In the late spring of 2010, a young couple was asked to attend a meeting with the young man’s employer. Any of you that have been called into an unscheduled meeting with your boss knows what runs through your mind. Most of us have a tendency to worry and think about every bad scenario that could possibly be covered in an unplanned meeting. This young couple was no exception, even though the young man was a very dedicated, loyal, and an extremely hard worker, that any company would be proud to have on their staff. All good stuff still didn’t ease the stress they put on themselves, especially in today’s economy. They thought about what would happen if the young father and husband lost his job. How would they get back to their family in Kentucky? Where would they store their stuff? What about the specialized medical care they absolutely needed without exception, for their child with a life-threatening condition? The list went on and on….
Finally the big day came and the couple attended the meeting. They met some of the executives of the company and too much of their surprise, they were offered and amazing opportunity with the company! The only real drawback was if the young couple accepted the offered promotion, it would require them to relocate their little family from their established home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Orlando, Florida; just a rock’s throw for Disney World Universal Studios.
It was a great opportunity and would mean a better life for the four of them. You see, the young couple had two-year old twin daughters named Abby and Sydney. Sydney was born first and was a perfectly healthy baby. Unfortunately, Abby was not so lucky. She was born with a severe disability known as HPE (Holoprosencephaly.) This is a very serious life-threatening condition that requires very specialized medical treatment, along with parents that have more love in their hearts than most of us could even imagine, let alone actually experience. Abby requires 24/7/365 attention. The beautiful thing about this little girl is she has the determination to live like that of a mountain-lion, and a glowing smile that can melt your heart the second you look at her lovely blonde hair and her crystal, sea blue eyes. Sometimes when we think we are having a bad day, all we need to do is think about is how hard Abby must fight every second of every day just to get to the next moment in time. It seems to put life into perspective, once you see it that way. Most of us have heard the expression created by a very famous author that, “There is a time and place for everything that happens.” Some believe this statement is a bit melodramatic and things that happen just happen. Others believe its all part of a plan that was created by their God, long before they were born. As long, as they believe in him he will clear them a passage-way through a mountain, part a sea, build a bridge, and whatever else is needed to help one of his creations fulfill their destiny and come back home to him when it their time to go. For those of us that have had the opportunity to share in Abby’s journey, so far, we have witnessed a sequential chain of events that had to have happened when they did and the way they did, or she would not be with us today. Just to prove a point that seems to fit well into the idea that life is a plan, let me back track a bit… It started three years before Sydney and her special twin, Abby, were born. The young couple was transferred from their hometown in Kentucky to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. One might say well what’s the big deal; everybody has to live somewhere and young people get transferred to new locations all the time. Okay you win and you’re right, and hey Myrtle Beach is a great place for a couple with no children- not a lot of obligations to live and have fun nearly every night of the week. So Coach, what is the significance in this move? You’re killing me here. Here it is: Did you know that just down the Atlantic coast from Myrtle Beach, resides one of the top Neonatal Intensive Care Units for babies out of the medical hospitals in the United States and maybe even the world? I am referring to the NICU, Medical University of South Carolina. Also, you probably didn’t know it’s the home of one of the nation’s top medical specialists that specialized in the fields needed to help save Abby’s life? You probably weren’t aware of this. There have been many mountain passages cleared and bridges built for this entire story to have been told up to this point. One of those occurred 23 years earlier, when the young man’s divorced mother showed up at a District TEE-Ball association meeting to help organize the league, and provide a summer of fun for her son. It just so happened, a broken-hearted and widowed father showed up at the same meeting. He had lost his young wife to cancer the previous summer, and was at the meeting for the same purpose as the lady. Most people don’t believe in love at first sight, but it really was. If those two folks, now known as Coach and Gammy had not met at that TEE –Ball meeting, the next part of the story may never have taken place. When Abby was born, the doctors prepared the family for the worst stating if she made it through childbirth, it would be a miracle. If she did, it was a possibility she may only live for a few minutes or hours. They needed a miracle. Naturally, the young couple (Abby’s Mom and Dad) was the first to hold Abby and spend time hugging and kissing her, making sure she knew how much she was loved. After that initial welcoming into the world, the doctors told the mom and dad they needed to get Abby to the NICU facility very quickly. In a matter of a few minutes, she was transferred to the unit which had very tight security and strict policies about who would be allowed to enter. This NICU was the home of some very sick children, all clinging to life minute to minute. The Mom was moved to the recovery room and the Dad was allowed to enter the unit with Abby. After a few minutes, it was obvious Abby’s tiny body was stressed and her vital signs were critically low. Somehow Abby’s Dad convinced the head critical-care nurse to allow the young mother’s Mom and this young father’s Mom to enter the unit and spend some time with Abby. Once the visit was over, the head nurse asked about the guy in the hallway they all called Coach. Who was he and how was he connected to this family? Abby’s Dad immediately spoke up and said I was his step-dad, and he wanted me to have my moment with Abby. The head nurse approved the visit and Coach was immediately placed in a wash-down room with the proper attire required, before entering the unit. He was introduced to Abby’s head nurse, Lila, who was also 8 months with child. The Coach entered the unit and was shook by what he saw, but was more excited by what he felt as he leaned over and kissed Abby’s forehead. He told her who he was and what a pleasure it was for him to meet her. He told her that he loved her. Lila was assigned to Abby full-time, and was monitoring the equipment tracking every vital sign known to mankind. She told coach immediately, she thought Abby recognized his voice and she was excited to meet him. This made it very difficult for Coach to hold back his tears, and for the most part he did, but he later admitted a few probably slipped out. Coach placed Abby’s tiny hand into his big hand and much to his and the nurses dismay, she moved her hand into his hand and wrapped it around his finger. The nurse said that’s not even possible and said look, her vital signs are starting to improve! Coach looked into Abby’s eyes and sensed this little girl was saying to him, hey coach you have done a lot of good in your time, but could you do just one little thing for me? Could you put a stop to this little pity party and get me some help? I’m not going anywhere. I got places to go, people to meet and a twin sister that needs her butt kicked and I plan on doing it! In reality, that may have been a lot of information gathered from one squeeze, but it turned out to all be true, event the part about kicking her sister’s butt. She found a way to do that, too!
