-By Jennifer Hawn
If you have never been to, or heard of Ranken Jordan, it is a magical place. It is not the kind of magic produced by wands or fairy dust. For children and families like ours, it is a place where no challenge is too great and all children are accepted. Abilities of every kind are celebrated, even though the simplest of tasks may require a team of individuals to accomplish. It is a place for families to find comfort, respite and understanding. Some may temporarily call Ranken Jordan home in the inpatient unit, or visit frequently throughout the week for outpatient therapy. This magical place makes dreams come true every day. Dreams that parents are afraid to dream when their child is suddenly labeled “different” from the rest. Charlotte, our daughter, has experienced some of the magic that Ranken Jordan has to offer. This is her story.
Charlotte Ann Hawn was born on September 24, 2006, following a pregnancy laden with fear and concern. She was 6 weeks premature, fighting for her life in her fragile 3 lb. body. As delicate as she seemed, Charlotte had a determined spirit within her that was just beginning to shine.
A few days after birth, she was given the diagnosis of Cerebellar Hypoplasia. In short, the main part of the brain that controls balance & coordination was absent… missing… gone. We also discovered she had a congenital heart defect, spinal defect, poor growth, and crossed eyes. A “genetic fluke” was the only explanation as to why Charlotte was so devastatingly affected throughout her body. Charlotte’s doctors couldn’t tell us what her future looked like, and as her parents, hearing those words was like popping the biggest bubble you could imagine. What we didn’t know then was that she had a future full of physical and occupational therapy. This is how we found Ranken Jordan, a family of people ready to lead us through the unknown.
Charlotte’s first services at Ranken Jordan were July 23, 2008. She had already spent most of her life receiving Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and Nutritional support through the Missouri First Steps Program in our home. Prior to our services at Ranken Jordan, Charlotte used a reverse walker for stability and had already made great progress, but we wanted so much more for her. Ranken Jordan was the first outpatient facility that we had been referred to and it infinitely exceeded our expectations.
Charlotte began aquatic therapy with Heather Wilson when she was almost 2 years old. The task at hand was to help Charlotte learn “balance” and give her muscles the input, strength and coordination that she would need to learn to do basic things in life, such as walking, stepping, jumping, standing still, etc. The list was endless and daunting. How do you teach “balance”? something you and I take for granted daily. We certainly didn’t know how, but Heather did. It was quickly evident that aquatic therapy was exactly what Charlotte needed. The water provided resistance and support simultaneously and allowed her to feel her spatial presence and strengthen her muscles. Each week, we spent one day in the water, and one day in the therapy gym, helping teach Charlotte balance, fine, and gross motor skills. I was amazed at Heather’s creativity in choosing tasks for Charlotte to practice, and I loved how much we were involved in her therapy sessions. Although it was hard seeing Charlotte struggle so much, therapy at Ranken Jordan became something we all looked forward to each week. Over time, our baby steps of progress turned into accomplishment, and with each goal met, a new one was created. Heather helped keep us pointed in the right direction and made us feel that no goal was too great.
When Charlotte turned 3 years old, she began walking independently for brief periods of time. Because she was making so much progress at Ranken Jordan, we adjusted Charlotte’s schedule to accommodate an hour of Physical Therapy as well. Jamie Kocher began seeing Charlotte and she met us with the same positive, “Don’t take no for an answer” attitude that Heather had. We worked together through failure and triumph, and our obstacles were always met with solutions. Our therapists, Heather and Jamie, became our friends. They greeted Charlotte with warm smiles and heartfelt hugs. They wept with us on days that were difficult and celebrated each tiny bit of progress that Charlotte made. Our relationship with them was professional, but sincere, and their loving care was palpable. Our heartfelt thanks will never be enough to help them understand what they have done for our family. They gave us hope and shared our dream that someday Charlotte would walk, even run into our arms, write her name, feed herself, ride a bike, dance like a ballerina; and they worked each day to make those dreams a reality. From scooter board rolling, playing with putty, yoga in the water, trampoline jumping, stair stepping, balance board dollhouse playing, weighted bike riding, self spoon feeding, we took advantage of much that Ranken Jordan had to offer. We are blessed to say today that Charlotte has accomplished so many of her goals and we credit many of them to the amazing experience we had at Ranken Jordan.
Jamie and Heather gave us the confidence we needed to help our little girl succeed. Without Ranken Jordan and the support from many of the therapists and staff that work there, Charlotte’s story may have had a different outcome. She has a long way to go, but because of Ranken Jordan, we have already come so far. Charlotte is just one of many children that receive services there. Ranken Jordan is a catalyst for some of life’s greatest gifts. There is no doubting that our time there has certainly changed our lives forever and made dreams come true that we were afraid to dream. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
Today, Charlotte is 7 ½ years old. She just completed 1st grade independently in a mainstream classroom and needs minimal assistance outside the classroom. She is reading above her level for her age, and made tremendous progress with her handwriting this year. Charlotte performed in her 3rd dance recital in May with many of her friends and family in the crowd cheering her on. Charlotte has earned every applause we can give her and the people at Ranken Jordan deserve ten times more.
Please help support Ranken Jordan so that they can continue to help other children with complex medical needs. They have done tremendous work to help Charlotte reach her potential, and if you purchase a shirt from VIVE, $5.55 will be donated to Ranken Jordan to ensure their services can continue for other deserving children. To learn more about Ranken Jordan, please visit http://www.rankenjordan.org/