This is the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. When we say Dad to Dad that’s exactly what we have today, because David Hirsch is talking to special father Brian Lynch and his father Allen Lynch. Brian’s daughter Cailinn was diagnosed early in her life with a rare chromosome disorder, while Brian’s father Allen is one of only 80 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. It’s an intriguing conversation between two special dads.
AJ Lynch Foundation – https://ajlynchfoundation.org
Katy’s Kloset – http://www.teamupwithfamilies.org/katys-kloset/
Children’s Hospital Wisconsin – https://childrenswi.org
Illinois Fatherhood Initiative – www.4fathers.org
Special Fathers Network – https://21stcenturydads.org
Dad to Dad 109 Brian & Allen Lynch, Medal Of Honor Recipient, Reflect On Raising A Child With A Super Rare Genetic Disorder
Brian Lynch: We did have to have hip surgery in January where her hip was immobilized for six, seven weeks. The atrophy that happens when you literally can’t move your lower body is amazing, but she’s walking and dare I say it. She was running and chasing my dog around the house. Like she always has. And while there’s a noticeable limp, she overcomes everything that we put in front of her. And she’s a great kid. So my wife and I were actually just remarking to one another the other day about how happy she is. Extremely happy despite everything.
Tom Couch: That’s Brian Lynch, one of David Hirsch’s guests on this dad to dad podcast. And when we say dad to dad, that’s exactly what we have today because Brian is David’s guest, but so is Brian’s dad Allen. Brian has a daughter, Caitlin, who was diagnosed early in her life with a rare chromosome disorder while Alan, the father is one of the few recipients of the medal of honor. We’ll hear all about this and more on this dad to dad podcast.
Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad, podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs. Presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed facebook group, please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: So let’s listen now to this fascinating conversation between David Hirsch and Allen and Brian Lynch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Brian Lynch of Muskego Wisconsin and his father, Alan Lynch of Gurnee, Illinois.
Brian is the father of one and the director of talent acquisition at ACARA solutions. Alan is the father of three, a Vietnam veteran, a recipient of the medal of honor, and retired from the department of veterans affairs in 2009, where he advocated for increased benefits for disabled veterans. Brian and Alan, thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for this Special Fathers Network.
Brian Lynch: No problem.
Allen Lynch: Thanks.
David Hirsch: For the record. I’ve done more than a hundred interviews for the Special Fathers Network dad to dad podcast. I’d like to acknowledge. This is the first father son interview with hopes that it won’t be the last. Brian you and your wife, Kelly had been married for 14 years. Alan, you and your wife, Susan had been married for 50 years.
Congratulations. And are the proud parents of three children. Eric, Carolyn and Brian. Let’s start with some background, Helen, where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Allen Lynch: Well, I grew up in, um, I was there till I was about six and then six, seven years old, and we moved to Homewood and that, and I spent the rest of my time in grade school and junior high in a place called Lake Eliza.
And, and then for high school, I moved back to Dalton, Illinois. And graduated high school there and went into the army for four and a half years, uh, spent time in Germany in Berlin. And then I did a tour in Vietnam and came home, got out of the army, uh, April 25th, 1969. Met Susie. I think in July or August of that year, we were married a year later, April 25th, 1970.
We’ve been married 50 years this year. I worked for the department of veteran affairs for about 12 years and then the Vietnam veterans leadership program, uh, for about two or three. And then I went to the Illinois attorney General’s office, where I worked as the chief of the veterans rights Bureau and retired from there in 2005.
David Hirsch: I’m sort of curious to know, um, what did your dad do for a living?
Allen Lynch: My dad was a, um, well, he was a welder, journeyman welder. He was a journeyman machinist. My dad was Jack of all trades. He could do electrical work, he could do plumbing and he taught me a lot
David Hirsch: of that stuff. And how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Allen Lynch: It was really good and really bad. It was, it was the full spectrum. There were times when he, and I would just. Go at it. Like, especially when I became an adult and, you know, got home from the army and had my own kind of way of doing things. He had his viewpoint. I had mine and, you know, we’d lock horns, but, um, we made peace over the years and got along pretty good, but we have kind of a, a fun Rocky relationship.
My dad and I both loved argue. So that made it fun.
David Hirsch: It sounds like it was a roller coaster and, uh, most of our listeners wouldn’t appreciate this, but I know that you live near six flags. Great America. Okay. And it sounds like your relationship was, uh, a lot of ups and downs and yeah.
So, um, Thinking about your dad. Is there any important takeaway that comes to mind? Something a lesson learned an important lesson.
Allen Lynch: He taught me to have great pleasure in work. It took it a lot of time for me to learn that, but it was, I still leave a non 74. I’ve been retired since 2005. I still have a strong work ethic.
And it’s something that, um, I find that if I don’t work during the day, I’m not a happy man.
Brian Lynch: One would argue that he works harder now than he did when he was actually gainfully employed.
Allen Lynch: Pretty much.
David Hirsch: Thanks for adding that. Brian, why don’t we use that as a segue, Brian, where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Brian Lynch: I grew up in here right here in this house that my dad and I are sitting in right now. And I’m pretty happy childhood. They, my mom and dad really skirt, no expense to make sure that
Allen Lynch: we add it.
