A Tribute to Caregivers
Donovan Arterburn’s story sticks with me. In this journey of mine, he’s one of the many heroes I’ve met, albeit a tragic one.
After losing his wife to breast cancer in 2009, Donovan Arterburn became the main caregiver for his three youngest daughters, who were diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuromuscular disorder and a type of muscular dystrophy. Two of his daughters, Bellamy, 18 and Savannah, 17 live with him. Savannah’s twin sister Skylar lives with her aunt and her sister Madison, 20, who take care of her in a separate home, as there is not enough room in Donovan’s small apartment to accommodate everyone.
The disease first made its appearance when the girls were six and has progressed to the point where they are now in wheelchairs. There are several side effects, including scoliosis. Donovan told me, “All three of my girls affected with this disease have had spinal fusion surgeries. Their backs were becoming hunched and it was affecting their circulatory and digestive systems.”
Savannah suffered problems with her digestive system and Bellamy had heart and breathing problems. She still has severe concentric hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (I had to look that up).
Their life expectancy ranges between 20 and 25 years of age. “They are very intelligent, beautiful well-mannered, wonderful children. I love them very much,” added Donovan.
A devoted father, Donovan has sacrificed for his family. He gets up at 5am to lift his daughters from bed and prepare for the day. But his tiny rent-subsidized apartment is not handicap accessible. He has swallowed his pride and obtained government assistance where possible, including food stamps. Whenever the girls have a medical appointment or Savannah goes to school, he has to physically carry his daughters out to his car and then put them in their wheelchairs. This also involves taking Savannah and her wheelchair to the bus stop to get a ride to the Denver School of Arts where she is studying stagecraft and design. Bellamy is enrolled in college where she is studying behavioral science in an online program through Red Rocks Community College.
Surprisingly, Donovan feels fortunate to be able to spend this precious time with his beloved daughters. He already cries for the future that faces him when they’re gone.
Caruso Family Charities was contacted when Donovan’s car required major repairs and had been deemed unsafe to drive. This was a major concern for Donovan, as he didn’t have the thousands of dollars needed to pay for the repairs.
Generous supporters of Caruso Family Charities came to the rescue of the Arterburn family, donating funds to purchase an SUV for them. Through other gracious friends of CFC, Jerry was able to locate a nearly-new Ford Excursion that could accommodate the entire family including the three wheelchairs.
When I presented him with keys to the SUV, Donovan thanked me, saying, “We’re so very appreciative and feel so very fortunate to have been introduced to Caruso Family Charities. They are a wonderful, wonderful group of people.”
It all leaves me feeling humbled and I want to do more.
With your help, I get to help heroes like Donovan. As a father myself, he reminds me there’s nothing any of us wouldn’t do for our own children. The real question is…What are we willing to do to help the children of others?
– Jerry Caruso
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