When experiencing loss, it may seem like the entire world has fallen apart, so much so that recovering is a difficult process to get through. Kayla DesRochers is someone who has dealt with loss and has managed to rise above it and show up day after day with so much courage. Kayla is a certified medical assistant and is the daughter of the vice president of PATH2HappiSuccess, Dave DesRochers. In this episode, Kayla shares how she bounced back after losing her newborn child and how this incident affected their family dynamic. Battling his own battles, Dave opens up about his depression and drug addiction. This episode will inspire those who need to hear the voice of someone who has been through the struggle. Together, Kayla and Dave bring in great lessons on unity and completeness in a family that was falling apart.
Listen to the podcast here:
Experiencing Loss, Addiction, And Bouncing Back Together with Kayla Des Rochers and Dave Des Rochers
Let’s get inspired because now is one of those moments where we’re going to have a guest on who is very inspirational. I find inspiration to be like searching for a hidden gem sometimes because we can have all the information in the world, we can know what to do, we can know better than what we’re doing. Oftentimes, if we don’t have this inspiration to take action, then we’re not going to do it. That’s one of the reasons why we ask most of our guests, “What’s your inspiration?” because we’re looking to discover what it is that drives each and every human being? You go through this web of what inspires you. We start to paint this picture of how varied inspiration can be.
If you’re out there and you feel like you need more inspiration, there’s a whole library of guests who at the end of every episode, they’re sharing what inspires them. To me, one of the most inspiring things I get to do in my life and I’m grateful I get to do this is I get to hear people’s stories who blow my mind. Kayla DesRochers who’s coming on to share her story is one of those stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat. You’re going to be sitting there wondering how such a young girl who’s been through so much could keep showing up day after day with so much courage and strength. I think it’s a testament to her and her ability to keep going. To me, I have never experienced what she’s been through and hopefully, no one else out has to experience this. If you have experienced something like Kayla, she’s talking about the loss of her newborn child, know that you’re not alone. Know that you can find comfort in Kayla and the story that she’s courageously decided to come on and share. If you are out there and you know someone who might need to read this or you find this story inspiring as I do, then please share this story with someone out there who might need to get inspired through the voice of someone else who has all the courageousness.
The other cool thing about this story is that we did a little four–person podcast with me, Sean, Dave and Kayla. We’re going to introduce her right in the beginning, but it painted this bigger picture of Kayla went through this ordeal in her life and we get to learn from her, but also what it did to the family dynamics. No matter who you are out there, I’m sure someone in your family has experienced some traumatic incident. What’s beautiful about this story is we get to see this big picture of how all the pieces were working in this family dynamic and how in some ways it brought this sense of unity and completeness to a family that was falling apart. There are these interesting elements to this story. Please read, share this with someone you love, share with someone who needs to read it and please send a lot of thanks to Kayla and her father for having the courage to come on and share their stories.
How are you?
Thank you very much.
We want to thank you, Kayla, for coming on and being open to sharing a story that you’ve never shared publicly before. I think there are many people out there who will benefit from hearing your words and everything that you’ve been through, especially because it happened to you at a young age. How old were you?
I was nineteen. I graduated high school a few years already. I’m working part–time in a Mexican restaurant.
You had a little baby girl.
I got pregnant at nineteen. I had her when I was still nineteen.
Do you want to walk us through what happened and then share that part of the story?
I had a child and then I was with this guy that wasn’t super great. My grandma offered to have me come move up with her in Washington. One night I got tired of it all and I texted her. She came down the next day, came and got me. I moved up to Washington with her and lived with my grandma for a few months. He ended up following me up there. I was like, “If he follows me, then he cares.” We got back in contact and I brought her over one day to go and see him. He left with her and when he came back, she wasn’t breathing. I called 911 and she had a bunch of trauma done to her. I don’t know exactly what because I never wanted to find out, but she had brain damage and stuff like that. She was put on life support.
Natalie, how old was your daughter at that time?
Five months, almost six.
She identifies with you, with the grandmother, with Dave, the father and so she’s able to be alert with you guys. Are you starting to imprint?'If I go to bed clean and sober, I wake up with hope.' Click To Tweet
Yeah, pretty much at that point. She was sitting up and stuff like that.
Your child is now no longer a baby but now an infant and you’re having a real connection with her.
I’m the only one who has never had a kid but they start to basically connect more and be more present. Is that accurate?
Their eyesight starts to get a little bit further so they’re able to see you and it’s not blurry. You are a foreign picture. They have facial recognition at that point in their life. That’s when it starts to kick in.
Dave, your daughter leaves with her daughter up north to Washington. Where are you with everything?
I wasn’t in a good place. We were still dealing with a bad divorce. There were things that Kayla was being told by my ex-wife that weren’t 100% true. We hadn’t even talked for a couple of years. It wasn’t until her ex who was abusive when she said he wasn’t a very nice guy that finally I was important. I was being contacted and I lived in Southern California at the time.
Dave, your background, give us who you are and what you used to do because I think it’s important for everyone to know.
You’re probably alluding to my professional athletic career. I played professional football for a few years up in Seattle and then a couple of years in Montreal. I’m bigger than most. When I was called to maybe step in and help a little bit with what was going on with Kayla and her ex was because I’m fairly intimidating. At that time, I was probably about 350 pounds.
