“She can’t speak to us — and probably never will. But her smiles and laughter make all the effort worthwhile.” Natasha is showing us how she massages her 13 year old daughter, Vika, who has cerebral palsy.
Vika lives with her mother, her father, younger brother, grandfather, aunt and two cousins in a two room apartment in Minsk, Belarus. They are part of CCI’s
Community Care program. The program helps families care for their seriously disabled children at home, rather than institutionalize them.
“I’m tired — Vika requires constant care. My husband Petr is always at work — he’s a bus driver, he’s able to bring in 3 million rubles a month (about $285/month). It barely covers rent. I was able to find part time work as a teacher’s assistant. They let me bring Vika to work with me.”
Vika has a beautiful alert face, and smiles non stop as her mother demonstrates therapy she learned from CCI’s visiting therapist. “Watch this — it might not seem like much to you. But it used to be impossible for Vika to sit up without pain. Alexander (CCI’s physical therapist) showed us how to properly position her without twisting her spine.”
Alexander says, “ Her wheelchair is fine, but she needs to get used to being in it more. We are supporting her muscles with massage. Her family has decided not to address her joint problems, because that would mean she would spend a long time in the hospital. So our task is to keep the muscles supple and relaxed so that she doesn’t develop painful contractures.”
“We so much enjoyed CCI’s Family Support Day. With a small child at home, and Vika’s condition, it is so hard to get out much. We could see a big difference in Vika when she was able to spend all day outside around people. She was so happy! It made me feel like I am not on my own. I was able share information with other mothers in the same situation as me.” She starts to cry. “I feel so supported! When I go out with Vika, people come up to me and ask why is such a big girl in a buggy. They don’t understand.”
“Even with my husband and I working, we could never afford the therapies that make it possible for Vika to live without pain. Yes — we realize she may never get better — but thank God she doesn’t need to get worse. We don’t want her laughter to go away. Thank you, CCI, for making that possible.”