‘A really difficult burden to bear’: Mom fights for military families with complex medical needs

Sacrifices are part of service for military families. But for a family with a child who needs additional medical care, life can get even more complicated.

Austin Carrigg’s goal is to ensure that his daughter, Melanie, leads a full and normal life. The 9-year-old child is deaf and has Down syndrome.

“She’s probably the center of our whole family,” Carrigg told CBS News. “And I think she’s the one who gave us purpose in life.”

But the family of five have had to move seven times because Carrigg’s husband, Joshua, is in the US military, which has impacted access to care for Melanie.

“It’s a very difficult burden to bear because I know my husband said he would lay down his life for our country, but we never thought they would ask for our daughter’s,” Carrigg said.

An undiagnosed blood vessel disorder led Melanie to suffer a devastating stroke two years ago.

The doctors “really sent us away and acted like nothing was wrong,” Carrigg said. “My daughter almost died. And that’s hard, isn’t it? I had no confidence in myself. And because of that, I almost lost her.”

She said being part of a military family “absolutely” changed the course of her daughter’s care.

To help her daughter and others like her, Carrigg started a national nonprofit, Exceptional Families of the Military, to help military families navigate the system.

“We’re here when you need us. We know what that road you’re working on is, and we meet with lawmakers to change the laws that surround policies that affect us as military families,” Carrigg said of of the non-profit organization. assignment.

The U.S. military told CBS News in a statement that its leaders recognize the need to improve processes in place to help families like the Carriggs and that a new system will be rolled out this summer.

Carrigg hopes the program will be Melanie’s legacy. Until then, she celebrates each day they spend together.

“Last year she came out of the hospital just before Mother’s Day. And we had a year. And she does everything they told us she wouldn’t do. And I have l feel like I got it back. So it’s a party,” Carrigg said. “It’s a celebration that she thrives and not just that she survives and that our family is still whole.”

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