Bobbie Jo DeHaven is 24. Since birth, she has endured more than 70 surgeries, brought on by a congenital condition known as spina bifida.
The Georgetown resident and Sussex Central graduate is now in a wheelchair, but she is determined to achieve independence.
Spina bifida is a congenital defect that occurs when the bones of the spine do not form properly. It can cause lower limb paralysis and other chronic symptoms like headaches. There are many causes of spina bifida, but often it is the result of low folic acid levels during pregnancy, a high fever during pregnancy or uncontrolled diabetes.
DeHaven has worked hard to live the kind of life she enjoys, balancing school with vocational training and numerous trips to Christiana Care in Wilmington.
For the first 21 years of her life, she received medical care from A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington Delaware.
“In August of 2009, I was admitted to A.I. DuPont for the last time before turning 21,” she said. “Into my room walked Dr. Allen Friedland.”
Friedland is founding director of Transition Care Practice at Christiana Care Health System, which cares for young adults with special healthcare needs entering the world of adult medicine.
“I know he was sent from God. Meeting Dr. Friedland was an answer to prayer for me and my family,” DeHaven said. “Dr. Friedland has helped me develop into the kind, caring, healthy and productive member of society that I am today.”
Friedland said young adults with special healthcare needs like DeHaven require specialized care.
"We provide them a medical home; a lot of them have complicated medical and social needs, so we provide them with coordinated care," Friedland said. "Some adult providers feel unable to provide the amount of care many of our patients require."
Friedland's team helps patients find specialists, work out guardianship issues and find work and job training resources.
DeHaven credits Friedland and his staff with helping her realize she can be independent and be an active member of society.
DeHaven says she has gotten her health on track and is ready to enter the world and get a job, but standing in her way is transportation.
Living with her family in a rural area of Georgetown makes it hard for DeHaven to go to job interviews, visit friends or get to her appointments. Her goal is to raise $50,000 to purchase a new minivan, which the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation will modify so she can drive it using hand controls.
“I am giving myself until July to raise the money,” she said.
For the past year DeHaven has taken training courses in Microsoft Office and life skills classes. She is an administrative assistant intern with Healthcare Operations Management Enterprises in Middletown.
“I hope to find a job doing clerical work in an office near home,” DeHaven said. “Having transportation would make all the difference in finding a job.”
DeHaven's mom, Jonell, said she is proud of her daughter's accomplishments.
“This is just one more step to independence,” Jonell said.
For more information or to donate with a credit card, go to DeHaven's website at www.giveforward.com.
Cash or check donations can be sent to WSFS Bank in Long Neck and made out to Bobbie Jo DeHaven. Contact DeHaven at X0wheelz0X@gmail.com or 302-358-4682.