Snack time means a whole lot to little Kenzley Martin. "She went so long without tasting anything," says her mother, Kendal Martin. "Now I think she's making up for lost time."
A small feeding tube leads into Kenzley's stomach, addressing her inability to simultaneously suck, swallow and breathe. She and her older sister, Kennady, were both born prematurely, Kennady at 25 weeks, Kenzley at 24 weeks. "I learned not to take anything for granted," Kendal says.
Kenzley was born at 1 pound, 10 ounces and has come a long way from her days in neonatal intensive care. Her sister was just 2 when Kenzley was born, "She knows when to worry," Kendal says, "like she could tell something was wrong with her sister."
Mornings are hectic for the Martins. Two small kids get their hair done, lunch packed, clothes changed and loaded into the family car. They make their way to Easter Seals West Kentucky, where Kennady will need to be walked to her school bus and Kenzley dropped off at the Lily Pad. Kendal immediately heads to her own classroom within the Lily Pad, where she'll make herself breakfast and then care for other children who require special attention and care while their parents are at work.
The Lily Pad is a day care for children with complex medical needs. It operates as part of the Easter Seals Disability Services, a nonprofit that focuses on improving life for those with a variety of disabilities. There, nurses and nursing assistants feed Kenzley through her stomach tube and make sure she doesn't have any other emergencies.
Kenzley will have her stomach tube removed in about year and will be able to snack on solid foods to her heart's content. The fight for survival each child experienced when she was born fostered an intense sense of closeness within the family.
"When we're not together, we don't feel complete," Kendal says.