Continuing from the previous post...
As my life was falling apart, I realized I had to take control and do something.
First I picked up the phone and called dear, sweet Sandi, who had so kindly provided me with volunteers to the basement the year before. She wracked her brains but could not come up with anyone available during those critical morning-bus and afternoon-bus times. Then she asked me whether I had considered calling J&N Ambulette Service. She had told me about it the year before, but I was hesitant. J&N is a local ambulette service. They transport patients with straight Medicaid and Medicare to doctor's appointments, and they also managed to figure out a (legal) way to transport kids to therapy and special ed programs. (Since Medicaid does pay for some OT, ST, and PT, they are allowed to transport patients to such services, even if Medicaid is not actually paying for the service.) I had hesitated, because I felt very stupid - Dovi's school is located 2 blocks away from home! I wasn't going to 'use' a service when it wasn't really necessary.
But after six months of rushing back and forth with Dovi twice a day, I had to concede that it was very necessary. The service was available, Dovi was entitled to it - why not give it a try?
Hesitantly, I called J&N and explained the situation. I spoke to an extremely wonderful guy there, who took all the particulars and promised to get back to me after he looked into whether he could service Dovi at those times.
It took about a week to set it all up. I had to get the cooperation of TABAC's therapists to take Dovi up and down the stairs to and from the van. Zehava did everything in her power to make it happen. In the afternoons they have a specially hired young lady who watches over the kids until their cars or res habs arrive (many of them travel with Chesed cars). In the morning, twice a week the receptionist would go downstairs to get him , and twice a week his speech therapist.
The test run was conducted one afternoon. The driver picked up Dovi from TABAC at 3:30. At 3:40 I got called by the driver to go downstairs and get him. It was like a dream. I was actually able to go downstairs in my houseclothes at my leisure. Dovi came off the white van happy and smiling - he loves car rides. I couldn't believe the difference. I was a mensch once again.
The next morning was the ultimate test. It was a mad scramble, as usual, to get Dovi and Chaim out at the same time - 8:55 - but we did it. The big white ambulette arrived, lowered the hydraulic lift, and Dovi was pushed in, stroller and all. His stroller was tethered to the van floor, and off the van went.
And I was able to turn around and smile at all the gawkers and gapers, and have my much-needed morning chat with the other mothers waiting for their kids' buses. Chaim was incredibly proud of his little brother and felt like a bigshot, the center of attention. He was so excited.
My life changed from that moment on.
The owners of J&N have been incredible. Whether it's last minute schedule changes, address changes, or anything else, they are supremely accommodating. I have also traveled with them to many of Dovi's appointments. It hasn't been smooth sailing, of course; Dovi pretty soon began climbing out of his stroller and bolting to the front of the van. We had to figure out a way to keep him tethered to his stroller with a harness. There have been times when the van was very late in arriving or when they completely forgot to pick him up, and the therapists would call me every few minutes, telling me they couldn't sit around and wait with Dovi in the waiting room as he was destroying the OT gym. But by and large this setup has been the most amazing thing that could have happened to me to help ease the burden of caring for Dovi. Three times a week Dovi goes directly to his Res Hab with the van, and he only comes home at 6 pm. It works wonderfully.
Dovi loves the van. He recently got a new driver -the old one left - who is extremely kind to him. He greets him in the morning even though Dovi does not respond verbally - but Dovi responds with the biggest smile and eye contact you can imagine. It's shocking and amazing how much Dovi really understands and feels, without the ability to express. He feels the warmth and caring of his driver. He loves sitting and looking out the window of the van. He is so calm and controlled inside. We have a new stroller (which I'll talk about eventually, if I'll get to it....) from which he cannot escape, and transit is smoother now.
Ironically enough, just as I was starting to prepare this post, there was major trouble with the whole ambulette service. Apparently Medicaid had gotten whiff of the fact that many kids were going to what is essentially school with the ambulette service (many families use them instead of the bus service of the Board of Ed because of the very early hour and not-optimal conditions inside the bus) and they were slashing services across the board. Dovi was still eligible for the van, as the Board of Ed does not supply transportation for children under age 5, but Medicaid insisted anyway that the Board of Ed provide the service. I was stuck between two agencies refusing to provide transportation to Dovi's therapy. With the NYC school bus strike going on, things are chaotic as parents scramble to find alternative arrangements, and I guess it got too much for Medicaid.
It took one simple, heartfelt email to the right person to get Dovi's service reinstated, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
For as long as Dovi is still at TABAC - likely until next September - I will continue thanking G-d daily for the incredible resources available to me, and for the brains to utilize them to simplify my life, which is complicated enough as it is.
Next up: Angel #2.