Austin was born a healthy and happy baby, welcomed by his parents, Tabetha and Marshall, and big brother, Bryce. At just seven weeks old, Austin contracted bacterial meningitis, an infection that left him with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, epilepsy and deafness.
“At only six months old, our sweet little boy had surgery for bilateral cochlear implants,” said his mom and caregiver, Tabetha.
Thanks to the bilateral cochlear implants and a multitude of adaptive equipment, Austin, now 11, has the freedom and mobility to do the things he enjoys and go places with his family.
“Austin faces lots of lifelong challenges, but with the help of his medical equipment he gets to do many things we didn't think would be possible,” said Tabetha. “He takes steps in his very supportive gait trainer and kid walker, and he has a wheelchair that allows him to go so many places, including school.”
Austin attends elementary school where he is in a deaf education classroom. His mom says you can find him roaming the halls at school or riding his adaptive trike in gym class. While Austin’s life is busy with school and therapy at Special Kids, Tabetha makes having fun a priority. “Austin loves to swim (aka float in the swimming pool), play in the sand at the beach, go to church, play with his friends, have a good cuddle session with mom, laugh, nap, pull his dog Lola’s tail and watch his older brother play golf,” said Tabetha.
Thanks to his CRT equipment, Austin is able to be independent and mobile. He has wheelchairs, two walkers, a trike, a jogging stroller, stander and even an adaptive bed. “I am not sure what we would do without his equipment,” said Tabetha. “I remember when we ordered Austin’s first wheelchair – it was a bittersweet moment. I was sad that he couldn’t walk but excited he might have the ability to get where he wanted on his own. It took a while but he did just that.”
“We first heard about Numotion from Austin’s therapist at Special Kids and have worked with them since Austin was little. A huge part of the reason why we love Numotion is because of Andy, Austin’s ATP,” said Tabetha. “Andy is so caring and compassionate. He really cares about his kids and it shows. If you ask any special needs mama in our community they will tell you the same. He’s always going the extra mile to help us. Unfortunately, there is only one Andy. Sometime things do take time when it comes to medical equipment. Having a broken wheelchair for a family like ours is tragic but Andy and his team always try their very best to accommodate.”
Reflecting on the challenges of caring for a child with a disability, Tabetha said, “Our life is a lot different than your typical family. We worry endlessly about today and whatever the future holds. There are times we don’t do things or go places simply because Austin can’t. As he has gotten older and bigger we face new challenges all the time. As parents, we have to be Austin’s voice. So here we are – Austin’s Army.”
The World under his Chin
Herbert, who goes by “Big Lee,” has found ways to do the things he loves, persevering through the challenging aspects of his diagnosis.
“My oxygen was cut off at birth and my right collarbone was broken during my delivery. The doctor didn't do a cesarean, which led to extreme nerve damage and cerebral palsy,” said Big Lee.
Since he is unable to use his hands or feet, he uses a head pointer to operate his iPhone and computer. “I drive my powerchair with my chin and use MyTobiidynavox, a communication device, which I control with my eyes,” said Big Lee. “When I get up every morning and get in my powerchair, I feel like I have the world under my chin. I can control everything from my chair.”
Refusing to let the obstacles he faces on a daily basis slow him down, Big Lee has proven anything is possible. He is a Middle Tennessee State University graduate with five degrees and currently works as a travel agent. “After I graduated college I just knew I was going to get a job, but no one would give me a chance,” said Big Lee. “Someone approached me about an opportunity to work from home, so I went to a business meeting and loved it. That’s when I became a travel agent.”
Big Lee now has the opportunity to do something he loves, helping others plan vacations all over the world, with the help of his chin control and Bluetooth technology that syncs his iPhone to myTobiidynavox and allows him to talk with clients.
While Big Lee can do so much on his own, he does depend on the care of others to help with daily tasks such as eating and dressing. “I have an awesome family,” said Big Lee. “My sister is my everything. She stepped up to help after my mother and brother passed away three years ago. My niece, nephew and brother-in-law help me a lot too. Sometimes we go out to eat or to the movies, anywhere just to get out of the house.”
Numotion ATP, Andy, has also made a huge impact on Big Lee’s life. “Andy and I go way back,” said Big Lee. “If I need something fixed on my powerchair I can contact Andy or someone on his team and they will call or email me right back to help. They know my powerchair inside and out.”