In late 2000, I was introduced to a cute little 5-year-old boy by the name of Ryan. He was full of energy and had a smile that melted the hearts of everyone in the room. Even at an early age, Ryan wanted nothing more than to be part of a family. His expressed hope was to live in a home where he would be taken care of and loved unconditionally.
Because of his diagnoses and his family’s inability to care for a very active little boy with special needs, Ryan was referred by his supports coordinator to Pittsburgh Mercy’s Lifesharing Program. Given the nature of the program, which by definition means care of a non-family member in a family care-giving setting, Ryan’s supports coordinator felt this type of program would be best for him.
Ryan shares a home with Charles, another adult individual with special needs, and their two dads. Although they are not related biologically, Ryan and Charles refer to each other as “brothers” and to their Lifesharing providers as “my dads.” The home is very warm and welcoming, as are the persons who live there. It’s always a pleasure visiting, especially when greeted by hugs you receive as you enter the home.
Supporting Ryan has not always been an easy task. His providers have been faced with many challenges. Over the past two years, Ryan and his family experienced two extreme cases of pneumonia. During each of Ryan’s hospitalizations, the providers were faced with life-and-death situations. It was due to the dedication, love, and care of his family and his providers that Ryan pulled through.
Ryan is now nearly 23 years old. He enjoys many of the pleasures that life has to offer, including travel. Ryan and his family have vacationed in Key West, Fla., Virginia Beach, Va., New York City, Canada, and many other places too numerous to count. The family is always on the move. Where the providers go, Ryan and Charles are not far behind. In addition to traveling, they enjoy shopping, going to dances, and hanging out at home, watching television or a movie together, just like many other families.
The Lifesharing Program provides a safe and happy family living environment for all of the individuals it serves. Lifesharing also provides and encourages growth in all aspects of life: body, mind, and spirit. In keeping with Pittsburgh Mercy’s mission to be a compassionate and transforming, healing presence within our communities, and consistent with the Corporal Works of Mercy, the Lifesharing Program provides shelter – and much more – to those most in need.
Susan Troyan is the Lifesharing Program supervisor at Pittsburgh Mercy.
For more information about Pittsburgh Mercy’s Lifesharing Program, contact Susan Troyan at 412-344-6415. The Pennsylvania Lifesharing Coalition will host its 6th Annual Lifesharing Conference, October 15-16, 2018, at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, Pa. Pittsburgh Mercy is a proud sponsor. The annual event brings together Lifesharing individuals, families, service providers, supports coordinators, and others around current topics of interest to its communities. For more information, email Sunday Zarko or Robin Levine.