Consider the strain every single parent is under caring for a child on her own. Then multiply that by the difficulties of a single parent with a medically fragile child, and you can understand why Veronica Jeffcoat considers Christiana Care Visiting Nurse Association private duty nurses her personal angels.
“I’m the sole support for me and my daughter Zoe. Without the private duty nurses from the VNA, I wouldn’t be able to work, and my daughter wouldn’t have the care she needs,” Jeffcoat said.
Her daughter Zoe, now 11, entered the world after a difficult birth and has since suffered from the complications of brain damage and cerebral palsy, which include the need to be fed through a tube and susceptibility to infection.
For years, Jeffcoat cared for her daughter on her own, but as Zoe’s medical conditions multiplied, so did the stress.
“When you have a very sick child, you need all the help you can get. I know. I did the care for years and it was overwhelming,” she said.
Burdened by the mounting challenges of caring for her daughter and providing an income, she looked for support and found it at Christiana Care VNA.
“Our goal is to provide as much normalcy for families as possible,” said Lauren Mahieu, Christiana Care VNA nurse manager. “For many, that means we can be there, taking care of their child, so they can go to work and also get a good night’s sleep.”
Christiana Care VNA nurses are with Zoe Monday through Friday during the day when Veronica is at work and weekends from midnight until early morning. This enables Jeffcoat to confidently manage her full-time job.
“My schedule changes every week and the VNA nurses make those changes with me,” she said.
VNA nurses have been a constant in Zoe’s life since she started school.
“Zoe couldn’t manage school on her own, considering her many medical conditions. We were the familiar faces that helped her make the transition to school very well,” said Vickie Duke, LPN, one of the private duty nurses who cares for Zoe.
Unfortunately, a year ago, Zoe suffered multiple bouts of infections that set off seizures, making it impossible for her to continue going to school. Her teacher now comes to the home, as does a physical and occupational therapist, and Christiana Care VNA nurses collaborate with them all, following through on their instructions to help Zoe maintain optimum health. They also manage Zoe’s personal care, order her medications and medical equipment, arrange her medical appointments and even accompany her if Veronica is working.
“What sets us apart is that we really work hard at coordinating with caregivers for our clients, and we minimize any gaps in coverage. We are totally committed to do the right thing for each individual patient,” Mahieu said.
But the VNA nurses do much more for Zoe than provide her specialized medical care. They are trusted companions and friends. When her nurse arrives, Zoe looks for a big hug and beams knowing that her day holds many surprises. Will her nurse have a new creative art project to do together? Will they listen to some of her favorite music or laugh at a Nickelodeon show? Perhaps there will be a trip outside in the wheelchair or a catalog to look through to pick out new curtains for her room.
“She just lights up when her VNA nurses come into her room,” Jeffcoat said.
“I think I am most proud of the fact that we are just like Zoe’s mom in many ways: We want what is best for her, are dedicated to providing the care that she needs, and we love her,” said Duke.
“That’s true,” said Jeffcoat. “These nurses are our family and Zoe loves every one of them.”