Thursday, Jun. 5, 2008
Dan and Suzanne Isidor, of State College, were surprised but thrilled to learn almost three years ago that Suzanne was pregnant with twins.
Then came the worrying news. Nineteen weeks into
the pregnancy, they were told it would be a high-risk pregnancy. The fetuses were situated in a way that one of the children might not survive the birth.
The news hit hard. Then, one
evening, they decided to watch the Children’s Miracle Network telethon. And it gave them hope.
“When you hear the news about something like this, you think that you are all alone, but you’re not,” Dan Isidor said. “There is a network of support — financially and emotionally.”
Now the parents of healthy 2-year-old twins, Luke and Evan, and a 4-year-old son, Jackson, the Isidors will be one of the families featured on the Children’s Miracle Network Celebration telethon. It will air from 9 p.m. to midnight today and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday on WTAJ, the local CBS affiliate.
Proceeds from the telethon will benefit Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, where the Isidor twins were born, and health care providers in State College, Altoona, DuBois and other Pennsylvania locations.
The telethon, the Isidors said, helped them realize they weren’t the only parents dealing with high-risk pregnancies or premature births. It’s also where they saw other parents’ success stories.
“We had never watched it before,” Suzanne Isidor said of the telethon. “The stories were so touching that we even donated money.”
Children’s Miracle Network requests donations annually through fundraisers to help children like the Isidor twins. Since 1984, Children’s Miracle Network has raised more than $36 million throughout the Geisinger Health System.
Telethon donations have helped Geisinger provide state-of-the-art pediatric care by funding support services, programs and pediatric equipment, said Jennifer M. Young, spokeswoman for Geisinger Health System and Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger.
Types of equipment purchased with telethon donations include tele-echo equipment, used to transmit echo-cardiogram results immediately to a specialist, and Isolette incubators, used to transport neonatal patients by helicopter.
Vital signs monitors were one piece of equipment purchased with telethon funds that were used to help the Isidor twins survive.
Born prematurely in the 30th week of Suzanne Isidor’s pregnancy, the twins were delivered by Caesarean section. Luke weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Evan weighed 3 pounds, 1 ounce.
The babies had to stay in Geisinger’s neonatal unit at the hospital. For weeks after Suzanne Isidor was discharged, she and her husband made countless trips between their State College home and Danville. Much of the time, she made the trip alone while her husband stayed home to go to work and take care of Jackson.
“It was hard when we had to leave them there,” Suzanne Isidor said, recalling the fragile twins as each being about the length of a Barbie doll. “Jackson didn’t understand when I didn’t come home with a baby.”
Family, friends and support groups associated with Children’s Miracle Network helped the Isidors through the rough times.
The Isidors often stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Danville, sparing them the expense of hotel rooms.
Evan came home after five weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Luke came home two weeks later.
The Isidors are now advocates for Children’s Miracle Network, saying the twins are living proof of the good the telethon does.
“The money goes to a great cause,” Suzanne Isidor said, holding Evan in her arms. “Obviously, it’s a cause that goes straight to our hearts.”
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008
Confidently feeding and changing her baby daughters, Naomi Kesterton looks as though she was born to be a mother.
But a house full of children was once a distant dream for Naomi, 30, who years before was told she had practically no chance of conceiving naturally.
But she proved the doctors wrong – and just months after meeting her husband-to-be Toby, Naomi was pregnant and went on to have four children in just 16 months.
After daughter Ella was born in September 2006 she got pregnant again nine months later with identical triplets Catherine, Amelia and Sophia.
Incredibly, experts put the chances of natural conception identical triplets at 200million-to-one.
Naomi said: “When I think about how unlikely it was that I’d have children naturally, let alone identical triplets, I realise what a miracle they are.”
Former events organiser Naomi met internet publisher Toby, also 30, when she moved into his house in Bracknell, Berks, as a lodger in January 2005.
She said: “We had both just come out of messy relationships but we got on so well that within a few months we’d fallen for each other.
“Toby wanted a big family but when I was 20, doctors told me there was only a five per cent chance I would conceive naturally.
“It was devastating as I’d always wanted children but I had to resign myself to other options like IVF and adoption.
“Toby and I knew it was something we would have to face when we decided to start a family.”
But on a break to Scotland in November 2005 for Toby’s birthday, Naomi had an unexpected gift.
“We found out I was pregnant,” she remembers.
“It was a huge shock but a lovely one. We hadn’t been that careful with birth control because I assumed I couldn’t conceive. It wasn’t planned at all. We were both very career-minded and planned to get married after a couple of years and then think about a family.”
The couple flew to Naomi’s native Durban in South Africa to marry and, in September 2006, after a six-day labour, Ella, now 20 months, was born.
“I loved being a mum,” says Naomi. “But I warned Toby that I’d never be pregnant twice. Ella was my one miracle.”
Settling into motherhood, Naomi gave up work and starting planning a second wedding in the UK. She explains: “We got married in Durban because we wanted to be married when Ella was born but we still planned a big ceremony in the UK.”
Last summer, just weeks before her big day, Naomi began to suspect she was pregnant again. “I started getting sick and I began to grow,” she says.
A pregnancy test proved her intuition right and Naomi gave Toby the news on their wedding day in July last year. “He grinned like a Cheshire cat,” she says.
After a honeymoon in Cyprus that was ruined by morning sickness, the couple had their first scan.