You played on the line for this football team. What was your job?
In sports, there’s only one position in all of sport. It doesn’t matter which one that you pick. That their only job is to protect another player and that’s the offensive line in football. Our sole purpose is to protect the quarterback or the running back. That’s the only thing that our job is and there’s no other position like that. That’s inbred in us and especially being bigger than most. I’m a protector. It doesn’t matter who I am with. It takes a lot to offend. If something’s going down, I’m going to step in. Jokingly everybody loves to go to a bar with me because they get to be the tough guy because they know I’m going to step in. I don’t do that anymore. I’m old. When it came to my daughter and I heard that, I lived in Southern California. I hopped in my car and 110 miles an hour. I was in Redding within a few hours.
You haven’t heard from her in two years and she calls you up?
She didn’t, her mom did. She said, “Here’s what’s going down. I need your help.” We had a couple of situations but I still wasn’t 100% knowing everything that was going on nor had constant contact with her. It’s a sidebar. It’s a result of everything that was going on but then when she got pregnant and had her baby, I have to be completely honest, I was not in a good place. I was dealing with depression. I lost everything. I was using drugs. I wasn’t a good father. I had tried for years to get in touch with her but she was being protected by her mother and probably rightfully so.
It takes a big man to admit that. Thank you for saying that.
People that are reading need to need to know that we’re going to make decisions that we’re going to carry guilt about. I can assure you that a big part of my story is the guilt that I carried out that I wasn’t there to protect my daughter and my granddaughter. Anyways, she had her baby and then everything that was going on with that. When she had said that she’s going to go up to my mom’s to be safe, I made it a point to go up there and see her. That was the first time that I tried to get sober and get clean. That was the inspiration but I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t do it with any program. I just stopped. I went up to see Kayla with Natalie at my mom’s place and I was impressed. I was concerned, “She’s nineteen years old.” She was good with Natalie and she’d be like, “Grandma, she’s doing whatever she was doing and she’d never done that before. Grandma, now she’s drooling with the right side of her mouth.”
It’s the small things in life that make the biggest impact.
Experiencing Loss: We’re going to make decisions that were going to carry guilt about.
She impressed me. She was there. She wasn’t putting her off because that was my concern at nineteen, as a young mother, “Grandma takes care and I’m going to do the work.” She was present. She was doing her thing until she had to go to work.
You’re nineteen, you have a kid. You’re pregnant, you have a job now and your responsibilities change. Get done with high school, you’re not sure what you do next with your life and you have a little baby. That baby depends on you and your family. It takes a village to raise a child.
I came back home and I’m clean, sober and want to do this and this isn’t going to be about me. This isn’t about as much as I’m going to have to say. I was within a couple of days of getting a 90–day chip meaning clean and sober. I got a call from Kayla at the hospital.
Did you go back home to Redding?
I went back home to Southern California.
Did you go to Redding to meet them?
She was up in Washington at the time with her grandma. She had left Redding to be safe up in my mom’s place, which is outside of Olympia. I had traveled up there and spent a few days.
Kayla, what made you go up to see your grandmother? Why Redding to Olympia?
It was mostly because he was previously abusive. That wasn’t unknown to me but after I had her, we got an apartment together and I was like, “This is going to be it. It’s going to be great. Everything’s going to change.” Which I feel is people in abusive relationships, it’s what you do because you convince yourself that it’s not as bad as it is. It didn’t change. He was still as abusive as before but the one thing that got me is I was holding her and he tried to hit me. I was done. I waited until he fell asleep, grabbed my phone, did the whole text grandma in the middle of the night thing was like, “I want to leave,” and she’s like, “I’ll be there tomorrow.” I said, “Awesome.” While he was at work, I packed up everything and left.
He also abused drugs as well.
I did too because of him before I got pregnant. That didn’t help the whole situation because when you do drugs, you get angry.
It leads to everything else. You moved up there in Olympia in Washington State. Does he follow you up?
He didn’t right away, I want to say it was a month or so. After I moved up there, I got a call that he was like, “I live an hour away,” and I was like, “Okay.”
He wanted to be around his daughter and you. He wanted to try to make this work, which is understandable. Dave, when this is all happening, were you still down here SoCal?
My mom nor I knew that he was out there.
No one did.It's the small things in life that make the biggest impact. Click To Tweet
Did he move closer?
He moved up to Washington.
Unbeknownst to you and then he was like, “I’m up in Washington.” He’s following you.
Dave, they move up there. You go up there to see everybody. You stay up there with your mom. Did you live there too or were you going back and forth?
I was up there for a couple of days. This was July 4th because my mom lives in an area that lets you shoot off Indian fireworks, so it’s worth the trip. It’s a beach so you can shoot them out over the Puget Sound. It’s a few-day trip but that was the first time I had seen Natalie and my daughter with her baby. It was a few weeks later.
What year is this?
When your dad comes up there, are you okay with him being there and present with your baby and your grandmother?
Yeah. At that point when I moved up with my grandma, I think that’s the point where we started reconnecting because living with my grandma, obviously that’s his mom. That’s the point where we started to rebuild our relationship and to get closer again. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a while since I saw him. When he was going to come to visit, I was nervous. I haven’t seen him in a few years.
