An awesome little dude leaves a family blessed

January 20, 1991|By Suzanne Wooton

He was, as his older brothers used to say, a totally radical, awesome little dude.

He was born with holes in his heart and a malformed brain. For much of his life, little Adam Hubbard lived tethered to a maze of medical equipment -- the oxygen tanks, the feeding tubes, the heart monitor in his Fallston home.

Nobody really gave Adam much of a chance, not even his mother, who measured his progress in light-years while others saw only glimmers of hope.

For Carmen Hubbard, each day was a gift.

"I can't worry about whether he's going to die tomorrow, whether he's going to stop breathing or his heart will stop. I have no control over that," Mrs. Hubbard said two years ago in a series in The Sun about Adam and other children whose lives depend on medical technology.

"I do have control," she said, "over how happy I make him every day."

For three years, three months and six days, Carmen Hubbard did just that, until he died while in surgery at John Hopkins Hospital last week.

There were countless times, she slept by his crib to stir him a little when he was congested or to add formula to the bag that dripped food into his stomach. Times that Mrs. Hubbard, a single mother, rushed home from the grocery store, terrified of finding an ambulance in the driveway. Times that she took away from her other sons, Kris and Shawn, missing their Little League baseball games or a school event.

But Adam's deep brown eyes, his constant smile gave back all she needed in return.

And there was real progress.

The emergency trips to the hospital -- including one by helicopter -- tapered off. Months passed without major surgery.

His constant wheezing to clear his tiny airways nearly vanished. He rarely needed the oxygen tube that was once taped under his nose constantly.

Gradually, the mini-intensive care unit in their Cape Cod home gave way to a bouncing toddler's room.

Adam grew -- ultimately, to 37 1/2 inches tall and 32 pounds -- but he still needed the feeding tube to deliver liquid food to his stomach.

Mrs. Hubbard and her older boys, Kris, 11, and Shawn, 8, placed his fingers gently on their throats, hoping to help him learn the swallowing motions. Someday, they hoped, Adam would eat pizza with his brothers.

For Christmas 1989 -- two months after his second birthday -- he took his first steps. Months later, he was darting around the house, romping with Kris and Shawn and learning to do somersaults.

"He wanted to be with his brothers more than anyone," Mrs. Hubbard said.

He could draw stick figures better than any normal kid his age. And, unable to speak, he was learning his ABCs in sign language.

He stayed out of the hospital for months -- until last July, when surgeons tried unsuccessfully to remove a membrane that blocked the aortic valve in his heart.

The operation was rescheduled for December, then postponed again until last week.

"I took him in. Everything looked great. He was in good condition. I last saw him Sunday night, still smiling, his arms wrapped around Bert," his Sesame Street doll, Mrs. Hubbard said.

But too much scar tissue from previous surgeries surrounded Adam's tiny heart. Doctors couldn't remove the membrane; they couldn't replace the valve. He died on Monday.

She never expected to see him reach 21, Mrs. Hubbard once said. "My goal is to see him reach his potential, whatever that might be, for however long I have him."

For Carmen Hubbard, her youngest child achieved that goal.

"Adam touched lives and showed the world how wonderful even a short little life can be," she said Friday evening, a few hours after his funeral where she read a poem she wrote.

"He was God's little shining star," his mother said. "I am going to have so many wonderful memories."

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