ECHO to Expand

ECHO to Expand

A federal grant will allow ECHO to triple the size of its Medically Fragile program, which offers day care for people with severe physical handicaps.

With the $125,000 in federal funds, ECHO will build an addition to the Medically Fragile program, which just recently got a room of its own at the ECHO headquarters.

Inside the room, eight people with afflictions like cerebral palsy receive care from Gwen Bevin and her staff. Bevin, a former pharmacist, knew the participants' names and prescriptions because she filled them before joining the team in 2000.

On Tuesday, some people played Connect Four with therapists while others rested in bed. A young girl with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair gazed into a mirror at herself. The mirror makes the room smaller and less overwhelming, keeping the girl calm, Bevin said.

The rest of the small room, meanwhile, is cheerily decorated with an ocean theme. Cardboard octopi and fish dangle from the ceiling in a design to stimulate people confined to wheelchairs.

"They need to see the ceiling," Bevin said. "The ceiling's where it's at."

THE FEDERAL funding will allow the Medically Fragile program to move to a three-room facility with more flexibility for individual needs.

It will also include Snoezelen products, which are designed to create a stimulating indoor environment complete with light shows and vibrating bean bags.

Even now, with its limited space and resources, Medically Fragile provides something priceless to parents: freedom and peace of mind.

Theresa Delaney's 22-year-old daughter, Tiffany Brown, suffers from severe cerebral palsy. She needs constant attention, including feeding and changing.

Before finding Medically Fragile, Delaney, a Loudoun County reading specialist, brought caretakers into the home for her daughter.

"If they not good, you can't leave with peace of mind," she said.

Having her daughter carefully watched after allows Delaney the flexibility to get things done.

"Not only for her it's good to get out with other people, it gives me an opportunity to get out during the day," she said.

— Suzannah Evans