This story is about a little girl named Abby, her amazing parents Jay and Carly, a twin sister named Sydney, and a guy the family just calls “Coach.” The day started out like any other July summer day in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. The weather was hot, the ocean was gorgeous, and the mood was very laid back. Suddenly, Carly appeared from the bathroom with the excitement of a little kid getting a new puppy for Christmas! She placed the results of several home pregnancy tests on the coffee table and announced to the family that she was pregnant with their first child! Little did she and the rest of the family know, this event would set off a chain of events over the next nine-months that called for some very tough and extremely well-thought-out decisions that would change this family’s lives forever.
It started out like most pregnancies, with a visit to the doctor to verify the results of the home pregnancy test. The parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, and families from both sides shared the normal excitement of the news of a new baby on the way! Within a few weeks, discussions and emails were flying back and forth about what to name the baby, and all four sets of parents had reasons why the baby should be named after someone special to them. The normal Saturday afternoon trips to the Florence Mall, Dicks Sporting Goods, quick drives through the car dealerships to see what was new, and the Saturday evenings topped off with a nice family dinner were suddenly re-routed to Babies R’ Us and other baby supply stores. Thus began the occasional purchase of an item that was just too cute to pass up, even though we didn’t know the sex of the baby at this point.
In fact, one of those Saturday afternoon trips was interrupted by a phone call from Jay to his Mom, while Coach was trying on a new pair of running shoes. Coach heard her say, “Why should I sit down?” This is the normal indication that bad news is about to be delivered. As usual, the seconds following that statement from one of your children, provides enough time for a parent to process a hundred thoughts of which ninety-nine are really bad! As she sat down, Coach could see that she was starting to tremble, anticipating that something was wrong with the baby. Jay asked if our family tree included twins. She asked why, and Jay announced the doctor had found two babies on the ultrasound, during their first visit! He and Carly were about to be the proud parents of twins! Once the Mom’s heart rate returned close to normal, Coach put the shoes back on the rack, and took her to the baby store to pick up a second of everything! Needless to say, cell phones started ringing off the hook, as the news was passed and the excitement doubled for the entire family.
The weeks and months passed, and the possible names for each baby were determined. Life was just perfect with the thoughts and visions of two healthy beautiful babies that would soon join the family. If they were girls, one would be named Abby and the other, Sydney. With two new birthdays to celebrate, all the holidays and special occasions and the cry of a new baby (in this case, two babies), the family circle started to develop and a house would soon become a home. However, sometimes life doesn’t follow the script, and requires adjustments. Carly and Jay soon realized their script would need to be adjusted. No one seems to know why or whose family is going to be picked. Coach say’s that sometimes the family circle needs to be tested, to see if it's really strong or if it is just strong when everything is perfect.
Coach has an amazing sense when something is wrong, especially when it involves his family. This feeling happened to Coach on a Tuesday afternoon, in mid-November 2008. He called his wife to see if something was wrong. He could tell she was crying. She told coach that she had just been informed by Jay that the sex of each baby had been confirmed, it was two girls, but there was something wrong with one of them. It was the girl they named, Abby. He immediately closed his office door and went straight home. His trip was only thirty miles, but that day it seemed like sixty. When he arrived home, he found his wife on the phone with Carly, and a website pulled up with the two of them already putting together a plan. Coach held his wife for several hours without saying a word, knowing full well that only compassion and time would help her broken heart. Coach later that night talked to Carly about things he had encountered in his life and told her about miracles he had witnessed and how people had overcome some amazing odds to survive and live a great life. Coach told his wife that Carly had made the transition from a little girl to a Mom, and she was ready to make the tough decisions about Abby's future. You see Abby had already received her first miracle, before she was even conceived. Her Mom decided early in life that she wanted to teach children with special needs, and had a professional degree in special education, which included a background in childhood development. She knew what she needed to consider and where to find the latest information to help her make the proper decisions. Carly told Coach what Abby needed most was to be around people with positive attitudes and the words and strength to back it up! The next day, Coach signed up and ran in the 10K Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati, Ohio for two reasons. One reason was to give Abby strength, and second was to beg the Lord to give her a chance.