Naomi explained: “I immediately saw two heads and asked ‘twins?’ Then we saw a third. Toby was grinning from ear to ear but I was thinking more about complications and risks. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I said, ‘Please don’t find a fourth!’
“I phoned my mum in tears and asked, ‘How do I do this?’ It was so scary. I came home and went on the internet and found statistics like 48 per cent of triplets don’t make it and in many of those cases the mothers don’t make it either.”
Her fears were intensified when another scan discovered that not only were the triplets sharing a placenta, two of them were sharing an amniotic sac and at risk of developing Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition where one baby takes blood supply and nutrients from the other. The Kestertons were given a stark choice.
Naomi said: “It was explained we could consider elective reduction – terminating one baby to make the pregnancy easier.
“I said to Toby, ‘No, if complications arise and the babies are at risk then maybe, but I am not going to terminate a baby just to make my life easier’.”
As doctors closely monitored the babies to check they were all developing at the same rate, Naomi struggled through a difficult pregnancy. She recalls: “The sickness was incredible. Normal morning sickness is bad but times that by three. I was a mountain. I measured my stomach at five-and-a-half months and it was 50 ins around.
“I was eating eight times a day, grazing on small meals because there wasn’t enough space in my stomach. My hips expanded so much I ended up on crutches. At six months I could hardly move. I would come down the stairs and not go back up all day because the effort was too much. I was immobile. I ended up with diabetes.
“It became a matter of getting as far through pregnancy as possible to give the babies the best chance. First, I had to make 27 weeks, when we got there it was 31 weeks because their lungs would be more developed then.”
In January this year, when the babies were 31 weeks and four days, Naomi felt back twinges and knew there was no space left.
After a steroid injection to allow the tiny babies a final chance to strengthen their lungs the three girls were delivered by caesarean at Basingstoke Hospital on January 9.
Because they were so rare, 15 assembled doctors and nurses supervised the birth. Amelia was born first, followed by Catherine and finally Sophia. They weighed 4lbs, 3lb 7ozs and 3lbs respectively.
They spent three weeks in incubators and two more in hospital before gaining enough weight to be allowed home. Naomi says: “They were so small and adorable. I’d always known they wouldn’t go full term and had to prepare myself not to be able to hold them at first.
“While I was recovering I picked up the winter vomiting bug and so there were days when I couldn’t even see them.
“It was awful to be away from them and breathtaking just to be able to hold them.”
Now the triplets are healthy five-month-olds and Naomi runs her household like clockwork.
She says: “I can tell who is who, but to anyone else they look the same.
“They all have their own distinct personalities. Amelia is the Earth Mother and looks out for her sisters, Catherine smiles the most and Sophia is the laidback one.
“Amelia and Catherine shared the sac and they have kept that bond. They hold hands and look for each other when they are apart.
“It’s not easy but the plus side is that we had our family all in one go. Most people have four children over a decade, we did it in 16 months. And we know how blessed we are to have them.”
Monday, Aug. 13, 2007
Nancy Iannone recalls always having had a “positive view” of people with Down syndrome.
Now she knows why. Nancy and her husband Vincent are parents of Gabriella, their fourth child, who was born with Down a little over two years ago.
“She’s just a delight,” says Nancy, a Washington Township resident, “but I didn’t realize she’d be delightful in so many ways.”
A former attorney and teacher, Nancy is one of 63 mothers of children with Down who have written chapters in a new book, “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children With Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives.” Her chapter (No. 30) is titled, appropriately, “The Gift of Delight.”
The book is on sale at Barnes & Noble in Deptford, where Nancy recently took part in a book signing. She also was among six interviewed by Channel 6’s health reporter Anita Brickman.
Nancy admits when she was told her unborn daughter had Down she had difficulty accepting the news: “I slammed the door in my brain to hold back the flood of grief that was threatening to take over, and I shut down to everything but pure logic. Abortion, there it was, right in front of me.”
But a few days later she knew “everything is going to be OK.”
And then Gabriella was born.
“After awhile, I realized that we had moved beyond surviving to truly living. Gabriella was amazing, endearing, loving, and beautiful. My other three girls adored her, and my husband, who originally was nervous for them, saw that Gabriella would only enrich their lives.
“Gabriella continues to amaze us. She loves to sway to music, splash in the bath or the pool, and squeeze her sisters’ faces. We went away this weekend and took Gabriella with us because she is still nursing. When we came home, a near-riot ensued as her sisters fought over her. She is learning sign language at a pace that has amazed her sign teacher.
“Though I delight in her physical and cognitive progress, the true joy I receive is seeing her shining, laughing face, especially when she thinks she is playing a trick on me.”
She closes with this: “My baby is not a diagnosis, not a list of her potential woes. She is a beautiful person, full of laughter and grins. There is a world of possibilities laid before her, and I love exploring those possibilities with her.”
A 1985 WTHS graduate, Nancy married Vincent “during the blizzard of 1993.” They also are the parents of Samantha, 9, Maria, 7, and Elena, 5. She has not practiced law since their birth of their second child. She is a member of the board of trustees of The Sensory Playhouse, an open-play facility for kids with special needs.
Nancy’s goal is to comfort and give hope to parents of children who are diagnosed with Down.
Meanwhile, she is thrilled to witness her own daughter’s rapid development.
Gabriella recently won an award from the Gloucester County Special Services School District for progress in early intervention.
