Tristan Whipple was born early at 31 weeks gestation and spent 5 weeks in the NICU at Wesley Medical Center following his delivery. The first months of his life presented many obstacles. “When we brought Tristan home, we pretty much lived in a 6 foot space,” says Tristan’s mother, Chelsea. “We were confined to however long his heart monitor’s cord was. You never realize how limiting those monitors are until your baby is attached to one 24 hours a day.” Caused by Tristan’s premature birth, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea and initially suffered from seizures; however his family’s main concern was Tristan’s development. “Our primary challenge was and still continues to be is his development,” said Chelsea.
Because of his delays, the Whipple family was able to get connected to Rainbows’ services. “This is where Rainbows really helps ease the load,” Chelsea remembers. “It’s nice to have a resource and someone who is scheduled to come to your house and help monitor your child’s development.” Rainbows is able to provide therapies for Tristan and observe his ongoing progress. “If he isn’t hitting milestones either on time or correctly there is an expert who will know and recognize early warning signs,” says Chelsea about Rainbows. “This means we can help him now instead of later.”
Fast forward just 8 months from his birth, Tristan is a typically functioning child, on track to reach developmental milestones equal to his peers. “You would never know he was a preemie now or the ordeal he went through at birth,” said his mother, Chelsea. “To everyone else he is just a normal 8 month old who loves to smile, laugh, and drool!” Tristan has been working with Rainbows since July 2015. His original experience started with seeing an occupational therapist every two weeks, and then every month, and now his sessions take place every 6 weeks. “He is catching up to the peers in his birth age,” says Chelsea, “and is only about a month behind as opposed to several months behind.” Rainbows has been an invaluable resource to the Whipple family, helping to alleviate some of the financial weight the family has faced in the wake of Tristan’s birth complications. “We don’t have to worry about costs,” Chelsea states. “With having a preemie, there are the doctor’s visits and specialists you have to see, sometimes on a weekly basis, which all cost something. Rainbows takes away a lot of that burden.”
However, Rainbows has meant much more than just monetary relief to Tristan’s family. As Tristan’s mother, Chelsea also credits the organization with being a wonderful supply of professional care for children. “Rainbows is an amazing resource of people who truly care about your child and what they need,” she says. Chelsea and her husband get to work alongside Rainbows’ experienced staff to create a specialized plan just for Tristan. According to Chelsea, “Rainbows doesn’t treat Tristan as just another preemie baby and use a chart to figure out where he should be. Rainbows’ dedicated therapists recognize him as his own individualized person who hits milestones on his time, and they help him continue to progress towards the next one.”
Seeing their child’s journey advance, Tristan’s family is glad they have Rainbows to walk alongside them. “When you have a preemie baby, you really have no idea what to expect, “ Chelsea says, “but Rainbows has allowed us to have a team of people ready to help Tristan in any way he needs.”