Melonie, David, Madisen, Wyatt, Elizabeth and Trae
Parents who have a child with a disability can spend much time questioning what caused their child’s disability. Bedford resident Melonie Caster, however, can pinpoint the exact date and cause of her son’s disability. When her son, Trae, was nine weeks old, he was injured by a licensed in-home caregiver. Shaken baby syndrome caused severe trauma to his head and neck when the caregiver probably threw Trae against a wall.
For the next three years, Melonie didn’t know if their son would survive. Melonie was faced with the decision to unplug Trae from his life support systems as doctors told her that he was in pain and would not recover. During what she thought was the last night of Trae’s life, she held him all night in the hospital room.
Once the support systems were unplugged, Trae immediately began to breathe on his own. However, the doctor told Melonie that Trae would always be in a vegetative state and she replied, “You’re right, I’m going to have a little sweet pea.”
Once he recovered from his immediate injuries, Trae was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Melonie states, “I no longer had a child with shaken baby syndrome, I have a child with a disability.” She then added Trae’s name to the Medicaid waiver program waiting lists.
Over the next nine years of their lives, Trae’s parents were falsely accused of his injuries and threatened with prosecution for a crime they did not commit. They also had their parental rights terminated temporarily, and Trae was placed in foster care for nine months.
Melonie created an international support group for shaken baby syndrome. Also, because Trae’s abuser was unable to be prosecuted due to legal limits, Melonie worked to enact legislation that was passed in her son’s name to increase the statute of limitations related to injury of a child.
Melonie remarried and her second husband, David, and his three children, Madisen, Wyatt and Elizabeth, began a journey together caring for Trae while they waited to receive Medicaid waiver services.
They received Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) services in 2006 when Trae was 13 years old. While grateful for the services, the Casters report that CLASS does not cover medications related to Trae’s diagnosis of traumatic brain injury. As a result, their out-of-pocket expenses have not been reduced since enrollment in the waiver program.
Now that Trae has services, he goes into the community with his attendants and gets the therapies he needs. Melonie states, “Now, Trae is just a kid. Before the program, he was a person with a disability on a waiting list.”