‘No Givin’ Up’: Mom and daughter paying forward community’s generosity
Mikayla Wisher’s daily routine starts with tube feeding and seizure medications at 4:30 a.m. Then she and her mother, Sabrina, get ready for work before heading off to join Papa and Uncle Shane at the family-owned Wisher Salvage Inc. just outside of Kalispell in northwest Montana. Papa is Mikayla’s grandfather, Jerry Wisher. Uncle Shane is Shane Amundson.
After work — about 4:30 — mother and daughter drive to Edge Fitness, a privately owned gym, where Sabrina lifts weights with the help of trainer Gena Mahilom. The training helps keep Sabrina in shape for moving her daughter in and out of a wheelchair. It’s also a stress reliever.
“It’s a kind of mental thing,” Sabrina said.
They head home about 6:30. After dinner, Mikayla either gets a bath or cuddles with her mom and little brother, Hunter.
Then it’s time for bed.
“Lights out at 9,” Sabrina said. “That’s mom’s quiet time.”
Mikayla cannot speak or walk. She depends completely on her mother or a caregiver.
“She has seizures daily, and I administer seizure meds three times a day,” Sabrina said. “Mikayla communicates with her eyes and her contagious smile and laugh.
“What Sabrina does for Mikayla is only part of the story. The bigger story is what they do together for others in their community.
SABRINA WAS 22when Mikayla was born.
“Her dad and I were a very young married couple, and we were on top of the world with our beautiful baby girl,” she said.
But at 2½ months, Mikayla began having spasms.
“At the time we had no idea what an infantile spasm even was,” Sabrina said. “And then Dr. MaryAnne Guggenheim confirmed Mikayla’s diagnosis of Aicardi Syndrome. When the doctor gave me information about the syndrome, I just threw it away. I believed there was no paper that could teach me what I was about to live.”
Sabrina became a single mom when Mikayla was 2.
“If you would have told me that this is what my life was going to be, I would have told you you were crazy,” Sabrina said.
What her life was going to be involved scores of visits to the doctor and hundreds of tests. By age 5, Mikayla had been in and out of the hospital 44 times.
Mikayla, who was not supposed to live past her first birthday, turned 22 on May 20, 2013.
“She was the strongest little girl I have ever known,” Sabrina said. “Mikayla has taught me so many more things with her silence than I would or could have ever learned in a textbook. She is my hero, and I tell her all the time, ‘I so want to be just like you when I grow up.’”
Their motto is “No Givin’ Up.”
And they have not.
“I BELIEVE MY LOVE AND FAITH, but most of all my will for life, is why Mikayla is here today,” Sabrina said. “When Mikayla was growing up, we didn’t let her disability stop us from doing anything. We went camping; so did she. Mikayla’s dad, John Hahn, adapted a four-wheeler so she could ride with us. We went hunting; she was right there with us. We never once handicapped Mikayla. We just made things happen so she also could enjoy all things that her siblings enjoyed.”
Mikayla also enjoys the love and support of younger siblings, Audrey and Steel Hahn.
Mikayla and Sabrina have even run half-marathons together (“She always seemed to beat me, though,” Sabrina quipped.)
“We may not have been first to cross the finish line, but we didn’t give up. We crossed it on our time.”
As Mikayla grew up, she grew stronger, which helped her cope with the seizures that racked her body (and still do) five to 10 times a day.
Those seizures caused Mikayla to become entangled in her bed.
“I was afraid of her falling out of bed in the middle of the night,” Sabrina said.
She shopped around for a bed that would keep Mikayla — who was 20 at the time — safe. A friend, Jenifer Lugenbeel, found SleepSafe, which specializes in equipment “for those with Special Needs.”
SleepSafe makes a bed that covers the seven “entrapment zones.” Entrapment occurs when a patient is caught, trapped, or entangled in the hospital bed system, which includes the spaces in or around the bed rail, mattress or bed frame. The SleepSafe bed had one big drawback; it cost $9,000, a price that put it out of Sabrina’s reach.
She applied for Medicaid through the state of Montana to help cover the cost of the bed. The state turned her down.
“I appealed, and I appealed again, and one last time I appealed,” she said.
And one last time she was denied.
The solution suggested to prevent Mikayla from being entangled in her bed was to have her sleep on the floor.
“A friend, Darla Harmon, showed up at my work and said, ‘Enough is enough; we are going to get this bed for Mikayla.’”
Harmon donated the first $100 and started “A Bed for Mikayla” page on Facebook.
Donations poured in.
“The generosity of my class and community was so overwhelming,” Sabrina said. “Their generosity was over the top.”
OTHERS IN THE COMMUNITY showed their generosity by contributing to a raffle. Montana Rifle, a firearms manufacturer in Kalispell, donated a rifle. Another locally based firearms manufacturer, Kimber, contributed a handgun.
“When we had raised enough money to purchase a bed, Jenifer went to the SleepSafe company to see if they would give us a deal as we were paying cash for it,” Sabrina recalled.
“The company was so moved by my story, they gave me a bed for Mikayla. What a blessing that was.”
It’s a blessing she has shared.
She used the donated funds to “pay it forward,” buying beds for two other families. She continued to buy equipment for other families before starting Mikayla’s Miracles and Blessings Foundation in honor of her daughter.
In December 2012, mother and daughter attended a meeting of the Evergreen Lions Club. They told their story and explained their mission. The Lions chose her foundation to do a fundraiser.
“God was opening up so many doors for Mikayla and me,” Sabrina said. “During this time, donations were still coming in. The love and support from my family and community was unbelievable. Complete strangers were more than willing to donate something for the cause!”
“I believe in the quality life for all special needs children and adults,” Sabrina added. “I intend to make sure that happens. I believe God has put me where I am for a purpose to save them all.”
Mikayla’s Foundation continues to help others.On Dec. 23, the foundation donated an iPad to a local boy who has autism and physical disabilities.
“It was neat,” Sabrina said. “He works with an iPad at school, but he didn’t have one of his own. As soon as we got it out of the box, he knew exactly how to turn it on and use it. He was excited. It’s going to help him in school.”
The foundation also gave a plaque to the boy’s mother inscribed with a single word: “Believe.”