Becoming a Special Needs Mom Influenced My Future Career Choice

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by Keara Engle |

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At the young age of 15, I stared at the two bold lines on my pregnancy test and immediately burst into tears. How would I do this alone? I was only a sophomore in high school. I had no clue how I’d finish school and take care of a child at the same time. 

Fast-forward nine months, and I had given birth to my son. I was only 16. The day he was born, I knew my life would change forever, but it changed in ways I never would’ve expected.

Labor and birth were both traumatic for me. My son, Cayden, had gotten stuck and inhaled fluid, which resulted in him being rushed to the NICU. Little did I know that this would be the first of many hospital stays.

Cayden as a newborn. (Photo by Keara Engle)

I’m more than just a teen mom. I’m also a single mom and a special needs mom. One may wonder how I do all of this on my own. There’s not really an answer, I just do it. Finishing high school was one of the main goals I had set for myself. 

Typically, one does not enjoy being in the hospital; however, I found it very helpful. After Cayden’s diagnosis of infantile-onset Pompe disease, we spent more time in the hospital than out of it. During our stays, the nurses were a huge help. They would spend more time with him than needed just to help out.

I was able to finish high school online a year early. But I have to give credit where it’s due, and the nurses deserve more credit than I could ever give. They helped physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Keara during graduation. (Photo by Keara Engle)

I spent a lot of time debating what I wanted to do when high school was over, yet the answer was right in front of me: nursing!

Because I’m a special needs mom, I’ve had opportunities that not many others my age would. First, I was taught how to drop a nasogastric (NG) tube. Although it was scary, it became easier each time. Cayden still struggles with oral eating to this day. However, he now has a G-tube, which is much easier to maintain than an NG tube.

Cayden, at 5 months old, with his NG tube. (Photo by Keara Engle)

I’ve also had the chance to learn how to administer subcutaneous injections. A PICC line caused Cayden to develop deep vein thrombosis in his leg. This was terrifying, but the blood thinner shots became a breeze to give after the first few days. He received them for almost a year to ensure that the blood clot was no longer causing issues. 

These are just a few examples of what I’ve learned. Nursing has always been an interest of mine. But becoming a special needs mom to a child with a rare disease just confirmed it.

I never would’ve expected Cayden to help point me in the right direction career-wise, but I’ll always be thankful that he did. Without him, I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn the things I’ve been able to learn in the medical field. 

Plans for college are on hold for now because I’m a full-time, stay-at-home mom. However, there’s nothing wrong with that. I put my child and his needs first because that’s what matters most. College is definitely in my future, though. I have plans to enroll once Cayden is in elementary school so that I have more time to focus on schooling.

If you’re the parent of a special needs child, don’t give up on your own life and plans. Taking things day by day helps me the most.

It’s stressful when you try to think too far into the future. If your mind starts wandering, take a deep breath and regroup your thoughts. Reach out to the people that care. They’re there to help, after all!

There is no timeline for accomplishing your goals. Go at your own pace. No matter how long it takes, you will be relieved when it finally happens!


Note: Pompe Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pompe Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Pompe disease.


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