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Adoptive parents of three children with disabilities
‘pay forward’ durable medical equipment to others in their community
Nine years ago, Becky Huffman and her husband Lonnie, who have two sons of their own, Leland, 20, and Tyler, 14, began Life Two as foster parents of children with disabilities. That selfless dedication evolved into their adoption of Skyler, 10; Angela, 7 and Shyla, 5.
“We went through special training and began fostering kids with disabilities because I know what it takes to care for them,” says Becky Huffman, a clinic and private duty nurse who lives with her husband Lonnie in Mountain View, Missouri. “And while Lonnie isn’t a medical professional, he loves and cares from them equally,” she emphasizes.
The Huffman’s oldest adopted son, Skyler, was 16 months old when they began caring for him. Skyler had been neglected. The couple got him the medical attention he needed to see, hear and move. A genetic disorder that causes weakness and tendon shortening requires him to wear ankle-foot orthoses on his feet.
Angela, their second adopted child, was born with a rare heart condition; Angela’s mother died of an overdose. She came to the Huffmans through the encouragement of one of Becky Huffman’s long-term patients – encouragement that would never have been possible without the patient’s use of a sophisticated communications device.
Before the Huffman’s care of Skyler, Angela and Shyla occupied their days, Becky was a private duty in-home nurse to 27-year-old Samantha B., who has spina muscular atrophy. “I cared for Samantha from babyhood to her high school graduation. Lonnie and I became very close to her, taking her to the park and to music events,” Becky Huffman relates.
Becky Huffman helped Samantha’s family obtain an eye gaze communications system that enabled Samantha to “talk” by capturing her eye movements to a screen-based keypad to text.
“One day, while caring for Samantha, I got a call from the Missouri Department of Family Services (DFS). They wanted me and Lonnie to take in Angela, who was then three months old. “As I was speaking with DFS about Angela, Samantha began to talk to me through her eye gaze system. Samantha said, ‘You need to go get her.’ “
Angela gradually learned to walk thanks to the doll-sized walkers and orthotics that the Huffmans obtained for her. She now walks unaided.
Five-year-old Shyla, the Huffman’s third adopted child, receives unconditional love, essential therapy, mobility and alternative communications equipment under their care.
“Getting Shyla, who has cerebral palsy, was a bit overwhelming at first,” says Becky Huffman. “Shyla and her twin sister were born prematurely at 26 weeks. Shyla’s sister died at birth.
Shyla’s lungs were undeveloped. She required resuscitation at birth, which precipitated a brain bleed. When she came to our home at nine months, Shyla had been in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She couldn’t hear. The biological mother’s neglect and refusal to administer oxygen and medication were causing Shyla to have dystonia seizures. Lonnie initially had doubts about our ability to care for her. Then DFS, which by then had custody of Shyla, told us she had nowhere else to go.”
Once settled into the Huffman’s home, Shyla would sense the unique timber of Lonnie’s footsteps coming into her room, then wiggle and squirm with delight for his arrival. “Lonnie has totally bonded with Shyla: ‘No one is taking my little girl,’ he says!” Becky Huffman smiles.
Becky Huffman’s long-time patient and friend Samantha B. shares a special bond with her daughters Shyla and Angela: “I take our girls to Samantha’s home to visit. And the nurse who now cares for Samantha has come to our home to help us care for Shyla,” she says.
Like Samantha, Shyla requires augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technology. When Samantha was a young girl in the 1990s, Becky Huffman took classes on how to program the Dynavox communications system Samantha was then using.
While Shyla initially used Samantha’s older-generation Dynavox device, the Huffmans knew she required a newer-technology eye gaze (pupil tracking) system that would accommodate her unintentional movements. The Huffmans are now working with St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s therapy services to program and test several eye gaze device options, choose the best device for Shyla’s needs, then receive ongoing support to use it effectively.
In their search for durable medical equipment for Shyla and others in their community, the Huffmans discovered the LittleWins Facebook page and website. I thought “Yeah! – this is something we have needed all along!” Becky Huffman relates.
Becky Huffman created an account on LittleWins and found what she thought would be the perfect size gait trainer for Shyla. Once it arrived and the Huffmans tested it, however, they realized the gait trainer was too short to provide the trunk and head control Shyla required.
Unfazed, Huffman ‘paid it forward’ by donating the trainer, along with an adaptive stroller she owned, to Kelsey, a working-outside-the-home mom in their community whose stepdaughter Jaydalynn has Rett syndrome.
As she continues to message the LittleWins community in search of a larger gait trainer, Becky Huffman is encouraged by the variety of durable medical equipment that is constantly being posted to the company’s website. Becky’s sharing of LittleWins as a DME resource on Facebook has generated inquiries from others searching for DME for their children.
“We often look for used DME in our own states through yard sales or local not-for-profit organizations. But LittleWins is taking the act of donating, selling and exchanging used DME to a whole new national level,” Becky Huffman says.
“We’ve seen people let equipment sit unused in their storage areas – or just throw it away. What a waste! When that happens, it’s worthless to the kids who really need it.”
Becky Huffman notes similar challenges for families who need high-tech augmentative and alternative communications technology for their kids.
“Medicaid and/or private insurance can cover some or all of the cost for these communications systems. Other organizations have equipment available for loan but require the users to return the device after the loan period. Sometimes families are on a long waiting list. These devices are essential to help so many kids express their wants and desires – to have a true voice in the world.”
“I encourage anyone who needs durable medical equipment or alternative/augmentative communications equipment for a child – or has equipment to donate or sell – to join the LittleWins community,” Becky Huffman emphasizes. Catch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiswd4mojw8
Whether you’re buying, selling or donating medical equipment and supplies, LittleWins.com brings families together to give kids the tools they need to thrive. Members of the LittleWins community can post and search equipment listings, connect and chat with other parents and caregivers. Since our marketplace is person to person, there’s no need for insurance. We’re changing perceptions and enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. Join LittleWins.com and start connecting!