Supporting a life-long journey to independence

Hi, my name is Sara Pettengill and the birth of my second child was life-changing for my family.

Finding out we were expecting our second child was exciting; however, when our Isabel arrived nine weeks early I didn’t know what to expect for my unborn child. She appeared to be a beautiful, 4-pound 3-ounce baby. It wasn’t until several days after the delivery that we were told about our new bundle of joy.

She had sustained an injury in her brain, causing a risk for cerebral palsy. The doctors couldn’t be sure of anything, and told us that only time would tell what the effects of Isabel’s brain injury will have on her mobility, predominantly her legs.

At eight months she began to have infantile spasms, which are seizures. From this point forward her mobility began to fall behind those of other normally developing children. As her mother I knew what I had to do: quit my job to give her the best possible start. We began therapies, making specialist appointments and staying on top of her every developmental step.

Isabel required ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs) just before the age of two to help her muscles stretch to allow all the muscles to work together to support her with independent walking. During this time we met our first Kora Shrine member at a local event.

He approached us because he saw that Isabel struggled to walk with support. At that time I thanked the man but never followed up. I felt Shriner’s was for families with limited income or for children with severe problems. As Isabel’s mother I felt that we were okay financially and that her problems were less severe than some children.

As things became financially more challenging for our family, I felt hopeless, but as her mother, I refused to stop any treatment due to our financial problems. That’s when my mom reminded me of the gentleman who had approached us the previous year so I reached out to a member of Kora Shrine.

I figured it couldn’t hurt, and I am so glad that I did.

I spoke with the most kind, gentle and understanding individual, Tim Luttrell. He contacted me directly, listened to my troubles, and then simply said, “We can help.”

Within one month, Isabel had new AFOs and a walker. Tim even contacted me at the hospital to ensure Isabel’s needs had been met. I had never experienced such a program where children’s help was so easy to access.

And it’s doesn’t matter what income bracket you are in. Be it rich or poor, it is all about the excellence of care and caring for our children. Kora Shriners and their work clearly are a blessing to our family.

When we finally met Tim at the Ride-In event hosted by Kora, our family was warmly welcomed to the event. Each Kora member seemed to know Isabel without ever having met her.

At one point Isabel and our other daughter Mya were each given a teddy bear. Isabel called hers Tim Teddy; it melted my heart.

We know that Isabel’s disability is lifelong and we will go through challenges, but having the support from our local Shrine members makes facing those challenges ahead more manageable.

Isabel may not remember these days, however I will not let her forget who has helped her along her journey to independence. We cannot thank them enough for their support, now and in the future.

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