Brian Lynch: When you look back on, um, on your own out, certainly realize that they spared no expense to make sure that we could get to school on a full stomach and had clothes on our back and you know, all the advantages that they go forward. So it was really a good, happy childhood. For sure.
David Hirsch: And, uh, this is a little bit more difficult for me to ask since you’re in the presence of your father, but how would you describe the relationship with your father?
Brian Lynch: Well, I mean, he, uh, he was definitely hard on me when he needed to be hard on me and he was a great friend and confidant and definitely got into it when I was a teenager, quite a bit. I’m a very competitive person. Can be hot blooded or was a lot more hot blood back then than I am now. And so we definitely butted heads in my adolescence, but as an adult,
Allen Lynch: we’ve become
Brian Lynch: great friends.
I mean, no one I talked to more than my dad and there’s no one I trust more than my dad. He’s a role model. My hero.
David Hirsch: Yeah. What a great testimony. I thank you for sharing Brian. I noticed there’s a pattern. I think you both mentioned that you, but it had with your dads
Brian Lynch: maybe more so when I was a teenager, I think I can remember my grandfather and my dad kind of getting into it when they were.
Well, my dad was an adult.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well maybe it’s being weaned out of the Lynch family then
Brian Lynch: we’ll see.
David Hirsch: So, uh, is there any important takeaway Brian that comes to mind? You know, if you had to synthesize it to one or two things
Brian Lynch: honor, um, your, your word is everything. I don’t think my grandfather’s work ethic, uh, got down to me until I became an adult.
Which I’m really grateful for, but I don’t think, I don’t think that was as present growing up as it was and my dad, but I think, you know, having iron and be a man of your word and doing things the right way and being, you know, a moral person. Yeah. It’s really the basis of who I am and who I try to be. I really feel like my value system, Jake, from my father and my mom and I owe a lot to them for that.
So, but yes, I, I think those are the big things.
David Hirsch: Okay, that’s wonderful. And, um, it’s not lost on me that, um, to be able to say those things in the presence of your father, I’m just thinking about it from a father’s perspective. You know, it really, uh, touches your heart. Uh, we came in contact with one another, a little bit through the Illinois fatherhood initiative, and you might remember that.
One of the things that that organization does is it has children write essays. We’ve had well over 400,000 kids write essays about their dads, stepdads, granddads, and father figures. And what we’ve learned is that one of the most direct ways to touch the heart of the father is through the words of his children.
So when I hear you speaking those words, you know, in your dad’s presence, I just know that means a lot. Thanks for sharing. So, um, I’d like to, to switch gears a little bit and talk about careers and I’m Brian, I’m going to let you go first. So, um, after you graduated from high school, where did your education and career take?
Allen Lynch: Not
Brian Lynch: to a great place. I was a, I wasn’t missing, but I did, uh, my brother and sister did. I think what my parents wanted me to do. I was not a great student. I like to think that I’m an intelligent person. Um, uh, I was not a great student by any stretch of the imagination. So I did go to Western Illinois for one semester.
It was not the right fit for me. I came home, I went to community college here in Shawnee. Kind of asked around between that and working full time. And then I went back to school full time to a small private school division three school in Waukesha snaps, which is just outside of lot the culture college, and, uh, was there for just a couple of years.
And all my friends who were my age had grad were graduating and I wasn’t close to graduation at that point. I had decided that I wanted to be a police officer. So I decided to leave school at that point and started testing. And like so many recruiters. If you talk to any recruiter, whether they’re a corporate recruiter or a staffing recruiter or head Hunter or something like that, they will tell you that they never planned to
Allen Lynch: become a recruiter.
Brian Lynch: They didn’t go to school to become a recruiter. It just kind of fell into it. And that’s what happened to me is as I was testing to be a police officer, I needed a job. So I started temping through manpower at Abbott labs. Uh, I got into benefits, administration and HR. And then the next thing I know, I started recruiting for a little medical clinic in Milwaukee, as I moved up there to be closer to friends from school.
And, uh, of course my girlfriend, who’s now my wife, I realized I’m really good at this room hurting thing. It’s competitive, it’s dollar driven. It’s, you’re helping people at the same time. You’re helping people find their next opportunity. So it was just a really great fit for who I am as person and sort of kismet fate that I fell into that.
David Hirsch: Okay. Now it’s your turn. You’re coming out of high school. I think the way you described it, if I remember is you were sort of a
Allen Lynch: knucklehead. Oh yeah,
David Hirsch: no. When she wanted to do a, what was it that led to you joining the army? And where did that take you?
Allen Lynch: I had nowhere else to go and I knew I was going to get drafted.
I was too stupid for college. I was not interested in the trades. I wasn’t interested. I, all I wanted to do in high school was to get through it and never, ever, ever opened another textbook and just be left alone, find a job, some factory somewhere, you know, kind of a labor do whatever. But I knew it was going to get drafted.
So I joined the army and it completely changed everything. I started to get motivated. I started to get past the, you know, the kid that was bullied and started to get some confidence myself. And then finally I went to Vietnam and that just. Put me on a whole different trajectory. It was a con it was a, what do they say?
It’s a paradigm shift from one kid to somebody entirely different than the medal of honor course changed my life completely.
David Hirsch: Well. Uh, describe for me if you will, what your, uh, experience in Vietnam was. And then up until that sort of fateful day in December, 1969, from what I remember.