Friday, Jun. 29, 2007
A QUICK-THINKING mother rescued her two young children from a house fire minutes before it engulfed their home.
Jayne Willis, of Windermere Drive, Warndon, Worcester, said: “”I’ve lost everything, but I haven’t lost my babies.”
She was at home with one-year-old Mckenzi and four-year-old Jordan when a smoke alarm alerted her to the fire, which started in the television set in the lounge at about 10.30am yesterday.
The 41-year-old, who was in another room, rushed into the room, and ran outside.
Minutes later, the house was engulfed by flames.
Speaking outside as firefighters investigated, she said tearfully: “I walked in the front room and saw the smoke so grabbed the little ones and ran out of the house.
“There was a small lot of smoke and by the time I came out to get the fire extinguisher and come back in it was everywhere and I couldn’t see. There was black smoke everywhere.
“Everything was so fast. All I know is it went up and went up fast.
“I’m angry and shocked.”
Miss Wallis said her three other children, 10-year-old Reece, nine-year-old Tammi and seven-year-old Conni were thankfully at school when the fire happened.
Firefighters extinguished the fire within an hour, but it caused severe damage to the house.
Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Alec Mackie said the family was lucky to escape.
“The fire spread to other combustible materials that burn very quickly and caused a lot of smoke and fire,” he said.
“Had it happened at night it might have been a different tale.
“Thankfully the smoke alarms worked and it alerted her.
“She did very well to do what she did.”
However, Mr Mackie said the service did not recommend people going back into a burning building.
Police were on hand to divert traffic and Red Cross victim support volunteers were also there to assist Miss Wallis.
Monday, May. 14, 2007
It’s a Mother’s Day miracle for one Tucson woman. She is able to celebrate this day, with her family, thanks to a lifesaving organ transplant.
“I’ve been given three chances now to have my life back,” says Annette Jones.
At just 25, doctors diagnosed Annette with kidney failure.
“I was in disbelief for a while because I felt fine and then very slowly, you start feeling sick,” she explains.
In 1990 Annette underwent a kidney transplant. But after just three years, her body rejected it.
“There wasn’t anything they could do except just give it time and see what happened,” says Annette.
Months later, a second miracle. Doctors found another kidney match for Annette. More than a decade passed and her body, once again rejected the transplant. Doctors said Annette’s kidney wouldn’t last long. She would have to wait on the transplant list for up to five years. So in 2004 her family was faced with a harsh reality.
“What if tomorrow comes around and something happens and I don’t have my mom,” says Annette’s son, Michael.
Doctors suggested she search for a living donor. But Annette felt it was too much to ask until a friend stepped in to help. Over dinner one night in 2005, Annette mentioned the situation to her husband’s boss and his wife.
“It never crossed my mind during the dinner that I would donate to her, never,” says Donna Davis.
But that night Donna had a change of heart. She says a spiritual calling inspired her to be tested and find out if she was a match for Annette.
“Sometimes us moms, we just need a cup of sugar. Well, Annette needed something, it wasn’t sugar. It was a kidney but it’s the same principal and I was just there at the right time,” says Donna.
In March 2005, Annette had the transplant that saved her life. A gift from one mom to another.
“Now she can be there for her kids and her kids can have a mom,” says Donna.
Annette was there when her son graduated from high school. Next week, her daughter will be married in Paris. She says Donna is part of every happy moment.
“I’m very, very thankful to her. I think about her everyday, always keep her in my prayers. I don’t think words can express how grateful I am to be here, to be with my kids, my husband on mother’s day,” adds Annette.
Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2007
Single mom, non-traditional student, double major, honors student; all words that can describe a variety of students at UW-Eau Claire. But add USA Today’s Academic All-Star team member to the mix and only one student can use all these words to describe her.
Unlike most traditional students, senior Lori Scardino has to juggle Girl Scout outings and school board meetings with her demanding academic schedule.
The 30-year-old chemistry and biology double-major maintains a nearly perfect GPA while raising her two daughters and participating in numerous clubs and organizations.
A rocky beginning
Scardino said she never planned on the life she has now. Born in Florida, her family moved to Wisconsin when she was very young. At age 12, her parents divorced, and she lived with her father until age 15.
“I was placed in foster care by child protective services when I was in high school, and bounced around to different high schools and foster homes.”
She eventually moved in with her mom and graduated from high school her junior year so she could start college. But during her second semester at UW-La Crosse, she was dealt another blow when her father died and she had to leave school to take care of her brother, who was living with their father in Tomah at the time.
In 1996 Scardino married, something she now says was “not the best decision” she’s ever made. She had two daughters, Alexandra, 10, and Olivia, 8, by 1999 and in 2002 she divorced. That was the same year she said she decided to go back to school.
“I decided to return to school after my divorce. I was working a job full time at a hospital that I really liked but the pay wasn’t that great,” she said, adding she had to work every weekend. “I wanted a career that was more financially beneficial to my family and would allow me to have more time with my family.”
The first time Scardino tried to enroll at Eau Claire she said she wasn’t accepted because her GPA was too low, a fact she now says is ironic. When she left La Crosse she didn’t withdraw from any of her classes, which destroyed her GPA.
After spending a year at Chippewa Valley Technical College, Scardino brought up her grades enough to enroll at Eau Claire in the fall of 2003, where she said she planned on majoring in math education.
