Fighting for What’s Best: Natalie’s Caregiving Story
Caregiver: Natalie G.
She’s caring for: Her nine children, two of which were born with cerebral palsy
Best tip for other caregivers: You have to go through every emotion, accept it, and keep going.
A Mother’s Determination
Natalie Gomez was pregnant with twins when her doctor informed her the babies were facing complications. She was presented with two options: induce early labor or wait until they were closer to term, which had its own associated risks. “I cried once and then decided I was going to do whatever it took to fight for them,” says Natalie, mother of nine.
Her girls were born premature and shortly after were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscles, movement, and balance. Natalie admits she wasn’t fully aware of the full scope of caregiving, especially when caring for children with a condition. But she quickly conquered the learning curve and created a routine that benefited her entire family.
The twins learned to walk with assistance, and over time Natalie began to encourage them to do everything kids their age could do. “I never let them use their condition as an excuse,” she says. “They may need some more time or assistance to do something, but I don’t want them to feel as though they’re limited.”
Although cerebral palsy isn’t a progressive disease, meaning it doesn’t get worse over time, as the twins grew, their muscles didn’t, which affected their ability to walk. A doctor told Natalie that surgery could help them maintain their mobility but was dismissive of moving forward with the procedure, stating that the girls would end up in wheelchairs at some point anyway.
“I wanted them to have a shot at having a better quality of life,” recalls Natalie. She sought advice from a care team – from physical therapists to other doctors and even family members – to ensure she made the best decision for her girls and advocated on their behalf to get the surgery. Thanks to her relentless pursuit of what is best for her children, her twins successfully underwent reconstructive leg surgery.
Road to Recovery
The recovery journey lasted around two months, and the girls could not bear any weight during that time to encourage healing. “We had to carry them everywhere,” says Natalie. “We used portable assistive devices to get around the house, especially to get them to the bathroom.” As a result, every task took twice as long while they recovered, from bathing to mealtimes. At the same time, Natalie cared for her other seven children and ensured their physical and emotional needs were met.
Once healed, the twins began physical therapy to strengthen their legs and get them back to walking. After nine months of treatment, they regained the ability to walk using walkers. Natalie was thrilled to see them take back their independence and do everything that every 14-year-old looks forward to.
It Takes a Village
Although Natalie bore most of the responsibility of caring for her recovering twins and the rest of her family, she credits her support system with getting them through rough moments. Friends and family offered them help so that Natalie could manage her time more efficiently and provided her with the emotional support she needed.
“It’s important to find resources,” she urges other caregivers. Medical professionals will share information, and it can be overwhelming. She advises caregivers to ask as many questions as they need to fully understand the medical situation, potential treatments, and risks.
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