Supporting Families Through the Power of Community
RMHS Early Intervention Program and Community Resources Make Future Bright for Boy with Down Syndrome
The Ericson family is ready for the future with support from the Rocky Mountain Human Services Early Intervention program and community resources.
Gigi Ericson listened with panic at the hospital as her unborn son’s heartbeat took a dangerous dive. The doctor quickly prepared Gigi for an emergency C-section, and on Dec. 1, 2017, her son Noah was born.
She didn’t know it then, but Noah would soon join the Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) Early Intervention program where he would receive personalized services and information about community resources to support his developmental needs.
Noah came into the world about eight weeks early weighing only 2 pounds, 11 ounces. Gigi had just enough time to kiss him and tell him everything would be alright before nurses took him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. At that point, it was unclear whether Noah would make it through the weekend.
He was a very small baby with holes in his heart, and the doctors told the family that he may not survive. The doctors also noticed signs that Noah may have a developmental disability, so they ran some tests. The following week, Gigi and her husband, Dan, received Noah’s genetic test results, which confirmed he had Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.
“We were shocked at first and it was hard to wrap our head around what the future would bring for Noah,” Gigi wrote in a journal at the time. “But we have decided not to worry, and to take one day and one challenge on at a time.”
Dan expresses himself through the art he makes from used street signs and created a piece that represents the challenges and rewards the family experienced while welcoming Noah into the world. It visualizes the emotional complexity he felt at the time.
To add more stress, Dan was spending his final weeks with his father in hospice care, and other family members also fell ill. His dad had cancer and was dying, and Dan was helping provide care to his father and other family members, resulting in constant separation through the holiday season. Shortly after Noah was born and released from the hospital, Dan’s father passed away, but he didn’t miss out on meeting his grandson.
"He held on just long enough to meet him," Dan said.
With Gigi recovering and their brand-new son needing full-time care, plus end-of-life arrangements to be made, none of them could work, and the hospital bills were racking up. When they received their first bill, it was over $1 million. They realized how expensive things would have been without support from RMHS, Medicaid and the community.
Noah received physical and occupational therapy at the hospital during his early months of life. A social worker there referred the family to the RMHS Early Intervention (EI) program where Noah could continue his therapies.
The RMHS Children’s Clinical team came to the Ericsons’ home to evaluate Noah’s needs, and he now receives physical, occupational and speech therapy. He also receives assistive technology that supports his gross motor skills and feeding abilities through the EI program. To support the whole family, RMHS provides funding for respite care, which pays for a qualified caregiver for Noah so Dan and Gigi can take time to recharge.
The family connected with local Down syndrome support groups and resources, fully embracing Noah’s developmental disability. For example, Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association helped the Ericsons with education and guidance on Noah’s diagnosis, bringing them meals and providing emotional support through his infancy.
Service Coordinator Nisha Tajeddine said they do everything they can to ensure Noah is happy and healthy. Alternative therapies complement Noah’s RMHS services to keep Noah calm and healthy.
“They really use all the resources that they have to support Noah’s potential,” Nisha said.
Noah’s services through the RMHS EI program are provided at no cost to his family. Despite the financial stress they were under, the family remained stable, thanks to a combination of support from the EI program, Medicaid, Social Security Income and other benefit programs. To date, Gigi said Noah’s total medical expenses have reached over $2 million.
Music, art and the community have been important for the family as they navigated a new world of disability resources. Noah attends music classes at Twinkle Together through funding from the Denver Mill Levy program at RMHS. RMHS administers a portion of Denver property taxes dedicated to those with I/DD in Denver County to help individuals and families like the Ericsons to fulfill unmet needs. The RMHS Denver Mill Levy Program has also provided the family with funding for a bike trailer, helmet and activity saucer, which encourage Noah to be active and practice his gross motor skills.
The Ericson family is thankful for the financial and emotional support they have received. Now that Noah is over a year old, he has overcome many health obstacles. Through RMHS, support groups and quality medical care, Noah’s future looks bright.
"He's getting better and better every day," Gigi said.
To learn more about the RMHS EI program, visit www.rmhumanservices.org/ei.