Allen Lynch: No. I was an infantry guy and we went on patrols and he hung bushes and, you know, observation posts and did all of those same, saw a lot of combat July.
Um, my best friend was killed, uh, which is Brian was named after him. Um, when I finally remembered his name, Uh, at least part of the it’s a long story, but, um, you know, it was just, it was a lot of it. Yeah. Are salts and a lot of, lot of combat and a lot of stuff like that. And then December 15th, uh, we walked into a, an ambush and, um, some of our guys got, got a woman.
Our appointment of one of our appointment came running back and got shot halfway out. I went out and got him and he said that, um, Casarez was. No badly wounded. And I was an RTL radio telephone operator. So I dropped my radio and left it with my Lieutenant when got, tried to get him. And just as I’m figuring on how do I get him back with M 16 and all the stuff that he was carrying, as far as it comes running across and get shot.
And I went out and got hit. And so we’re all in this ditch together. And we were there about three, four hours, and then finally I was able to get them out and get them to safety. And then when I got. Now pulled out of the field for a couple of days, you know, cause I was a little bit of a mess, um, holding it together, dealing with wounded and trying to maintain all that control.
And then when it was all over, it was just like a great
David Hirsch: big,
Allen Lynch: so I went back into the rear with the gear and when I rejoined my unit, they said they put me in for the medal of honor and I kind of laughed it off. Yeah. It wasn’t that big a deal. And um, We got married the day before Susie and I were going to get me.
I was notified it was going to get it. It was almost what, two years later,
David Hirsch: wasn’t there a story that goes behind that? Yeah, I thought there was like a police car or something that was involved.
Allen Lynch: Yeah. I have this problem with my right foot. I like to, uh, There was this S curve in Dalton. And I took it before I went to Vietnam and I figured, you know, it worked, then it may work now.
And well, it has 50 years later, we’re still married, but okay. Took that curve rather fast. It was broad daylight. So I wasn’t hitting 80, like I did before I went to Vietnam, but, uh, I hit it pretty fast. So I noticed this police officer following me and I’m driving down the road and he’s following, I’m slowing down and he slows down and I go, Oh my God, here we go.
So I turned, you know, nonchalantly down the street where I live, it turned into my driveway. He follows me on goal. And here we go. Well, maybe I can tell him I’m getting married. I was a little nervous during the Vietnam story, you know? So I get out of the car. I said, the officer, can I help you? And I’m waiting for the way, you know, you, we’re going very, very fast.
Is your name? Alan Lynch. I said, yes. He says your social security number. This I said, yes. He asked
Brian Lynch: me piece of paper, call that
Allen Lynch: number gets back in Skype. But wait, wait, wait, what? This is. It’s a good thing. Just call it number. Took me quite a while to find you. And I noticed he’s from also, which is like three times over.
So I called that number. I get some kernel. I get the same thing. This is why I have the great honor to tell you that you’re going to be receiving the medal of honor from president Nixon on flag day or on forces. Damn. Sorry. And I’m like, but I’m getting married tomorrow. And he says, well, we’d appreciate it.
If you didn’t tell anybody, I’m like last thing in the world I want to do is tell anybody being married tomorrow. I got other things on my mind and not realizing what what’s been going on here. So like I told my mom and dad, and I told her mom and my brother in law and I was actually a little bit. Not happy that my mom and dad were more, we’re excited about me getting the medal of honor then getting married.
Really. They never, they actually never believed that I was gonna go, I get that. Cause I was bullied, you know, through grade school and high school and that, so it was like, you know, you kind of gutless, how can you go to Vietnam and earn a medal of honor? You, you.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, it’s a beautiful story. So, uh, what was it like going to the white house and, uh, actually receiving the medal of honor,
Allen Lynch: a working class kid from a working class neighborhood.
I’m making sausage at Levine McNeil and Libby. Back then and throwing beef hearts and pork lines around. And here I am. And the white house in Milton uniform, we’re in Sergeant stripes and meeting president Nixon and his Julie in Westmoreland, all of these big shots. And I’m like, what in the world am I doing here?
Do you think, do they know who I am? I’m a work and stiff from the South side of Chicago for bran out loud. So it was just, it was just, it was strange to say the least.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like a surreal experience. One of the images that comes to mind and I don’t mean to compare you to anybody else, but the movie Forrest Gump.
Where are the ordinary guy? Just from nowhere.
Brian Lynch: That’s not the first time David that that’s come up.
David Hirsch: Okay. But there’s a parallel there. I don’t know how strong the parallel is Al, but there’s a parallel there.
Allen Lynch: Not, not very
that part. Yeah. Maybe.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. So, um, how did life change? After that for you. I know that, uh, your career, like you had outlined earlier, uh, taken a little bit different structure, but what was it was that that was on your mind from that point
Allen Lynch: forward? I actually, all we wanted to do was have a family.
I went to work for the department of veteran affairs, ended up at great lakes, Naval base, taking care of Vietnam, returnees. I loved the job. It was giving back and getting paid for it. So it was, what’s not to like, but throughout the seventies, from the time I got the metal up until the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial, it was pretty much.
