Tamara E.Runner Up
Tamara’s Story

Caregiving as a career was the furthest thing from my mind when I was in my twenties. When I was thirty, my daughter was born with cerebral palsy. Little did I know this would be the beginning of my caregiving days and the most rewarding experience of my entire life!

I was a mother of now two girls, fourteen months apart. At about the age of six months, Vanessa was not sitting up or progressing in other milestones. We were referred by the pediatrician to California Children's Services for therapy. The next day we attended her first appointment. This was eye opening to realize how much Vanessa was behind. It was wonderful to have a trained professional who could answer my questions. I went home and cried and called my family members to break the news of the developmental delay. Although the official diagnosis of cerebral palsy would not come until age two. As a stay-at-home mom I was lucky I was able to go to endless Dr. appointments, therapies and "stimulation" classes recommended.

Years of physical therapy, speech, mobility and several surgeries would follow. The stress took a toll on all areas of my life. I was encouraged to find the positives and helped to accept the negatives and the disability. After years of struggle Vanessa began to crawl at age three. Next was a tiny wheeled walker at age four. Crutches were attempted, but her brain damage altered forever her balance. She now uses a four wheeled walker at home and a wheelchair in the community. At age three, school began for an early intervention. There were IEP's (individual education plans), leg braces, a walker and wheelchair to get ready each day besides lunch. Our family lived daily with her frustration of non-accessible homes, public places, toilets and other limitations. We arranged our furniture and our lives around this daughter who I would never give up on.

I found strength and perseverance I never possessed before. I fought for access to these places of limitation. This daughter has built my character and helped me to realize my calling! Because of her I've met so many wonderful people! Doctors, nurses, teachers, therapists, families and children. I have found patience and empathy galore!

As Vanessa got into elementary school I enjoyed volunteering in her classes. I got to know other moms and classmates struggling as much as we were. The more time I spent around special needs children, the more I felt at home. As substitute assistants came into those classrooms, many not knowing a thing about disabilities, the more I began to want to be in the classroom more often myself. I have now been an instructional assistant in special education for seventeen years. It's amazing to watch the progress of someone who must work so much harder than a typical child. I have always worked with children who are more severely affected than my daughter's abilities. By doing so, I can be thankful for my own daughter's abilities. I feel I've been led to this. It has helped me to be thankful rather than feel punished or ashamed. At work, as home, the tasks of living are the same. There is closure at the end of the day as a day well done. Giving care to students at school makes us all family for a time, working and playing together.

What helps me to see I belong in this career and life, and what makes it rewarding, are the many comments from strangers. People call me an angel. Many people stop me to tell me I must be special. They say, "I could never do anything like that." People tell me I'm chosen by God. I've been given a pin of an angel. I don't truly feel I am any of these things. You see, I am just a mom who had a daughter, who needed me to become the mom she needed me to be.

Shield HealthCare's
13th Annual
Caregiver Story Contest
Shield HealthCare recognizes the demanding roles and responsibilities of today's caregivers. Whether you are a family caregiver or a home health professional, we would like to hear your story about “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?”. Submit your story for a chance to win a prize!
Top 3 Story Winner Prizes
  • $500 American Express Gift Card
  • One-year subscription to Today's Caregiver Magazine
  • Commemorative Wall Plaque
Top 5 Runner-up Prizes
  • $150 American Express Gift Card
  • One-year subscription to Today's Caregiver Magazine
This year's Caregiver Story Contest is over, but sign up for our newsletter for announcements and updates about next year's contest.
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Readers' Choice
ALL contest entrants will receive an "I Care" heart lapel pin!