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Meet Ethan

Four-Year-Old Ethan Receives Life-Changing Surgery Through Support from Contact to Care

When four-year-old Ethan from Harrisburg was missing developmental milestones in his speech progression, his mother turned to Contact to Care, United Way of the Capital Region’s community pilot project to increase access to health care. Sheylla, a bilingual community health worker with Contact to Care, scheduled an appointment with a pediatrician at Hamilton Health Center, which is the lead service provider of the Contact to Care program.

Ethan’s pediatrician at Hamilton Health referred him to a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey where he was diagnosed with a condition called ankyloglossia, more commonly known as “tongue-tied,” in which the thin tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is short, making it difficult to swallow and speak. This condition is often detected in newborns if they have trouble eating. While Ethan’s condition was not diagnosed until he was four, a surgical procedure called a lingual frenotomy would correct the problem and enable him to attend speech therapy so he could get back on track academically.

With limited resources, Ethan’s mother turned to Sheylla for help completing applications for financial assistance through Penn State Children’s Hospital and emergency medical assistance through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Ethan’s mother worked quickly and diligently to complete all the required forms. When the application process hit roadblocks, Sheylla stepped in to ensure the barriers of language and understanding complex financial forms did not derail Ethan’s surgery.

As a result of their hard work and determination, the cost of Ethan’s surgery was completely covered, and his surgery was successfully completed in November. In addition, Ethan will receive one year of speech therapy at no cost through Penn State Health. Contact to Care is also providing Ethan and his mother transportation support to ensure they can make it to every speech therapy session.

It is often said it takes a village to raise a child. A village of individuals who donate to United Way, nonprofit partners and government organizations came together to change Ethan’s life. He is now on a level playing field to prepare for kindergarten.

“I’m very grateful for the support of Contact to Care and Penn State Children’s Hospital for helping my son,” Ethan’s mom says. While Ethan may not understand the work behind the surgery, he smiles brightly, excited to begin speaking like other children his age.

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