“The perfect place”

From left, Jenna, Jacob, Lauren and sister Callie.

The scariest part of being parents of a special needs child, says Jacob Poleyeff, is, “What to do in an emergency. There’s no fall back.” Since May 2012, Jenna Poleyeff, the 10-year-old daughter of Jacob and Lauren Poleyeff of West Orange, NJ, has lived at Matheny. Prior to that, she was a day student at the Matheny School, and her father admits thinking that when an opportunity came up for residency, “I wasn’t sure I could let her go, although I knew it was probably the best thing.”

When a bed became available at Matheny in May, the Poleyeffs came face-to-face with the toughest decision of their lives. “As she grows, her physical needs get harder to handle,” her mother Lauren explains, “but when the call came that a bed was available, I thought it was a little too soon.” However, the couple knew that if they turned down the residential opportunity, it might be three or four years before her name came up again. “It was hard,” Lauren Poleyeff admits. “I cried.” The Poleyeffs did, however, with Matheny’s help, manage to make the transition a little easier than it might have been. “I insisted we leave her there on a Thursday,” Jacob Poleyeff recalls. “We brought her home for the weekend the next day instead of going a whole week. We passed that test.”

Jenna, the Poleyeffs say, is happy all the time, and the staff members at Matheny “go out of their way” to provide the little extras that make the hospital and school seem like home. One example is a special prayer the Poleyeffs would sing to Jenna at home before she went to bed. “Somebody suggested recording it,” Jacob says, “so it could be played at Matheny. When she’s home, I sing it, and when she’s at Matheny, they play the recording. Matheny is the perfect place for her.”