It’s kind of ironic sitting here in Richmond — typing on my laptop in the middle of the night — 13 years since I earned my degree in journalism here; where I spent many late nights writing! Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d be writing about the topic at hand but I’ve come to feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to talk about these things…
My son has cerebral palsy and some might say it’s quite severe. He doesn’t sit unassisted, crawl, or walk, but to see him, you might not know it. Cerebral Palsy affects everyone differently and for JR, it’s a combination of low tone in his trunk and tight/spastic muscles in his arms and legs. He also has dystonia which is a sort of involuntary movement, like Parkinson’s wherein, for instance, if his left arm moves a certain way, his leg might kick up. It all sounds pretty bad, I suppose but JR is the most special, bright and amazing child! He’s an eager learner and a jokester, he loves making people laugh and smile, and CP is just a small part of who he is!
The Richmond Hope Therapy Center came into our lives about a year ago now. I heard about it through a Facebook group I’m in of local moms whose children are all medically complex. She said the therapists were great and her daughter picked a few new skills; she also talked about the guest house available to attendees and how nice it was… I was intrigued and decided to give the RHTC a call. A few weeks later I did an over-the-phone screening where I shared a bit about JR.
I was told there was a wait list – up to a year! – but we got a call back within just a few months. Our weekly PT had always said JR would benefit from an intensive where he’d have physical therapy a few hours a day, and hopefully with repetition, attain some new skills and functional movements.
Although the guest house looked nice, I tried commuting at first but that first day was a rude awakening! We live in Northern Virginia and 95 can be crazy unpredictable; I think we were over a half hour late (maybe more) to the first session and I’d forgotten our insurance card! I was a mess! The receptionist – Jean – kindly asked, “Do you want me to call the guest house and see if they have an opening?” I relented, “Yes, please!” I wasn’t sure how it would all work but I couldn’t stand to do the drive another day!
Well, guys, that’s the beginning of this story and the end! The guest house has become a home away from home as JR wraps up his third intensive tomorrow. At this point, I have the fondest memories here — bringing Caden that first round and the two of them sleeping side-by-side on one of the pull-out beds. Meeting other families and learning about some cutting-edge interventions for CP. And I absolutely love the volunteers. Not to mention, the house itself is absolutely gorgeous; welcoming and inspiring with each detail down to the coasters!
I wanted to start a series here where I could share more details about this for others looking for an intensive or curious about the logistics. I know most people don’t read blogs anymore but they still use google, and hopefully if you’ve stumbled on this, I can be of help to you on your journey. Navigating cerebral palsy hasn’t been easy for us, but it sure has been an adventure that’s taken us to some incredible places — the Reinhart House being one of them.
The Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House mission is “one with the Bon Secours Health System as far as bringing compassion to health care and to be good help to those in need. We will provide supportive and comfortable accommodations to our families that will effectively promote health and wholeness in an environment that feels like home.”
I applaud the Reinhart Guest House for fulfilling this mission for our family.
As a participant at the Richmond Hope Therapy Center, which is a part of the Bon Secours Health System, we’re granted access to the Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House. We can stay for the full duration of the 3-week intensive if we choose and the most incredible part? It’s free. Now, they do provide a suggested donation amount based on your length of stay but there is no pressure to pay that amount; you pay what you can (if anything). The food is provided by local volunteers and there’s usually a huge spread several nights a week and snacks/coffee/drinks are stocked and available to all anytime, for free. There’s a large kitchen with double refrigerators where you can store your own food if you have it; and each guest is also provided a space in the pantry.
I’ve heard the guest house is unique in that they built the house knowing it would serve this purpose and I have to say they did a superb job! There’s a beautiful welcoming entry with a wrap-around staircase but an elevator that’s fully handicap accessible for anyone in a wheelchair, like JR. I also love that the bathroom showers are handicap accessible and there’s big wide hallways that allow us to roll JR around in his rifton chair. There’s a large dining area with a TV and beautiful sitting room with a fireplace, and a kid’s playroom also; they thought of it all! There’s laundry facilities (free) and toilet tissue, linens and towels are provided. We also really appreciate that they hold our room over the weekend when we take JR home week-to-week.
We’ve come to know the volunteers and I’m honestly always amazed that they remember our names and faces! Everyone things JR is so friendly and handsome! He’s welcomed here with open arms; no judgement for why; just applause for his hard work over at the Richmond Hope Therapy Center.
I’ll dive into what therapy looks like at an intensive and lessons we’ve learned from three rounds now soon. We really only have good things to say about this experience as a whole and we’re so thankful to have a place like this where we can set aside focused time to help JR with his physical therapy, and speech!