Scardino said science had always interested her, but it was an accident that prompted her to major in chemistry. She said she signed up for general chemistry her first semester but almost didn’t take it because her schedule wouldn’t allow her to take the lab and the lecture with the same professor.
“It was the only one that fit into my schedule so I decided to take it anyway, and it was the best thing that ever happened,” she said. That’s when she met chemistry department chair Scott Hartsel, who persuaded her to major in chemistry.
“She knew she loved science, and she knows she always did well in it, but she didn’t really know what she could do with science,” he said.
After Scardino switched her major, she said she figured she would teach high school chemistry after she graduated. Hartsel then tried to convince her that she could go on to become a professional scientist.
“He asked me what my plans were for graduate school, and I sort of laughed at him and said, ‘Are you kidding me? I can’t afford graduate school. I can barely afford to be here,'” Scardino said.
That’s when Hartsel told her that graduate schools pay for students to complete their programs, and everything changed for Scardino.
“It opened a whole new world for me,” she said.
Scardino started working on research projects the summer after her freshman year. Her first big project came when Hartsel had her work on a project he and other professors were collaborating on.
“I put her on a project that I didn’t really think was going anywhere on some new fluorescent molecules that could be used to visualize structures inside cells,” Hartsel said. “She just took that project and ran with it and we got amazing results – better than I ever expected to see. And we started to realize that this was something that could be patentable.”
He said the project gave them some great data and led to some patent applications. He attributes much of the success of the project to Scardino’s hard work.
“Not only is she nearly a 4.0 average (chemistry) major, but she’s a natural in laboratory work, she can see what needs to be done in an experiment, she does it carefully and keeps great notes.”
Right now, she and junior Vinay Rao are working on a project involving methanobactin, a protein-like molecule.
“We’ve been using instruments to analyze its structure,” Rao said.
Along with working on projects, she has even had some of her work published, something students strive for at the graduate level, Hartsel said. She has also already given three presentations at national and international meetings.
“Graduate schools are jumping all over her with offers,” Hartsel said.
Scardino’s hard work paid off in January when she was honored by USA Today as an Academic All-Star and was one of 20 students named to the all-USA College Academic First Team. The honor, Hartsel said, puts her in a very elite group of students.
“In a way it’s as prestigious as a Rhodes scholarship. In fact several of the students on the (team) are also Rhodes scholars and many of them (attend) places like Harvard or Princeton,” he said.
Scardino said she didn’t think she had much of a chance when Hartsel nominated her for the award.
“I honestly didn’t think I would fit the mold or their view of what an undergraduate student was because I’m a non-traditional student and a single mom and I do so many other things,” she said. “Because of those things, I’m limited to doing things here in my community.”
She said the committee judged her on criteria including community involvement, campus involvement and research she had done. She said national presentations and publications were also considered.
She said she was shocked when she received the award, which included a $2,500 award, a trophy and a feature in USA Today.
“I can’t think of a more deserving student,” Hartsel said of Scardino.
A balancing act
Besides her accomplishments in science, Scardino is constantly participating in campus and community organizations. She volunteers at Lakeshore Elementary School, is a troop leader for both her daughters’ Girl Scout troops, is the chemistry department tutoring coordinator and grows her hair out to donate to Locks of Love, to name just a few.
“I don’t know how she does it,” said Rao, who has done research with Scardino over the years. “She’s able to do it all.”
Scardino has an hour-by-hour schedule printed out for every day of the week.
“Time management is crucial,” she said.
“I try to put my children – the time that we have together – as my first priority. I don’t do my own homework or things like that until they’re in bed.
“Sleep deprivation is definitely the key to my life,” she said laughing.
Although she has a busy schedule, Scardino doesn’t complain.
“I’m in college because I want to be here and I want the degree. I’m a double major because I want to be. No one forced me to do any of these things.”
She also stays organized by prioritizing her activities.
“I try to be somewhat selective about the campus organizations I’m involved in so that it’s things I’m really passionate about and that are important to me,” she said, adding she keeps a list of all her activities to remember them.
What the future holds
After she graduates in May, Scardino said she and her daughters will move to Madison where she will begin attending graduate school and hopes to get her doctorate.
“I want to do biomedical research while I’m there,” she said. “I definitely want the work that I do there to have some pragmatic application. I want to help people in some way.”
Ultimately, she said she would like to become a professor at a university such as Eau Claire.
Hartsel said he hopes for the best for her.
“Lori is one of the hardest working students all around that I’ve ever been associated with, especially considering all the extra things she’s dealing with, as a parent and a non-traditional student, that most students don’t have to deal with,” he said.
Rao echoed Hertsel, saying that what he admires most about Scardino is her perseverance and persistence.
“Some of the unique or distinct things I get to see, other than her academics and what other teachers get to see, is who she is as a person,” he said.
One thing that really stands out about her is that she always takes the time to help others before helping herself.”
Of all the things Scardino has accomplished so far, she put it best when telling a story about when the USA Today photographer came to take her photo for the article. He said he wanted a picture of her doing something outside the classroom and asked what some of her proudest moments were.
“When (the photographer) asked me what my proudest accomplishment was, I told him that was an easy answer and it wasn’t on his list,” she said. “I said the thing I’m most proud of is being a mom.”
Friday, Mar. 9, 2007
Brenda Busby calls her mother, Rose Lybrand, her “miracle mother.”
After falling into a coma in 2001 at 83 years old, Lybrand was hospitalized in an intensive care unit, where doctors told her family that the prognosis did not look very good.
