HELP THE CAMPBELLS

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This is an article that I wrote for the Chester Spirit Newspaper. It’s the story about Chester residents Helen and Earl Campbell and their lives raising their grandchildren, Darren (10) & Da’Miyah (13) who both suffer from spastic cerebral palsy. They need help and things are complicated. Please read the article below:

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THE CAMPBELLS

What happens when a labor of love is constantly checkmated by policy and procedure? Chester residents Helen & Earl Campbell can tell you. At the ages of 71 (Earl) and 68 (Helen), the two Chester residents are faced with the task of caring for their grandchildren, Da’Miyah (13) and Darren (10), who suffer from spastic cerebral palsy, the most common form of CP, characterized by limited movement due to tight muscle groups. In Da’Miyah and and Darren’s case, both are virtually immobile, eat through feeding tubes and suffer from seizure disorders as well. Darren is also partially blind, hard of hearing and has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, a condition where one stops breathing for significant periods of time while asleep.

The children abruptly came into the care of the Campbells after a series of  unfortunate events. First, the day after Mother’s Day in 2009, the children’s father was found dead when the family tried to wake him up for work. Shortly after, the children’s mother lost interest in caring for the children. She failed to pay the utility bills on their home and the Campbell’s took the children in after the electricity (a necessity for their array of medical equipment) was cut off. The following morning, a social worker showed up at the Campbell’s home to check on the children and to notify the grandparents that the children’s mother was taken into custody after a man delivering supplies to the house smelled marijuana and found the children’s living quarters in unlivable conditions. After a meeting between the social worker, the grandparents and the children’s mother, it was decided that the grandparents would take the proper steps to take custody of the children after their mother expressed that she didn’t have the desire to care for them. “She said she ‘had a life’ and the children were hindering her from what she had to do,” said Helen Campbell. Until the children’s special hospital beds were delivered to the house,  they slept in their grandparents’ bed with Helen stretched across the foot and Earl sleeping in the back room.

Imagine raising a child wheel chair stricken child in a non-handicap accessible house. It would be a challenge just moving the child from their room to outdoors for school in the morning. Multiply that by two and you have the plight of the Campbells. Every day, the children have to be carried down the narrow, steep staircase with Helen and Earl holding them under their arms and by the ankles to their wheelchairs. From there, the wheelchairs have to be moved onto the porch and down the front steps to their school bus (that they take to CADES George Crothers Memorial School in Swarthmore) or the community transit bus to Dupont Hospital for Children, a sit that they frequent at least twice a week sometimes having to go at separate times due to scheduling conflicts. To go to church around the corner at First Penecostal Holy Church, the wheelchairs are loaded onto the Campbell’s son’s pickup truck and the children are loaded into the Campbell’s car. Da’Miyah requires extra support due to her inability to sit up straight. “[Church] is as far as I can take them,” says Mrs. Campbell. “I can’t take them anywhere else because [Da’Miyah] would be on the floor in the back,” she continued as Da’Miyah laughed in amusement at the predicament. The task of moving them has been made even harder since Earl, who is a diabetic, sprained his ankle and has to wear a boot. Also, as a result of having to move the wheelchairs in such a way, they hit the steps and curb, causing them to need frequent repairs. On to  of that, the grandparents must keep track of a litany of medications and treatments that the children need. When ambulance workers came to house one time, they warned the Campbells about the dangers that they’ll face should there be a fire at the house. “If a fire broke out in here, because of where they’re located in the back, we could never get them out of here safely,” said Mrs. Campbell.

Of the experience, Mrs. Campbell says, “It was really, really hard. At one point, I thought I was going to lose my mind, because it was really over whelming and it just happened so fast.” She continued, “[Although they were prepared] we made ourselves for them. We adjust our house, we do what we have to do to make room.” The Campbells are given a break overnight when a nurse comes in to watch the children for 12 hours to monitor their feeding tubes, oxygen machines, monitors and treatments.

Aside from the difficulties, he Campbells take joy in caring for their grandchildren. Darren loves to swim and is affectionate. Mrs Campbell describes him as, “The type of baby that just want you to love on him all the time.” According to her grandparents, Da’Miyah is a “happy-go-lucky little girl” that loves to laugh, attend church (especially to watch the praise dancers) and sing. With her grandmother, they made a song called ‘Jesus, This is Da’Miyah’ which, though unintelligible verbally, she sings at the top of her lungs. At CADES, therapists are working with Darren to rotate his head, which he habitually rests leaning to the right. Da’Miyah is trying to develop her communication skills with a Dynavox EyeMax device, a technology that uses eye gazes to communicate. On this device, words, phrases and pictures are preprogrammed onto a screen and when the user locks their gaze on a certain part, it is communicated through an audio component. However, the device can only be used when attached to her wheelchair, which she can’t use much in the house.