I have seen you a couple of times where I ran up but it was one day.
You were coming in staying and spending a long period of time. It’s been a while. I was a little bit nervous and then I also didn’t know where he was in his life, but him coming up we’ve been close ever since then.
Take me to Natalie. Did you give birth up there or did you give birth in Redding?
In Redding, California.
Did you then move up to Olympia?
Experiencing Loss: When you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s a part of you where you give in to them eventually.
I think where we’re at was you had moved up there to live with your grandmother and to find a little sanctuary and feel safe. Your ex had moved an hour away. Did he reach out and connect with you at that point?
He did. I don’t remember how he did it, but I remember finding out that he was up there. I know it wasn’t through Facebook because I had a flip phone. He broke my phone and my mom was like, “I’m not getting you another nice phone. You can have a pay–as–you–go flip phone.” I was like, “That works for me.”
You were up there and here comes dad, a big guy and says, “I’m now here. I love you. I’m going to protect you.” Tell us what goes down.
He came up, visited and everything was great. When he left, I went back in because my grandma worked on Thursdays and I was off on Thursdays. On Thursdays, I would go up and visit him. I would lie and say I was going to someone’s house or something.
You visited your ex, not your dad.
It was my ex. I went right back into that cycle as soon as he left.
What was your mindset at the time? I’ve definitely been in this mindset before of, “The next time is going to be different or now the circumstances have changed, maybe it’s enough motivation to shift the way that someone is showing up.” I’ve done that. Not in as an extreme sense but in my last relationship where you keep showing up because you see something and you want the circumstances to be different. You want to believe that someone can make that shift and someone can make that change.
You convince yourself.
Also having a kid, you want the kid to have a dad and grandfather.
I wanted the perfect family picture.
You want the perfect family. It’s understandable. Walk us through the tough time now. Take us through what has happened.
Unfortunately, after I had her and he came back up, I started to do drugs again. I went up when I was visiting him and he had an apartment. She was sleeping in the bedroom, so we were in the bathroom doing drugs and he was like, “I want to go take her to my work, go and show her to all my coworkers.” I was like, “No. It’s 10:00 PM. She’s sleeping. Don’t do it.” When you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s a part of you where you give–in to them eventually. There’s a part of you that I can’t explain it, you either know it or you don’t. I could try but you can’t get it. He ended up convincing me that, “I’m going to take her and you can’t do anything about it.” I was like, “Okay.” He left with her and he was gone for an hour–and–a–half and his work was only ten minutes down the road. I was texting him. I was like, “Where are you? You need to come home. This is ridiculous.”
He came home and she was in her car seat, unbuckled and not breathing. He wouldn’t let me call 911 right away. He stole my phone and was like, “It’s going to be fine. She’ll come back, whatever.” I was like, “We need to call somebody. This isn’t a game. This isn’t funny.” He wouldn’t let me do it. I think it was 45 minutes before the neighbor across the hall heard everything and called 911 for me. She came over and did CPR because she was CPR–certified and couldn’t get them. It took 30 minutes for the EMTs to get a heartbeat back. They took her to the hospital, but it was the fire department EMT, so they didn’t have room for me to go. The neighbor across the hall took me to the ER because my car was evidence of what happened so I didn’t get my car. I went to the first hospital. I can’t remember what it was called. I was there for probably an hour, hour–and–a–half. They were trying to stabilize her. They were trying to get her back. One lung was collapsed. They were dealing with that. I remember standing in the hallway looking at the pictures on the hallway like, “It’s going to be fine. Everything’s going to be great. I’ll be back at my grandma’s in the morning and nothing will ever happen.” I remember telling myself that over and over.
That place wasn’t suitable for children so they were going to transport her to a hospital that was specialized in kids, which was in Tacoma. They were going to airlift us over, but it was too windy because it’s Washington. We had to be transported by ambulance. That was the scariest ambulance ride because the doctor at the other hospital said with her condition and the way that she was that it was like a DNR, I couldn’t even sign it. If anything happened on the ride, there was no point in trying to bring her back. I think it was only a 25-minute drive. It sucked because I’m freaking out.
There is no oxygen going up to the brain.
At that point she was on a respirator, she wasn’t doing it but it was being done for her. They were saying if her heart stopped again on the ride that they had orders not to try because it took so long the first time to get her back. Not being in the medical field, I get it. It makes sense. It is no point. I’m young, I have no idea how the human body works or what, I didn’t get it. I was like, “Why? That’s stupid.”People in abusive relationships convince themselves that it's not as bad as it is. Click To Tweet
It was your daughter and in that mindset, you want to do anything that you can to make it right.
We get to the other hospital and I’m in the ER again. I think it’s 4:00 AM or 5:00 AM. I still haven’t called anybody because I didn’t want anyone to know. They move us up to the pediatric ICU and she’s in a bed. I remember sitting there by myself and I’m like, “I have to call my grandma.” I called my grandma and then my brain doesn’t let me remember that part. I remember her showing up and she was there for the first day or two and then I don’t remember calling anyone else.
You called me.
I don’t remember calling anybody else. I know I called you. I know I called my mom but I don’t remember doing it.
