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Dave and Grace: Learning from Medically Fragile Fatherhood
Published June 18, 2023

“Parenting a disabled child changes you for the better,” Dave shares. “It makes you more compassionate. It might be a different journey than what you expected, but it’s an amazing one.”

Dave’s introduction to fatherhood 16 years ago was certainly unexpected. “Twins were a shock to begin with,” he recalls. He and his wife, Abby, welcomed their son and daughter at 32 weeks gestation, and they were rushed to the NICU soon after. Their son went home with them after about a month. Meanwhile, doctors struggled to find answers for their daughter Grace’s declining condition.

Grace was eventually diagnosed with methylmalonic acidemia, a disorder that prevents her body from breaking down protein. This led to other diagnoses, including a seizure disorder and developmental delays. It was a difficult time for their family, and a challenging start to Dave’s fatherhood journey. He credits getting through the uncertainty of those early days to his strong partnership with Abby and help from their friends and family.

“Spending every day with your baby in the NICU can quickly become overwhelming,” Dave acknowledges. “But my wife is incredible, and we have a strong support network. That made all the difference. It was great to have our family and friends there for us then and throughout the years.”

Later on, Dave and Abby added Aveanna to their support network. “Our Aveanna nurse has been with us for about 9 years,” Dave says. “Thanks to her help, we have more time to interact with Grace. The medical care she provides allows us to have a different type of connection with Grace. We can just sit down and play with her without having to worry about the medical side of things. There are only so many minutes in an hour. Having a nurse gives us back some of that time to really connect with Grace.”

Fatherhood has gotten more predictable for Dave since those early days. Dave, his family, and their Aveanna nurse have worked out a steady rhythm and routine. Grace hasn’t had a seizure in years. And Dave has worked through some of the struggles he had early on. “It was challenging at first for me to see milestones passing Grace by,” Dave admits. “But with all three of our kids, we’ve learned that there are always milestones to celebrate. Now, I understand that Grace moves at Grace’s pace.”

Dave has come to appreciate the unique beauty in his fatherhood journey and all that he’s learned over the years. “There are amazing moments with Grace every single day,” he says. “Parenting all our kids is awesome. It’s a different experience with each child, and each one is just as awesome as the next.”

Every father walks a unique path with meaningful lessons along the way. This Father’s Day, we celebrate Dave and all the dads who grow and learn while enjoying all the wonderful moments with their children. Happy Father’s Day!

If you're a nurse interested in helping families like Dave’s, you can find opportunities near you at