One Step at a Time
Shana and Jeff Fryar have their hands full raising a special set of 5-year-old triplets who have overcome many obstacles after a premature birth. One of the triplets, Jacob, is still making big strides with the help of Snell Prosthetic & Orthotic Laboratory and Easterseals Arkansas.
SAVVY: WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
SHANA FRYAR: I’m from Texarkana, Texas, but have lived in the Little Rock area since 2008.
HOW MANY CHILDREN DO YOU HAVE AND HOW OLD ARE THEY? My husband, Jeff, and I have 5-year-old triplets. We found out we were having triplets when I was eight weeks pregnant. I was considered a high-risk pregnancy with multiples. I went on bed rest at 23 weeks, and went into preterm labor at 28 weeks. Ryan was born weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces; Alexa weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce; and Jacob weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces. They spent a total of five months in the neonatal intensive care unit.
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION? I am the social services coordinator at Easterseals Arkansas Children’s Rehabilitation Center.
WHAT IS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIKE? Crazy! These kids keep us on our toes. Having three kids all the same age is eventful to say the least. We thought it would get easier when they were older but that hasn’t been necessarily true! In some ways it’s easier and in other ways it’s harder.
YOUR SON JACOB WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LEFT HEMIPLEGIC CEREBRAL PALSY. WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GET HIS DIAGNOSIS? All three kids attend Easterseals preschool. Because they were born 12 weeks early, they each had their own struggles in the NICU. While Ryan and Alexa did not have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, they did have a diagnosis of developmental delay. They all started receiving therapy at 6 months old. As they got older, Ryan and Alexa tested out of therapies, and are now meeting developmental milestones. Jacob is lagging behind them in certain areas, but has come leaps and bounds from where he was. In the NICU, Jacob showed signs of spasticity and was slower progressing than his siblings. We were fairly certain he had cerebral palsy before a doctor formally diagnosed him with left hemiplegic cerebral palsy at 2 years old, so it wasn’t a shock to us.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER FAMILIES WHO RECEIVE A SIMILAR DIAGNOSIS FOR A CHILD? Be proactive. Early intervention is the best thing we did for our kids. We got involved with Easterseals when they were 6 months old to be evaluated for therapy. When they were 10 months old they began going to the developmental preschool at Easterseals so they could get the therapy and preschool education they needed.
WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES YOU HAVE FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM? When we were in the NICU, we were faced with many health concerns for all three kids. We had a doctor tell us to take a step back and not look at the day-to-day because each day may present a new obstacle. Instead he told us to look week-to-week and month-to-month because that would show us the progress in our journey.
DESCRIBE THE CARE AND SUPPORT YOU HAVE RECEIVED AT SNELL PROSTHETIC & ORTHOTIC LABORATORY. HOW HAVE THEY BEEN ESSENTIAL TO YOUR CHILD’S PROGRESS? Snell has provided for Jacob since we began at Easterseals. They have worked very closely with his physical therapist for the last few years fitting him for ankle foot orthotics (AFO) and shoes. Jacob relies on the AFOs to ambulate independently. There have been many occasions when Jacob needed additional orthotics like shoe inserts, a cast shoe (when he broke his ankle), modifications to his shoes or AFOs, and they went above and beyond to provide quickly—sometimes the same day.
WHAT IS YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM LIKE? Our family is very supportive of us. They help as much as possible. Jeff and I are a big support to each other.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A MOM? Seeing my kids smile. I love hearing them laugh. The craziness of our lives is all worth it when we see them accomplish something.
WHAT MAKES YOUR CHILDREN AMAZING? All of our kids have had to overcome obstacles, especially Jacob. They had to learn to do things at such an early age, things that didn’t come naturally to them given their prematurity. We have seen them grow and develop into funny, smart, 5-year-olds. They may not have learned to do something the way a typically developing child learns to do it, but they find their own way and accomplish it.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO AS A FAMILY? The kids love to go to the park and go swimming. They especially love celebrating anything with a party.
WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR STORY? God gave us these kids for a reason. They taught us that you can accomplish anything one step at a time.