It only took a short time for the doctors and nurses to realize what Coach and Lila had figured out in the first 15 minute he held Abby in his arms. This child was special and it was time to call in the team of specially-trained doctors to take on the challenge being presented to them by Abby. They already had the best neonatal nurse on the floor that day, and the private nurse assigned to Abby’s bedside was absolutely incredible. The best equipment and monitoring devices known to man were ordered for Abby.
Only time would tell the real story of Abby’s life, but at that point, her plan from God was being carried out by some of the most loving and professional people on face of the Earth. Her medical team was absolutely amazing and made each decision with the most current information available to them on the Internet. Hmm, wonder if that’s why god allowed the internet to be discovered. Not sure, but we will take it.
The whole story about Abby’s first hours and her instant connection to Coach can be read at RunForMeCoach.com. This is a website designed and maintained by Coach to help bring attention to the world of HPE (Abby’s condition) and the charities that support our mission to help families find hope, and the knowledge needed to cope. We are hopeful the funds needed to support research can be provided, to help researchers unlock the codes through genetic and stem-cell research needed to help Abby and the hundreds around the world that share her mission to live a better life.
Present day, Abby is now more than 2 years old and her story is still being told. I told you at the beginning of the story about Abby’s Mom and Dad being offered the opportunity to transfer to a position which required relocation to Orlando, Florida. With this decision, meant the young couple would have to find the same quality, medical care Abby received in South Carolina to their new potential home in Orlando, Florida. If they couldn’t, then they would not make the move.
Abby was pretty fortunate that her Mom just so happens to have a professional degree and taught children with special needs. You might say that’s just a coincidence but we say no way! Perhaps, it’s another twist of fate? Maybe, but it sure has come in handy that Abby’s Mom spent several years in the classroom working with and teaching special needs children long before Abby was born. Makes me a believer!
With her previous knowledge and background, Abby’s Mom did her homework and lined up all of the doctors and medical facilities Abby would need before they could relocate. Eventually, the big day came to make a visit to the Orlando area and check out the doctors, along with the housing available in the area. The visit went well and the deal was made. The young couple found a perfect house and in a few short weeks, the big move was on.
Coach and the young Dad’s mother (Gammy) decided the move would be to stressful for the young couple to handle alone, so they flew down to help get the house ready and move the four of them to their new home. It’s a beautiful neighborhood and within a few weeks the young family made friends with several of the neighbors. Things seemed to be working out perfectly.
