Ethan's Story

Just three years ago, at age 15, Ethan watched his life fall apart around him.

His dreams of growing up with his parents by his side and going off to college disappeared the moment his mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Ethan thought his world had been destroyed.

“I was running through my head that it was a dream. It couldn’t have been real,” Ethan recalled. “Up to that day, it was the worst day of my life.”

Doctors were almost certain Ethan’s mom, Christine, wouldn’t survive. If she did, they said she’d never walk again. But Christine beat the odds and did both. It didn’t take long before Ethan quickly learned the meaning of responsibility as he and his father became Christine’s caregivers.

On a cold winter day, a year and a half after his mother’s stroke, Ethan was faced with more devastating news. His father had colon cancer. As time progressed, the cancer spread to his liver and progressed to stage four. He was given a 25 percent chance of survival. A year later, he passed away.

“That’s when my whole world tore apart,” Ethan said.

The day of his father’s funeral, Ethan moved out of his childhood home and in with the family of a classmate from Bishop DuBourg High School. Despite wanting to be his mother’s sole provider and caregiver, Ethan was faced with the harsh reality, that at only 18, he couldn’t. Thankfully, someone was there to help alleviate the emotional and financial burden Ethan carried.

DuBourg House, an assisted living center under Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, became Christine’s new home. Because of United Way support, DuBourg House is able to provide assisted living for seniors and those in need, like Christine, at a significantly lowered rate as compared to other centers.

Since the transition, DuBourg House has given Christine freedom. She’s provided the 24-hour daily care she needs, has many friends, partakes in activities and can come and go as she pleases.

“She has total freedom,” Ethan said with a smile. “Everyone’s nice and she’s taken care of there. She seems happy, and that’s all that matters.”

At the end of many school days, Ethan visits his mother at DuBourg House which is within walking distance from his school. He enjoys showing up unexpectedly and seeing the smile it brings to her face.

“If it wasn’t for United Way funding Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, I wouldn’t be able to go away to school to pursue my dreams and become what I’ve always wanted to become,” Ethan said.

With peace of mind that his mother is in good hands, Ethan will be attending Truman State University this fall with close to a full-ride scholarship. He plans to study creative writing and directing. Once he’s finished with college, Ethan promised his mother he’ll return to St. Louis to be by her side.

Although it will be difficult leaving his mother, Ethan knows she supports his decision and wants to see him excel.

“I know my mom’s really proud of me,” Ethan said with a smile. “She tells me every single day, and I can tell by the way she talks to people about me.”

“I’m proud of him,” Christine said. “He is everything in my heart.”

Watch Ethan's Story

About Cardinal Ritter Senior Services

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services provides programs, facilities and services designed to meet the needs of senior adults across a continuum of care with choices and opportunities. They provide social service programs, independent housing and assisted living facilities, volunteer opportunities and assistance for seniors. Cardinal Ritter Senior Services has been a United Way funded agency since 1966.