Patient with Prenatal Drug Exposure Leaps to New Heights

Sharonda McNickles, 9
Most people would be reluctant to adopt a baby with health issues, but Annie McNickles adopted four siblings, knowing they each had prenatal drug exposure.
Annie told that she is still blown away by her daughter’s success: “She is just doing so well, and I never thought she would get to this point because she was such a sickly baby.” Annie gives all credit “definitely to God and the hospital staff at La Rabida,” whom she says has been extremely supportive of her and her children, including David and Sharonda’s two younger, biological siblings, Jorja and Makiya. Annie says of La Rabida’s staff, “They still know these children by name; it’s an exceptional place.”
The retired Chicago Public School teacher knew from experience the importance of family.
She had seen first-hand the damage wrought by issues unique to single parents. More than once, she stepped in to provide overnight care for a child so their mother could work. She even temporarily took in a neighbor’s three small children when the parents were arrested. “I wanted them to stay together since they’d already lost so much,” Annie said in retrospect.
The children stayed with her only a few months, and then went to live with grandparents.
David was brought home in 2002 and she knew he had been born addicted to drugs. When his sister Sharonda was born a year later, she decided to take her too. “They needed each other.” She told herself that two more times when younger sisters Jorja and Makiya were born.
Sharonda weighed just four pounds at birth. “I didn’t bring Sharonda home until she was 6 months old. Like other babies born with drug exposure, she was very small and colicky” said Annie.
Sharonda also suffered from hyper sensitive skin, digestive issues, and breathing complications. She came to La Rabida where Sharonda’s older brother had received treatment a few years prior.
“When Sharonda was in first grade, I enrolled her in dance classes at her school, the South Shore Fine Arts Academy,” said Annie. “She had been dancing for a few months when the Joffrey Ballet offered her a scholarship to take classes at its studio downtown.”
Today, this retired school teacher turned mother of four spends her days running back and forth to two different schools for impromptu parent teacher conferences, and extracurricular activities.
These activities included trips to rehearsals for Sharonda’s part of the Russian Doll in the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite in Dec. 2012.
“All she needed was love and a chance,’’ Annie told nearly 600 guests gathered at La Rabida Children’s Hospital’s 26th annual gala.
Sharonda, who receives treatment at the hospital, was featured during the event. She twirled on stage and dazzled the audience with pirouettes, leaps and a bright smile.
“I am so proud of my daughter’s hard work and accomplishments, and grateful to La Rabida for supporting my entire family during this sometimes difficult journey,” Annie said.
Click here to read Sharonda's story by Ebony Magazine
Click here to read ABC7's story on Sharonda
Sharonda, 9, with Brenda Wolf, President and CEO of La Rabida at the hospital’s annual Dress Event


Makiya, Sharonda, and Jorja with mother Annie McNickles
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