“She was very sick; doctors said that she was probably going to die,” recalled Busby, also saying that during her mother’s hospitalization, she was on a respirator and undergoing dialysis.
For Busby, the miracle was in watching her mother pull out of the coma and go on to make a full recovery.
“The lord has brought her through some terrible times,” she said.
Perhaps it was because of Lybrand’s faith, which according to Busby plays a major role in her mother’s life. “She is a very virtuous woman,” she said. Busby said what she admires most about her mother is her giving nature. “She has quite a legacy; after the Lord, she has always put her family and others first,” she said. “She’s just a wonderful woman,” Hailey Cadden said of her great-grandmother. Cadden said that Lybrand had a hand in helping to raise her and her brother.
The love Lybrand has for her family can be seen just by walking into her room at Mattie C. Hall Healthcare, where she now resides. The walls are filled with pictures of her family, which spans five generations on each side. One of her favorites is a picture of her and her late husband William, both all smiles, on their wedding day, Jan. 14, 1945. To this day, Lybrand still remembers vividly how he proposed.
“First he talked to my mom and dad and then he got down on his knees and asked me to marry him,” she said, her eyes shining. Lybrand said that she met her husband while volunteering in a hospital in Virginia during World War II. A solider, William was being treated for injuries sustained during combat.
She said they were married in a small wedding at her brother’s house, moving to Aiken soon after.
These days Lybrand stays pretty busy at Mattie C. Hall. She says she enjoys taking part in games and activities such as Bingo, checkers and puzzles as well as enjoying the company of the residents and the staff whom she says are like family. She also said that she tries to attend services when she can at her church, First Baptist.
“I really love it here,” said Lybrand, who was named Miss Mattie C. Hall in the assisted living center’s beauty pageant several years ago.
Affectionately called “granny” by all of her family members, Lybrand is looking forward to a big day in a couple of months: Her 90th birthday is on April 8. She said her family plans to go all out in celebration this year. “They told me to invite everyone that I know,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006
The son of a Johnston County woman attempted to rescue his from her burning house, but his efforts failed. Now he’s dealing with the loss of both a parent and his childhood home.
A smoke alarm [get one] awoke Frank Jones and his family, including his 77-year-old mother Lorraine, early Monday morning. The front section of the family’s home was engulfed in flames as Frank Jones’ sister rushed their elderly father out through the back door.
Frank Jones said he tried to help his mother out the front door. But just a few feet from safety, debris crashed down to the floor.
“The debris hit me and my mother, knocking us down, and it knocked me right through the wall,” Frank Jones said.
He landed on the front porch, with his mother trapped inside.
“I could hear my mother asking me for help, but at that time I wasn’t able to really grab her,” he said. “I was still on fire myself.”
Frank Jones couldn’t see his mother through the heavy smoke.
“It was burning my eyes, but I was still trying…trying to search,” he said.
Flames and fallen debris blocked the path back into the house.
“(As) far as I ever made it was at my mother’s foot, and at that time I pulled,” Frank Jones said.
But more debris fell, and he lost his grip. That’s when Lorraine Jones, a woman of strong faith, began praying aloud. [Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference]
“My mother was real strong,” said Frank Jones. “She said it was OK. She said, ‘I know you cannot save me, but its OK.'”
Frank Jones never gave up. But when firefighters arrived, they found his mother’s body nearby.
“To lose your mother and be in the sight of her it really hurts,” he said.
Frank Jones said he knows he did all he could. His sister and father made it out alive. They lost everything in the residence, but they said they have friends and family to lean on.
“I’m a little bit stiff and sore, but other than that, I thank God to be living,” he said.
Investigators said they believe candles may have started the fire, but Frank Jones said he thinks an electrical outlet is to blame. Lorraine Jones’ funeral service is set for Saturday.
Friday, Nov. 3, 2006
If nothing else, you could say Amanda Brisendine had an easy pregnancy.
It was so effortless, in fact, that she didn’t even notice it — until doctors broke the news Saturday that she was 37 weeks along and ready for delivery.
On Tuesday, the stunned mother held her healthy, newborn boy as the glare of news crews surrounded her bed at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue.
The media asked the same questions she’d asked: How could this happen? How could a woman carry a baby for nine months, not knowing, not feeling a new life budding inside her?
To the skeptical reporters who crowded around her hospital room, she could only offer up what she knew — the story of what she called her “miracle baby.”
With microphones clipped to the neck of her nightgown and cradling Alexander Joseph Britt in her arms, Brisendine explained how the normal warning signs never showed up.
She had what she thought were her periods every month. She’d gained 30 pounds in the past year, but figured that was from quitting cigarettes and eating too much of her grandmother’s buttery cooking.
“I didn’t feel like the brightest person in the world for not knowing,” she said, but she hoped her story would make others realize it could happen to them.
The pain began Wednesday. Brisendine, 26, said she felt a sharp ache in her abdomen. The intensity reminded her of when she had to have ovarian cysts removed five years ago, she said. By Friday, the pain was so bad that she called in sick to her deli job at Albertsons grocery in Eastgate.
She showed up at Group Health Cooperative’s Eastside campus the next morning. After “being poked and prodded,” the doctors gave her a pregnancy test that came back positive, she said.
“I was so shocked, I was nauseous,” she said. “It took me a minute to realize what they were saying.”
