Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent
It’s beautiful to see how my little girl, Addie, comes to life when she’s in the water. No longer is she quadriplegic; the buoyancy of the water encourages her movement. The heaviness of the water provides a blanket of deep pressure. Her arms and legs move effortlessly; her disabilities cease to exist.
She has very little neck and trunk control and it’s difficult to position her, so the water has become quite dangerous. She gets so frustrated because she wants to swim with the other children, but without the proper support, it is just not possible.
A couple weeks ago, I found an ingenious life-jacket system online. The special neck-stabilizing collar and trunk support was exactly what Addie needed. It was perfect, until I saw the price. For low, low cost of only $425 plus shipping, this life-jacket could be ours.
$425 for a life jacket – are you kidding?! I asked my ECHO case manager if insurance would cover it, but they won’t. I realized quickly that we could never afford this life jacket. I posted a link on Facebook just so my friends and family could see how ridiculously expensive special needs equipment truly is. I wanted to show the price that our special needs families have to pay for everyday items and how easy it is to take these things for granted.
My family was shocked at the costs for the simplest of items, but my fellow special needs friends knew and understood.
What happened next, I still cannot believe. An incredibly kind woman that our family has met several times sent me an email saying she saw my post and she wanted to make a donation to the life jacket because Addie deserved to swim with her friends. Humbled, all I could do was sit and cry.
The next day, we met with Addie’s wonderful aide from school and her equally wonderful parents. We talked all about Addie’s strengths, accomplishments, and goals for the future, while she enchanted them with her beautiful smile and laughter. My friend’s father said to me, “You are a special needs mom and you give gifts to your children every single day. Now it’s time for you to receive a gift,” as he handed me a donation to put toward the expensive life-jacket. I broke down in tears.
How can two separate people that I have known only for a short time, be so generous? Although I felt so inadequate in receiving such wonderful gifts, I knew that the door to possibilities had opened for Addie.
The jacket was ordered and arrived last week. As soon as she was in the water, Addie began kicking and paddling with her arms. Her laughter was infectious. It was the most magical moment! As I let her go to float on her own, Addie turned to me and smiled, and then, by herself, she paddled over to her big sister. Emily backed up further and said, “Come here Addie, swim to me.” And she did. She got her little arms and legs going and she swam! She floats and glides effortlessly. She is my little ballerina in the water.
The new life-jacket is changing Addie’s life; every day she is getting stronger and stronger. She no longer sits on the sidelines while others have fun, now can now swim with her friends.
The kindness and generosity shown to us will live in my heart forever. The donations may have been to purchase the life-jacket, but it was life-changing in so many other ways. I was reminded that people are caring and good. As I etch the precious moments in my mind watching Addie swim, I will always remember the thoughtfulness and compassion that brought those moments to life.
Watch the awesome video of Addie swimming here!
Wendy McCoy Kruse is the CEO of Military Special Needs Network. She lives in sunny San Diego, CA with her Sailor and is a full-time mother of two: her 9-year old daughter Emily; and her 6-year old daughter Addie, who has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, deafness, blindness, non-verbal Autism, scoliosis, and a long list of other labels. Wendy is a member of the Southwest Region EFMP Committee and the 2013 Military Spouse of the Year for Naval Base Coronado. She frequently speaks to groups both large and small about advocacy and the ups and downs of being a military family living in the special needs world.
In her former life, Wendy was a Business Manager, Financial Planner, and high school prom queen. She has a PhD from the school of Special Needs Experience, and specializes in advocacy and general ass-kicking. Although she seems to be extremely busy, she wants to assure you that she creates plenty of time to play Candy Crush and watch very bad reality television.
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