Gay Probst

A Different Kind of Love Story

On Valentine's Day, society focuses on the romantic, chocolate-in-a-heart-shaped-box-with-roses kind of love. There is no mere greeting card or gift, though, that can adequately extol the bond of love that the mother and son, featured here, share. 

As background, Gay Propst is a definitive islander. Her family, the Hudsons, became residents of Hilton Head Island in the 1880's, when Gay's great-grandfather made this his home. Gay's family has been here ever since. There was a time she wasn't a resident, however. In the Ohio Valley Hospital and on Mother's Day, 1990, Gay gave birth to a beautiful son, Zachary, weighing a solid 9 pounds, 12 ounces. "I immediately knew something wasn't right. His body was floppy and he wouldn't take his bottle," Gay explained. "The hospital sent us home, neglecting to explain that, while there, he had been given a feeding tube in his nose."

Once home, Zach wouldn't take a bottle and was sleeping constantly. With panic ensuing, Gay returned to the hospital with her infant.and with urgent questions. After ten days of scarce nutrients, a nurse told Gay that "love was the only thing keeping Zach alive." Tests remained inconclusive, and Gay struggled to get Zach to eat, using an eye dropper of formula to try and sustain him. Even with Gay's diligence, Zach lost weight.

Upon seeing several specialists, Gay was informed that "Zach was blind, probably deaf and would never walk." Gay didn't accept this heart-breaking prognosis. "Following the initial blow, I learned about infant rehabilitation and started our life's journey. Through prayer, faith and hard work, my mission was to teach Zach to walk!"Zach also had a condition called nystagmus, in which the eyes constantly dart back and forth.

Gay became a single mom when Zach was 2 Ω years old, moving back to Hilton Head to live with her parents. In '93, Gay enrolled Zach in pediatric rehab at Hilton Head Hospital. In 1995, one day, when arriving for Zach's rehab appointment, Gay was told of a job opening in the office, which she accepted. It was a natural segue, because their lives -- including her parents' -- included almost round-the-clock therapy with Zach. (Still an employee of Hilton Head Hospital, Gay was just awarded the "Non-Clinical Associate of the Year"). 

Through determination, Zach crawled when he was 3 Ω, and could sit, stand and drink from a cup.  But one day, while crawling, Zach had his first seizure and hit the floor. Immediately, they took him to a neurologist, receiving the diagnosis of Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, a rare seizure disorder. Gay felt a fresh wave of devastation. At 4 Ω years of age, Zach underwent surgery to correct the nystagmus. Miraculously, the day of the operation (post-surgical), and though he was literally "crying blood-tinged tears," Zach walked to Gay's mom! "Once Zach's eyes could focus, his balance and proprioceptive input was improved as well, allowing him to walk!"

In 1995, Gay met Rose Fotia, another mom of a disabled child and also founder of Children's Relief Fund, a locally-based non-profit group geared toward helping special needs children. For several years, Gay has been secretary of the organization. "Through CRF and my job, I consider it an honor to help so many children and families in our community with special needs. CRF bought Zach braces for his legs and a travel chair (not covered by insurance), helping in so many ways."

Zach turns 20 this year, and walks, hears, and sees everything; always with a smile on his sweet face. He has always loved motorcycles, and recently, Zach, his mom and grandmother saw some bikers in a parking lot. One of the guys noticed Zach, and offered for him to sit on his bike, which Zach did. The look on his face was pure joy, as the bikers clapped and cheered!

 On days, when the stress of mothering a child with special needs becomes daunting, Gay recalls the words of her mother, "Remember, Gay..Zach loves like Jesus loves- unconditional, completely, and without needing anything in return." Gay is grateful: "I thank God for giving me Zach, a teacher who cannot say a word, but who doesn't need to."

Up Close:

The Children's Relief Fund

The Children's Relief Fund invites you to its "Straight from the Heart" dinner dance for special needs children and Area 8 Special Olympics

Crowne Plaza at Shipyard Plantation
When: Saturday, February 13th, 2010
Time: 6:30pm

Dinner and Dancing to the Live Music of "Intensity"
Complimentary Wine Served with Dinner
Live and Silent Auctions
$125/ticket, Black Tie Optional

For More Information on Donating an Item or Purchasing a Ticket,
Please Call 843-681-7668 or 843-342-5267.