Go to work, go home rinse and repeat raise kids. Uh, got involved in little league with Eric and girl Scouts with Carolyn and baseball, with Brian and soccer and just life went on. And then, but the dedication lead up to the dedication. Yeah, the Vietnam Memorial. I started doing a lot more public speaking and going out and finally left the VA and went to work for the leadership program for a couple of years and started doing a lot of public speaking and a lot of motivational stuff.
And then. I went to the attorney General’s office and started getting into case work and, you know, doing a lot of, um, claims. I only could do appeals before the VA and I was really good at it, but it’s been a great career and I really, I really enjoyed everything I did about it. When I retired at recharged with the idea of I’ve given everything back now, I’m just going to retire and.
Live the good life. And that lasted one year. Uh, I lost 35 pounds cause I was hitting the gym. I was walking every day. I was going to the golf course and playing golf. I was doing everything I wanted to do. And then it all crashed in 2006. They brought the medal of honor society convention to Chicago for 2009.
I started working with that. My, my daughter-in-law Mary Francis was diagnosed with lung cancer. And so we started, you know, doing stuff with their family. Emily and Brian got married. Yeah. We were looking forward to all of that kind of stuff. It was one of those. Tough years. It was, and then it got tougher.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s amazing. What I, one of the things I admire most about you is the fact that you dedicated a lot, all of your career to helping other veterans, right. As a fellow veteran. And, um, I can only imagine how purposeful that it has been for you, uh, to, uh, advocate for other men. And I guess more recently, a woman, uh, who’ve served and, um, It’s very honorable.
And, uh, I know that, uh, one of the things that, uh, has brought us together is that I’ve had a chance to attend a number of these medal of honor, um, galas and events. And, uh, there are too many of you. Um, I don’t know the exact number, but my recollection is that there are only about 80 living individuals.
Who’ve been recipients of the medal of honor and. That’s a pretty small number, considering that in our country’s history, that more than 3000 people have been discussed. L of honor, know each of the individuals I’ve only met 30 or 40 of you, but, um, there’s this sort of sense of service, a sense of humility that I don’t see.
And many people. And I’m wondering if you could speak to that?
Allen Lynch: Well, it’s, you know, we, I think across the board, most of us don’t think that we should have gotten that we were just doing what any other soldier would have done at the time. And that makes you kind of humble. It’s the ideas is that there, but for the grace of God, somebody wrote something a little bit better.
And so I, you know, and I think most of us have that same ideas is that, you know, this isn’t really ours, we’re holding it. We’re wearing a, yeah, we get all the benefits. We get to do all these things, but there comes great responsibility with it too. And most of us don’t take that lightly. You know, we, we, we look at it as.
You know, I’d like to quit and do other things, but I was given this and with great things like that, you have great responsibility, but I don’t think you should take it lightly. I don’t think any of us do. And
Brian Lynch: I can say that he’s probably one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. And most of the medal of honor recipients I’ve had the opportunity to meet.
They’re all extremely humble.
David Hirsch: Well, Brian, I’m wondering from your perspective, when did you realize what the metal monitor. Is, and what it represents and how did that impact you or how do you think it impacted you and your
Brian Lynch: siblings? Yeah, you know, I was actually kind of funny. I was probably in junior high or maybe a freshman in high school and a friend of mine was doing a.
Allen Lynch: For history, paper or
Brian Lynch: something and asked if he could interview my dad. And I remember him wrapping up the interview and as young boys do, they tend to glorify the violent piece. I remember him saying your dad’s bad ass,
Allen Lynch: really?
Brian Lynch: And, uh, and sure enough, and in my group of friends, my circle of buddies, he became the sort of almost mythological figure.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s a interesting perspective that very, very few people would have. If you think about it, Brian, if there’s only Haiti living. Individuals who’ve received the medal of honor.
Some of them are quite young. The guys that have just served in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s very few people that are alive today, Brian, that, you know, are the offspring of a medal of honor recipient. So that’s why I was sort of curious. No, you know, what, if any impact that had had on you. Good or bad for that matter.
Brian Lynch: I think a lot of the value system that he imparted on me came from that humility. Right. And I think he would have been a humble person regardless of whether he was decorated or not. That’s just who he is. He’s a humble guy and, you know, puts others first. And I think my brother, sister and I, we do the same thing and you put other
David Hirsch: well.
I just want to emphasize the point you’re making about the humility. And I remember being at a dinner that Al you were recognized for the Illinois fatherhood initiative, and we’ve been doing this dinner for 24 years now. I’ve heard a lot of very memorable presentations, but there’s very few that I can actually remember.
Right. And one of the things that you said, I’m going to pair up phrase, uh, when you got up and spoke. You had said that this honor being recognized as a dad and a grandpa means more to me than receiving the medal of honor. And then you went on to say why that is. Do you remember that
Allen Lynch: a little
David Hirsch: bit? Yeah.
And you’d said again, I’m paraphrasing. Um, I was 20 something years old. I was amped up on adrenaline. I did what I was trying to do and. It was just like a very short period of time of my life. But being a dad, um, is a lifetime commitment. That’s really hard. Right. That’s really challenging. And I will never forget that.
Right. It was just like a, a light bulb clicked on. Right. And you know, you put things in perspective and you know, most people have a enormous rush for people that have received the medal of honor. For logical reasons and you making that statement publicly really meant a lot, right? It just helped put this important role that we have as dads into perspective.
