In the fall of 2016 my oldest sister, Saralyn, called to tell me that she was expecting. I was shocked. We were all so excited, and then the bottom dropped when we found out her baby had hypoplastic right heart syndrome-a condition in which the right chambers of her heart didn’t form properly.
To the dismay of many doctors, Saralyn carried her baby to term. She was born a month early. I remember it vivdly. It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day. I was living over an hour away from where she would be delivering, but once I got the call, I couldn’t sit at my apartment. I’m a doer. I got in my car, grabbed a package of Oreos (because they have problem solving properties), and drove to Athens to be there. I sang and prayed the entire drive. My sister, Leila, and two friends were at the hospital when I got there.
We got the news that a baby girl had been born, and we were all thrilled. We went back into Saralyn’s room, and she couldn’t have been in better spirits. It was truly shocking, and if you know Saralyn, you know this to be true. We never saw our newest niece, Laura Kate, on the night of her birth.
The following day she was taken by ambulance to Children’s Health Care of Atlanta. Because Saralyn was still recovering from her C-section, she couldn’t go to the hospital. Her husband, Michael, followed the ambulance and since I was working downtown, I met him at CHOA. I am not the person you want in a crisis situation. “I’m Kat. I make jokes when I’m uncomfortable.” But Michael and I sat there for hours watching that precious baby who was hooked up to so many monitors. We talked. We sat in silence. We just were.
Six days after her birth, Laura Kate had open heart surgery.
Laura Kate stayed in the hospital for over a month. Her parents had to balance being with her and also caring for their six year old. Since I was living close by, Saralyn called me one day to ask if I could just go and be with Laura Kate. I willingly did. LK and I talked. I sang the theme to “Mary Tyler Moore”. I chatted with the nurses asking about her day so I could relay information to my sister. Again, I’m not the one you want in a crisis scenario. I make jokes, and I also have a tendency to faint. I usually know that a faint is coming on and can handle the situation accordingly. I don’t remember what the nurses were telling me, but in no time at all, I was on the floor. I hit hard. I came to in a puddle of sweat with all these medical professionals around me. Never mind the infants in the CICU fighting for their lives. Let’s focus on this nut job who probably just heard the word, “jaundice” and couldn’t handle herself.
Needless to say, Laura Kate is a lot stronger than her Aunt Kitty. She will be three on May 30th and is thriving. February is Heart Month for the American Heart Association, and this Friday is “National Wear Red Day”. We would love it if you’d wear red in support and send us your pictures.
“There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”-Pam Beesly –The Office
That is my favorite quote of one of my favorite shows. I cry every time Pam says it. When I sat down to write this post, it popped in my head. Maybe it’s because I always have that show on as background noise or maybe it’s because our sweet niece is a reminder to enjoy life even the small, ordinary moments.
If you met Laura Kate and didn’t know her history, you wouldn’t be able to tell. She’s your typical two-year old. She loves Peppa Pig, popsicles, and her dog, Daisy.
Before she was born, we had been told that girls often do better than the boys in the ICU; the girls tend to fight harder. This rang true with Laura Kate when she was a baby and it still does to this day. She’s the feistiest two-year old you’ll meet, and she wants to do everything everyone else does. Laura Kate is a dare devil, adventure seeker, and lover of all things fun. She lives life to the fullest.
Laura Kate is God’s perfect little reminder of two things:
1. Life is precious
2. Never give up hope
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not grow faint.” -Isaiah 40:31
We are so thankful for this little heart warrior in our lives. Join us in wearing red on Friday for awareness for congenital heart defects. It’s a beautiful day of connection and support.
“He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” -Ephesians 3:20