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Raising a Child with Disabilities

by Jeanette Fisher

In 1979, our baby got sick. She spent four months in ICU. Because we never knew her any other way, we were grateful that she survived.

My heart goes out to parents of children who become disabled in childhood. The pain is like losing a child because in reality you lose the child you know and have to learn how to cope with a new set of challenges.

Anyway, our Sara was a joy to care for and to watch grow into a young woman with a sense of humor and a love of life. Although Sara may have seemed "retarded" to some, she understood everything and responded to kindness.

This is an article I wrote about one of Sara's days.

Sara and the Nail Salon

Sara loves pampering. Haircuts, facials, manicures, and makeup bring smiles, giggles, raised eyebrows and kisses. Sara communicates "yes" by raising her eyebrows; blowing kisses signifies a very excited yes, please, and thank you very much.

My oldest daughter Enicia arranged for the three of us to get manicures and spa pedicures Saturday afternoon before Mother's Day. While making the appointments, she questioned the receptionist to make sure they would give Sara the full treatment (Sara's been turned away from a nail salon before because she can't move her arms and legs freely). After receiving assurance that this nail salon would pamper Sara, we set out with a laughing Sara for a fun afternoon.

When we arrived, the salon told us they would do Sara's fingernails, but not her toenails. Disappointed, Enicia and I sat in the special massage chairs with Sara, seated in her wheelchair, next to us. The manicurists started to work on our nails. Sara picked a pretty, happy pink nail polish by raising her eyebrows and blowing a kiss.

After the manicurist cut and buffed Sara's fingernails, she refused to paint them because Sara bends her fingers. I showed the woman how to place a plastic water bottle under Sara's hands to position her fingertips for easy access. The woman still refused. Enicia said she would hold Sara's hands, yet the woman would not reconsider.

Enicia and I received the full treatment. I did not make a scene and tried to enjoy Enicia's gift to me. We exchanged upset glances and apologized to Sara. She hung her head.

Enicia paid the bill and asked why they refused treatment even after she had confirmed on the phone that they would serve someone who uses a wheelchair. They gave no answer.

As we walked out, I tried to peel the wheelchair decal off the front door, but it held tight. I turned back into the salon and told them that they should take the decal off the door.

Enicia pulled me out. I broke down in tears.

Looking at Sara's hands, I discovered that the manicurist had chopped off all of Sara's long fingernails rather than shaping them. Most other women get long, painted extensions. Sara, who has long nails naturally, got her nails cut short.

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