The day that changed everything
UNICEF supports the progress of children with disabilities and their families through Integrated Community Centres, where access to needed specialist services is free of charge and accessible in their communities.
A single day can divide a parent's life in two: before the diagnosis and after. Sooner or later, a parent adapts to whatever God gives them to carry, for their child, fights tirelessly, searches for solutions, doctors, appropriate therapies and clings to every sliver of hope.
They know that a small hope can become, in time, a miracle. What brings more pain is when you know what life had been like before the day that changed everything. You know what it's like to look your healthy child in the eye, to play with them, to get smiles and hugs back. You know how they ran, how they bounced around tirelessly, laughing, giggling. The memory of what was can be a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it is the power that fuels the hope that it can be done, and on the other it raises a fragile, treacherous fear that maybe nothing will ever be the same again and that "before" will remain just a memory.
In the case of Denisa, the little hope her mother has been clinging to for almost 9 years, is already getting bigger. It takes a lot of hard work on the part of therapists, a lot of patience and a lot of dedication, but the efforts of good people and the unconditional love of parents are beginning to pay off.
Today, 3 years after we learned Denisa's story of being diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 3 months old and spastic tetraparesis when she was 4 years old, Denisa is making progress and showing us that hope does indeed die last. In a parent's heart, hope never dies. Sometimes it takes a simple gesture, a monthly donation: https://bit.ly/44OmvNf.
Our powers, united
The first big turning point in Denisa's life was when a severe epileptic seizure at the age of 4 sent her straight into a coma. Doctors gave her very little chance of survival then. "2 weeks" sounds like a sentence and these are words that carry with them a crushing power. "It's a miracle if she lives for two more weeks, ma'am," doctors told Denisa's mother after the seizure her 4-year-old suffered.
Today, we can witness the great miracle for ourselves: doctors, well-wishers, the mother's tireless strength and professionals at the Integrated Community Centre have made every effort to improve Denisa’s condition. Today, she greets us sitting up unsupported, moving her whole body, clinging with her hands and working with the help of her physiotherapist towards her big dream: standing up with support. When you hang on to the shred of strength you feel in your soul and don't let go, the joy and reward soon follow. The road is always bumpy and sometimes you're even urged to give up, but Denisa's mother is an example that it can be done. It is possible to fight with yourself not to give up, day after day.
"She's a happy child, she smiles a lot because we love her a lot," says Denisa's mother.
On one wall of the house hangs a picture of Denisa sitting. There is a moment when Denisa was sitting. It is the day God sent another reinforcement to her mother and the girl stood up on her own.
"I was outside and when I came into the house I found her up on her knees. I was so happy, I took a picture with the tiny phone I had. I took a picture of her and took her out to Adjud, to have it framed, to see her sitting like that. It was a miracle, because they told me from Iasi that she was still alive for another two weeks at the most, and she has been like this for 9 years. God. We're fighting and she'll be fine, we hope. This progress also gives me strength", says Denisa's mother, emotionally reliving the joy of that day that is deeply engraved in her soul.
Good people and communities
It's been four years since the Corbasca community team has had Denisa in the spotlight. The friendship between Denisa and the physiotherapist looking after her at the Integrated Community Centre in Corbasca, which opened in 2021, is starting to bear increasingly visible fruit.
"I feel a joy when I see her, because I like children. I've been working with children for some time, especially children with disabilities. When I get a smile from her, even if it's not voluntary, it makes me happy. I think I always have something to learn from everyone, but especially from these special children (I don't call them disabled children, but special children): maybe it's the smile, maybe it's the affection, maybe it's the kindness. It's a long process to create a connection with them, but once you create the connection, the sessions with them start changing course." says Octavian Constantin Iosub, physiotherapist at the Integrated Community Centre.
And it is a fact that Denisa, like other children with disabilities, can only progress and become as independent as possible with the help of professionals and medical services that are appropriate to her needs and sustained long term. Both her physical, medical and emotional condition have greatly improved after the constant physiotherapy sessions provided by the Corbasca Integrated Community Centre team.
She used to have about 20 epileptic seizures a day, and now her mother counts a maximum of two in a month. Her meeting with the UNICEF team in 2020 found Denisa in a baby carriage, with reduced mobility, whereas now she can sit in a chair, sit at the table with the rest of the family, stand up on her own in a chair, or hold on with her hands in various circumstances.
Because there are other children like Denisa who need help, a monthly donation can make a difference. Please offer your help: https://bit.ly/43xaWci
UNICEF in Denisa's life
UNICEF supports the progress of children with disabilities and their families through Integrated Community Centres, where access to needed specialist services is free of charge and accessible in their communities. In these centres, parents find support from therapists in areas such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, psychological counselling - much needed services for children like Denisa and beyond - without having to bear the financial burden of these therapies.
There are thousands of other children like Denisa. For her and for those in Corbasca and nearby villages, there is the Integrated Community Centre set up by UNICEF Romania in partnership with the local authorities, where specialists in physiotherapy, psychological counselling and speech therapy work with dedication and professionalism with vulnerable children. Integrated community teams - social worker, community health worker and school counsellor - also work with and support families, monitoring children's progress both in the community and at school or kindergarten.
The Integrated Community Centre in Corbasca is just one of five established in our country under the UNICEF initiative "Romania for every child. Ensuring social inclusion - breaking the vicious circle of exclusion for the most vulnerable children in Romania" and brings, in one place, the minimum package of services - provided by community teams of professionals (social worker, community health nurse and school counsellor) and specialised services - available through interventions of specialists (physiotherapists, psychologists, speech therapists, doctors, educators).
The programme is supported by a grant from Norway under the Local Development Programme administered by the Romanian Social Development Fund (RSDF) as programme operator. The objective is to contribute to the social inclusion of all children and adolescents, especially vulnerable ones, through quality, equitable and coordinated health, education and child protection services. The initiative provides free access not only to Denisa, but also to other children like her, to the above-mentioned services, all under one roof.
Make a difference in children's lives too!
We would like these Integrated Community Centres to become a constant reality in all areas of Romania and we need your help. You can make a difference in the lives of these children right now with a monthly online donation that helps us continue the work of the Integrated Community Centres for vulnerable children.
Together we can make life a little easier for the little ones. Without this help from you, many children like Denisa are unable to access the specialised medical, social and educational services they so desperately need. It's just 1 leu a day for you - that's only 30 lei a month - but it means infinitely more in these children's recovery. You may think it's just you, but when dozens, hundreds and thousands of people join hands, together we lift up those who need our support. Please, help monthly with an online donation.