Do you want to give us your perspective when she called you?
It’s one of those things. Do you remember what you were doing when Elvis died or JFK was shot? It’s exactly how I was standing. I was holding my iPad. I was doing something in the backyard, in the shed and she calls me. I was in tears and told me. My iPad is still shattered. I collapsed. They say you can’t explain something if you’ve not ever been dealt a blow like that. I’ve never been knocked out, but that took me. Everything dropped, collapsed and I lost it.
The pain was for Kayla because I knew that guy was a jerk. What do you do as a dad? We all have machismo and ego. The problem is too many men act on it and cause more problems than they fix. There were instances where I did make trips to Redding because my ex was calling and saying, “I saw Kayla and she had bruises.” That’s where I went and I did it twice I think, if not three times. At that point, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, so I was trying to make rational choices and decisions. When that call came, I had some people around me that were empathetic, but I went to a bad place. That was going to be I want to kill. The good thing is that I was in Southern California, I was 22 hours away. I didn’t have the resources to get up there. None of my family, my mom or anybody was going to help me get there. They’re like, “Let’s wait until he gets arrested and then we’ll figure it out.” In my mind, I’m thinking, “That’s perfect. It will be easier for me to find him.” I have no problem getting into jail.
Natalie, what happened on that night?
They had her all hooked up and at that point, I knew I had to call my family. Nothing more happened that night beside them hooking them up. I forget what hospital she was in, but they were amazing. Those nurses, staffs and doctors are the whole reason I got it into healthcare. I don’t think if that would’ve happened, I don’t know. I’d probably still be doing nothing, no college.
They came in and they said to you, “Natalie is gone.” We have an opportunity here for what?
They said there’s no brain function, nothing’s going on but they still have stages that they have to take. I don’t remember exactly, but they kept coming in checking her pupils and stuff like that and nothing was functioning. I think grandma left already at that point, but my mom showed up. I called my mom. I don’t remember where I called her, but she was there several hours after I called her. I was in the hospital for about a week because they came in, they talk to you. They’re like, “She’s not coming back. This is what’s going on.” When they were going over what happened to her, I left the room. I didn’t want to know. I knew it was bad. It already was hurtful enough. I didn’t want to know what was done.
Do we know what had happened to your daughter or what the cause of the effect was?
My mom knows and I have the court transcripts because I had to go twice but I don’t know. I’m not ready.
Natalie’s there on life support. You told me they came in.
I don’t remember exactly what it is either but I remember the doctor coming in. He’s like, “She’s not coming back. She has too much brain damage. This is it.” I remember staring at him and being like, “How do we donate?”
That was your first reaction?
Experiencing Loss: Let’s deal with what’s now and rally around that person.
Yes. He left and walked out of the room and I didn’t get wild.
There’s a time-sensitive thing going on here because the organs are still there, they’ve got to harvest them and get them into somebody.
The crazy thing is I didn’t know that if you’re not on life support and you don’t have a respirator in, when you die, you can’t donate. You have to have those two things. That makes it 1,000 times harder for someone to be okay to donate because if you come into the ER and you come in and you die without being on life support without a respirator. They can’t use your organs. I was like, “That’s crazy.” To me, as much as it sucks to say, I think she was here to donate because she had all the qualifications. She was young enough to be able to help people who have younger kids because it’s rare that a six-month-old passes away. The doctor came back in and he apologized for leaving and he’s like, “I’ve never had someone ask me that.” You say it.
The doctor was taken aback because it caught him off guard that here’s a young woman that instinctually said, “What do we need to do to donate her organs?” Typically something like that almost would have to be a convincing discussion, “These are the next steps,” and Kayla was, “That’s what we do.” When I think about that, I think instinctually especially a nineteen-year-old or young mother would say, “Don’t touch my baby.”
You can’t teach that. There’s some higher power. There was a higher power coming through her to the world. You said to him, “Let’s donate.” What happens? You said a team came in to interview.
At that point, the doctor was like, “We’ll have the nurse come in and go over everything that needs to be done.” They bring in a paper for you. It’s a standard paper fill–out patient information and a half–a–page of body parts. You go through and check off what ones you’re okay with donating and what ones you‘re not okay with donating. Sitting there I’m like, “What do I want to give away?” There are also things that I can’t give away because they’re evidence. I know she was shaken and I know there was blunt force trauma, but I don’t know anything else so there were certain things that I couldn’t donate, but I went through and I marked all of them and gave them back.
The next day they came in and they introduced themselves. They have an advocate and an RN that comes. The RN goes through the paperwork and says, “This is what you’re okay with donating. I’m going to look and see how all the levels are because the heart has to be able to pump on its own.” Hers was not. She was on three different medications to keep her heart beating and she can’t be on any in order to donate. At that point, I was like, “The heart is out.” That’s one of the things they were looking for because obviously they already had someone for it. They came in and the RN was super nice. She mostly came in and did her job on monitoring medications, monitoring her vitals and then dealing with the actual donation aspect of it.
