AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A 15-month-old born with holes in his heart and other health problems left the hospital for the first time Wednesday after his parents received Medicaid funding to care for him at home.
Taxpayers had been spending $83,000 a month for Brady Eikleberry's care at Akron Children's Hospital. His parents could have cared for him at home for about $20,000 a month.
Rick and Nikki Eikleberry, of Cadiz, 63 miles southeast of Akron, were on a waiting list to receive funding from a special Medicaid program known as the Ohio Home Care Waiver.
The Eikleberrys started a letter-writing campaign asking doctors, nurses, friends and family members to send letters about Brady to the state and lawmakers.
They had expected to wait as long as 18 months before hearing whether they would receive the money, but received word in late May from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that they had been approved.
Brady was born March 15, 2002, with two holes in his heart and a malformed esophagus and trachea. He had eight operations to repair his heart and rebuild his esophagus and trachea.
By the time he was 5 months old, Brady's medical costs had surpassed the $1 million lifetime cap on his mother's health-insurance plan and the $25,000 annual limit on his father's plan.
Medicaid funding will cover several of his health care needs, including use of a ventilator to keep his trachea from collapsing.
The Eikleberrys are optimistic that Brady will get off the ventilator by the time he's 2 or 3 years old and will have a normal life.
Nikki Eikleberry said Brady played at home Wednesday and fell asleep easily in his bed.
"My biggest fear was that he was going to be so scared," she said. "He totally amazed me. I didn't think that he'd adjust so quickly."