So I just want to thank you again for sharing those thoughts.
Allen Lynch: Well, it’s, it’s absolutely true. I mean, you, you, you know, you do something in the spur of the moment, your adrenaline’s going crazy, but to be a dad, to be a consistent dad, to do the best, you know how cause you know, the nice thing would be as if give kids when they came out of the wound can not with a little instruction book, you know, at the age of 15, he’s going to be kind of a jerk, but he’s going to get over it.
You know, you gotta do this to make them happy your or to discipline them or whatever. And then you could kind of look at the book, but every kid is so different, every different personality. So to be a dad or to be a mom, to be a parent, and to know what is best for your child. And it’s
Brian Lynch: all
Allen Lynch: trial and error.
I mean, when you get right down to it, you, you, you succeed and you fail a lot. And I failed a lot. I mean, Good surprise. Sometimes they talk to me.
David Hirsch: switch gears and talk about special names. Brian, I’m sorta curious to know before Caitlyn. Was born. Did you or Kelly have any experience with special needs?
Brian Lynch: Yeah, but Kelly did, she actually, it’s kind of fun. Keon prior to Colvin would attend a summer program called harangue summer program, which is geared for children with special needs.
And it is literally on second favorite thing to do. She loves school. Like not that school’s number one. She goes to bed asking to go to school. Cool. And she wakes up saying, can we go to school? But the next thing that she usually asks for is camp she’ll sign camp camp. If she loves the hearing center program, more so than anything.
And Kelly actually volunteered in high school and junior high and at the Irving center soccer program. So I think, you know, to be able to send came on to that program, Kelly volunteered at was this like really cool
Allen Lynch: for Kelly?
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing and being authentic about that. And I’m sort of curious now Katelyn’s 12.
What is her diagnosis and how did it transpire
Brian Lynch: she and necessarily a syndrome associated with early yearly down syndrome or Cretia or something like that? G is an undiagnosed chromosomal translocation of her five and nine chromosomes. Um, so she has a deletion on one chromosome in addition on another console, which is a lot of her health issues and emotional, intelligent delays, I guess.
Um, she also has a deletion off of another chromosome, one in a billion literally, uh, you know, there’s just no other kid. Who’s been diagnosed with these specific chromosomes involves in her deletions and additions. Um, the only other children that have been documented. We’re in England and there were four cases, um, and they all, uh, passed away, uh, before the age of four.
So it came on is, yeah, she’s really in uncharted territory. And, and from a special needs standpoint, as movie, we have a lot of clinics and a lot of specialists that we see and have seen throughout our lives.
David Hirsch: So at what age was she diagnosed? Her? What were the indications? That something wasn’t just right.
Brian Lynch: old. Well, I guess we realized something wasn’t right. Well, she was born, you know, I remember in the delivery room and I remember kind of looking at her, going. This isn’t right. And the nurses took her from, from both. I gave her to my wife and then the nurses took her from her and took her to the, to the ICU.
Cause she needed oxygen. Her saturation was pretty low. So they took her to the a and I see you at that point. And then my wife and I, I were really overjoyed that she was born. And, but at the same time there was sort of a melancholy concern. Because I think we knew that there was something significantly wrong and the doctor’s reaction was the doctor was great actually, but we knew based on his reaction that there were some, some other things going on, it was the next day that they came in and they said that they wanted to take a tube of blood from just a thinker to do some genetic analysis on her.
It was sort of disbelief, you know, I think both of us were not alike. This is going to be fine, but then a genetics came back a few days later and that’s when they had diagnosed her with this chromosome translocation.
David Hirsch: And what’s transpired since then, as far as her development of physically or intellectually, how would you describe that?
Brian Lynch: Uh, well, so we were in the ICU for about four weeks, uh, uh, West Alice hospital. We went through a couple of. Doctors. We had a, we had a doctor who was convinced that we should give her a do not resuscitate. And so she worked code that we wouldn’t do anything lifesaving. Uh, we had some imaging done of her heart imaging done of her skull and a few other things.
And the imaging of her heart revealed that she had an ASC atrial septal defects, uh, ventricular septal defect, basically. She had two significant holes in our arm that we have a four chamber heart. She, at the time I had a two chamber dryer, so they knew she was going to need significant heart surgery. If she was going to survive.
She also had really small airway, which was the reason she was on oxygen and a few other things. So I think at four weeks old and about six pounds, you weren’t really ready to ever go through that heart surgery. We didn’t want her to suffer if. Yeah, this wasn’t gonna work out long term, but we want to give her every opportunity to survive.
So we went home on oxygen and a feeding tube, and, you know, we, she started gaining weight, just started getting bigger and getting more robust. And, uh, when she reached about 10 pounds, she started having these episodes where she would turn
Allen Lynch: gray.
Brian Lynch: And we ended up taking your children’s hospital, Wisconsin at that point, which was probably the best move we’ve done.
Um, we have her at West Allis Memorial, which is a great hospital, but children’s hospital opened up a whole new world for us. And that world included putting a tracheostomy in to help her breathe better. And then suddenly in Caitlin become, comes to life. You know, she didn’t bring it better. We get her first smile.
Granted, it was assisted by opiates at the time she still was a smile and she starts growing and getting bigger. And then the doctors feel confident that they can go in and do the heart surgery and that she’ll survive this really honestly, the invasive surgical procedure. And the crazy thing was, is the surgery was scheduled for my wife’s birthday.
