In Sickness and in Health / by Annemie Tonken

This spring marked the third year in a row that I've done family portraits for Karinda and Jason. Their two boys - Elijah and Ezra - are almost exactly a year ahead of my own boys, and it's been so fun each year to get a glimpse of what's in store for me the following year; watching them grow from a shy little boy and his immobile baby brother into big boys... playmates. Raleigh Family PhotographerRaleigh Family Photographer

This year, though, was a little bit different. We scheduled our annual shoot back in March, but in mid-April, just a few weeks before our shoot, two and a half year-old Ezra got sick. Then he got sicker. I kept tabs on Facebook as he was admitted to the hospital with temperatures up in the wow-you-do-NOT-want-to-see-that-number-on-the-thermometer range. After six long days of fevers that wouldn't break, he was finally diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, a rare childhood illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Not much is known about Kawasaki - what causes it or how to prevent it - and though most children recover from the initial disease, it does have the potential to damage the coronary arteries, and is the leading cause of heart disease in children. Ezra was discharged from the hospital on Easter Sunday, and though they'll be watching his heart very closely for years to come, he's through the woods and quickly getting back to his normal, high-energy, all boy self.

Raleigh Family PhotographerRaleigh Family Photographer

At one point during our shoot, Ezra got tired, so Elijah and I took some time together while Ezra rested with his mom and dad. To distract him from the camera and get him to be more himself (six year-olds are pretty over-the-top with the "say cheese" smile!), I asked Eli what it was like when his little brother was in the hospital. He got really quiet, looked at me with these extraordinary brown eyes, and said, simply, "Lonely."

Raleigh Family PhotographerRaleigh Family Photographer

Our shoot was scheduled for the day before Mother's Day. Given Ezra's recovery and all the associated craziness, I wasn't at all surprised when Karinda called suggesting that she might want to postpone. Ultimately, though, we went through with it, and I'm so glad we did: not only was it a gorgeous day, but I couldn't think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the holiday for a mother whose family had just been through so much.

Raleigh Family Photographer

Raleigh Family Photographer

Raleigh Family Photographer

Jason and Karinda, thank you so much for letting me help you document your gorgeous family, year after year. As a photographer, there's nothing more satisfying than helping people preserve the many stages of their lives, since the little changes quickly add up and sometimes big change happens when we least expect it. I hope this last session in particular always reminds you of how lucky you are to have each other... for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. :D

Raleigh Family Photographer

Raleigh Family Photographer

Raleigh Family Photographer

xox,

annemie

P.S. If anyone reading this is interested in learning more about Kawasaki Disease, or is willing to donate to the research being done to help find a way to diagnose it more quickly, please visit the Kawasaki Disease Foundation... Little Ezra says a big thank you!