The advocate sat with everybody. I have a quilt that has her hand and her footprint on it. There’s a church that hand makes it and donates it to them so they can give them out to families. We have ceramic hearts. There’s a smaller one that goes into a bigger one, like a net glister or whatever. You wrap the smaller one around the wrist so when they’re cremated, the heart’s in her urn. There are three of them. One for me, one for my mom, one for my dad. We all have a bigger heart that goes around the outside. They did a lot of cool things to distract you from what’s going on but it’s memories. It’s cool things for you and your family. They were amazing.
In terms of the donation process, who ended up receiving benefit from Natalie?
A six-month-old in California got her heart. She was on three different medications to keep her heart pumping and you can’t be on any to keep your heart going. I think that’s why we were in the hospital for so long is because they were trying to get her off. It’s weird to think and that’s why I think she was here to donate is because she’s brain dead. She’s gone so your organ should shut down but she was on three medications. They were able to get her off one and her heart was still beating on its own. Slowly, over the course of a couple of days, they tried to get her off the second one, but it would stop every once in a while, so they’d have to put her back on it and then that took a while. Eventually, they got her off the second one and then she was on one medication. I don’t remember the names, but every single time, they dropped it 0.5 milligrams or anything like that, it would stop. I don’t think they had anybody at that point in time in terms of who they were donating to.
They knew that there were people that needed it but they didn’t have a certain person that it was assigned to yet. They were doing that for all night long. It was trying to get her off of the third medication and she would crash and they put her right back on it to keep her heart moving. I think they came in the morning and they told us, “We found a little girl that can get her heart. We need to get her off this medication.” I’m like, “I don’t know what you want me to do.” They were telling me we need to get her off of it and I was like, “Okay.” As soon as they found someone for her to give her heart to, they dropped the milligrams again and her heart kept going. They let that run its course for a few hours and they dropped it again and it kept going and then they dropped it again until she was completely off all the medications then her heart kept going.
It was almost like she is waiting for the right moment.
She’s strong enough to keep going. That’s the heart and you told me a story about the kidneys.
Both of her kidneys went to a 40-ish–year-old male with a family. That was pretty cool because both of her kidneys acted as one kidney in an adult body. That’s all I can remember. I think that’s all that was donated.
As this is all going on and it ran its course, I think a big part of this story that people need to know is that we did not handle this well as a family but it was the family unit started. My mother was very hurt. She felt like she was lied to because Kayla was seeing him behind her back, misleading her, doing drugs and I’m like, “Who cares?” That’s bad. We can deal with it but she felt like that was the time now to deal with it. I’m like, “No, we support her through this and we can learn lessons later,” but she didn’t hear it and then it’s like, “I don’t want Kayla back,” because she got involved. She was there every day with her. I said, “If you do this, I will not speak to you,” and that’s what happened. It ripped through the family. Looking back, part of it was then I went right back to.
Walk us through that. You went back to what?Be careful what you rely on. You can't rely on anything that has a shelf life. Click To Tweet
To completely being sideways, I did not deal with it well. As anybody that knows that deals with drugs is that all you do is stub your toe and that’s the reason to use again. When you have a situation like this, I medicated. I completely escaped. Our family was completely battling when we should have been coming together to support Kayla. To our audience, put all of the stuff that you think you need to say at that time aside because there will be time for it. Support the person that’s dealing with this type of a scenario. We don’t need to learn lessons right now. Believe me, the lessons have already been learned so put it aside. Who is saying what to whom or who was doing what they did, it does not matter anymore. It’s what’s now and let’s deal with what’s now and rally around that person. That’s the lesson that I convey to people that we should have done is that we don’t need to worry about who’s right and who’s wrong.
Another piece that I left out when I was in the hospital before my ex was found and got arrested, he totaled my car. The police gave the keys back to him after they were done going through it. I got a text message from him that said, “By the way, your car is totaled. I hit a pole.” I was like, “Great.” I don’t have a car. My grandma kicks me out. This is literally the worst point in my life.
Was Natalie already gone?
Yeah. Now, I don’t have a car. I don’t have a place to live. My daughter’s gone but I can’t go home to live with my mom because all my stuff is up here. I don’t remember the reasoning why, but there was a reason why I couldn’t move home yet. My aunt took me in. My aunt has been through an abusive relationship, so she gets it. Because of that, she’s strict. I don’t know how to explain it to her. She took me in and she said, “It’s $300 a month to live here. You have to get a job. I don’t care where you work. I don’t care what you do, but you’re going to work. You’re going to get up every day and you’re going to get through it.” I remember being pissed. I was so mad. I was like, “I don’t want to do anything. I just want to sit here.” She was like, “Your life’s going to move on. The world’s not pausing. Everything’s still going to move forward. Years are going to pass and you’re young, so what? You’re going to sit on your butt the whole rest of your life and do nothing?” I was like, “Pretty much. That’s what I want to do.”
Was she the catalyst for helping push you through that desire to give up and do nothing?
Yes. I didn’t have a car. I got a job three miles away, worked at 7:00 AM. I would get up at 5:00 AM and walk to work and then get off and walk back. I was working there full–time but I didn’t like. At that point, I got what she meant because I couldn’t sleep because I had nightmares. Her heart started pumping again. I used to have dreams that when she got on the surgery table, she woke up and then they were like, “No, we‘re not going to tell her that she woke up,” and then still did surgery anyways. I had bad dreams. I wouldn’t sleep and anytime I was home, I would get depressed. I was like, “I’m going to get another job.” I got a job at the movie theatre, which was 0.5 miles away. I would walk to the job that’s three miles away, walk all the way back, walk down to the movie theatre, changed at the movie theatre and I worked nights. Sometimes I still had days off. I worked at McDonald’s and I walked everywhere.