So we had the whole family there. My parents, my, my, my wife’s parents, my siblings, my wife’s siblings. Uh, we’re all sitting in a waiting room having cake while my daughter’s having open heart surgery at four months old, six and five months old. Uh, it was really a surreal time in her life, but, um, as she.
You know, it came out of surgery. Great. And then the next thing is, is Campbell just starts progressing when we start getting rid of the attachments at four years old that got rid of the tracheostomy, um, at six years old and he got rid of her feeding tube. We had some bumps in the road where she had gluten intolerance, where we had a PICC line and a few other things, but I mean, there’s a myriad of, of.
Procedures and scans and images that we’ve had. I knew, but feeling right now as a really healthy, really happy kid, we did have to have hip surgery in January where her hip was immobilized for six, seven weeks. The atrophy that happens when you literally can’t move your lower body is amazing, but she’s walking and dare I say it she’s running and chasing my dog around the house.
Like she always has. And while there’s a noticeable limb, um, and she’s going to have to have the other hip done and probably a few months she overcomes everything that we put in front of her. And she’s a great kid. She’s really my wife and I were actually just remarketing to one another the other day about how happy she is.
She’s an extremely happy the slate.
David Hirsch: Well, the first thought that comes to mind, Brian, and thank you for sharing. It sounds like it’s been a. Extraordinary experience for you and your family.
Brian Lynch: Yeah. So we didn’t get a handbook.
David Hirsch: Yeah. I I’m almost speechless, but the word that comes to mind is miracle. Right? For sure.
She is definitely a miracle baby or a miracle child now. And, uh, um, it’s just testimony to, um, having some faith and just doing the best you can, you know, like you said, there’s not a handbook or instructions. Um, you just have to make the best decisions, you know, sort of in the moment and, uh, just. Have some faith that things are going to be okay.
Brian Lynch: We put our faith in God that, you know, he’s going to do the right things for us and for Kaylynn. And, and you know, if at some point that meant, you know, we weren’t going to have her here anymore. We knew she was going to be in a much better spot. Um, I’m not a good Christian, but I am a Christian that I put a lot of my faith in Jesus Christ that he’s gonna help take care of things and we’re going to be okay in the long run.
So that’s a comforting thought.
David Hirsch: Are there any organizations Brian, that you and your family have relied on? You mentioned a children’s hospital of Wisconsin being a game changer. Have there been any other organizations that have made an instrumental difference in Caitlin’s development?
Brian Lynch: Yeah. I mean her PT and or physical therapy and speech therapy clinic, uh, which is new Berlin therapies and curative through the medical college of Wisconsin have been amazing partners.
I’ve I never thought I was going to see my daughter ride a bike. She rode a bike. Right after her surgery, it was amazing. They were on a bike. She gets the brace off and she starts, it’s just amazing. I mean, it’s, it’s not a bike, like, but it’s a tricycle. I’ll tell you. Uh, there’s there’s a normal, not by us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t. Right, but Katie’s closet. It’s a, the nonprofit medical product warehouse. Where, you know, if you were done with, let’s say like shower chair, like we needed a shower chair for Kayla when she was in her brace to give her a bath. If you’re done with that shower chair, you take that to Katie’s closet and then somebody else can come and grab it all kinds of stuff.
It’s a, it’s a really, it’s a great organization called Katie’s closet.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for mentioning. We’ll be sure to include Kate’s closet in our show notes so that if anybody is curious or interested in learning more about what they do, that they can find that. So grandpa, I’m wondering from your perspective, what has this journey looked like during the last 12 years since Caitlin’s arrival?
Allen Lynch: I think a couple of things. Kaitlin came right at the time where Mary Francis was cancer was getting pretty bad and we didn’t know how we were going to get through all this. I mean, you know, one family losing a mom Caitlyn’s born special needs. We’re, we’re spending a lot of time going up to the hospital and when she was hospitalized and we’re watching her, you know, so Kelly and Brian could.
Get out of the house occasionally and go to work and whatever. So we got very close. I got especially close to Caitlin because Susan was working. So I would go up during the week to relieve Kelly. So she’d go home and get a shower when Kevin was in the hospital. So I held her a lot and they called me the bouncy grandpa.
Cause I hold her and I’d bounce, you know? So we have a, we have a thing. In fact, thank God it worked out right. But. Caitlin walked to me first and there’s a video of it. And then she walked to Kelly and I was like, dear God, quit. But Katelyn has this, this whole, she has this way of making your bad days.
Good. There is not a time that I’ve, we’ve watched her, that we haven’t been. Really tired, but spend the next week on all that can and you’ll see what you do. I watched her about three, four weeks ago. I went up, I was watching her and here she is, she’s laying on the couch. She has her iPad in one hand, manipulating it with one hand.
She has the TV in the other hand, I mean the channel on the TV and doing them both at the same time, I can’t do that. And occasionally she does this thing where she, she gets, you could just see the little gray cells working is like, how can I, how can I get over on somebody? So she she’ll go up to the other room and we’ll be watching TV and having a conversation or whatever.
