By Mary Anne Kane Breschi, President of Maggie’s Light
Last month, my daughter, Maggie Breschi (who has multiple disabilities), along with her co-worker and staff from The Arc Baltimore, delivered 75 pillowcases to her orthopedist, Dr. Shawn Standard, of the Rubin Institute at Sinai Hospital in time for his mission trip to the Dominican Republic. About a year ago, when Dr. Standard learned of Maggie’s interest in sewing, he challenged her to make pillowcases for the children he and his colleagues would be caring for during their mission trips in 2014. He said, “Maggie, if you’ll make the cases, I’ll provide the pillows. We’ll give them to the children who have very little, let alone a place to lay their head.” Maggie agreed.
When Maggie was born 22 years ago with developmental disabilities, our pediatrician –at the time- instructed us not to bond with her. She told us not to introduce her to her three older brothers, and not to take her home. If we did, she warned, the challenges & circumstances surrounding Maggie’s disability would destroy our family. These words were devastating. They offered no hope of a cure or positive outcome, let alone how we might obtain the resources & support we needed to make it possible to love and care for Maggie in our home – which is all we wanted to do.
Needless to say, the first days of Maggie’s life were difficult. Not only were we focused on her medical needs and identifying a diagnosis, I had already begun to think about her future. I was scared. What will it be? Will she have friends? Will she have the opportunity to do what little girls do – play dolls, have sleepovers? Will she go to prom? As an adult, will she have opportunities? What about a job? Will her life have purpose and meaning? And, will anyone besides us love her? These were terribly difficult questions for me, difficult because I had no answers or at least none that I liked. I lived in a community that did not embrace children and adults with developmental disabilities, let alone value them. They didn’t fit. I lived in a community that thought it best to place its children with disabilities in institutions to be forgotten, so as not to be a burden to their families. I was so sad.
But no more, thanks to you…
|Maggie Breschi, in her work space, at The Arc’s
center in Dundalk
Yes, Maggie has cerebral palsy. She is non-ambulatory, and is fed via a G-tube. Yes, she has a cognitive delay, is non-verbal and uses a Dynavox (assistive technology) along with signs, gestures and vocalizations to communicate. Yes, she developed a seizure disorder in her teens and had fourteen major surgeries by the time she was seventeen. And yes, she requires complete care and assistance with all that she does, but in spite of all of these challenges – she understands, cares, and loves her life. Just ask her. She’ll tell you this and more. She loves going to The Arc Baltimore where staff (whom she loves) have created an environment tailored to her needs. They make it possible for her to sew with her friends, and to provide pillow cases to Dr. Standard, who has always treated her with the utmost respect, kindness and care. He, in turn, can brighten the lives of other children with special needs who live very far away, and who might now have a place to lay their head at night or a colorful sack with which to carry their belongings the next day.
|Maggie along with Dr. Standard (far left) and her friends and staff from The Arc Baltimore
As Maggie’s parents, my husband and I thank Dr. Shawn Standard, The Arc Baltimore, Towson University’s Occupational Therapy Department & JHU’s Biomedical Engineering Students (who designed and created the adaptive switch for the sewing machine) for making it possible for our daughter to lead a life filled with opportunity, purpose and joy as she touches the lives of children and their families living in the Dominican Republic and other parts of the world. In our wildest dreams we never imagined an opportunity such as this for her that creates a community in which Maggie finds friendship, health, opportunity, a sense of purpose, meaning & joy. For all of this and more, we are eternally grateful!
With the utmost sincerity – thank you!