You start getting job after job to avoid being at home alone.
It’s great and I’m appreciative of how she pushed me because I feel like it got me out of it and got me realizing that there are other things I can throw myself into that are more productive and that will better my life. I lived with her for a few months and then my mom was like, “You can come home.” I packed everything up and I took the train back down to Redding, California.
I do have to say that when she shared that with me, I didn’t know that because when I think of that scenario, would it be natural to let her sit? Don’t you know what she’s been through? She’ll come around. I firmly believe after hearing that. Her Aunt Dawn and I have had our differences. She was supportive of me for a while, but through her divorce, she’s going to stick by her sister’s side and it was ugly. A lot of horrible things were said but I have a whole new respect for Dawn because I do know Dawn. Dawn’s a hard button. She is good but thank goodness for her.
Thank God for her. Dave, the whole time this is going on, are you dealing with your own?
Yeah. In my mind, my mom failed me because she went against my wishes of being there for Kayla and being human and trying to control everything and not realizing God’s got this figured out.
What’s the line, “You let go and let the God work?” I use the line all the time, “Do you give a man a fish or do you teach them to fish?” That’s what your Aunt Dawn was doing. She was teaching you to fish. As hard as it is, the beautiful learning lesson here with all this is I came home with a stroke. I was paralyzed, I came back with my parents. My mom looks at me and she goes, “Why are you sitting down?” I said, “Mom, I can’t stand up.” She looks at me and goes, “Not in my house. You’re going to stand up. You stand, you’re going to go outside and walk.” I’m like, “I physically cannot do it,” and she literally was the toughest I’ve ever met but I walked. We walked every day together. As hard as it hurt to get those legs moving. I knew I needed to keep moving because if I keep moving, I keep improving. Dave, by doing what you’ve done your whole life and playing football at the top level, you can’t sit around and wait. You’re going out there attacking every day. I commend you on what you’re doing, but the conversations between your father and you, are they happening at this time?
What we did is I had reached out to the Seahawks and said, “Here’s what’s going on. I’d like to take my daughter to a game.” We went up. It wasn’t the alumni week. We went to the Cardinals game. I went up to see her and we stayed in a hotel because I wasn’t speaking to my mom, neither of us was. I still wasn’t in my right mind. What should have been a good healing weekend ended up being I saw my mom and we got in a huge argument. She dropped me off in front of a police station and we didn’t know what to do. My heart is going out to her because she’s working two jobs and I’m not putting anything together. Part of that was the first stage of me starting to figure out, “This is not me. This is not my life.” When she went on and told me that she was enrolling to become certified as a medical assistant was what I think saved my life. She’s working two jobs and she’s working both. She’s walking. If any of you have been to Seattle, it rains a lot every day. Here’s this kid who’s just been through this, here’s what she’s doing and I’m using this scenario to justify my being sideways and being completely wasted and disengaged.
She became your inspiration here.
Kayla is now your hero and Natalie is your hero.
Here’s a point to anybody that is using another person for their sobriety and I was told this to be careful what you rely on. You can’t rely on anything that has a shelf life. Not to be cold about this, but initially I got clean and sober for Natalie and when Natalie was taken away from us, where did I go? I had no support, I had no program. I had nothing behind what I was doing. I was doing it for somebody else, not for myself. This time around, when Kayla was going back to school and got her certification, I’m like, “That’s it.” I was on a park bench and prayed to God. Another funny saying is, “If you want to hear God laugh out loud, tell him what your plans are.”
Experiencing Loss: If you want to hear God laugh out loud, tell him what your plans are.
I’m wasted on a park bench and I had planned on how I was going to fix this. I’m like, “I quit.” Whatever it takes, I had a guy’s number in my pocket that I had been carrying for a couple of months who had a friend who had a room that I will live in Riverside. If any of you have been to Riverside, you’ll know why I put it off for a couple of months. I said, “God, whatever, this is it. I’m going to do whatever it takes because I can’t be like this anymore.” Once again, Kayla was the catalyst of this. I called that guy and he took me to Riverside, his friend. It was a twelve-bedroom sober living home and he showed me a room that had two twin beds. I’m 6’7” and 330 pounds and I have not ever slept on a twin bed except for maybe when I was in the dorms. I looked at that and I said, “No.” I remember what I prayed is whatever it takes. I sat my fat ass on a twin bed and all I had was a phone and a $50 Starbucks card and nothing else and it’s Riverside.
What I do the next morning, I got up and I walked to a meeting. That afternoon on my way back, I walked to another meeting. That’s what it took for me to get sober was to completely remove myself from anything I knew and gave up. Literally, that’s all I had. Everything else pretty much went away but it was all based on Kayla and what solidified things for me as I progressed and this not my story, but this is where I went. Dads are family members in this scenario. I get it. You can only take so much on yourself, but I had a man a few years over now clean and sober. I had a man look at me and I told him that story and he said, “What if something had happened to your daughter?” Because I hadn’t done twelve steps but I was doing my thing and I rely on God, but I also know God will forgive me if I were to make a mistake. Whereas the twelve steps and all that, you start all over again with your sobriety but he looked at me and said, “What if something were to happen to your daughter?” That scared the crap out of me because I knew what the answer was at that time. I was only maybe a couple of years at that time. I opened a sober living home.