Over the next several weeks, Carly went through a series of medical tests to determine how Abby was developing, and to provide information for the doctors to make their recommendations about her future. The doctors used the best information available to discuss the possibility of Abby’s future life, and the possibility of ending it. Once Carly and Jay was presented the information, the decision was simple that Abby would be given every chance to live and be born into this world as Abby Louden. The doctors and the information they presented painted a grim picture in Jay & Carly’s minds about how Abby’s life would be restricted, and the possibility of being born without being fully-developed, but it didn’t matter to them. Abby was their baby girl, just like her twin Sydney, and she deserved to be given a chance at life, just like Sydney. Coach and Gammy knew they could only stand on the sidelines and be supportive. This was the first of many difficult decisions to come, but the final decision was ‘ABBY LIVES.’ The hands of time seemed to stand still as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks to months. Carly struggled, but she did what great mothers do to protect her babies, with the full intention of keeping them as healthy as possible. It was determined in mid-March of 2009, that Abby’s growth was becoming too restricted, and if Abby was going to have the best chance for survival and life, the delivery needed to be scheduled…and soon! During her pregnancy, Carly was transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina, which is rated as having one of the best critical care neonatal units in the world. Thus, this is where she would deliver the babies. With family waiting by their side, Jay and Carly delivered on the morning of March 19th 2009 at 8:34 and 8:36. Sydney came first, and Abby came second. Sydney and Abby were born, and both were alive! Abby’s vital signs were weak as expected, but the first miracle had just taken place. She was alive, and Jay and Carly had the chance to look into her eyes, tell her that they loved her, and in return, have Abby see her Mommy and Daddy, before she was transferred to the specialized neonatal unit. A few hours passed and the doctors gave special permission for the family to visit Abby, one at a time. As usual, Coach stayed on the sideline and waited to go last. Coach positioned himself so that each family member had to walk pass him before entering the room. As each one passed, he gave them the same speech about what Carly and Jay had told him about being positive, to appreciate the moment, to thank God for our first miracle. When Gammy finished her turn and exited the room, she went straight to Coach expecting to get a hug and encouragement. Instead, when she looked into his eyes, she couldn’t believe what she saw. It was that look she had witnessed so many times on the sideline when his teams were down, and appeared to have no chance. It wasn’t anything he did, it was a feeling you get when something amazing and unbelievable is unfolding right in front of your eyes. All you want to do is sit back and enjoy the moment, knowing full well you may never have this chance again. This emotion is rare, and will only happen a few times during an entire lifetime. Gammy in her soft voice told Coach, “It’s your turn and by the way, I have a feeling that Miracle #2 is about to happen.” Coach gently touched her face and said, “Stick around kid, you have seen nothing yet.” Coach went through security and the normal wash-down procedures, before entering the neonatal unit. He had to admit it was a little overwhelming at first to see the babies, and all of the life support and monitoring equipment, but nothing could compare to the medical staff performing their duties with the precision of a Swiss Watch. When coach walked up to Abby’s area he was greeted by a nurse named, Lila, who turned out to be two weeks away from delivering her first child. She gave Abby to Coach, and then stepped aside. Coach took Abby in his hands and started talking to her. Within a few minutes, Lila told Coach that Abby liked what he was saying, and her vital signs were improving. She explained to Coach that she had witnessed this many times when someone visited her babies, with a soft gentle voice. Abby turned her head toward Coach, opened her eyes, looked straight into his and at that point coach knew it had nothing to do with the tone of his voice. He could see a level of determination and passion in her eyes that indicated that she wasn't done yet. Coach has seen this look a few times before, and realized what Abby was really saying to him was, “Stick around coach, you haven’t seen nothing yet.” In the hours that followed, Coach realized he was witnessing the second miracle Gammy had spoke about earlier. Here was this little girl weighing a little over 4 pounds, with multi-medical issues, giving everything she had inside just to get to the next moment in time. It was like she was sending a message to the world, “I want this, I won’t give up, please don’t give up on me, I want to live.” Coach spent hours upon hours with Abby and Lila just rocking the babies in the neonatal unit, telling story after story. Even Lila occasionally had to give Coach that look that says, “Are you sure that really happened that way?” Each time, Coach would ask Abby for her opinion, Lila would check the monitors for Abby’s reaction, and each time without a doubt, she concurred with Coach. We have now made it to the end of this part of Abby’s story, and from this point it has a very happy ending. Abby has fought her way through many scary moments and is now eight months old. We are all looking forward to this very special holiday season with Abby.This little girl named, Abby, has more courage, love to give, smiles to share, and appreciation for life than any person I have ever known. We have all learned lessons about life from her, that never would have happened if she had not come along. We have learned to appreciate today, and let tomorrow be what tomorrow will be. From our family to yours have a very happy holiday season.
Thank you, have a great day