LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Back in April, Little Rock Family Magazine caught up with THV11’s own Katlyn Gardenhire about her decision to become a certified caregiver for her disabled sister after learning about the statewide shortage.

Katlyn’s sister, 12-year-old Carolina has fought an uphill battle since birth. At 10 months old, she was diagnosed with 3P Chromosome Deletion Syndrome, meaning she is missing a copy of the genetic material located toward the end of chromosome 3. That means Carolina has microcephaly, delayed myelination (a nerve disorder), a sleep disorder and significant developmental delays. She also has esophagitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease and gastric motility issues. She has been tube-fed exclusively for the past three years.

Credit: Little Rock Family via Katlyn Gardenhire

“When she was first diagnosed at 10 months old, it was devastating and felt like we were mourning a death — the death of our preconceived expectations, hopes and dreams for her future,” said Carolina’s mother, Kim Gardenhire.

Originally, the doctors warned Kim and her husband, C.W., that Carolina might not live past two years old, because so many other children with her condition had not. After the family had grieved, they began planning and researching how to give Carolina the best quality of life possible during her remaining time.

Katlyn decided to help her family by becoming a certified caregiver because she already knew everything about her sister’s disabilities and knew how to care for her. She became certified through Lonoke Exceptional Development Center, a nonprofit organization licensed by Arkansas Developmental Disability Services.

Through the center, Katlyn found out about the statewide caregiver shortage. She did a story on the subject for THV11, citing both a lack of applicants and under funding of the caregiver workforce as reasons for the shortage. Katlyn experienced this firsthand watching her parents try to find weekend help for months before she volunteered to help herself.

Credit: Little Rock Family via Katlyn Gardenhire

“I’m her big sister,” Katlyn said. “I’m supposed to take care of her. And she needs all the loving she can get because that’s what makes her the happiest.”

Click here to read the full story from Little Rock Family.

Article written with the help of Little Rock Family.