You told me about this. You went from being on a park bench homeless. You go out and speak to people now to get them cleaned up. Isn’t that ironic?
I share my story. For me, recognizing why would a man that was blessed with great parents, a great childhood, went on to be a scholarship athlete at a Division I school, literally two sports, basketball and football. Went on from that to play professional sports for a few years, was a professional actor. I read the best, biggest club in Hollywood and went on to a professional career at twenty years where I was one of the top people in the country. I had a gorgeous daughter and had all the material things. Why would a man like that go to work, make a few phone calls and then go hang out with hoodlums and drink, do cocaine, hit golf balls at fishermen in the river? Go back to the office in time to go pick up the family to go to the country club, put the white wish wash tomb on, my outside, what everyone saw me as.
They didn’t know what I was doing during the day. That went on for years. Nobody knew. Why would a man like that go through all of those things and live? I believe now so I can help people because I can look across the table at a young man and say, “I sat in the triage rooms, I get it.” I saw a street sweeper coming down the street while I was smoking crack, but I thought it was a tank, that delusional sitting in a park and chewing fentanyl patches. I did things that people look at me, “You’re old.” I’m also dumb.
You’re very smart and I’ve got a question for you. Have you forgiven yourself for everything? Are you able to look at your daughter in the eyes and say I love you and you both have forgiven each other?
Yeah. If I haven’t forgiven myself, I couldn’t be telling you this in front of my daughter. It’s all back to why? It is so I can help other people and if I can’t be honest and say, “This guy that had all this found his way to a park bench,” but it took me one day to realize it’s not my life. Now, what did I learn from all of that? Every single drug, I never put a needle in my arm, but I had enough opiates in my body due to knee surgery. I was doing 300 Norcos a month, probably more than that because that was half of the month. That was through knee surgery. I have been through everything. Now, I can help people because I’m not a book guy. I’m not a counselor. I’m not a PhD. I‘m a guy that sat and saw a tank coming down the street smoking crack. I get you, young man, and I get why you did it. I’m now a Vice President and partner in a company four–and–a–half years later from a park bench. The only reason isn’t because of who I am and what I’m able to do. The only reason I’m able to be in that position is that I’m clean and sober and I was able to take advantage of an opportunity presented to me that I would not have been able to do if I was still sideways. When I tell people about getting clean and sober, look at Kayla, she’s now going back to school and I want to tell her story about that.
I want to hear about her going back to school because now you’re going to RN school. You’re going to your AA.
What Dave said was wonderful and impactful. I know the reason you’re sober now is that it’s for you, but when I hear this story and this connection between you and Natalie. Not only did Natalie become a donor and save lives, but I think she also was this catalyst for saving Dave’s life.
It took me a minute to figure out. What I share with people now is that your daughter, your mother or your spouse can be the reason for you to get sober or to get clean, but they can’t keep you clean and sober. You‘ve got to do some work. You’ve got to find that. You’ve got to differentiate the two. They may be the reason why you’re doing it initially, but if they have a shelf life or expiration date or anything that you’re using outside of yourself and doing some work, then you need to do some work. Otherwise, if something bad or tragic happens, where are you going to fall back to?
On the forgiveness question, he says he’s forgiven himself. Have you forgiven yourself for everything that’s happened?
Yeah, more or less. There are still some days where I kick myself because there are 3,000 things I could’ve done differently that would have come to a different result. As much as I’d love to go back and change it, I don’t think I could. As much as it sucks what happened to me, taking away someone else’s life by going back, I don’t know if I could do that. The way everything turned out, being able to help other people and being on the path I’m on now. If I was to change any point in my story, that wouldn’t happen. I’d probably still be with the same guy in a crappy relationship and it probably would’ve come to the same outcome years later.
I’m proud of her, just as I was proud of her when I saw her with Natalie because I was concerned about her direction. She didn’t do great in school and I think part of that was the timing of the divorce and that was a horrible period that she had to go through at fifteen. Since that moment, she has grown up exponentially. Being a positive influence for me, I look at this kid, but then I say, “Look at this kid.” She’s working at urgent care and she knows what she’s talking about. She tells me something. I know enough to know she’s right. I would’ve not put this that she’d be able to do this prior to that incident. Thank goodness for Dawn for kicking you in the butt and saying, “You’re not going to sit in your own little pity party. You’re going to live,” and you’re living. We’re in her apartment. I’m so proud of her. I’d rather be in here than at my house. It’s right by Angel Stadium, it’s where the fireworks, it’s by Disneyland. Her mom’s coming down. They’re going to Disneyland every day or something.
We went to a Disney Cruise for a week. She loves her some Disney. I’m proud of her that she’s able to do what we’re doing now. We prayed before we started this and the whole idea initially, I’m not thinking selfishly. Kayla can tell her story and it will be a healing thing. She’s healed. She’s moved on and she’s a rock star. Now, maybe she can speak to some of your readers that are dealing with it or maybe it’s a dad reading going, “I went in the tank and I wasn’t there.” Now is the day. I was one day on a park bench. That was my day. I wake up every morning with hope. If I go to bed clean and sober, I wake up with hope. That’s it. That’s all you can ask for.
