Lifespan – Abilities Illuminated

Meet Isabella


When Michelle Jeans learned she was three months pregnant in July of 2008, she was a twenty-five year old college student with a dream of completing her BA in Finance. She accepted the unplanned pregnancy as a bump in the road and was excited about becoming a mother. When she went for the first ultra sound at nineteen weeks she learned there was a problem. Her unborn baby girl was diagnosed with Spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube during the first month of embryonic development.

Isabella (the name means “beautiful one”) was born on December 23, 2008 at Duke University Medical Center. She was whisked away to NICU where she was observed for 24 hours and then taken to surgery where highly skilled doctors put her spinal cord and its nerve roots back in the spine. In addition, a shunt was surgically installed to provide a continuous drain for the cerebrospinal fluid produced in the brain and drained to the abdomen. After surgery, doctors presented a long list of things this “beautiful one” would never do, including walking and becoming toilet trained.

In the summer of 2010 Michelle was looking for the best daycare option. She visited LIFESPAN Circle School in Burlington and fell in love with the vibrant center where children with developmental delays and those without—learn together. The weekly daycare fee was yet another bump in the road, but, Alamance Partnership for Children stepped in and offered to pay a portion of the weekly fee.

Today, Isabella is thriving. She attends physical therapy at LIFESPAN and is a bundle of energy. She is taking 5 to 6 steps on her own and then is walking with crutches. The expectation is that she will soon achieve full mobility—on her own! And, she requested to wear “big girl panties” like her friends at school—Isabella is being potty trained (her urologist is amazed).

Although there have been many bumps in the road for Michelle and Isabella—today, life is good! LIFESPAN has provided opportunities that enable Isabella’s abilities to be illuminated. Michelle graduated in May with a degree in finance and is now engaged to be married. Isabella has a bright future with an incredible mom, much community support, and a new daddy on the way!