All of a sudden you hear there’s the loud volume of Elmo and it’s, I’m not getting enough attention. So I’m going to get some. So she’s just, she’s an amazing kid. She’s just an amazing kid. She has just her own personality. I, I know that that people that have met her that have just said, okay, she, she just makes me feel good.
She’s one of those kids.
Brian Lynch: Yeah. She’s, that’s just the kind of students like she, she went round and play with people and give people hugs and make them feel better than she would. A toy or anything like that.
Allen Lynch: She’s just a really, there there’s the, uh, Kaylin, the bile will be sitting on the porch. And she’ll decide she wants to go in and play in the bedroom while she has to go around and kiss everybody goodbye and give them a hug.
David Hirsch: I love that. Um, I think you mentioned, and I just want to be clear about this. Is she nonverbal?
Brian Lynch: Well, she’s got about 50 signs and she’s got mama, dad, a grandma, grandpa school. Go. And then she uses, um, a software on her iPad called Proloquo to go where she will point to pictures and it’ll see for her, but she does sentence structure and she knows her colors or numbers.
And I’m barely, barely convinced that she can read. Uh, it’s like a new development. I’m pretty sure she can read, but that’s not proven yet.
Allen Lynch: She makes herself known what she want, what she knows. She knows what she wants and she knows how to get it in no uncertain terms.
David Hirsch: And I know I have a, an explanation.
You probably know this for why she can do things with the remote control and an iPad simultaneously. It’s very simple. She’s a digital native. That’s all people her age. No is digital things.
Allen Lynch: Yes. Get work through to get a 14 year old,
Brian Lynch: help me figure this out.
David Hirsch: So, um, I’d like to spend just a moment, uh, talking about, uh, your book L the title of which is zero to hero.
Brian Lynch: This is the life
Allen Lynch: story of Al Lynch in his own words and American hero. Who is now one of only 72 living
David Hirsch: medal of honor recipients.
Allen Lynch: This is the, the story of a man whose life came into sharp focus. When in a deadly firefight in Vietnam, he rushed in to rescue three wounded soldiers in no man’s land. He was Hearst to leave the wounded
Brian Lynch: and
Allen Lynch: returned to a safe position, but Al Lynch, huge to retreat in order to stay with
Brian Lynch: his men by the writing of
Allen Lynch: zero to hero, Al
David Hirsch: shows us
Brian Lynch: the stuff of which heroes are
Allen Lynch: made.
David Hirsch: I’m wondering if you can give us sort of the backstory, because it’s really like a autobiography, isn’t it?
Allen Lynch: Yeah.
David Hirsch: You came from some pretty humble beginnings, like you had mentioned, but I’m wondering if you can share with our listening audience, what that story is all about.
Allen Lynch: Well, it’s just about growing up.
I was bullied pretty bad when I was in grade school and then a little bit in high school, but by the time I got to high school, my self image was so bad. I didn’t have any, you know, I was just basically this guy, I just want him to be left alone. Just let me graduate high school. I don’t want to go to pro in fact, he didn’t go to prom.
I wasn’t in any clubs, so I just wanted to be done. And I was pretty much pushed under writing that I really didn’t want to write it. But I had a number of my friends tell me that I really need to, you know, write this book because it’s very important that the kids that are getting bullied and going through bad times need to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel in being a medal of honor recipient, going to Vietnam, suffering, post traumatic stress disorder and all of that kind of thing, kind of.
Push that point. I decided to write, it took me about a year and a half to actually get it done. But when I started doing it, I wanted to tell kids that teenager in grade school and high school is just a chapter as is college. Your life is made up of chapters. You never know what that first chapter that you have were, how that’s going to set you up for the next chapter.
Of your life and then dealing with PTSD. I wanted people to know that you can, you can fight the dragon. You can defeat the dragon. You may have to fight. I don’t like I do every day. It’s about, you can, you can win and you can keep winning. And if you lose today, there’s tomorrow that you can refine it. The one thing I wanted to make clear on there too is you have to have faith in something bigger than yourself.
For me, my belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ is my savior that has carried me through all the worst times in my life. And it was even when I was doing things I’m not very proud of. I was doing there was that background of faith that, that brought me through it.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. Um, I’ve read the book.
I think it’s an amazing journey that you’ve been on and there’s some real important lessons takeaways for lots of different audiences. So thanks for taking the time to put those thoughts into writing. And I know that for a number of years now, you’ve also been doing work in something called the Alan J.
Lynch foundation. And I’m wondering, what’s the backstory on that? Who are you serving and how can somebody get involved?
Allen Lynch: We’re um, working with other veteran organizations, such as Naperville response for veterans Lake County response for veterans, um, the all women’s our flight. And what we want to do is, is raise money to give to veterans organizations that provide a difference and make a difference in veterans lives.
David Hirsch: Yeah, well, um, I know that you’ve done some great work and you’re changing people’s lives. So I’m thinking about advice now, and I’m wondering if there are any important takeaways that come to mind and I’m going to let you go first, Brian, you know, from a father’s perspective about raising a child with, um, uh, differences,
Brian Lynch: I would say don’t be afraid to put your marriage first.
Cause if that’s on Rocky footing, you know that that’s gonna ultimately impact the child. Don’t, don’t be afraid to do a little bit of self care. Um, one thing I’ve. I heard this somewhere, but like when you’re sailing, you have one hand for the ship and one hand for yourself. And I’ve had to have conversations with my wife where it’s like, you don’t, you don’t have a hand on for yourself.
