From the moment he was born, Tal* suffered the excruciating pain of narcotic withdrawal. His mother had used heroin all through her pregnancy and as a result Tal displayed the classic signs of NAD (narcotic abstinence syndrome). His symptoms included tremors, poor feeding ability, breathing issues, irritability, fever, poor muscle tone, and stiffness.
At the age of four months, Tal was referred by the welfare authorities to the WIZO Neve Nof Day Care Centre in Lod.
Tal arrived at the centre with severe mental and motor development issues. In the early days in WIZO’s care, he would simply lay rigid in his cot with a pained expression. Tears ran down his cheeks and yet he barely had the strength to cry. Unlike the other babies, he did not kick his legs or arms. As the other babies began to sit up and crawl, Tal lay still.
The day care centre director, Meirav, nursed Tal and he slowly began to eat. She spoke softly to him, walking him around the nursery, pointing out everything in an attempt to coax a reaction. He was like a rag doll in her arms.
“Tal required a comprehensive treatment regime to stimulate his cognitive and motor senses,” said Meirav. ”It is between the age of four months and 12 months that mental and motor-sensory deficiencies surface and this is the time when treatment becomes crucial. We worked tirelessly, together with WIZO therapists, to stimulate movement and strengthen his flaccid muscles and bouts of limb stiffness. You would always find me sitting in my office massaging his little arms and legs while doing other jobs. Tal taught me to multi-task!”
Tal began to put on weight and slowly started to respond to treatment. When Tal took his first steps, the entire day care centre stood up and applauded. Tal’s grandmother, who is his primary carer, remembers that moment fondly.
“When he toddled towards me, with a big smile on his face, it was the happiest day of my life. I have endured so much heartache with my daughter in and out of rehab, and now, for the first time, I can see that Tal has a chance to look forward to a happy and healthy future. I have WIZO to thank for that.”
And Tal has gone from strength to strength.
Caregiver Sigal added, “Oh but you should see him now! We call him ‘Tal hatotach’- Tal the cannonball! He simply never sits still. He is such a bright, inquisitive child.”
Meirav adds, “I am often asked if it is difficult to work in a day care centre where the needs of the local population are so great, as they are here in Lod – with its crime, drugs, and poverty. But I would not have it any other way. Seeing Tal, and the other kids like him, running around the playground laughing and smiling makes it all worthwhile.”
* Tal’s real name has been omitted for his protection.