Those who meet four-year-old Shallus—now a bouncing gymnast and music lover—might not believe that just two months ago he struggled with debilitating mouth infections.
“He would wake up multiple times [at night] crying,” Shallus’ mother Anais Beatty said. “I’d be up with him giving him medicine.”
The pain from his mouth infections also frequently prevented Shallus from attending a full-day of Head Start. When he was able to attend class, Shallus’ Head Start teacher explained that even small tasks like washing his hands brought tears.
Determined to find a medical facility that would treat her son, Beatty reached out to representatives of a university-run emergency dental care program who put her son on the waiting list. After months of waiting and unreturned calls, Beatty learned that a change in the family’s insurance provider had led to her son’s removal from the waitlist without notice. Angered and frustrated, Beatty relayed the situation to her NOCAC family advocate, Megan Robinette, who eagerly agreed to help.
The search for another emergency dental care service led Beatty and Shallus to Toledo. However, upon arrival, the two were told that the surgery would be too extensive and were turned away. Finally, in late 2021, Beatty received word of an availability at the Cleveland Clinic. In response, NOCAC put together resources to prepare the family for the procedure.
“[NOCAC staff] were amazing,” Beatty said. “They provided us with gift cards for gas and a hotel night, so we didn’t have to wake up early and drive on the day of the surgery.”
After a year-long fight to find a clinic willing and able to operate, Shallus finally got his procedure on Jan. 20, 2022. For Beatty, this procedure has “meant everything” to her and her family. For Shallus, the improvement in his well-being and happiness was instantaneous.
“Once we made it home [from the procedure], he was doing cartwheels!” Beatty exclaimed with a laugh.
In the two weeks following his procedure, Shallus has continued to improve on every front. He now sleeps through the night—an immense blessing, in Beatty’s words—and eats more comfortably. The gymnastics have continued and evolved to daily dance sessions at his house.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be my little performer,” Beatty said.
Shallus’ re-found energy has also led to vast improvements in the classroom, as relayed by his Head Start teachers. Much like he is at home, Shallus has taken to dancing around the classroom when doing all of his activities, including the tasks that used to bring pain.
“He even dances when he washes his hands,” Assistant Teacher Amber Jones said laughing.
Equally excited to see him back in the classroom are his classmates, who sent Shallus homemade cards with well-wishes before his surgery. On the day that he returned, Shallus’ Head Start teacher, Martha Gould, explained that he was welcomed like a celebrity.
“His classmates all said, ‘oh my gosh, Shallus is here’!” Gould said with a smile.
Now that the pain in Shallus’ mouth has subsided, he has been able to talk more and his classmates have all been eagerly taking turns playing with him.
“He’s been able to be a little boy,” Gould said with tears in her eyes.
Shallus has even made a new best friend, Noah, who Beatty explained her son loves telling her about each day he comes home from school.
“Nothing is stopping him from anything anymore,” Beatty said. “It’s just amazing.”
The Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission is a private, non-profit organization created to fight poverty in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Paulding, Van Wert and Williams counties. NOCAC also offers publicly funded childcare in Hancock, Hardin, and Auglaize counties. Interested families can fill out the Head Start registration forms located on their website.