Born premature and taken to Bobek Baby House shortly thereafter, Megan spent the majority of her first year of life in the orphanage in Kazakhstan.
Sherrill and Lonnie had wanted children of their own, but when faced with the reality that was not a possibility, they decided on adoption.
In November 2001, Sherrill and Lonnie traveled to Kazakhstan to bring home their two babies: Nathan, 26 months and Megan, 11 months.
Weighing only 11 pounds and suffering from bronchitis, Megan had also been left on her back since her arrival at the orphanage. Sherrill was told that she was sick and weak, but it was not until several months after they returned to Wichita that Sherrill and Lonnie realized the full extent of what Megan had been through.
“Love is blind,” said Sherrill. “I knew when I first saw her they said she had weak head control – that meant nothing to me. I didn’t realize we were starting from less than ground zero.”
Megan suffers from a number of sensory issues – taste, touch and smell. Because she was stationary on her back for almost a full year, she never experienced any sensation on her feet. They had never even touched the floor. Other practices at the orphanage left Megan frightened.
“Everything new is a trauma,” said Sherrill. “They were feeding her hot tea out of glass bottles and porridge from a tablespoon. Everything new to the touch makes her afraid.”
Hoping that she would begin to develop normally once in a family environment, Sherrill and Lonnie worked with Megan on holding her head up, rolling over, sitting and walking.
“I knew she was behind (developmentally), but I figured it was part of not having mommy and daddy love.”
Megan started home visits with Rainbows United Inc. in February 2002 when Sherrill realized Megan needed more than they could provide.
“I knew then how behind she actually was. I had been too busy trying to get her to do the things I knew she was supposed to be doing – I didn’t sit back and realize how disabled she was.”
Presenting symptoms of cerebral palsy but not being diagnosed as such, Megan has developmental delays. She has spasticity in her legs causing them to be stiff, and it is difficult for her to balance, walk or stand. She wears braces on her legs to help stabilize her feet and ankles.
Megan came to Heartspring through a partnership program with Rainbows in March 2004. At that time she could not stand on her own. She receives physical therapy and speech-language therapy through the Growing Place at Heartspring.
When Megan first arrived for therapy at Heartspring with physical therapist Ellison Sanders, she was crying, apprehensive and terrified. She began working with Ellison on the new LiteGait and GaitKeeper Treadmill. This partial weight bearing gait and balance therapy device simultaneously controls weight bearing, posture, and balance
over a treadmill or over ground. Megan is not only learning how to walk, she is learning how to live.
“It’s amazing,” said Sherrill. “It (therapy at Heartspring) has helped her as a person, not just her walking. She’s gone from a baby to a little girl in a matter of months.”
To see Megan today, one could hardly believe she is scared of anything. She now asks to come to therapy and to be strapped into her harness on the LiteGait. Her captivating smile says it all as she announces, “I walk”, counts her steps and sings songs while on the treadmill.
“Her personality has changed from afraid to happy and open,” said Sherrill. “She’s learning more than just walking, she’s talking more, her fine motor skills have improved, and she’s more confident.”
Megan’s struggle is far from over, but what she has already overcome with the love of her parents is remarkable.
“I saw my little girl who needed help. Other people say they thought she would never do anything. I knew she could do everything. She sees there is a light at the end of the tunnel and she’s learning faster because of that.”
“Everything just got better when Megan got her hearing aids” says Sherrill Bailey, the mother of one of the children who received hearing aids through Heartspring’s Donor Hearing Aid Program last year. “When she first had the aids put on, her face just lit up. Now she can hear the birds sing.” Sherrill noticed an immediate improvement in Megan’s speech, and says that her daughter is much more confident since getting her hearing aids. She joins in conversations and plays with her friends more.
When Megan was first diagnosed with hearing loss, her parents were committed to making sure that their daughter had what she needed. However, they were concerned about how they would be able to afford the high cost of pediatric hearing aids. “We were so relieved to learn that there was a program at Heartspring that could help us,” says Sherrill.
In addition to her hearing loss, Megan has cerebral palsy. She has worked very hard to learn to walk independently, and this spring she took her first unassisted steps. Her mother says that her new hearing aids made a tremendous difference in her balance and that she started walking better immediately after she received them. Amazingly, four year old Megan never complains about wearing her hearing aids or tries to take them out. She is very happy to be able to hear the birds sing.