When Brisendine was pregnant with her 14-month-old daughter, she’d had morning sickness and cravings. She also felt Melodie kick her constantly, she said.
But with this baby, she couldn’t feel anything. That worried the doctors. Ultrasounds showed there was low amniotic fluid in the placenta and the baby wasn’t moving like he should have been, said Danica Bloomquist, Brisendine’s doctor. She delivered Alexander by C-section on Sunday at 7 pounds, 5 ounces.
“From our assessment, the baby wasn’t doing well in utero,” Bloomquist said. “He needed to come out.”
What happened to Brisendine isn’t unheard of, doctors say.
George Macones, chairman of the OB/GYN department at Washington University in St. Louis, said he’s seen about a dozen cases in his nearly 20-year career. He specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Sometimes, the pregnancy isn’t obvious when a woman is overweight, he said. Or she will have spotting or bleeding during the pregnancy and mistake it for her period, he said.
Brisendine’s boyfriend, Jason Britt, 33, the father of Alexander and Brisendine’s daughter, said he thought Brisendine was lying.
“It was the quickest pregnancy that I’d ever seen,” Britt said.
Brisendine said she will return to her home in Renton today. She’s kept a few things from her last pregnancy that will come in handy, she said. As for marriage plans, Britt and Brisendine said they’ll take that one step at a time.
The couple and their families are still adjusting to what she said was the “biggest and best surprise of my life.”
“We’re in for a really, really big adventure,” Brisendine said.
Thursday, Oct. 5, 2006
A MUM who threw her two-year-old daughter from the first floor window of her burning home has thanked the men who caught her.
Christine Grey, 39, was forced to throw her daughter Jessicca from the window after fire swept through the downstairs of their house in Grimshaw Lane, Newton Heath.
Luckily for Jessicca, Manchester council workers Patrick Morrisrowe, John Johnson, Jeff Dawson, Andrew Boland, and Paul Atkinson, were working nearby.
When they saw Mrs Grey waving frantically from the window they rushed to her aid and managed to catch Jessicca. Mrs Grey then climbed on to a drainpipe and was rescued by firefighters.
The mother-of-four said: “I’m really grateful for what the workmen did. They were brilliant. They saved my baby’s life.”
Tuesday, Sep. 19, 2006
They wheeled Kelly Jo Blosser into the labor and delivery room.
They lifted her legs for her. They propped up her body.
Then, as tears welled in their eyes, the doctors and nurses helped the quadriplegic deliver her baby.
Kelly Jo Blosser and 5-pound, 7-ounce baby Chad Allen Stanford are miracles, the medical professionals say.
In a split second on a winding Arkansas road last March, Blosser’s life shattered.
That Blosser and Chad Allen are here at all is a tribute to the commitment from the doctors, nurses and staff at Good Samaritan Hospital who took her in as a patient when facilities in Tennessee and West Virginia said the pregnancy and delivery were too risky.
“She’s a miracle mother,” said Dr. Kim Brady, the director of obstetrics at Good Samaritan.
Neither mother nor baby was expected to make it on that sunny March Monday morning when Blosser was driving her 7-year-old daughter, Kaitlin Nicole, to school.
After rounding a curve, Blosser’s car slammed into the rear of a garbage truck stopped in the road.
“It was too late for her to swerve,” said Robin Blosser, Kelly Jo’s mother.
The impact sheared the top off the car and killed Kaitlin Nicole.
A single mother, Blosser, who had just discovered she was pregnant when the March 14 crash happened, has been hospitalized ever since. She has never been well enough to go back to Arkansas and visit her daughter’s grave.
A CONSTANT CHORE
The crash broke Blosser’s neck in three places and severed her spinal cord. The injuries have seriously affected her central nervous system. Stabilizing her blood pressure is a constant chore.
Blosser, 25, will never walk again, doctors say. She will never be able to pick up Chad Allen or her other two children, Destiney Lynn, 4, and Gunner Todd, 2.
After the crash, both Blosser and Kaitlin Nicole were flown to Nashville, Tenn.
The little girl, although technically dead, was kept on a ventilator until Robin Blosser arrived to say goodbye. Kaitlin Nicole’s heart, liver and kidneys were harvested for transplant into four different people.
Kelly Jo Blosser’s doctors predicted she would die in a matter of hours. The fetus in her womb was expected to spontaneously abort.
Blosser and Chad Allen proved those Tennessee doctors wrong.
“I think this is what has kept her going,” Robin Blosser said.
Blosser faces a lot of obstacles.
She has not accepted Kaitlin Nicole’s death.
“I can’t do this anymore,” a tearful Blosser said Thursday as her mother explained the accident.
Still, Blosser never gave up her fight to survive and be a mother again.
On Thursday, Robin Blosser carefully placed Chad Allen onto Kelly Jo Blosser’s chest.
Blosser, paralyzed from the upper chest down, crooked her head toward Chad Allen and kissed his temple.
“I was so scared,” she said of his vaginal birth at 10:08 a.m. Wednesday.
“She didn’t know if she was going to make it or if the baby was going to make it,” Robin Blosser said.
As Blosser and her son spent a quiet moment together Thursday, tears filled the eyes of the two hospital employees in the room.
NEW HOME ON HORIZON
Early this morning, Blosser is expected to say goodbye to Cincinnati, a city – save for two brief visits outside the hospital doors – she has only seen through her window or from TV images since she arrived here in July.
