Overcoming Obstacles Together
Katrena and Joel Card were triply blessed in one fell swoop. Their firstborn children Avery, Riley and Natalie who are triplets were born four years ago. As is the case with all siblings, they have their own unique personalities. “Natalie is a firecracker. A force to be reckoned with,” said Katrena adding that she is sweet and helpful. “Riley is a bookworm…She likes her independence for sure. She is a loving and affectionate little girl. And Avery is our comedian. He is hilarious and wise beyond his years…He is very sensitive and very sweet.” What they share, Katrena said, is the determination to become independent. This will serve them well as all three children have cerebral palsy.
“I knew early on that I was going to have triplets. Life became a little bit crazy,” said Katrena. The children were born 13 weeks premature. They remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for three months, and when discharged were at high risk for illness. “We were pretty isolated for the first year or so. Then when they were eight months old, I found out I was pregnant again. That made things a little crazier,” Katrena said. The family was blessed a fourth time at the birth of Jesse. “He’s fine. He is a typical two and a half year old. He’s a joy.”
During their first year, Natalie and Riley seemed to be developing, while Avery was showing some delays. Katrena who is a physical therapist said they knew that something wasn’t quite right with Avery. After two long years he was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
When the girls became mobile it was clear that they too had physical impairment. “They fall a lot, run into things, and grab anything and everything for support,” she said. Subsequently the girls were diagnosed with a different form of cerebral palsy. The girls wear braces on their feet due to their poor coordination. Avery, who has more restricted mobility, uses a wheelchair.
About two years ago, Katrena learned of the Center for Independence Through Conductive Education in Countryside. Founded in 1998 by the family of a young man with cerebral palsy, the Center for Independence helps children with physical disabilities gain physical independence. Although the location and logistics presented an almost insurmountable challenge, the Cards decided to investigate. “We decided to visit the Center because the kids were aging out of their early intervention program. I was impressed with the program and compassion of the staff,” said Katrena. They enrolled in a summer session and saw enough progress that they knew they’d have to make the regular school year program work into their schedule. “I quit my full-time job at Edward Hospital and went part time with the school district for greater flexibility.”
In the time since they started, the girls have gained a tremendous amount of independence and Avery has increased head control and strength. “He is also wanting to try everything that everyone else does. That’s the biggest change and it comes with their own set of challenges,” said Katrena.
As the children continue to make progress, Katrena and Joel expect their kids will continue to accomplish great things in the future. “There are plenty of very brilliant successful people in the world that don’t have full use of their bodies but overcome obstacles and make amazing contributions,” said Katrena.
-Wendy Foster, Features Writer