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A Day in the Life of Errin Dunbar

Errin Dunbar is the mother of 10-year-old Addison, 8-year-old Bridget, and 5-year-old Daniel. Although Addison was born healthy, she stopped breathing 40 minutes later. This lapse in breathing caused brain damage, and Addison is now diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. Errin was a paralegal in her pre-child career and her husband, Chuck, is a research chemist. The family lives in Bedford.

6AM My day begins. Chuck goes up stairs to get Addison out of her bed. After getting myself dressed, I pick out Addison's outfit for the day and head upstairs. I change Addison's diaper, get her dressed, put on her DAFO's (Dynamic Ankle Foot Orthotics) and shoes. Now comes the hard part — brushing her hair. She may be unable to sit, stand, talk, walk or eat through her mouth, but she can fight like the dickens when she sees a hairbrush! Brushing her hair usually takes a good 15 minutes, depending on how awake she is at the time.  

6:40AM I am downstairs, trying to wake up our other two children. Chuck brings Addison downstairs, and we get her strapped into her wheelchair.

6:50AM Addison’s school bus pulls up and she’s off to school. I get my other two out of bed and dressed. While they are eating breakfast, I review spelling words with Bridget and listening to Daniel read. While they brush their teeth and hair, I check my e-mail.

7:30AM Off we go to school. Bridget, Daniel and I usually walk the 1.5 miles to school. We enjoy feeding the ducks, seeing if we can find the baby ducks, an owl in the tree or the crane that visits the duck pond.  

8AM On the way home, I usually do an addition three-mile walk. I consider this to be "me time" and try not to think about what lies ahead.

9AM A little TV down time.

10AM The housework begins. There is always the mountain of laundry to take care of, the general cleaning of the house, running of the errands, telephone calls to our private insurance company or our durable medical equipment supply company. These phone calls can take two hours or more.

12PM E-mails and paperwork. There are the e-mails from Addison's school reporting the seizures she is having during the day. I have to respond to each one — sometimes seven a day.

2PM I’m on my way to get Bridget and Daniel. We either walk or ride our bikes to school, and I like to get in a couple of extra miles before I get the kids.

3PM We arrive home and I check their backpacks, sign all the boxes, read all the papers that come home from the school, look over graded papers, get a snack ready and start the kids on homework. I like to have all of this out of the way before the bus pulls up with Addison.  

4PM Addison is home. I get her into the house and remove her from her wheelchair and carry her upstairs. The first things to come off are her shoes and DAFOs. Normally, she is soaked through and needs her clothes changed, which means that her wheelchair needs to be taken apart and washed before the morning. Once I get her cleaned up, I set up the TV for her. Some days she watches Scooby Doo. Some days it is Dragon Tales or Dora the Explorer. I will start with Scooby and if she is not in a Scooby mood, she will hoot and holler until I come upstairs and change it. If I am not up there fast enough, she will scoot over to the TV and unplug it!

4:30PM I feed Addison through her G-tube. She is very active and I must constantly watch her arms so they will not swing up and snag the tube out of my hands. If she does get the tube, we both end up wearing PediaSure and sometimes her G-tube is pulled out.  

5PM Chuck is home and we start dinner. After dinner, Chuck and Daniel go outside and work on our boat, Bridget draws in her journal, Addison decides if she likes what she is watching and I watch TV. Normally, Chuck and I will make several trips up and down the stairs for changing her diapers and changing the channel. We will sit her up (one of us must always sit behind her and support her constantly) and play with her as long as she will tolerate it.

8PM Bath time, reading time and time to get everyone to sleep. We try to read to or with the children every night for up to an hour. Chuck gives Addison her final feeding for the day and off to bed she goes. She will lay in her bed and fuss, cry and finally scream until we get her out and let her watch more TV. She likes to stay up all night and on occasion can remain awake for 36 hours straight. Usually by 1am she is asleep and we can finally get some well-deserved rest.