By Ginger Nance, Executive Director
When Jane Abarr came to work at the Presbyterian Village almost a year ago, little did we know that we would be changing each other’s lives.
Jane’s story began more than 30 years ago. She grew up in the Fort Scott area. She began working in dining services in a healthcare community in Fort Scott when she was 13 years old; she later became a nurse’s aide and continued to work in long-term care for many years.
As time went on, Jane’s life seemed normal for a young family in southeast Kansas. She had married. She and her husband were making a life, working hard, and she was expecting her first baby boy. At eight months pregnant, Jane went into labor. Everything seemed normal, even though she was a month early to deliver. However, tragedy struck in a short period of time when they discovered their beautiful baby boy was born with spina bifida.
The nerves to his legs were held in a sack attached to his back. Doctors worked fast to stabilize their baby and get the help they needed for him to survive. After many months of hospitalization, multiple surgeries and making medical history at KU Medical Center, their son Steven was stable enough to travel to the Shriner’s Hospital in Dallas, where doctors were able to close Steven’s back. Jane’s friends in long-term care, where she worked, and friends from the Fort Scott community raised money to help Jane stay with Steven while he was hospitalized.
Jane and the immediate family remained in Texas after his surgery for many years to be near specialists. Procedures and adaptive appliances were designed for Steven over time, enabling him to sit up, chew, swallow and live a life at home with Jane and the help of her family. They were even able to use braces to lock into his hips, knees and back, and use special crutches which allowed him to stand and take a few steps.
Doctors said from the beginning that Steven would not likely live beyond the age of 16, as with most children born with spina bifida. With the help of wonderful people, Steven has flourished!
About a year ago, Steven (now older than 30 years old) relocated from Texas to Tri Valley in Fort Scott, which enabled the entire family to move back to Fort Scott to be surrounded by Jane’s relatives. Jane came to work at Presbyterian Village part time and does what she knows and demonstrates so well: caring for others in her loving way. By working part time, she is able to be connected to her profession and still have the flexibility to be involved with Steven as much as possible.
As for Steven, he is using a manual wheelchair now but it doesn’t keep him from being active and involved in sports and fun with those around him. Although visiting Steven where he lives is great for family, Steven didn’t have any way to go to their homes or family events and be involved with them unless they came to him.
After hearing of their limitations and struggles, Presbyterian Village decided that the recently retired van could still help someone in need in a way that could benefit an entire family. The van has a wheelchair lift, which will allow Steven’s wheelchair to get in and out without putting Jane at risk for a lifting injury. We hope this will open doors for Steven to live a fuller life with the rest of his family.
“It’s been years since I’ve had a van with a lift so that Steven could come to family events,” Jane said.
Already graduations and birthdays are being planned, and Steven will be able to be part of that for the first time in more than 10 years.
Jane said, “This feels like I’ve come full circle. I began working in the long-term care field as a teenager, and I was surrounded by people who cared for me and my baby and helped when times were so hard when I had Steven. Now, I’m back in Fort Scott and again working in long-term care and once again, I am being blessed by people who care. Fort Scott is a good place to live!”