We Can Help

I am a Nanna to 13 grandchildren, and a mother to nine (now grown).  Sadly, four of our children experienced the trauma of TWO of their siblings passing away during the year when the twins were three, and the older two were six and seven years old.  David and Priscilla, ages 5 years and 34 days left us suddenly.  It was three days after Christmas when David stopped breathing. It was six months later, June 17, when the Angels came and took Priscilla from my arms in that NICU room.

It was the worst of times.  There were nights filled with nightmares where screams filled the house followed by little feet running to mommy’s bed, begging, “Just go dig her up mommy!”

As children of the baby boom (still in our 20’s), their father and I had been raised to “power through it.”  As Christians we were trained to say, “I am fine, how are you?”  Expressions of struggle, tears, dysfunction, and tragedy were some of the taboos of our generation.  Our Dads were veterans of Viet Nam. Never having benefited from therapy to dismantle our own traumatic childhoods, we did not cope well. 

We needed help.

The surviving children needed something we just did not have for ourselves, much less have to extend to them . . . emotional intelligence, grief counseling, emotional support, age-appropriate explanations. 

We needed help.

It all began in 1985, the first years of HMO’S when many medical needs for severely disabled children were not covered . . . and when there was a lifetime maximum on each of our work policies of one million dollars.  Preexisting conditions were excluded for new employees and their dependents. We couldn’t get new insurance.

We both worked.  I quit my management job at an entrepreneurial design firm to work on the night shift in the laminate factory for the union pay and benefits.  He found a 2nd shift job as a guard in the State Penitentiary.  We took care of David during our off shift and slept when the other came home to take their care shift.  We made too much money together to get state assistance, in spite of the fact that David was profoundly disabled.  We had to purchase feeding tubes, gauzes, and needles for his phenobarbital out of our own pockets.  Often, we didn’t have enough money for rent after the medical supplies. 

We needed help.

I have often wondered since then why it isn’t more beneficial for State and Federal Medicare programs to pay parents who are willing to take care of their own disabled children rather than put them in special needs foster homes, or even worse, to put them in state hospitals.  If a child goes into the system, the State will pay professionals to manage them, why not pay parents in both medical needs and supplemental income at the same rate they would pay a similar foster home?

We can help.

Why wouldn’t states adopt policies that allow other children in homes with disabled siblings to attend head start, or other respite care programs so that they can have some “normal” experience that focuses on their learning and emotional needs for part of the day?  Wouldn’t such programs be less expensive than juvenile detention, adult detention, drug rehabilitation, disability payments, that is likely to be paid out to dysfunctional adults as these children in need of support grow? 

We can help.

Why wouldn’t we as communities (regardless of politics) see the benefit in an “ounce of prevention” to care for medical needs, psychological support, and trauma care?  Why wouldn’t we as Christians help children in such situations if we could do it collectively with just a few tax dollars . . . fewer than the current systems cost?

We can help.

I’m thinking of my (then) little children, who now grown often still struggle with trauma and grief and their long-term impacts.  I’m thinking of how current war events will impact a generation of littles who are fleeing their homes and loved ones right now.  I’m thinking of little ones in Rwanda who are orphaned because of the genocide.  I’m thinking of children in our foster care systems.  I’m thinking of little innocents all over the world, many of whom may be coming to our communities to take refuge right here at home. Our actions can benefit our own and other children in need.

If we believe that children are created in the Image of God, then isn’t it imperative that we tend to their needs, no matter where they come from?

We can help

We must help.

By Doc Courage

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