Burn victim thrives at Fairhaven

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Angie Yoder (left) appreciates the services her daughter, Sydney Miller, receives at Fairhaven School in London. For the last several years, the Madison County MR/DD program has helped the 5-year-old work through physical development issues stemming from a car accident that left all but her face and arms severely burned.

Last week, 5-year-old Sydney Miller was walking on her tip-toes around the kitchen table in her home north of Plumwood.

Her mother, Angie Yoder, was surprised at how well Sydney was getting around after receiving injections the week before to expand the skin on the bottoms of her feet and tops of her thighs.

The painful surgery was one of many Sydney has endured since receiving burns to over 60 percent of her body in a car accident in February 2004. Her brother, Dalton, now 12, pulled her from the car. Sydney was 15 months old at the time.

As often has been the case over the last four years, Peg Johnson, principal at Fairhaven School in London, was at Children’s Hospital to offer support to Miller during Sydney’s recent surgery.

"Peg has been a huge advocate for Sydney. She’s been there for me whenever we need it," Miller said.

That connection was first made shortly after the car accident, when representatives from Madison County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MR/DD), of which Fairhaven is a part, contacted Miller to offer their help. While the accident did not affect Sydney’s mental faculties, the burns and scars did affect her physical development.

"I was reluctant at first because Sydney was so bad. I was too busy taking care of her," Miller said.

As Sydney’s condition improved, Miller welcomed MR/DD’s home visits and later enrolled Sydney in Fairhaven School’s early intervention program where she received physical therapy and participated in group activities. When she turned 3 years old, Sydney entered Fairhaven’s preschool program. Many of the same students who were in Sydney’s early intervention classes are now her classmates in preschool.

"Fairhaven offers a challenging educational atmosphere, as well as takes care of her physical needs," Miller said.

Sydney meets with Fairhaven’s physical therapist at least twice a week. The therapist maintains communication with Sydney’s surgeon and therapists at Children’s Hospital, keeping everyone in the loop.

"Sydney will have huge developmental issues if she doesn’t get the services she needs," Miller said, noting that Johnson has promised to be an advocate for Sydney as she transitions later this year from Fairhaven to kindergarten at Monroe Elementary School in the Jonathan Alder School District.

"We’re aiming for the best range of motion and mobility possible in her knees and ankles, so that she can go up stairs and play with the other kids," Miller said.

Sydney’s scars don’t stretch as she grows, so skin from her belly and back is transferred to her legs, and expanders are injected to make her good skin stretch. These procedures plus physical therapy are Sydney’s best bet for achieving good range of motion.

When asked what she likes best about preschool, Sydney said, "Riding the tricycles." The bikes, donated by JD Equipment of London, are a fun part of her therapy.

"Fairhaven’s services make all the kids feel included," Miller said, citing the recent Shaving Cream Day as an example. Sydney was unable to walk at the event, held earlier this month at the school, but teachers helped her get on the foamy mat to play anyway.

Madison County MR/DD asks for levy replacement in March election

Services like those Sydney Miller receives are funded in part by a local levy, which expires at the end of this year.

The Madison County Board of Mental Retardation and Develop-mental Disabilities is asking voters to replace the levy, which was originally approved in 1988, renewed in 1993 and 1998, and replaced in 2003. The proposal will appear on the March 4 primary election ballot.

The 1-mill, five-year levy currently generates approximately $726,424 annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 home $27.26 per year. If replaced, the levy would generate approximately $832,042 annually and cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.63 per year.

The tax money is used for the operation and maintenance of pro-grams for people with mental retardation and/or developmental disabilities and their families. Those programs include early intervention, preschool, and school-age services at Fairhaven School, as well as residential, vocational and non-vocational services for the adults MR/DD serves.

For more information about Madison County MR/DD programs or the replacement levy, call MR/DD Superintendent Jim Canney at 740-852-7050.

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