By Heidi Ballinger
My husband and I had two beautiful children, Jordan and Brianna. We decided to finish up our family with a third child, Blake. On January 26, 2002 an induction was scheduled for the delivery of our bundle of joy. Little did we know that everything would go wrong in the blink of an eye. My uterus ruptured and Blake went without oxygen for quite some time. Our little bundle had to fight to survive after he was delivered by emergency caesarian.
Blake suffered multiple seizures and was sedated to control them. As the days passed, the doctor discovered he had no gag or swallow reflex, so he could not drink from a bottle like a typical baby. The doctor had to insert a feeding tube through his nose so Blake could receive his nutritional feedings. The nurses had to suction his saliva so he wouldn’t aspirate and cause pneumonia in his lungs. Blake became stable so he was transferred to Children’s Hospital.
At Children’s, Blake was scheduled for stomach surgery. The surgeons had to perform a procedure so food and drink could go down if he were to gain control of his suck and swallow, but nothing could come back up to avoid aspiration. While in surgery, the doctors removed the tube from his nose and inserted a permanent tube into his tummy for feedings. The surgery was performed on Valentine’s Day and went well.
Blake went through many tests while in the hospital. The doctors visited us with the results from the tests. The results weren’t good. Blake was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). With global damage to his brain, we knew we had a long road ahead of us. Without hesitation, we were going to help our baby in every way possible.
We took Blake home with multiple pieces of equipment. It was a scary ride being on our own with him, but we made it. When we got him home, we immediately started looking for ways to help him. We enrolled Blake in early intervention, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
We never heard our baby cry until the first appointment we had for early intervention. We stopped at a stop light, and he started whaling! It was music to our ears. We laughed, and we cried…it was amazing!
With many goals to reach, Blake had an intense therapy schedule to hold. Blake started speech therapy at age one to help stimulate his sucking and swallowing reflex. When Blake was two, we started looking into alternative therapies. Equine assisted therapy was the alternative therapy of choice. Even though it was expensive, we knew he needed it, and he would benefit from it. We put in a pool for Blake’s water therapies and relaxation. Home modifications were in the planning process for his future. Blake started school on time at age five at Heritage Elementary School. He continued his therapies while in school reaching for the goals set for him.
We lost Blake at age 7 on January 30, 2009. The funeral and burial was a hard thing to swallow, not to mention a huge expense. Because of his special needs, insurance companies would not cover him. We were responsible for all of it on our own. WOAA will help support families going through this hardship.
My husband and I witnessed the benefits of the therapies and different pieces of medical equipment for Blake. We understand what is involved with having a child with special needs and the cost to give them the best quality of life. Our hearts are full of passion and drive to help families with children who have special needs here in the Marion community.