Colleen is no longer with us but she left a lasting impression with me. The Meegans have been family friends for about 35 yrs. Way back I worked at United Cerebral Palsy Association and I had the honor of helping to care for Colleen.
Our daughter Colleen had a rough start in life. At birth we knew something was not quite right and at about one month of age she was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. She experienced severe jackknife seizures on a daily basis and thus began a lifetime regimen of prescription combinations trying to get them under control. It was clear early on that she wasn't meeting milestones and began attending an early childhood education program. It was a Godsend for us. As young parents of a "handicapped" child we didn't know where to turn for help.
It was the caring staff and parents of other disabled children who steered us toward the professional help we so desperately needed. One suggestion was our saving grace, Shriner's Hospital For Children. We first went to a clinic offered by the local Shriner's Organization in our area where they identified a definite need and benefit their program could provide. Colleen had many issues including scoliosis, a curvature of the spine as well as Cerebral Palsy, which affected her muscle tone and ability to stand and walk. Her "regular" doctors offered no hope and relayed their opinions to us. We weren't willing to give up that easily and neither was Shriner's. Colleen was fitted with a body brace and leg braces which needed to be replaced as she grew. Although, she never did walk she was afforded the opportunity to "stand up" enabling her to use her hands freely, to sit up straight and manipulate her toys. She was cared for, and cared about.She was treated like every other child and given the same opportunities as "normal" children. Our experience prior to Shriner's was one of disappointment and heartache. We were met by wall after wall of professionals offering medical opinions; "she can't, she won't ever, and don't get your hopes up"- a general lack of care and compassion. Colleen was a guinea pig/failure. At Shriner's she was a person, a unique individual with emotions and feelings, one with special needs but no less a person. On one occasion, when Colleen had been hospitalized there I returned from a brace shoe fitting to find her sitting up in her wheelchair with all the other children watching a movie! Not once during any of her numerous hospital stays elsewhere had she EVER been included in any "normal" activities with other kids. It brought such joy to my heart. At Shriner's, Colleen wasn't disabled just differently abled and was treated the same as every child. It must be a requirement to have a kind heart. Colleen continued to be seen at Shriner's Hospital For Children her entire life and not once did we receive a bill or phone call asking for money. One hundred percent of her medical needs were covered but more importantly one hundred percent of their time, energy, knowledge and emotional support was shown to us, our daughter and the entire family throughout Colleen's short life. Shriner's Hospital For Children was our bright light of hope and faith.