What's Her Secret?: Okatie mom with large family, sick child keeps it all in perspective

Emmy Bennett stands with her children, from left, Baden, 13, Isabelle, 10, Sage, 6, Ana, 8, and Emily, 17, at Heroes on Horseback on Tuesday in Bluffton.
Emmy Bennett stands with her children, from left, Baden, 13, Isabelle, 10, Sage, 6, Ana, 8, and Emily, 17, at Heroes on Horseback on Tuesday in Bluffton. Delayna Earley/Staff photo

Medications, doctors' appointments, therapies, research, fundraising. And a lot of tears. This is what life is like when you have a sick child.

Emmy Bennett knows the routine all too well. Her 8-year-old daughter, Ana, has mitochondrial disease, an inherited disease that affects the body's ability to produce energy.

But Emmy doesn't let that slow her down one bit. With five children ranging from age 6 to 17, she has no choice but to stay on top of things. She homeschools four out of five kids. She works from home. She raises money for her daughter's care and for Heroes on Horseback. She also volunteers with her family at Community Bible Church's food pantry one day a week.

All of that is on top of Ana's daily care. Her disease requires feeding-tube changes twice a day, medication three times a day and enemas every evening. Emmy has found an effective way to get it all done -- by getting the other kids involved in Ana's care.

Emily, 17, helps with enemas and feeding tube changes. Baden, 13, mixes Ana's formula and prepares her medications. Isabelle, 10, entertains Ana when she gets her enemas. And little Sage, 6, gets the heating pad or massager for Ana when she is in pain.

Question. So, what's your secret? How do you homeschool the kids, keep up with the medical care and stay sane?

Answer. My secret is my salvation. That's my secret. And anybody who wants to know more about my secret can come to Community Bible Church on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. for "Meet the Pastor." That's why I came to know my Lord and savior. That's how I began to learn how to really be a mom, what it means to be a mom and how to be a wife first. Being a wife is far more important than being a mom. We have to learn how to put our husbands first. Our marriage is No. 1. It's God, and then it's our marriage, and then our kids come after that. If it wasn't for my husband (Shey), I wouldn't even be able to do what I'm doing.

Q. Do you have any advice for other moms, especially those with special-needs kids, to help them get through the day?

A. Obviously, I'm speaking to believers, but I would say be sure to have a quiet time. It's so important to have that quiet time to be able to snuggle up next to God, and let him carry you through the day. I would also say, no matter how sick our children are, not to lose focus of our first ministry to our husbands. One day, our kids are going to be gone -- whether they pass away or whether they go off to college or whether they get married -- one day our kids are going to be gone. As women, we need to ask ourselves, "What is going to be left standing when our children are gone?"

Q. What is something you're not so great at?

A. There's so many things I'm not so great at. ... I wish I could get up earlier. I mean, that is one thing that I wish I was better at -- getting up earlier. I think it's important to have your quiet time in the morning. It's so hard to do that once all the children are up. So that's one area that frustrates me.


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Ana Maria Bennett's blog

United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation