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Medical Day Care Give Parents Break, Peace Of Mind

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Children with special needs often require care around the clock. In most families, it means one parent stays at home all the time.

A pilot program in Raleigh is giving parents a break and opening up a whole new world to their children.

Elizabeth Ibikunle spent the first year of her daughter Danielle's life caring for her around the clock. Danielle was born with only her lower brain stem intact and needs constant breathing treatments.

"They told us she would go blind and deaf. They told us we would probably never see a smile," Ibikunle said.

Thanks to the state's first medical day-care center called Tender Healthcare, Ibikunle has a job and is watching her daughter flourish.

"If it weren't for this day care and these amazing people, she would probably be hospitalized right now and I would probably be waiting for the day," she said.

The medical day-care center was the brainchild of Crystal Bledsoe, the parent of two boys who both have serious medical problems.

"The parents, they come up and hug you and tell you thank you and what a difference you've made in their life," Bledsoe said. "The fact that they have a life that they didn't have for so long, you know you did something worthwhile."

Parents said this program not only gives them a break, but gives their children a chance to interact with others in a way they have never done before.

Nurse Amy Jens is the center director. She said nurses keep the children safe so they can learn and have fun.

"If a child goes into respiratory distress, we're able to take the steps to get them out of respiratory distress. It doesn't have to end up in a hospital visit every single time. Once we pull them out and we know they're safe again, they can start playing again," Jens said.

After all, playing is what being a kid is all about.

So far the program is at no cost to parents who are already dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. It is being funded by $100,000 in state money, $350,000 in federal money and private donations.


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