The Campbells are looking to make even more adjustments to their home, mainly having an addition and ramp built onto the back of their home for easier entry and exit from the house as well as space for a new bathroom and bedroom for the children there so they can stay in their wheelchairs longer. However, after having a contractor come and analyze the area, it was estimated that it would cost $21,200 to do so, an amount the Campbells can’t afford. On top of that. the couple has been looking into getting a handicap van and after shopping around, the cheapest they could find was $30,000 with high mileage on it.

With assistance from members of the church, a letter writing campaign has started and letters along with pictures of a smiling Da’Miyah and Darren have been sent and are being sent to various people, organizations and businesses. First Pentecostal member, Faith Hallman has been helping the Campbells in their efforts. “[The Campbells] are remarkable,” said Hallman. “You can see the love pouring out of them.” In addition to the letter writing campaign, the Campbells plan on holding their first fundraiser at First Pentecostal (324 Pusey St.) on July 15th at 4 PM to help raise the $50-60,000+ need to make the renovations and purchase a van. “I think that if we can just get that help with the van and the back, I think we’ll be alright,” said Mrs. Campbell. “Everything else will fall into place.” Mr. Campbell added, “It’s rough. Any help would be greatly appreciated.” Hallman expressed, “This is one of the times for us to come together as a community. A lot of people said they want to help and this is the time to give back.”

In an attempt to just find out what resources were available and some direction, Mrs. Campbell spent a day downtown on a fruitless mission to get information on aid and resources from various government office. Susan Proulx, of the Delaware County Office of Intellectual Disability, says that’s there is little to nothing that her office or others can do fo a situation like the Campbells’. According to Proulx, concerning the renovations and van,  the office is only permitted to fund adaptations to existing homes/vehicles. Furthermore, she says that the office sent contractors to come evaluate the home for renovations and it was found that the house would not meet code for any additions. Mrs. Campbell contends that the contractor sent from the office only inspected the front of the house and the back was approved. Proulx said, “[The Office of Intellectual Disability] is here to ensure a good quality of life for the Campbell family.” Remorsefully, Proulx added, “I feel for them. They try to do their best for the kids and I give them all the credit in the world.” The Campbells and the Office of Intellectual Disability are scheduled to meet again in August.

Proulx also expressed that the Office of Intellectual Disabilities is also looking for outside help from concerned residents and/ or organizations in the community who may be able to help the restrained office.

The back of the house the Campbells hope to get renovated

The front of the Campbells’ home.

ImageDarren & Dami’yah’s equipment

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Darren & Dami’yah’s room

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The staircase the Campbells have to carry the kids down.

Only time will tell what will come of the Campbells’ predicament. Some may say that this is the Campbells’ decision to care for Da’Miyah and Darren and they are thusly responsible for everything that comes with it. To Helen, as the childrens’ grandparents, they have no other choice. This mentality is the mindset of many Black grandparents who have historically stepped up to the plate to care for their grandchildren when their children can’t. “That’s what Black people do. We just make room for each other even if we have to put down blankets and sleep on the floor,” said Mrs. Campbell. “That’s just the way we’re brought up. You don’t leave family on the outside. You always make room.”

Any donations can be made at TD Bank at 4236 Edgemont Ave, checks made out to ‘BENEFIT FOR DAMIYAH & DARREN CAMPBELL’. Mrs. Campbell also invites givers to send donations to her home at 817 W. 7th St. and call her at 610-874-7642.

— RYAN K. SMITH

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5 Responses to “HELP THE CAMPBELLS”

  1. PuertoRic Says:

    I thank God for my Aunt Helen. She is THE MOST humble, poised, kind hearted, loving, welcoming, GOD FEARING woman I have ever come across. She has never given our family anything less than the most warm smiles, hugs, and the greatest love. It brings me to tears because I know how much she loves her grandchildren and even when they were living with their parents, My Aunt Helen and Uncle Earl made frequent visits and Damiyah and Darren always loved their presence. Damiyah would often cry when it was time for her grandmother to leave, which speaks volumes about their bond. Besides the joy I know their father brought to them, I know they couldnt be more happy than they are with their grandparents. I pray that this will be the help they need to continue to take care of Damiyah and Darren.

  2. Wadiyah Salahuddin Says:

    This article was extremely moving for me. It brought me to tears. It made me realize that have been truly blessed. My name is Wadiyah, I am 63 years old and I have spastic cerebral palsy. My case is not as severe. I have had a normal life (went to regular school, married, had children and have grandchildren). Helen and Earl are caring and wonderful people. They deserve all the help they can get. What they’re doing requires a lot physically, emotionally, and financially. Thank God for people like them. I will definitely make a donation to help.

  3. Michelle Mingledoff Says:

    God bless Mr. Earl and Mrs. Campbell. I just recently dropped in to say hello and speak with them, and they are INCREDIBLE!! Mrs. Campbell as always with a smile on her face and busy taking care of the grandchildren. Mr. Earl as always with a joke in his spirit. My heart is filled with praise and prayer that God’s word will not come back void to them and he will Open up the windows of heaven and pour them out Blessings they will not have room to receive.

  4. corey brown Says:

    I will talk to my sister cause has some connection to help please send me a link or email addre thanks in advanced and I hope I can say your welcome real soon

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