I think being able to hear you two together was perfect because there’s so much more to the story than what happened with Natalie and what happened with Kayla. We prayed before this and before this, Kayla, you said that God doesn’t give you anything that you’re not prepared for or that you can’t handle. What does that mean to you?
Going through the whole situation, I hated that whole thing because everybody says it to you like, “God wouldn’t put you in this situation if you couldn’t handle it.”God doesn't give you anything that you're not prepared for and that you can't handle. Click To Tweet
I do have a question for both of you. Are you sober now?
Yeah. I drink, I don’t do drugs.
Are you sober too?
Is it all contained?
Kayla, it was proven in the police reports that this guy, they had all the text messages back and forth, “No, I don’t want to know. We’re going to do this.” She used but she wasn’t like me.
I quit by myself. I had one relapse when I was going to school. I got depressed and then I’m not private. I got in a big fight with my mom. I tried to hit her on my 21st birthday and that was the last time I ever did it. When that situation happened, I stepped back. I realized how it was affecting me like, “Screw this. I’m not doing this. I’m not doing it to my family.” I never went and gotten help. I don’t do the AA thing. I don’t do anything but I also have no wanting to go back even if it was right in front of me, I’d be like, “I’m good.”
What’s awesome is you want to be an RN. You want to take everything that you learned and said, “I’m going to go back into the ER and be an RN. I’ve got to say thank you because the RNs saved my life. It allowed my daughters to have a father.” That is truly a miracle. That’s God’s work. What you‘re doing now is God’s work. I wanted to stop and say thank you for what you’re doing because you’re about to embark on this journey where hadn’t it been for your daughter, hadn’t it been for the chaos in your family has settled down and you let go of the ego and you found the divine. Wherever this path now takes you, you’re going to be able to implement your heart onto somebody else’s.
I think that everything I’ve been through, all of that, being an RN, if people come in and they’re in the same situation, I feel that I can relate.
It’s compassion, humility and humbleness.
When you think about it, anybody in your capacity will sit there and say, “I know what you’re going through,” and you go, “No, you don’t.” It’s like me and a tree. I know what you’re going through. “Yeah, you do.” You in someone’s darkest moment can sit there and look them in the eye and say, “I get it,” and be able to come at them from an angle that somebody hasn’t and you’re going to do great things in this.
I know in the medical field a lot of the times we say like, “That’s happened to me before.” It doesn’t. Probably they cut themselves doing something stupid and you can be like, “I’ve done that before. You’re fine.” We don’t do it to make fun of you. It’s not to make you feel worse. It’s to make you feel better. It’s to feel like you’re not alone because a lot of the times when people come in and they’re scared, you can be like, “I can relate to you.” If someone falls down and breaks their ankle, but I’ve sprained my ankle, I’m going to say, “I relate to you.” It’s completely different things, but I have enough experience in that situation that I can relate to making you feel better. It’s a bad example.
Even if we haven’t been through the same physical experiences, we’ve all been through emotional highs, emotional lows. We’ve all hit bottom and everyone’s bottom is different. Yours might be sitting in a tree watching a tank go by, but we all connect. We all relate in terms of the emotional pain that we feel going through life, through our own circumstances. Whatever our story and our journey are, that’s where I think we all connect as human beings are on an emotional level. Having been there, you’re going to be able to empower and connect with people so much deeper than otherwise.
Especially with the fact you are aspiring to be in the ER where not anything is planned for. It’s not like you’re sitting at home going, “Should I go or should I not go?” You’re going to the ER because it’s an immediate trauma situation that you’re not ready for and she’s going to be able to bring some strength to people.
We’re all here to help each other. That’s what a lot of people forget on this Earth.
Experiencing Loss: We’re all here to help each other. That is what a lot of people forget on this earth.
We’re all human. We all make mistakes, but it’s about who gets back up and moves. Dave, you and I have moved, gotten back up, Kayla and Taylor. That’s what’s great about your story is your cause for action, transformation and that’s what’s beautiful. Your father is sitting here, proud of his daughter. I can tell you how many fathers out there aren’t proud of their daughters because something else went sideways. Honestly, I see the love in your eyes and that’s God’s work. Thank you.
I’ve got one more question. I’ve asked this one to you before, but I’m going to start with you. It’s when we ask everyone who comes on the show. What is your inspiration?
It’s my daughter. Everything I’m doing now with my life is because of her. It’s Natalie for sure.
Dave, you get another take at this.
My daughter, if you weren’t paying attention, then you wouldn’t know. She is. I post stuff on Facebook and I look for her response. I want her to be proud of me.
To make a note, I cried. This has been great but I have nothing left in my body. I’ve been crying, been in tears the whole time and it’s tears of joy and tears of happiness. Dave, you’re here because you made a choice and God gave you a choice. Natalie allowed your father to live and you have a bigger purpose.
I love you, guys.
Thank you for everything.
- Kayla DesRochers
- Dave DesRochers – past episode