I’ve been asked to write about my daughter “L” and the help she has received from Easter Seals Greater Houston. My daughter “L” was born premature, anywhere from six to eight weeks early. “L” had a low Apgar score at birth, needed assistance with her breathing, and spent eleven days in the special care nursery at the hospital before being discharged. “L” seemed healthy until her six month checkup, when we first heard a doctor say the term “cerebral palsy”. At 14 months old, a MRI confirmed the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. “L” began physical and occupational therapy in Tucson at 15 months old. We moved back to Houston in 2009 with “L” still getting therapy. In December 2010, “L” had her first seizure and was officially diagnosed with epilepsy in February 2011. In May 2011, with both my wife and I working full-time, our family income was now too high for “L” to receive benefits through SSI. Without the accompanying Medicaid benefits that came with SSI, “L” had to stop her therapy. The place where “L” was receiving therapy only took Medicaid; they would not accept my private insurance. Not knowing what to do next, a Google search brought up Easter Seals Greater Houston. Easter Seals Greater Houston said they did indeed offer therapy and did take private insurance. The Easter Seals staff helped us get “L” Medicaid benefits through the Texas Medicaid Buy-In for Children program. That form of Medicaid lasted only a year, because our income is now too high for that program’s income limit. So starting in November 2012, we’ve been getting therapy only using our private insurance. One of the reasons we started “L” getting therapy at Easter Seals was she could keep getting therapy from them even if her Medicaid benefits stopped.
When “L” started physical therapy in the summer of 2011 at Easter Seals, she had only been walking for a year. By walking, I mean she could walk maybe across a room without grabbing onto something for support. “L” still used crutches, held someone’s hand or used walls and furniture to walk longer distances. “L” was able to start therapy at Easter Seals twice a week. Eventually we were able to get “L” a time slot for occupational therapy right before her physical therapy, so now she gets both types of therapy twice a week. Her physical therapist Melissa and her occupational therapist Monica have been a blessing and are having a huge impact on “L”’s life.
The progress “L” has made at Easter Seals has been astounding. I see “L” everyday, so I know this progress doesn’t happen overnight. I tell people that “L”’s progress is a miracle that happens just a little bit each day. To others though, who aren’t around “L” on a daily basis, her progress can seem like it happened overnight. “L” during her first year of therapy at Easter Seals went from needing crutches and assistance in walking long distances, to being able to walk the entire school hallway on her own. I noticed this last summer when I was getting “L” from Sunday school, that she was playing tag with the other kids in the school library. Now of course she wasn’t moving as fast as the other kids, but I noticed for the first time her moving in one direction, stopping and turning to start moving in another direction and doing so without grabbing onto anything for support. It’s moments like that when I remember; this girl didn’t walk across a room without the aid of a walker or crutches until she was 6 years old.
“L” started 2nd grade this fall, and Friday in PE class is Lap Day. That is the day the kids walk laps around the ball field. The PE teacher tells me eight laps around the ball field equals one mile. “L” started out the school year in August being able to finish two laps. By October the PE teacher said “L” was doing four laps, or half a mile. “L” would soon have the opportunity to participate in the Fun Run/Buddy Field Day fund-raiser for the Athletics Department at her school. The event was held during school the last Thursday in October. The PE teacher encouraged “L” to do more than four laps. Well “L” went out there that day and did eight laps, a full mile. My wife and I couldn’t be there that day, but there were a lot of parents there volunteering during the event. The church’s Trunks and Treat festival was the next evening. My wife and I kept being told by people how amazed they were at how far “L” had walked on her own. At a Halloween party later that night, the dad of one of the other girls in “L”’s 2nd grade class started crying as he told me how moved he was watching “L” walk a mile on her own that day. People at the church and school saw “L” arrive for Kindergarten barely able to get around with a walker, and now they see her able to walk a mile on her own as a 2nd grader. Walkers and crutches are in the past for “L”. We still have a wheelchair for when we go to the mall or the zoo, and the next goal is to make the wheelchair a thing of the past for “L”. Melissa, her Easter Seals physical therapist is the guide to making this progress happen.
The occupational therapy “L” receives at Easter Seals has helped her fine tune her motor skills. She continues to improve with her ability to dress herself. Getting clothes on and off is becoming easier for her. Her handwriting has improved and now she is even attempting to do cursive writing. Her latest achievement is being able to tie the laces on her shoes. I knew something was up one night when I arrived home from work. “L” was sitting there in the big chair with the biggest smile on her face. She had just arrived home herself from her therapy sessions. She proceeded to sit there and tie her shoelaces into a perfect knot. Yes it took three attempts, but the third time was the charm. I gave that girl the biggest hug. When “L” was a toddler, all she could do is move her fingers in unison like she was doing a waving motion. Now at age of eight she is tying her shoes. Without occupational therapy and Monica, her Easter Seals occupational therapist, “L” wouldn’t be able to tie her shoelaces.
Another great thing Easter Seals has done for “L” is be the sponsor for Camp Smiles held at Camp for All near Burton, TX. “L” got to go to camp for the first time last summer. “L” absolutely loved camp. She loved the fact the camp was setup so she, and other children like her, could have fun. On the way home from camp she asked me if should could go back next year. That camp and all the fun those children have there doesn’t happen without the help and hard work of the people at Easter Seals Greater Houston.
Easter Seals is there for “L”. I get emails from Easter Seals where they make you aware of legislation that affects the benefits and rights of the disabled. Easter Seals is out there fighting for the rights of people like “L”. They are out there, reminding our elected officials that money spent on kids like “L” is not wasted money. I look at how far “L” has come since she first started therapy. Money spent on these kids early, when they are still developing will give them a better chance at a normal adult life. The more normal an adult life they have, the less money they’ll need from government resources as an adult. In the business world, Return on Investment is what the executives are always worried about. Let me tell you, the Return on Investment on the monetary resources that have gone towards helping “L” is off the charts. All you have to do is look at where “L” started in 2005 and where she is now in 2013. Easter Seals gets this idea, and is out there fighting for the needs of disabled children.
I thank God all the time for helping me find the kind people at Easter Seals Greater Houston. They are there for “L”. They are there to answer my questions. They are there to help fight and provide a voice for the disabled in Washington DC and elsewhere. They are there everyday, making Houston and the surrounding area a better place to live.