walker and tried to get her fathers attention and he ignored her cause he was watching tv so she threw a rattle at his head and hit him dead on in the back of the head.

- Raven spitting spit bubbles in her grandma Barbara’s face.

-Brandon getting into a fight with a kid over at my parents cause they made a smart comment about Raven he didn’t like.

- Raven shooting a snot rocket in her uncle Phil’s mouth.

-Raven always felt the need to bang her head against my mom’s face while my mom was holding her.

-The day of my daughter’s funeral there was a severe snow storm and it caused us to be a half and hour late for the funeral and I could remember hearing people say that we would be late for our own funeral’s.

-The day after Raven died my son was running around the living room couch saying come get me sissy come get me.

These are just some of the memories I have some are funny and some are not but I hope you enjoy them.

I just want to take this time to thank the people in my life for all the memories that I have shared in this book with out any of you they wouldn’t exist. I just want to send a thank you to:

Floyd Van Benschoten {my dad} R.I.P

Paula Van Benschoten {my mom}

Shelly Van Benschoten {my sister}

Teresa Lauster {my sister}

Joseph Raia {my fiance} R.I.P

Grace Raia {sister-in-law}

Philip Raia {brother-in-law}

Barbara Raia {mother-in-law}

Joseph-Floyd B. Raia {my son}

Loree Van Benschoten {my sister}

And to the wonderful and many friends that I have that had helped me get threw everything.

Thank you all for everything love you and may time heal all wounds.

Write a Review Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Sally Bender
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