If you met Giovanni today, you would think he was just a regular 8-year old…other than he cannot speak, has some difficulty walking, has developmental issues and is easily frustrated. You also cannot tell he is having small seizures inside his brain.
At 2 months old, his parents thought he was just having night terrors when they heard him through the baby monitor every night crying out.
Then, he had one of the episodes while he was wide awake.
After video taping it and taking it to their pediatrician, their lives turned upside down. Giovanni was diagnosed with epilepsy and doctors soon discovered he had an arachnoid cyst where the seizures were thought to be coming from. Brain surgery was the recommendation. At 10-months-old, he underwent a difficult and dangerous brain surgery. While the seizures decreased, they couldn’t be controlled with all the different kinds of medicines usually given to epileptics…medicines that are given to teens or adults! As Giovanni grew, they noticed things weren’t progressing normally for him. Despite physical and speech therapy, Gio couldn’t walk without falling and wasn’t speaking. Then came two more diagnoses that would send any parent into a tailspin: Lennox-Gastaut Syndromeand PDD/NOS on the Autism Spectrum. Gio’s life is marked by many different kinds of seizures: some that cause him to instantaneously fall to the ground, unconscious (the UW ER became a home away from home), others make his entire body tense up as if he’s having a stroke and he stops breathing for 20 seconds, others cause him to shake uncontrollably and scream out as if in pain, others cause him to stare off into space for several seconds…not to mention, he cannot use words to communicate, doesn’t understand how to properly play with toys, cannot interact with other children and wanders aimlessly around his home, stumbling into walls and corners. As frightening as all this sounds, Gio does love life and tries as hard as he can to enjoy each and everyday. He loves watching Disney movies and Baby Einstein videos and relishes taking trips in the car with his mom and dad. And he loves looking at and touching flowers. “Flower” is a word that he actually learned and sometimes says! And, while his parents do all they can for him, they are left struggling to find and gain access to basic services. One of those is respite care. After getting wait-listed and discovering they were not alone, they took matters into their own hands and. Gio’s parents found other parents in Southcentral Wisconsin, hundreds of families, waiting for years for something as simple as a few hours of respite to run errands, take a nap, spend time with their other kids…take a small break from 24 hours of caring for a sick child. So, Gio’s Garden was born from parents of special needs children and caregivers who want to help other families who are struggling. Gio’s Garden’s hope is for a safe environment where parents of special needs children (birth to 6) can bring them for a few hours a week so they can have a small break. As Gio’s Garden grows, so can services it wants to provide. But, as with all things, this costs money. To make his garden grow for other children like him, Gio needs your help. Consider donating to Gio’s Garden today so you can plant a small seed for a child and his or her family that will one day grow into a beautiful flower.