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February 24, 2014
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RidgeLine: A home away from home for medically fragile children

Parents of children with special needs often experience their own brand of anxiety, and they’re often exhausted, said registered nurse Danette Davis.

“Naturally, parents are very protective of their children, especially when they are medically fragile,” she said.

“They feel as though they are the only ones who can care for their children. Unlike other children — due to their medical needs — they can’t just leave them with a sister or grandparent.”

That’s why Davis loves it when a new family brings their child to RidgeLine Specialized Pediatric Day in Grass Valley, a colorful, homey, fully licensed day health facility for medically fragile children from birth to 21 years of age.

“I just love having individual time with the children to get to know their unique capabilities,” said Davis, who is director of nursing.

“We are nothing like a hospital. We are here to meet the physical and emotional needs of the children. We get down on the floor, one on one, and see them for who they are inside.”

The main objective at RidgeLine is to create a “home away from home,” said Michael Lyman, who owns the facility with his wife, Carrie.

RidgeLine is a certified Pediatric Day Health Care facility, the only one in Nevada County and just one of 15 in the state.

Requirements for certification are stringent, and Lyman said it remains his goal to continue to exceed those.

When it comes to a daily schedule, each child has an individual care plan worked out in conjunction with the family, pediatrician, child, school and RidgeLine staff.

Every moment of the day is individually planned — as are the meals — to accommodate specific dietary needs or feeding tubes.

“When it comes to care, we are very specific and meticulous,” said Lyman. “There is even a specific protocol when it comes to changing diapers. Every detail has been carefully thought through.”

RidgeLine Specialized Pediatric Day, which is a converted house, is located in a residential neighborhood in Grass Valley. There is a staff of 10, which includes three registered nurses, an activities director, personal care attendants, or “PCAs,” and occupational therapists. While there are 14 clients in total, there are never more than eight at the house at a time, Lyman said. In addition to a kitchen and two main activity rooms, there are girls’ and boys’ bedrooms as well as a room for changing diapers and a closet fully stocked with medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks and feeding tubes.

Outside there is a large wheelchair-accessible backyard with a sand box and play structure. Colorful murals and children’s art line the walls. The staff goal is to integrate and include everyone in daily activities, which teach life and social skills.

While individualized care such as this can be pricey, Lyman said most families at RidgeLine qualify for government assistance due to the child’s disability. Families need not jump to the conclusion that cost is prohibitive, he said.

The Lymans have a true understanding of the challenges of the families who come to RidgeLine, as they also have a daughter with special needs. Now 9, “Maddie” occasionally comes to play with other RidgeLine children, which Lyman says has enriched her life.

The Lymans purchased RidgeLine in August 2013 from founders and previous owners Jennifer and Ken Hughes.

They spent a full three months training with them prior to taking over.

“We inherited a meticulously well-run facility and an incredibly well-trained staff,” said Lyman. “We admired them, and they loved our approach.”

The Lymans are building upon the original vision of RidgeLine by including a weekend overnight respite service for existing clients. The new feature has become extremely popular, said Lyman, who is also making plans to open a second facility in the Marysville-Yuba City area.

“We want to get the word out — many families don’t know we’re here,” said Lyman. “The hardest part is getting parents out to see what’s here. Once they do, they fall in love with the warm, home-like feeling. They realize that their kids love being with other kids. We’re definitely open to having new families here.”

Davis couldn’t agree more.

“Knowing how good we are at meeting a child’s physical and emotional needs gives parents a real peace of mind,” she said. “This is a safe haven, with a philosophy of inclusiveness. I tell parents, come here — it’s safe here. Go home and take a nap. Every parent needs a break and a chance to center themselves. Everyone has their differences, but we also know that in many ways, we are all the same.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at or call 530-477-4203.

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The Union Updated Feb 24, 2014 11:31PM Published Feb 26, 2014 05:49PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.