She’ll be going to her mother’s home in Spencer, W.Va. Her other children will join them.
“We got used to her around here,” said Good Samaritan nurse Lori Holland, who joined other nurses two weeks ago and threw Kelly Jo a baby shower. “If she hated the world and had had that attitude, she would never have made it this far. She really taught us a thing or two.”
Life will change radically for Robin Blosser, too.
The 41-year-old grandmother now has a quadriplegic daughter, that daughter’s three children, and her own 12-year-old son to care for. She quit her job as a cashier the day of the accident to be with her daughter.
“She’s going to need 24-hour care,” Robin Blosser said.
Robin Blosser, who is also a single mom, knows her life back in West Virginia will be a struggle, but she says it is nothing compared to what Kelly Jo has gone through.
She doesn’t know how she’ll do it. She just knows she’ll never stop being a mom.
“All I can do is take it a day at a time,” she said. “I know I’ll never be able to go back to work, because she will be 24/7. But I’ll be there for her; and I’ll be there to help those babies grow up.”
Friday, Sep. 15, 2006
A MOTHER saved her two children in a dramatic rescue when the bedroom above them exploded.
Suad Suleiman, 37, was eating dinner and watching cartoons with her son and daughter in the lounge of their home in Whalebone Lane North, Dagenham, at 5.30pm on Friday, when they heard a loud bang from upstairs.
“I ran to my bedroom and the noise I heard was my bottles of perfume exploding,” said Mrs Suleiman.
“There were flames everywhere; it must have spread very fast.
“I was very frightened. I was panicking. I got the children and quickly ran outside to call for help.”
Smoke filled the house as the blaze destroyed everything in its path, and the heat blew out the windows.
Mrs Suleiman’s husband, Seif, 38, who was at work when the blaze started, believes it began in the floorboards when electric wires shorted.
He said: “Thank God fire didn’t come downstairs – it’s very dangerous because of the boiler and gases there.
“And thank God my wife’s OK – and the children.”
The fire gutted the couple’s bedroom and the family, who had only lived in the house for eight months, lost most of their possessions.
“Our passports, my jewellery, clothes – we kept everything in our bedroom,” Mrs Suleiman added.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus battled the flames for nearly two hours, and managed to extinguish the blaze.
Barking and Dagenham Council has promised to rehouse the family this week.
A SPALDING mum who saved her son from a submerged car and then ran more than a mile to get help could be in line for a national life-saving award.
Jo Bellars is already a regional winner in the Vodafone Life Savers’ Awards and could be on her way to meet Prime Minister Tony Blair if her story is selected as one of the ten most inspiring by a panel of celebrity judges.
Back in January Jo battled heroically against bitterly cold water and knee-deep mud to free George (8), who was trapped upside down underwater after their car crashed into North Drove Drain, near Tongue End.
George was underwater for between ten and 15 minutes and had stopped breathing when Jo finally managed to free him from the passenger seat.
She then dragged him to the bank as water filled the wreckage and gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Jo then found a group of workers dredging the river and one of them drove her back to the scene and called an ambulance.
George was flown by air ambulance to Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, and despite paramedics voicing fears he may not survive both he and his mum were well enough to return to their Meadowgate Lane home the next day.
Jo, who was nominated by Lincolnshire and Notting-hamshire Air Ambulance, said: “I was very surprised. I’m just a normal mum trying to do the best for my kids. It would be nice to be picked now I’ve got this far.”
Vodaphone’s awards were launched in April to honour unsung heroes behind the country’s most remarkable rescues.
The awards were created five years ago and highlight how mobile phones have revolutionised the link between the public and emergency services when minutes matter.
Jo now joins the 25 other regional winners before the judging panel, which includes Falklands War veteran Simon Weston, Nell McAndrew and Martin Kemp.
They will choose the most inspiring ten stories.
The winners will be honoured at a ceremony in London before attending a reception at 10 Downing Street.
Monday, Jun. 12, 2006
Michele Humble traces her decision to home-school to watching a TV newsmagazine about a woman who home-schooled her six children while running a family store. The children completed college before most students finished high school.
“That’s what I would like to do,” Mrs. Humble remembers thinking, “and that was before I had any child of my own. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I felt that I’d be the best teacher of my children because I would know their strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else.”
Today, Mrs. Humble and her husband, Carmichael, are parents to four girls, ages 10, 8, 6 and 2 weeks. While their dad goes to work every day for the D.C. government, the three oldest girls study at home with mom using the Robinson curriculum, Saxon math and a number of other resources. Mrs. Humble has home-schooled the children since her oldest was 5, and she hopes to do so until they graduate from high school.
“Some people say to me, ‘Are you going to do this until they’re grown?’?” Mrs. Humble says. “I tell them that is my plan right now. I enjoy that I’m the one teaching my child. It’s the desire of my heart.”
The Humble family is part of a home-schooling cooperative, the Christian Home Educators of D.C. Together with 15 to 20 other home-schooling families, they go on field trips, do special study segments on topics such as the rain forests or the Civil War and celebrate the students’ accomplishments with a closing ceremony and potluck dinner.
Although the family enjoys trips to the Smithsonian museums, the library and other places where they can learn about interesting topics, Mrs. Humble’s rule is, “No stress, no strain, no struggle.”
