PARIS, TN — The 62nd Telethon of Stars Celebration Concert is just weeks away. When you buy a ticket, you’re helping some very special people in our community.
Lukas and Elijah are twins who were born very early. They faced developmental delays. With the help of UTM Infant Stimulation, a program serving children with special needs in six northwest Tennessee counties, they’re right on track.
What looks like play time for 11-month-old twins Lukas and Elijah is so much more. They’re getting a lot out of an hour’s visit with Early Interventionist Donna Tackett.
“Right now we’re working on pulling up, so we’re gonna’ start working on walking,” Donna said.
It was a big deal for Kaitlyn and Frank Brannon to find out they were having twins, but it was almost a bigger deal that they were pregnant at all.
“Absolutely terrified. I lost six before having them, so they were kind of my miracle babies,” Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn lives with seizures, so the pregnancy was a risky one, but it was going fine until 32 weeks in.
“I’m laying there watching the screen, and Luke’s heart rate completely dropped and didn’t come back up,” Kaitlyn said. “So, the last thing that I remember is being wheeled across the hallway, and they gave me a drink, and they put an oxygen mask on me.”
She woke up with twins, but they were very tiny: just 3 and 4 pounds.
“You could literally see through their skin. They looked like little cotton tops. They had snowball white hair,” Kaitlyn recalled.
The boys spent a month in the neonatal intensive care unit. When they finally came home, the doctors wanted Kaitlyn and Frank to be prepared.
“They said that they were gonna’ have delays and that they were probably gonna’ have mental development issues,” Kaitlyn said.
That’s where Donna came in. She travels an hour to their home in Paris, Tennessee, to work with the boys and their parents.
“This is where the children are, 24/7,” Donna said. “This is their environment. They’re more comfortable.”
“Donna has been our blessing,” Kaitlyn said.
As an early interventionist, Donna helps Lukas and Elijah, but also their parents. Program Director Lori Wilson said working one-on-one with the child is just part of the equation.
“What’s more productive is for the parents to be confident and to have the tools to work with their own child,” Lori explained.
“Going from ‘I don’t have a single clue,’ to, ‘OK, I think I might have this,'” Kaitlyn said.
When you give to the Telethon of Stars your money goes to building stronger, more confident, and empowered families like the Brannons.