“Services work as long as you’re committed to letting them help you.”
Meet the Cieply Family
McCandless Township, Pa.
Seven-year-old Max jumps from the slide to the jungle gym to the swing, shrieking with joy as his dad, Zach, chases him around the playground after work.
Keeping an eye on him nearby, mom Danielle tells Max’s story, which begins with the congenital heart defect that would require three open-heart surgeries when Max was still an infant. Before the first of those life-saving procedures, however, they had to remove the tumor on his spine and create him a colostomy bag as they worked through the knot in his bowel.
Before reaching his first birthday, Max had become a surgical warrior, but was weakened from hospital stays. Danielle sought “every early intervention service we could find: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, hearing therapy, speech therapy, a dietician. We tapped into all of it.”
It was hard work. Danielle recalls the time he hobbled around with a cast on his leg. The entire family worked hard on his therapies between sessions. “Now, we’re able to do everyday family things,” Danielle says during the park visit that includes Max’s younger brother, Jack. “Without these services, we wouldn’t be here. None of us would be here.”
Max gets hearing and speech therapy at his school, and other medical treatment at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Spina Bifida Clinic.
“If you didn’t see all the scars, you’d never know what Max has been through,” Danielle says. She worries about Max’s future, how much they rely on services that can easily be cut from a state budget and what will happen one day when she’s not around.
Right now, though, Danielle smiles in reaction to the active, life-loving boy he’s become. “He just got a good report card and we couldn’t be happier. Succeeding is everything you want for your child.”