07/03/2012 07:54 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Why I Love Canada: The Country Cares for My Special Needs Daughter

Oh Canada, how much money do I owe thee?

Open heart surgery in her infancy, two months on a respirator, her first five in hospital, nine more surgeries in her short 18 years (fortunately, not open heart ones). That's my courageous, loving, happy daughter, fortunately living in Canada, for I cannot imagine what it must cost in the US to raise a special needs kid.

I need a Rolodex to keep up with her doctors (showing my age, I know) -- cardiology, immunology, endocrinology, orthopedics, physiatry, ENT. And those are just the diagnosticians. Then we have the therapists: speech, physical, occupational therapists, whom she's been seeing all her life. All of this for free.

Schooling for kids with physical handicaps? intellectual disabilities? Yes, that's free, too.

Organizations like The Friendship Circle that provide a social life outside of cyberspace -- free.

Inquiring minds at McGill open to exploring alternative therapies -- such as immobilizing her "good" arm and forcing the stroke-damaged one to do repetitive activities. Free, plus it helped.

On Canada Day, my daughter and several of her special needs friends were working at the Y Country Camp in the Laurentians, where the directors have embraced our kids and given them jobs in the dining hall. Not only is it free -- but the kids are getting paid!

What do I love about Canada? On a visit to Montreal, Bill Clinton put his finger on it: We're a culture set on helping our fellow humans.

Dear Canada and dear Canadians, thank you for making this journey possible. Dear parents of special needs kids living in the U.S., are you broke yet?

Note: The author was born and reared in the U.S., then fell in love with a Canadian and his country. She's been here 30 years.