As the young family started settling into their house, they discovered some issues in the home that could potentially harm Abby’s health. Also, not to mention it was a concern that the Orlando area was being flooded with news reporters, due to a high-profile case of a young girl living with her mother and grandparents, who suddenly came up missing and later was found deceased. The community had been inundated with strange people and traffic for several weeks. A 15 minute hospital trip for Abby could turn into an hour. For a child that struggles with the issues Abby has to deal with everyday, it would be unacceptable for her to get stuck in one of those traffic-jams. If you think about it, the effort to discover the last days of a two-year old girl and punish the ones that caused her death could have cost another two-year old girl’s life. This wasn’t going to happen to Abby because God gave her a plan before he sent her down here. Abby, Sydney, and their Mom returned home to the Northern Kentucky, near the Cincinnati, Ohio area until the trial was to end in a few weeks. Now, one may think that move in itself is risky by taking Abby away from her medical support team, and under normal circumstances you may be right. But, we know something you may not know… The Cincinnati area has one of the top-rated Children’s Hospitals in the world and the staff to back up that claim. Every day, they deal with children having conditions similar to Abby’s. Other children come from all parts of the world to get the medical attention they need, for almost anything they suffer from. Maybe that’s why this hospital was built and filled with a staff consisting of some of the most brilliant people on the planet; God knew Abby and thousands of other children would need this facility to carry out their plan. Can you now say, I Believe?!? I have one more scenario to help you believe and if that doesn’t work, I’m giving up and you can continue believing things happen just because they happen! A few weeks before the barrage of reporters moved into the Orlando area, Coach was back in Kentucky talking to another young mother of two, with one on the way, about acquiring her help to edit the books and stories he writes like this one. They would be posted on his website I mentioned, RunForMeCoach.com. Coach met the young mother in a Health Club, during a spinning class she just happens to lead. During the class, this young mother talked non-stop between spinning commands about her children and her husband, who just happened to be a young doctor at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio! This young mother’s Mom and Dad live a few hundred miles from her house. (P.S.- ‘Mom and Dad,’ she talks about you all the time and how much she misses you and wishes you could move closer to her, so you can spend more time with her and the grandchildren and the one on the way.) You may be wondering, where am I going with this? What does this have to do with Abby? I’m getting to that now. It didn’t take Coach long to figure out this young mother was not only a great spinning instructor, but she a brilliant person with the education to back it up. Why is this important to Coach? In the real world, Coach is a manager, an engineer and a former high-school basketball coach. He is not a writer or a journalist. In fact, his high school English teacher once told Coach he could do anything he set his mind to, but writing! Even though coach loved to write, the teacher told him it would never be his gig and do everyone a favor by staying away from writing. Now, you know Coach’s role, the young mother’s role and how she and Coach met. Did I mention there are approximately 1.5 million people living in the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati, Ohio area and that I had never had the opportunity to meet the young mother’s husband, the doctor? This was about to change. On a Friday afternoon during Abby, Sydney, and their mother’s stay, Abby’s mother discovered a major issue had developed, and emergency action was necessary. Abby could be facing another major surgery, which is her case is always a life-threatening situation, if the emergency wasn’t addressed right away. Approximately a year and a few months prior to their visit to Kentucky, Abby‘s doctors advised her Mom and Dad that Abby’s quality of life could be improved if they agreed to have a feeding device surgically inserted into Abby Stomach. The tube would be used for feeding and Abby’s medications could go through the tube, eliminating discomfort for Abby. This was the right decision for Abby and the quality of her life has improved immensely since the surgery. The only drawback is the tube is not fixed or attached to the stomach and can be accidently pulled out, particularly by Abby, now that she is much stronger. On that day, Abby’s mother discovered the tube had been pulled out by Abby experimenting and wondering, hey, what this thing is sticking out of my stomach? What happens if I pull on it?? Probably thinking; my sister doesn’t have one of these, so why do I need one?? Should a situation like this occur, Abby’s mother had been instructed on the procedures to reinsert the tube, but hadn’t actually previously performed the task. Not only did she not want to risk hurting her fragile daughter, but she had also left the back-up tube back in Florida! Abby’s mother quickly made the decision to take her to the hospital and have the doctors reinsert the tube. She knew that she maybe had a couple of hours to get the tube back in or Abby would face another surgery. The mother and Abby arrived at the local hospital within a few minutes and explained what needed to be done and how quickly it needed to happen. The hospital explained they were not capable at that time to reinsert the tube and Abby needed to go to you guessed it- Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio! Are you starting to connect the dots yet? The young mother/spinning instructor, her husband-the doctor, the tube that mysteriously came out, and the hospital that couldn’t or wouldn’t reinsert the tube? Abby and her mother arrived at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and her mother explained what happened. It didn’t take 2 minutes for Abby to be whisked away to the Emergency Room and start receiving the medical attention she desperately needed. In the meantime, Abby’s Grandmother (Gammy) called Coach and told him about the emergency. Coach could tell from the shakiness of her voice she was upset and needed reassurance things were going to be okay. Coach told Gammy he was in route and would go directly to the hospital to be with Abby and her mother and to keep her updated. In a matter of a few minutes, Coach arrived and explained to the nurse at the station his relationship to Abby. He was allowed to go to the emergency room with Abby and her mother. A few minutes went by and the medical staff entered Abby’s room to reinsert the tube into Abby stomach. The medical staff consisted of two female doctors and guess who? Remember how I told you earlier that the other young mother’s husband was a doctor? When the doctor entered the room, he introduced his team and when he told us his name, I knew immediately he was the husband of my spinning instructor! I figured out very quickly he was not only a brilliant doctor, but he was a part of a team doing a study to help improve the technology and procedures used to support the type of tube that Abby had in her stomach. The team worked together to reinsert the tube and all ended well. Now, you’ve read this story and assessed all of the events that took place in order for Abby to be treated, by this young doctor (the husband of the spinning instructor) that’s performing a study to improve technology that will not only help Abby, but the thousands of others that have the same tube as Abby. Is this just stuff that just happened? Or, was it a twist of fate? Perhaps, Abby has a life plan that’s being guided by a hand with far greater powers than even the most faithful believers can sometime believe. If asked, can you now say ‘I Believe?’
Story by: Coach Dennis Clifton