Corum is a stay-at-home dad to 13-month-old Jackson, who was born with severe medical problems. He’s also pursuing a nursing career at Columbia College so he can provide for his family and take care of his son.
Balancing classwork, his other children and taking care of Jackson has made “every day a struggle,” according to Corum. But he said that the stress and pressure is turning him into a better person.
“For what I’m learning from it, I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he said.
Jackson was born in May 2011 to Corum and his wife, April, who works as a lab scientist at Sonora Regional Medical Center. He was delivered about three weeks early by emergency C-section.
“We had no idea of the complications when we were pregnant,” Corum said. “He was born at Sonora Regional and wasn’t breathing.”
An ambulance took Jackson to the Modesto airport, and he was then flown to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.
Jackson spent 10 weeks there but still couldn’t breathe on his own, so he underwent surgery to receive a permanent breathing tube. He spent the following 10 months at the Children’s Recovery Center in Campbell, south of San Jose.
At that time, Corum was taking prerequisite classes for the nursing program at Columbia College.
“He would finish class on Thursdays and then drive down to Palo Alto or San Jose to be with us, and then go home on Sundays,” April Corum recalled. “Saying goodbye on Sunday was really tough.”
Corum, an Air Force veteran, knew he wanted to study nursing long before Jackson was born. He started the prerequisite classes in January 2011.
He had tried going back to school on four separate occasions but dropped out. This time, Jackson and his other children have helped him keep his motivation.
“I really had to focus on every day saying, ‘I’m doing this for my family. I’m doing this for my son,’” Corum said.
He said that his classes have already helped him understand more about Jackson’s challenges. In addition to respiratory problems, he has epilepsy and brain damage that may have been caused by oxygen deprivation at birth.
He is in a wheelchair, on a ventilator at all times and has a feeding tube.
The Corums met their goal to bring Jackson home before his first birthday. He’s been with them in Twain Harte for about five weeks.
Doctors don’t yet know what’s causing Jackson’s respiratory problems, but the answer may come when he gets older.
“We have to get over that we don’t have a reason for it or answer about what it is specifically,” Corum said. “...When you have a child, medically fragile, who’s dependent on machines to live, all you can do is take it one day at a time.”
Corum and his wife described Jackson as “sweet” and “happy” in spite of his medical problems.
“We play with him, we talk to him, we snuggle with him and kiss him and he’s all smiles,” Corum said.
Corum has a 9-year-old daughter, Carly, from a previous marriage. April Corum also has a son, 11-year-old Tyler, from an earlier marriage.
She said that Corum has been a great father to Tyler, who he’s in the process of adopting. He sets aside time for activities for just the two of them every day — ping-pong, being outside, or tinkering in the garage.
“Tyler counts on that time,” April Corum said. “He looks forward to it every day, where it’s just one-on-one time with him and his dad.”
Corum finished his prerequisite classes for nursing this spring and will apply to the nursing program at Columbia College over the summer. Until then, state benefits will make it possible for him to be a stay-at-home dad.
“The challenge is getting over the feeling that what you’re doing isn’t a normal job,” he said. “...It’s about reminding myself every day that what I’m doing is important, even though I’m not building a building or working in the paying world.”
April and Royce Corum married in May 2009 but knew each other in Sonora as children. April Corum said that her husband is father material in part because he recognizes his own fallibility.
“Royce isn’t perfect,” she said. “He has days when his temper is short. But he is aware when things like that happen and he always makes amends. … I think that’s something that makes him a good dad, that he is willing to see his own shortcomings and make them better.”
The Corums are remodeling a house near Phoenix Lake and will move there soon. They plan to spend Father’s Day with their extended family in Sonora.
“I would say having Jackson makes us appreciate Father’s Day even more,” April Corum said. “Just because Jackson is alive makes Father’s Day that much sweeter.”