“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
Megan Zimmerman loves that quote from motivational speaker Josh Shipp, and she has tried to be that caring adult throughout her nine-year career as a licensed physical therapist at Huntsville Hospital Pediatric Therapy & Audiology.
But her compassion reached new heights when she began working with one very special patient back in July 2019.
Four-year-old Deven had arrived at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children’s Pediatric ER severely neglected and malnourished, weighing just 15 pounds.
Despite the dire circumstances, Deven’s spirit shone through. From the Pediatric ER to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit to the Pediatric floor, he touched the hearts of every hospital staff member who crossed his path – especially Megan.
She distinctly remembers visiting Deven’s hospital room for their first physical therapy session.
“He looked like a skeleton with a large head,” Megan said. “He had no functional speech and couldn’t even do newborn skills like lifting his head up while on his tummy. We basically had to start over with all of his skills.”
Thanks to the incredible efforts of the staffs at the hospital as well as Huntsville Hospital Pediatric Therapy & Audiology, Deven began making significant progress. After about a month in the hospital, he was discharged into the care of a foster parent.
For the next year or so, Deven’s foster family dutifully brought him to Pediatric Therapy & Audiology for weekly outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy. While his foster parents were committed to helping Deven, they weren’t in position to legally adopt him. Megan felt he needed the stability of a loving forever home.
Back in 2016, the Zimmermans had adopted their now 21-year-old son, Rikardo, from a Ukranian orphanage.
Without mentioning Deven’s name or his circumstances, Megan asked her husband, Michael Zimmerman, if he was open to the idea of welcoming another adopted child into their Huntsville home. She was delighted when he said yes.
“From our experience with Rikardo, we felt that we could make an impact in another child’s life,” Megan said. “So we prayed about it. And a few weeks later, we said yes to pursuing adoption of Deven.”
After a period of fostering, Deven officially became a part of the Zimmerman family in February 2022.
Today, Deven is thriving. He’s up to 55 pounds and enjoying life as a typical 8-year-old boy: riding his bike; swimming; fishing; playing baseball and flag football. What took four years to achieve is a testament to Deven’s determination and the relentless efforts of his therapists and caregivers.
Megan says her Pediatric Therapy & Audiology co-workers Lauren Gracie Renfroe (speech therapy), Jennifer Moore (occupational therapy) and Alisa Courtney (physical therapy) all played a huge part in Deven’s recovery. And her mother, a retired kindergarten teacher, “has really helped bring him along academically.”
“So many people think that when adopting a child, it is all about saving the child,” Megan said. “I would disagree. He has saved us. Frankly, adopting both of our boys has changed us.
“The simple things we take for granted are huge. And to watch a child experience love, joy, acceptance and security is life changing.”