You’re. I mean, you’re doing everything you can for our kid, which is great. And that’s amazing. And that what’s made that’s what makes you a great mom, but if you are so exhausted at the end of the day that you can’t. You know, take care of her anymore. You get sick, ultimately that doesn’t help her. So you’ve, you’ve got to keep it your self in mind, to a certain extent.
I think most parents have that innate self sacrifice for their kids. Like I think the advice that I would give, give any new parent that has a special needs child is, is. You’re going to feel like you can, or you want to self-sacrifice and that’s a good thing. I’m not really worried about parents who are maybe going to neglect that child, but don’t neglect yourself and don’t neglect your marriage because those two things are gonna that’s.
What’s really going to give you that longevity to really care for that child over a long period of time. And that’s what, that’s what it’s going to require. We’re constantly thinking about what is Caitlin’s going to, life’s going to be like when we’re not here. You know, so we’re saving financially. We’re planning where we have a trust set up for her.
We’ve done a lot of those financial things and, you know, we’ve, you know, while we might feel antisocial at times because it’s, it’s a lot and you’re exhausted at the end of the day, we force ourselves to get together with friends because if God forbid something were to happen, To us, you know, that, that community, that group of friends, family, they’re the ones who are going to be here to help Kayla move on with her life.
And so I think self care taking care of the marriage. And then focusing on that community that you build up around you and having faith in something that is probably the best advice I could provide.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well of wisdom. Um, thank you for sharing. I think of the importance of, um, your marriage and taking care of yourself as foundational, right.
And if you’re not paying attention to the foundation, That, uh, the other stuff is in jeopardy. So, uh, well said, how about from your perspective, bill, any pearls of wisdom from a grandfather’s perspective on. How you can be present and, uh, any advice that you would offer.
Allen Lynch: Yeah. I, I think, you know, to just amplify what, what Brian said.
I think the thing that impressed me with, with Brian and Kelly throughout the years was I’ll never forget the many, many men. She was still a baby. It was Kaitlin joined our life. We didn’t join hers. And I think the idea was is that we’re together. She’s part of us now, but we don’t stop living because we have a special needs kid.
And I think that’s actually benefited Katelyn quite a bit because there’s this amazing socialization that went on with Caitlin that she wasn’t, that kid that you know, was sitting over there on the chair. She was that kid that was active. What was involved in, was doing things and was going and, you know, and I think that’s made her an amazing kid.
Brian Lynch: No, she’s not shy any.
Allen Lynch: Oh, no, no, no.
David Hirsch: So I’m sort of curious to know why each of you as agreed to be a mentor father as part of the special father’s network.
Brian Lynch: I want to help people. I mean, and I have a unique set of skills. It’s hard to be a special needs, dad. I mean, if I can give back, that’d be great.
Allen Lynch: It’s the same thing.
It’s, it’s all about giving back. It’s about helping other people, you know, we’re all, we’ve heard thousands of times over the last few weeks, we’re all in this together. And we really are, so one of us can help with something. We said, assault somebody else through the dark night. That’s a good thing.
David Hirsch: Yeah, for sure.
Well, we’re thrilled to have you thank you for being part of this Special Fathers Network out of curiosity. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Brian Lynch: No, just thank you for the time. Really appreciate the opportunity to share our story. And we’re really close. I love my dad and he’s my hero.
Um, these mobility could not have, uh, could not have asked for better parents. My mom and dad had been amazing parents and a huge support for what you know, my wife and I have had to go through with our daughter and, uh, Jalen loves her grandparents. So thank you for the time.
Allen Lynch: Know in the, in the, and it’s all about, it’s all about family.
It’s all about you. Don’t got. Two great sons. I’ve got a wonderful daughter. Uh, I’ve got some great grandkids and, you know, family gets you through a lot of hard times.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thank you for sharing. So if somebody wants to learn more about the LNJ Lynch foundation, get a copy of your book. Contact you or Brian, what’s the best way about going and do that?
Allen Lynch: They can go to the AJLynchfoundation.org. It saw we have our own webpage. We’ve got a Facebook page and the book is available on Amazon. And through the press for military library and museum in Chicago,
Brian Lynch: I wrote the first review on Amazon in your book.
Allen Lynch: Thank you.
Brian Lynch: Yes, he did. And I gave it three stars.
Allen Lynch: Give the floor.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I think I wrote a review and a, not to outdo you Brian, but I’m pretty sure I gave him five stars
Allen Lynch: much.
Brian Lynch: Uh, email’s the best way to get ahold of me.
David Hirsch: Okay. I’ll include that in the show notes then as well, Brian and Al thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Brian and Al are just two dads who are part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs.
If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the special fathers network dad to dad podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know.
The 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3, not for profit organization, which it means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concerned, please consider making a tax deductible donation. I would really appreciate your support. Please also post a review on iTunes, share the podcast with family and friends and subscribe.
So you get a reminder when each new episode is produced, Brian and Al. Thanks again.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation.
It’s a great way for fathers to support fathers, go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help for we’d like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com groups and search dad to dad.
Also please be sure to register for the Special Fathers Network, biweekly zoom calls held on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories. If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to David at 21stcenturydads.org.
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Thanks for listening.