“I’m a great believer in ‘less is more,’?” she says. “If I’m getting too stressed out and frazzled, it’s not good for the kids. Kids are like sponges. I have to have peace, so if something is too stressful, we don’t do it.”
The three older girls take ballet classes each week, and each one is learning piano or violin.
“This is the time of all the recitals,” their mother says. “I’ll be happy when they’re over and we have more time.”
Balancing the demands of motherhood and education isn’t easy, but Mrs. Humble says she draws her strength from her faith and the impact she sees on her family.
“Every day, I think, ‘God, please give me the wisdom to do this,’?” she says.
“I enjoy seeing my child ‘get’ something, really understand something. For Black History Month, I teach about a different historical figure each day, and I was telling my oldest daughter about Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad,” Mrs. Humble says. “Her younger sister was just lying on her back, feet up in the air, and seemingly not paying attention. But when I asked the question ‘Who else was helping with the Underground Railroad?’ and my oldest daughter didn’t respond, the younger one said, ‘Harriet Tubman.’ That really makes me happy.”
Mrs. Humble treats a trip to the doctor’s office or on the public bus as a “teachable moment.” People remark on the children’s calm and polite deportment and their ability to focus.
“I used to get really offended at comments people made that I was being selfish or overprotective, but now I realize that it’s my job to protect them. If we’re on a bus on Georgia Avenue, they’re being exposed to all kinds of things. It’s my job to instill in them the right values,” she says.
To parents afraid that they aren’t experts in every subject, she advises, “You are more qualified than any teacher, and you can do a better job with your children than anyone else. People get lost in the shuffle. Children do act out. But the teachers are not able to espouse the same values we teach in the home.”
Monday, May. 15, 2006
Amy Hawkins believes she will walk again, though her doctors tell her differently.
Sometimes, she wheels away from them, her chin stubbornly set. God willing, she says, a wheelchair won’t be her legs forever.
Amy Hawkins, paralyzed from her waist down during a tornado last month, has two reasons to walk — her sons, Jair, 6, and Cole, 3.
Her love for her sons is so great that Amy almost died so they could live when their home came thundering down during the deadly storm.
Amy lives apart from the boys for now, in the Shepherd Center, a rehab hospital in Atlanta. The boys and their father aretemporarily living in a donated yellow farmhouse their mom has never seen.
Amy, 34, no longer remembers April 7, the day of the tornado. Her husband, Jerrod, her family, her friends, even her sons, have helped re-create the day for her.
“Our house blowed away and Mama became a hero, didn’t she, Papa,” Jair says. “She covered us so we wouldn’t be hurt, didn’t she, Papa.”
The back story begins with Amy tracking the tornadoes that lashed the Midstate that day.
She was standing on the deck at her Hendersonville home. Jerrod was at work at the Brentwood Fire Department, tracking the tornadoes himself.
When he saw that one was headed toward his home, he called Amy.
Her last words to him were something like, “I know it’s here. Gotta go.”
Jerrod tried for 45 minutes to call Amy back. “I was thinking she dropped her phone,” he says.
Then he received a call from a neighbor: The boys were OK, but his wife was badly hurt.
At first, the neighbor hadn’t been able tofind Amy, Jair and Cole in the rubble, but on a second search he saw Cole’s face in the corner of what was left of the Hawkins’ basement.
He saw an unconscious Amy, an arm wrapped around each boy, her body shielding them from the debris.
Amy was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the boys to the children’s hospital there. Amy had a head injury, lacerations that required at least 50 staples, and a severed spine. Surgeons have since placed a steel rod down her back.
Later, Amy asked Jerrod if she’d been in a wreck.
“I remember nothing that happened on the day of the tornado,” she says. “I have a chunk out of my life. … But I know some of my ribs were crushed every time I try to take a deep breath.”
On an X-ray of her left side last week, her ribs looked like a crumbled cookie.
“Though she’s in terrible pain,” Jerrod says, “I’ve never heard her say a negative word. … I know the therapy she’s getting in Atlanta hurts her, but she keeps trying. … She calls the boys every morning and every night.”
The dad tries to keep their sons’ lives as routine as possible, taking Jair to baseball practice and Cole to soccer. His mom helps him tend to the boys, who have never had an official baby sitter because Amy and Jerrod, onetime college sweethearts, have always doted on their boys’ company.
The boys have been to see their mother twice and will go again today.
On their first visit, Amy’s wheelchair scared her sons, but it wasn’t long before they were giving their mom all the hugs she had missed.
Jerrod Hawkins isn’t back at work yet; he’s tending the boys and driving back and forth to see Amy.
“I will be in the hospital for a while,” Amy says. “Doctors want me here until June, then they want me as an outpatient, coming back for therapy every day. I had rather have Jerrod with the boys, watching them, than I would want him here with me.”
Amy’s mom stays with her and will until Amy gets to come home to Tennessee, tentatively in August.
Jerrod and Amy plan to rebuild their home. The first thing Amy wants in the plans: a safe room for her sons.
At night, the boys say their prayers with a picture of their mom between them. Amy goes to sleep similarly, kissing her fingertips, then pressingthe kisses on pictures of the boys.
She also goes to sleep with the most important element of all: high hopes.
She dreams of running the bases with Jair and of kicking the soccer ball with Cole.
“I want to walk,” she says, “not for me as much as I do for my two sons. I love those boys. I miss giving them their haircuts, taking them out for pizza.
“I’m not a hero … I’m just my boys’ mama.”