An Angel Unaware by parent (Amy O Neal)

As many of you know I am the team captain for the First Step Walk for Children “Team All for Anna”.  I have received several emails wanting to know who was Anna.  I thought I would share a little about Anna for those of you who did not know her and what a difference First Step made in her life.

Anna was a full term baby, she came out screaming and never really quit… Anna did not meet milestones the way my son did so I knew there was something not quite right.  When she was 15 months old we were told that she had Cerebral Palsy or maybe borderline developmentally delayed.  Every time we would take her back to ACH they told us it was a little worse than they thought.  After many tears and a heart that was completely full with emotion we enrolled Anna in the Early Intervention Services with First Step.  This was in 1988 when First Step was one small building.  I sat in the hall for months and cried while the therapist worked with her.  I gradually adjusted and then it was time for preschool.  I am pretty sure that Pam Bland had to “make” me leave her in preschool where she stayed until she was 6 and then went to public school.

When Anna was 4 she was diagnosed with Epilepsy.  At that time she lost her ability to walk due to the severity of her seizures.  At the age of 7 she had 90% of her brain split in half to help control the seizures.  She learned to walk again at the age of 9.  Throughout Anna’s life she had many health problems, falls, stitches and surgeries.  A hysterectomy at the age of 15, a feeding tube due to an aortic blockage in her stomach at the age of 17  and that is when we were told that she did not have Cerebral Palsy.  As you can imagine working with the team at ACH every test you could imagine was performed to determine what was really her diagnosis.  It was determined that she had some sort of degenerative brain disease that was so rare that maybe she was maybe the only one to have it.

First Step gave not only Anna a new start when she was just 19 months old but also helped a new mom adjust to the new world of having a child with disabilities.  Anna began receiving Medicaid Waiver Services when she was 13 and continued to receive waiver until she passed away in April of 2011 at the age of 23.

Throughout her life I learned way more from her than she ever did from me.  My husband, my son and I were blessed that God chose us to care for this “Angel Unaware”.

Anna led me to the job I have today and I have felt her right along beside me every step of the way throughout all of our fund raisers for the Walk for children.  I thank First Step for role that it has played in Anna’s life and now I am “working” for Anna as well as all of the other clients that are truly “An Angel Unaware”!   I say what a way to pay it forward!