A new urgent care center designed with kids in mind just opened in the Las Vegas Valley. The woman behind it: a valley mom whose son has special needs.
"Even professional doctors were telling me, 'terminate the pregnancy.' It was just really difficult for me and an emotional time, and for me, I thought 'This is my son, he's perfect to me,'" April Joy Long said.
Before he was born, Long's son, Kade, was diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition in which a baby's spine does not form properly. She said she knew they'd face a long and difficult road ahead.
"I felt helpless like ‘Ok, I'm going to do this. I'm gonna be the best mom I can.' But this is different. He has real medical challenges and I wanted to be prepared."
Kade survived brain and back surgeries right after he was born. Long said she had to wait nine days until she could hold her son for the first time.
“They said 'If he starts breathing on his own, he can come home.' I said 'ok.' So I became this obsessed parent. I just wanted to learn all about the respiratory system so he could come home,” Long said.
Never having worked in the medical field, Long went back to school and became a respiratory therapist.
"(It was) a way to adjust, to give him the best life that I could,” Long said.
Kade is six years old. He uses a wheelchair and still faces many medical challenges.
"I live in doctors' offices with my son with all his special needs and I see so much that I love, so much that I don't love and we need something specific for the children and the parents that are scared,” Long said.
That's why two months ago Long opened Over the Rainbow Pediatric Urgent Care in Henderson. The goal was to create a bright, fun, friendly environment all centered around kids and their medical needs, she said.
"I thought 'What do I want my child to have? What does he deserve?'"
When families walked into Over the Rainbow they were greeted in a whimsical waiting room.
"We're trying to make the waiting process as fun as possible. We know you're sick but we try to think how can we distract and make them feel like they're somewhere else and not in a white wall hospital setting,” Long said.
That concept continues throughout the urgent care and into the patient rooms.
"We wanted to make a theme. We made a theme in each room so that children can choose what room they wanted to go into." "The waiting room is fun but it's still fun back here."
The urgent care also has a coffee station, a movie theater to help kids relax and a nursery.
"If they want to get away, this is a more private space for nursing or to change a diaper, get out of the lobby, make it more comfortable."
Mixed into the designs were tributes to valley firefighters who rushed to help Long's son during a scary medical episode a few years ago.
"They saved my son's life and I'm grateful for that. And he's obsessed with firetrucks now, of course," Long said.
It's the first doctor’s office that Long said Kade has enjoyed visiting and she hoped other young patients will feel the same.
"He's so happy. It's really made me feel like I'm doing something for him and that's all you want to do as a parent not just (as a parent with a child) with special needs is, 'How can I make his life easier and better?' He has so many challenges and just to come in here and be comforted when he gets his medical care makes a huge difference to me,” Long said.
Caring for her son with special needs sent Long on a journey she never planned for, but she said it's been more rewarding than she ever could have imagined.
"It has changed my life. You think it would change it to be stressful, and it's changed it for the better by a mile,” Long said.
For more information on the Over The Rainbow Pediatric Urgent Care, click here.
This story was part two of a series of reports on parents in the Las Vegas Valley helping families with special needs kids. To see part one, click here.
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