It’s a wonder how a single mom who has three kids with multiple disabilities and illnesses gets any sleep.
On a recent night, Kari Safran was awakened when her 3-year-old son spewed vomit all over his sheets and carpets. Jacob, who has bronchiectasis, also needed a nebulizer treatment for a case of chronic coughing.
Awake again at 2 a.m., Safran was bathing 11-year-old Kayla in Epsom salt and massaging lidocaine cream into her back. Her daughter suffers from Tarlov cyst disease, a spinal cyst, which also affects the function of her legs. She has to sleep on her stomach to avoid putting pressure on her tailbone. Sometimes, she even squats on the seat of her classroom chair.
By 6 a.m., 9-year-old Kylie, who has autism spectrum disorder and sensory sensitivities, woke up screaming with severe stomach pains. Safran administered her anti-nausea medication to prevent cyclic vomiting, which has caused her to regurgitate for 15 hours or more on occasion.
To top it all off, the 46-year-old mom said a leaky roof meant her bed got wet from rain during the night. Her family’s trailer needs repairs.
Safran had already been raising two daughters when she decided to adopt Kayla, Kylie and Jacob, her sister’s kids.
As infants, all three children suffered from withdrawal, after having been exposed to drugs from their birth mother. That’s when the Florida Department of Children and Families presented Safran with the idea of adoption.
“It was just the three of us. We didn’t need to start over,” Safran said. “But you can’t let your family go to someone else.”
And she doesn’t trust just anybody to provide the care and devotion her children need.
Kayla requires eight medications daily. Kylie requires six. Jacob needs six meds plus breathing treatments. Safran carries EpiPens, inhalers and anti-vomiting drugs in her purse at all times.
Additionally, each child has a specific diet. No animal protein for Jacob. No red meat for the girls. The family’s diet is gluten-free and non-GMO.
“They all have stomach problems,” Safran explained. “We can’t just pick up a fried chicken for dinner. It gets expensive.”
Even though the family gets food stamps, Children’s Medical Services and Social Security for Kayla, they still have trouble making ends meet.
“Everything is behind, everything is behind,” Safran said as she fought back tears, referring to her utility and rent bills. “And I can’t save anything to get out of it.”
Safran typically clocks in less than 30 hours per week at the leasing agency where she works (without earning sick or paid time off), if she’s lucky.
Ideally, she dreams of a stay-at-home job, like medical coding, but she needs a computer.
Safran stressed the importance of stable, first-floor housing to accommodate Kayla’s wheelchair. Currently, she carries her up and down the trailer stairs.
“Yesterday, there was a tornado warning,” Safran said. “I cannot tell you the panic of trying to think of where you would go with three disabled children when you’re in a mobile home and you have to flee.”
The family could use new mattresses and linens, which have been stained by vomiting and bladder accidents. And the furniture is dotted with bite marks, a product of Kylie’s sensory disorder.
Finally, she hopes to take her kids on a trip somewhere for Christmas.
“I think they will appreciate going somewhere rather than having toys sit in their closets.”
Kari Safran, 46, is a second-time mother raising her sister’s three children, who endured drug withdrawals as infants. Kayla, Kylie and Jacob suffer from multiple illnesses and disabilities. On any given day, Safran is bogged down by heaps of laundry, consisting of soiled bed linens from bladder and vomiting accidents. Or she labors over the stove, catering to each child’s distinctive dietary restrictions. She’s down to part-time at work, but she knows this was the path she was supposed to take and wouldn’t have it any other way. The family wants to move out of their rickety trailer and into a sturdy, first-floor home. They need furniture, mattresses, linen sets and a computer. Their dream would be to visit New York City or Washington for the holidays.
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Photography by Calla Kessler/Staff
Nominated by Coalition for Independent Living Options, West Palm Beach