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North Yarmouth woman makes families with critically ill children her cause

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North Yarmouth woman makes families with critically ill children her cause

NORTH YARMOUTH — Tracy Hessel Libby turned a personal tragedy into an opportunity for other Maine families several years ago when she founded Caring Resources for Living.

In 2002, Libby's 2 1/2-year-old child, Camden, was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor.

“There was a time, before we knew that his condition was terminal, that he was losing the ability to sit upright,” Libby said last week. “I felt that it was becoming unsafe to bathe him in the tub, because he was losing this ability. … So, working with our visiting nurse, we determined that a bathing chair would be a simple way for me to put him in the tub safely and bathe him safely.”

But obtaining the chair was a problem. Libby’s family waited six weeks for it, until their nurse was finally able to find one. Libby, meanwhile, was at her son’s side 24 hours a day taking care of him.

“The duration of his disease from diagnosis until the time he died was five months, so it was a very intense, short course,” Libby said. “Six weeks of that time was a significant period.”

Knowing there had to be a better way to obtain such necessary equipment, Libby took it upon herself to create a means of doing so. The result, in December 2005, was Caring Resources for Living.

The non-profit organization, with Libby as president and a board of seven, responds to referrals from medical professionals like nurses, physical therapists and social workers to aid families who have children with life-threatening medical conditions.

“We serve urgent, unmet needs,” said Libby, who works full time at IDEXX Laboratories.

The all-volunteer organization strives to fill a gap in services that cannot be met by existing programs and agencies. It reviews each referral, and its goal is to provide fast-acting responses, Libby said.

“Some children that have life-threatening medical conditions have chronic conditions, so there are social service agencies that will cover many of their needs,” she explained. “What we’re trying to do is really carve out this niche where a need is right now, and insurance either can’t cover it or can’t cover it in time.”

Caring Resources for Living has served needs such as a small generator for the remote home of an oxygen-dependent child with cystic fibrosis, specialty vitamins for a child with Down syndrome and leukemia, a portable whirlpool adapter for a child with a rare skin disorder and cerebral palsy, and gasoline cards enabling a family to travel to Boston to visit a specialist.

All the money for the organization comes through private donations. An average request in a year’s time can run about $400 to $500, Libby noted. This year the organization has already received 15 requests.

Looking ahead, she said, “I would love to see CRL become more of a household name, where people know that CRL exists, especially the referring medical community. … I would love our fundraising to grow in that capacity as well.”

Libby can be reached at tracy-crl@maine.rr.com. For more information, log onto crlmaine.org.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.