Parents Honor Son with Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Touching Permanent Tribute

Parents Honor Son with Spinal Muscular Atrophy with Touching Permanent Tribute

One of the most difficult obstacles a person can go through is the loss of their child. Losing a child at any age is traumatic, but to lose a child whose life has not even started to begin is even more heartbreaking.

Gloria and Steve Kimmel of Indiana know this pain far too well. On July 31, 2015, their son Isaac Kimmel passed away from spinal muscular atrophy at just 14 months old. Left with a tremendous emotional wound, they found an unexpected way to both unify them as parents, but more importantly, to beautifully honor their son: tattoos. Each parent had an individual angel wing tattooed on their back so that when the tattoos are placed together, the tattoos create a stunning pair of angel wings that represent their son, Isaac.

“He was half of each of us, so we each had one of his wings to hold us,” Gloria, 29, told PEOPLE in an interview. “He was the angel that was holding us together when we were so lost without him. The tattoos are a reminder that he is always with us in spirit.”

In 2014, Gloria and Steve heard one of the worst things that parents can hear about their infant: he was sick. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) type 1, known as Werdnig-Hoffman disease, the doctors told the tearful parents that SMA type 1 results in muscle weakness, distressed breathing, and a loss of lower motor neurons in the spinal cord and the brain stem. Simple things, like crying loudly, swallowing, and sucking become daunting tasks for the 1 in 10,000 infants worldwide who are diagnosed with this disease. Sadly, most of them do not live past two due to respiratory failure.

“To be living in 2014 and have medical professionals tell you to take your son home and love him, as there was nothing they could do, is just beyond comprehension,” Gloria explained in the interview with PEOPLE. Neither she nor her husband Steve had even heard about this disease before Isaac was diagnosed with it, but in this day and age, it is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the idea of hearing that there was no cure. How can a world that exhibits medical and research breakthroughs regularly have no cure to save Isaac Kimmel?

This tragic news was crushing, but Gloria and Steve made sure to enjoy every moment with their son. “The helpless feeling that you know your child is on borrowed time and there isn’t anything you can do about it is paralyzing,” Gloria recounted. “Every moment becomes so precious, we never took anything for granted, and lived our lives with our baby boy filled with as much love and happiness as we could.” She explained that this involved a pretty busy schedule of going to the beach, going camping, and spending large amounts of time together.

Photo source: People