TARC Ambassador 2018, Grady James Wheeler


Grady James Wheeler is the son of Kyle and Haley Wheeler.  On July 28, 2017 Grady came into this world with a bang and has kept us on our toes ever since.  I (Haley) went in for a routine check up and was beginning to question the size of my belly.  I was far along and just was no longer getting any bigger.  My doctor did further testing and I indeed had IUGR(intrauterine growth restriction).  This is a condition where my placenta couldn’t provide enough nourishment to the baby and he was not adequately growing or gaining weight.  His estimated weight was four pounds.  After this, I was very closely monitored and went to a check up twice a week.  A few check ups later at 35 weeks it was  determined that Grady was losing weight and it was no longer safe for him to stay in the womb.  Grady, and  my own body, were in a lot of distress.  My doctor immediately sent me over to have him at that very moment. Unprepared, shocked, scared and  somewhat excited I was induced.  After a very hard labor twelve hours later we welcomed our tiny but mighty baby boy into the world.  He rang in at three pound, fifteen ounces and sixteen and a half inches long.  He was no bigger then my two hands put together.  There was an amazing neonatal team standing by in the delivery room ready to do whatever they had to for our little man.  They took him to the NICU and we patiently waited to hear back from them so we could go meet him.  Before going to see our son, the neonatologist came into the room and started to ask us several questions about our family history, any medication I could have been taking while pregnant, etc.  As a first time parent, Or any parent at all you are thinking, “why is he asking me this, what is going on...when can I see my baby?”  The doctor looked at me and said, “ Your baby is showing characteristics of Down Syndrome.  He has a sandal gap, a Palmer crease, folds in his eyes and excessive skin on the back of his neck.  We won’t know for sure for two weeks.  So for now all you can do is not worry and just love your baby.”  At that moment my initial reaction was what I think most people would do, I broke down and cried. 

I asked everyone to leave the room except my husband.  That news wasn’t shared to us  in private but in front of everyone.  It was hard, very very hard.  I wasn’t so much upset that Grady had DS but I was afraid of the unknown.  I knew nothing about DS besides that people with DS have similar defining characteristics and most of the time some developmental delays.  I kept crying to Kyle, “what if someone picks on him and we aren’t there to protect him”, those were my worries.  I had no clue what all this diagnoses entailed.  Many common conditions that are associated with DS are low muscle tone (being “floppy” or not as strong as the typical child.  This can cause delays in simple milestones like holding up the head, sitting up, crawling, walking , breast feeding, etc)., hearing and vision problems, cardiac disease/defects, some intellectual delays, leukemia, weakened immune systems, narrow passage ways (making getting well much harder) throughout the ears canals, throat, ad nasal passage ways, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease( starting in 30’sand 40’s).  Just to name a few most issues that accompany Down Syndrome.  These are not always accompanied by people with DS, but these are some of the things we worry about as parents.  Grady has had PDA (Peyton ductus arteriosis) closure and will soon have open heart surgery to correct his partial AV canal, partial septal cleft and small muscular ventricle defect. Other challenges we are working on are rolling over and using his core to sit up straight.  Grady loves to favor his left side due to his muscles bring tight, this is something else we are working to address.  Over the span of his birth until today we have had many scares with Grady due to his heart.  Grady was transferred to Children’s Hospital NOLA for pulmonary edema, fluid on his lungs, and his oxygen was consistently dropping along with metapneumo virus.  His open heart surgery is supposed to be pushed up to this month.  With the help of TARC they have been sure to keep Grady up to par with where he should be during these difficult times.  I have heard of TARC several times in my childhood and would always bring money to school for Penny Power, but never truly knew everything that they entailed.  TARC has been a wonderful guide of resources for Grady and all of our family to answer questions pertaining to just about anything.  All of the TARC family has been a blessing to us.  They have helped us choose asocial worker for Grady, as well as a therapist for special instruction, and physical and occupational therapy.  All of our experiences have been such a breeze through TARC and Early Step systems.  I know because of this Grady’s future will be so very bright.  In some social media support groups we are in I have heard parents dealing with some very negative and dreadful experiences going into this journey on their own.  I am thankful that we have not had to run into anything like this and have the support of this team to guide us.  Through this program we have made several connections and new friends who have supported us and encouraged us through this new endeavor.  Grady has been the sunshine in our lives and makes us smile every single day.  Our family is happy that we get to share Grady with the TARC community and rely on them when in need of direction.  

TARC Ambassador 2018, Roy Sanders Jr


Roy Sanders Jr., was born on August 16, 1958 to the late Roy Sanders Sr., and Myra E. Sanders in Independence, Louisiana.  Roy is the oldest child.  Roy has three siblings.  Jackie is the oldest sister, Dwana is the middle sister, and Gwen is the youngest sister.  Roy is the Uncle of 5 and the Great Uncle of 2.  Roy grew up in Greenville Park as a child and attended Hammond High School.  Roy is an active member of the Greater St. James Baptist Church under the leadership of Pastor Monroe Jones in Tickfaw, Louisiana.  Roy attends church every Sunday.  Roy’s hobbies include dancing, singing, going to football games and basketball games.  His favorite team is the New Orleans Saints.  Roy loves to wear his Saints attire along with his hats.  He is also a strong fan of Hammond High and loves to wear his purple and white! His favorite artist is the late Michael Jackson and he enjoys listening to the Jackson”5” He loves spending time with his girlfriend Emily and his family.  He is so thoughtful that he remembers all of his sibling and cousins birthdays by heart!  Roy is such a lovable person and meets no strangers.  He is friendly with everyone and very appreciative for all of the support he receives.  Roy attends the TARC Day Hab  program.  He loves the outing and interacting with people in the community.  Roy is so honored to be chosen as the TARC Ambassador .