Abby Makes Headlines
- Hi Everyone
I offered to post this article for Ani. Good job Abby....What a beautiful daughter and son you have Ani.
Spartanburg Herald Journal
Area families meet challenges head-on, with hope
KIM KIMZEY, For County Line News
Published November 14, 2005
Ani Vinson was 21 weeks pregnant when her "whole world caved in."
She and her husband Gregg drove to the doctor's office for an ultrasound, eager to learn if they were expecting a boy or girl.
The ultrasound revealed the child's sex, as well as potential problems. More tests were ordered before a doctor informed the Vinsons their unborn daughter had a rare muscle disease called Amyoplasia and that she probably would not live past birth.
The Vinsons were counseled on every available option including abortion. Ani said abortion was something they would have never considered.
"I had to give my daughter a chance," she said.
The Vinsons named their daughter Abby. Now 3, she basically has no muscle mass. Amyoplasia has left her with clubbed feet and her shoulders, arms and hands rotate inward.
Abby's condition requires extensive therapy. Yet despite her limitations, she still manages to play with her younger brother Aiden.
"She's my life," Ani said. "She's our miracle child."
After Abby's birth, Ani said she learned to swallow her pride and ask for help. Pride is just one of many sacrifices she has made.
"We are a low-income family, only because I had to quit work. I had no choice. My daughter needed all this therapy," she said. "You just have to put your career and your education on the backburner."
Like other parents who have children with special needs, Ani meets the challenges head-on with hope.
Blind, physically fragile and unable to talk, Lee Poole has many medical problems. But his mother Lynn doesn't dwell on them.
She cradles Lee, 23, on her lap as if he were an infant and coos over his sweet smile as she discusses the joy he has brought her.
"He's got the sweetest personality to have been through all he's been through," she said. "When he smiles he just lights up. Your heart just melts."
John and Lynn Poole had been married three years when they decided to start a family.
Lee was born three months premature. He suffered a massive brain hemorrhage when he was just 2-days-old that caused his heart to stop and lungs to collapse.
"He was at death's door for about two or three days," Lynn remembered.
Lee remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for six weeks. Remarkably, he was released from the hospital early, but doctors' held little hope he would survive.
"There was no long-term prognosis," John said.
It was a difficult time for the family. Lynn's second pregnancy left her bedridden, John switched jobs, and the family moved to a neighborhood where they knew no one. Lee survived but continued to physically struggle.
The massive brain hemorrhage and subsequent complications destroyed many of his brain cells.
One of the most difficult decisions the family had to make was the call to insert a feeding tube into his stomach when he was only 11.
"That was in some ways to us almost like giving up," John admitted. "We were trying to make him as normal as we could make him. While we wanted him to be able to continue to eat normally, he was struggling and losing weight that wasn't fair to him."
They have felt completely overwhelmed at times.
Lynn said they have learned to cope "one day at a time" by focusing on the positive.
"A lot of people look at us and ask, 'How do you do what you do?' I don't know anything else. This is life and that's ok," Lynn said.
"We've gained so much by having Lee in our lives," John said. "So has our other son Brad. He is a really special kid and a lot of that, I think, is because of having a brother like Lee."
John and Lynn said Brad is compassionate and determined to help others. "Since he was 6-years-old, he has wanted to be a doctor," Lynn said. Now a chemistry major at Davidson College, they said Brad might just develop a medication that could save lives.
Lee's influence extends beyond his family circle.
"He's had such a huge impact on everybody that's ever been in contact with him, in such a special, sweet way. God has a special purpose for him," Lynn said.
She often counsels mothers who have learned their children have special needs. One of the first things she tells them is "it's ok to be angry."
"The child you expect to have is not the child that you get," she said. "There is a grieving process that you have to go through."
Many parents with special needs children say their biggest fear is considering what the future holds for their children. Will they ever be independent? Will a sibling take care of them or will they be placed in a group home?
Sarah Cohen has two sons with autism.
Adam, 10, functions at the level of a 2-year-old.
Sarah wondered how she would ever cope when she learned their was a possibility her youngest son Steven could be autistic too.
She was lying in bed with her husband Mark one night when she realized, "We'll just take it one day at a time--like we already do. We won't love him less. We won't do anything different. This baby is going to come, and what comes with him will come as it may."
Sarah said other parents often tell her they don't know how she manages to care for two autistic children.
"If this were your child, you would just deal with it," she said. "You don't have a choice."
While Sarah dreams her oldest son David will go to college, find a rewarding career and marry, her dreams for Adam are different.
"Our goal for him is to be able to live independently--probably in a supervised situation, maybe come home and live on the weekends. I don't know if that will happen. He may be dependent on others for the rest of his life," Sarah said.
Adam's future "terrifies" his mother.
"It upsets me because he didn't ask for this. Nobody does. We certainly didn't," she said.
The near future can be as worrisome as the distant.
Mary Kendrick's 6-year-old son could lapse into a seizure or need emergency surgery at any time.
"One minute, Nicholas is perfectly fine. The next minute, we're on our way to the hospital," she said.
Nicholas has undergone 19 brain surgeries. Now he's working on getting out of his wheelchair.
Her son's resilient spirit gives Kendrick hope.
Nicholas is just beginning to stand on his own.
"He stands there for three seconds--but those three seconds are like three hours to me. That is a huge, huge step," Kendrick said.
Holman Cleveland Gossett III doesn't go by Holman. He prefers Cleveland instead.
It's just one of the many ways the 26-year-old asserts his independence and his parents Holman and Dianne couldn't be prouder. They are committed to helping their sons achieve independence.
Cleveland and his brother Matthew, 23, have Fragile X Syndrome--the most common cause of genetically inherited mental impairment.
Their condition has not kept them from leading productive lives. They work, volunteer, and though they still live with their parents, Dianne said they help ensure the household runs smoothly.
Cleveland has worked since he was 17. Today, he helps in the kitchen at Mobile Meals of Spartanburg.
Once he finishes work, he walks to his father's law firm and helps out anyway he can. Cleveland also volunteers with Miracle League.
Matthew has worked at McDonald's for three years. Owner Kurt Nitzsche said he's a good employee, one who can always be depended upon to show up to work on time with a positive attitude.
Matthew volunteers at the soup kitchen downtown on his days off and makes elaborate wreaths for fun.
He started making and selling wreaths five years ago. Today, he has his own business cards.
Both Cleveland and Matthew astonish Dianne with their memory.
A movie buff who loves classic films, Cleveland never forgets the names of celebrities, while Matthew never forgets a date. "He's got a calendar in his head," joked Dianne.
She and Holman strive to keep their sons involved in constructive activities.
"We just depend on the Lord everyday and we know he has a perfect plan," she said. "Our normal is just not the same normal as everybody else."
Sarah Cohen and many other parents said the small achievements become victorious milestones.
A couple weeks ago, she asked Adam for a kiss after she tucked him in.
"He was lying on his back and he just ever so slightly raised his head to my face and I kissed him on the forehead." She asked for another kiss, and Adam raised his forehead to her lips again. Now it's a nightly ritual--Adam's way of telling his mother goodnight without words.
"These children are people first," John Poole said. "Yes, they're different. But there are lots of differences in people. They're different, but they're special."
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