My Sons Share Their Father’s Day Reflections

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by Colleen Steele |

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Experience has taught my husband, Brian, and me that life is what you make it, but you don’t always get to choose the ingredients.

We have put a lot of love and other wonderful things into raising our sons Cullen, 22, and Aidan, 21. Pulmonary hypertension (PH) wasn’t part of the original recipe, but it poured into our lives when Cullen was diagnosed in 2008. A heart and double-lung transplant was added to the mix six years later when Cullen’s condition worsened.

By no means has Brian been a silent partner through any of this. As I mentioned in a previous column, “His love, protection, and emotional support are always felt.”

father's day message | Pulmonary Hypertension News | A photo of Brian Steele wearing a suit and tie and smiling at the camera at a school celebration for his sons.

Brian attends a school celebration with Cullen and Aidan in June 2014. (Photo by Colleen Steele)

In honor of Father’s Day on Sunday, I interviewed Cullen and Aidan via email and asked them to express how much their dad means to them.

The helper

Aidan jumped right in with, “Dad can be very stubborn but when you need him he will always do his best to help you. He made sure growing up that we were always taken care of even when times were hard.”

Cullen agrees. Although I have been the most involved in Cullen’s medical care, Brian has helped him through PH and transplant in other ways.

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For example, when Cullen felt depressed because he could no longer play sports due to PH and coexisting heart conditions, Brian began looking into different hobbies and entertainment that Cullen might enjoy.

Brian’s brother recommended World of Warcraft, a multiplayer online role-playing game, for his nephew. “Dad thought this would be a good way to keep me both social and entertained, and he was right,” Cullen wrote.

When Cullen got older, Brian kept his son’s health in mind by introducing him to activities such as robotics, programming, and electronics. Cullen suspects he thought they would be safer and easier to participate in and possibly lead to a career.

Cullen has taken a different path in college by focusing on a future in social work or therapy. “But I greatly appreciate the knowledge I gained when I participated in those other Dad-recommended activities,” Cullen said.

Both sons value their dad’s unsolicited advice and the room to make their own decisions. It doesn’t go unnoticed that he is supportive and helpful no matter what.

“I would have never passed statistics without Dad,” Cullen confessed. “He spent late nights walking me through equations, often the same one, over and over again until I fully grasped the concept. I also appreciate that he also allows me to to run my psychology theories by him.”

The disciplinarian

When Cullen was diagnosed with PH, his doctor recommended that we continue to raise our sons as planned, and so we did.

“Looking back, I don’t believe Dad was ever too harsh with his punishments; when needed he could be the villain or the voice of reason,” Cullen said.

When Cullen’s doctor advised him to start using supplemental oxygen, he went to his dad for comfort. He thought Brian was the more likely parent to disagree with the doctor’s orders and talk her out of them. Instead, he comforted Cullen and waited for him to calm down, then, with a fine balance of trust and villainy, convinced him that following the doctor’s instructions was important.

Aidan advises other parents, “Don’t be afraid to be hard on your kids sometimes. As a child I often thought my dad was being unfair whenever he told me to do or not to do something. But as an adult I realize that it was discipline that made me who I am today and I am thankful my dad instilled it in me.”

Favorite memories

Cullen was touched to see his dad shed tears as he prepared to leave for what turned out to be a transplant dry run.

“He is a man who usually doesn’t let anything get to him. It meant the world to me that he openly displayed such emotion during such a critical moment in my life,” Cullen explained.

Aidan appreciates the memories of Brian attending his baseball games, sitting in the dugout, and filling out the scorecard.

“He always wore a big jacket. When it got really cold he would let me put my hands in it to warm up before heading back out to the field,” Aidan wrote.

We love you, Dad!

Cullen: “Thank you for encouraging me to pursue new ideas and interests. Your support and motivation have helped me accomplish many things in my life and become the best man I can be.”

Aidan: “Thank you for showing me how to survive on my own and not complain when things get hard. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for you. I am grateful that you are my father.”

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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