Strong, weak, brave, mother of chronically ill children

By David Fleet
Grand Blanc — This Mother’s Day, Heidi Molyneux has a simple yet effective message to all moms of chronically ill children, “Love on them as much as you can.”
Molyneux, a former Grand Blanc resident and 1987 Grand Blanc High School graduate is one of countless single parents who contend with children with serious illness. The mother of two shared her day-to-day complex battles that ranged from emotional to physical to economic challenges of her two chronically ill children that she says often seems insurmountable.
“It’s a constant worry,” said Heidi, who served as a Genesee County Sheriff Deputy for 20 years, including about two years in Atlas Township. “As a parent you feel helpless sometimes especially when they are in pain or need an answer to the question, ‘Why me mom?’ You just don’t have an answer only to remind them there are kids out there with worse problems, you just stay positive. It’s difficult.”
Heidi’s daughter Faith, now 22 years-old has suffered from chronic stomach issues for many years and was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, where a part of the brain at the rear of the skull bulges through a normal opening in the skull near the spinal canal. This often causes severe symptoms and despite brain surgery in 2020, Faith still suffers almost daily from severe migraines.
“Work and school are difficult for her,” she said. “Each day is a challenge.”
In 2011, Heidi’s son Hunter, now 16 was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. While he was receiving treatment for the disease, the condition couldn’t be cured. Then in October 2021, Hunter and his family learned that he was in stage four kidney failure due to complications caused by Crohn’s. On June 20 Hunter started on dialysis three days per week. Doctors are not positive what’s causing the kidney damage but believe it’s a secondary condition to Crohn’s.
Following a search, a former EMT classmate of Heidi was a kidney match for Hunter. Rebecca Hickmott, a paid veteran on-call Genesee Township firefighter responded to a Facebook post and volunteered to be the donor.
Hunter, then a 14-year-old Flushing Middle School student, received a new kidney on Nov. 17, 2022 at University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital, Ann Arbor, a three year journey that rallied a community, friends and family in support.
“Hunter woke one morning and said,’Mom I think my kidney is working,’” said Heidi. “It was amazing but his struggles continue with fluid levels and medication. It’s difficult for him to attend high school, so he does class work at home.”
Heidi has learned to take one day at a time, she said.
“We often take little day trips and do fun things to keep their mind off their illnesses,” she said. “It’s hard for me to not let Hunter be a normal teenage boy, I’m always worrying about something either fluid intake or taking his anti-rejection drugs, he is reluctant to talk about the kidney transplant.”
Her children’s health issues are an everyday battle full of much uncertainty, she said.
“When they get up in the morning you just don’t know how they are going to feel, the day revolves around their health. I realize there are many people out there going through the similar battles with their children. They may be smiling on the outside but you do not know what they are fighting inside. My advice is be kind to everyone, all the time, you just don’t know what others are going through. Over the years, I’ve helped other families with children following diagnoses with Crohn’s, it’s a difficult battle and there’s a lot to know.”
Heidi said her experiences over more than two decades in law enforcement has helped her content with her children’s health challenges.
“As a deputy you see the struggles people go through in their lives every day,” she said. “Responding to a domestic situation or assisting someone going through a tough day were part of my job. There were so many situations that I dealt with day in and day out, that I never dreamed I’d ever have to deal with in a lifetime. In law enforcement you take a piece of that home with you everyday, people think that you can shut that off, but you don’t. I became a stronger person in my own life because of that experience. Today I can be strong for others, but when it’s your own children you often feel weak.”
The Molyneux family will participate in the Gift of Life Walk Rally, from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., June 12 at the Michigan State Capitol. Join hundreds of organ, eye and tissue donation supporters.

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