CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Two years ago, a big hug from her little boy seemed out of reach for Candace Richter.
"He really is a miracle. He started to walk this summer," said Candace, smiling about their toddler, Shaw.
It was a milestone they thought would never happen.
Shaw faces some uphill challenges. He was born 13 weeks premature and weighed less than 2.5 pounds. He spent 122 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Presbyterian Hospital.
"There were just some really dark days," said Candace, looking at her husband Michael. They were tested during those four months in the NICU, and their journey did not end there. It continued well after Shaw came home.
They had a long list of worries, their baby survived meningitis, pneumonia, and brain surgeries. To compound the situation, Shaw needed several weekly therapies and insurance covered only a fraction of their therapy needs.
"It's the difference between if your son is going to walk or talk," she said. "It's critical."
Candace and Michael dug in and committed themselves to helping Shaw succeed. They did their homework and met frustration along the way.
"There are families like us who don't qualify for Medicaid but aren't independently wealthy," said Candace. They would ask providers how other families managed and were simply told to expect financial struggle.
Candace had to quit her job to take care of Shaw and his big brother, Nash, who recently turned three.
The Richters traveled wherever they could find the best therapies. Shaw showed remarkable improvement, and even took his first steps this summer.
Sleep on the other hand, still doesn't come easy. It's a complication of slow brain development and for his parents, it's been like living with a newborn the past two years.
Despite their hurdles, the Richters are finding balance and trying to help other families have an easier journey.
"If we can help financially alleviate that stress, it's just more time for them to focus on their child," said Candace.
That's why she created the non-profit, Bee Mighty. It's a partnership withPresbyterian Hospital to help other micro-preemies. Candace says their group focuses on babies who weigh two pounds or less; or have to stay in the NICU 100 days or longer. All proceeds go toward therapy and medical equipment for the babies.
Looking back, Candace and Michael say they have been blessed to have healthy children and to be able to watch them grow.
Michael is especially proud of how Candace has managed their family and is now branching out. "She just glows," he said.
Shaw still has a lot of challenges. Surgeries and specialists are part of their family vocabulary. However, with each step Shaw is showing people how to truly Bee Mighty.
For more information on Bee Mighty, click here.
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