IMAGINE...being a child trapped by life's circumstances.
IMAGINE...needs so complex someone else must care for you.
IMAGINE...living for years in a hospital room or adult nursing home because your family abandoned you.
IMAGINE...being a child forced to stay in a neglectful, abusive home simply because there is no other place to go.
On May 5th, 2005, Laura Kate, a 21 week gestation preemie was born at one pound nine ounces. She was in the hospital for her first three months, barely clinging to life. She had a hole in her heart, extreme low birth weight, acid reflux that caused severe sleep apnea, was on oxygen, and supplemental tube feeding. Because she was removed from her biological parents at birth, Laura Kate was placed in the state's custody (Welfare, Social Services...they call it DFACS -Department of Family and Children's Services- in Georgia). At three months of age she came to Dream House for Kids for what is called End of Days Care. Dream House is a children's charity in Georgia that teaches families and communities how to help kids with complex health conditions thrive at home. They take in and care for medically fragile children. They give hope. And they give loving childhoods for however long they last. Everyone knew Laura Kate was going to die, but Dream House was going to hold her and love her for as long as they could.
The sleep apnea caused Laura Kate "flat line" for brief periods until she could be resuscitated and brought back to life. She wore a monitor that would beep when she stopped breathing. It beeped so frequently that she had to be hospitalized and have a surgery to fix her reflux problem. She went through Open Heart Surgery to repair the hole. Then there was the removal of her tonsils and adenoids, and tubes put in her ears. She even had an emergency surgery to fix a bowel blockage. Laura Kate was still on oxygen 24/7 and the Doctors had said she would have to be on it for an indefinite period, but she wasn't. She got better, and kept getting better.
After almost a year at Dream House it was agreed that this tiny little girl was going to be around for a while and needed a permanent home. Laura Kate was adopted by Kelly Coker, a stay at home mom and pediatric nurse, and her husband Todd. Terry Walls, one of Laura Kate's caregivers at Dream House from the time she came to them from the hospital, rocked and fell so hard for Laura Kate that the adoptive parents adopted her too. On January 1, 2009 they celebrated one full year hospitalization free.
Laura Kate at 1 year old with mom Kelly,
and siblings Caroline, Grant, and Grayson
This month Laura Kate turned four. She loves tv too much and watches Dora and Little Einsteins over and over again. Swinging is an addiction and you cannot push her high enough. She just shuts and eyes and "flies". She loves tea parties and baby dolls and trucks. She is a flirt and a charmer. Everything is done with much expression and giggles. With the exception of being below weight for the pediatric charts, Laura Kate is one fine and sassy little girl. She just made the height chart for the very first time. She is in the bottom 2% but this is the first growth chart she has ever made and her family is thrilled.
Laura Kate, age 4
With her height and slim body comes the clothing problem. Getting clothes long enough for her always require taking in. Belts were working but then came potty training a very independent girl and belts just caused more issues. Terry went online and asked Google for "Toddler Adjustable Belts" and found Dapper Snappers. As a long time volunteer with a Dream House, Terry is a first-hand witness to medical issues that cause kids never really fit into sizes and lengths properly. She knows that Laura Kate, and many of the other kids the Dream House cares for, are very independent and cannot tolerate being helped with a belt. Now she has Dapper Snappers and pants just go up and down so easy, and the pants stay up and never fall down. She now has one less thing to worry about in a long line of obstacles she's faced.
Laura Kate's growing, thriving, and surviving against all the odds she faced as a preemie and all because of the wonderful people at Dream House for kids. What an amazing organization!
As the Mompreneur responsible for inventing and manufacturing Dapper Snappers, I can't begin to tell you how deeply I am touched by Laura Kate's story. An impossibly tiny baby, fighting against all odds to survive, left in the care of strangers to die. But these strangers gave her the love she needed. These strangers are true miracle workers. They have the kind of heart it takes to give of their time to care for those who've been given up on. Can you imagine being one of those children? I can't. It just breaks my heart. I am trying to hold back my tears, very unsuccessfully, just thinking about it.
I was so moved by the Dream House for Kids organization, and all that they stand for, that I donated 50 Dapper Snappers and will donate 20% of online sales for the week of May 24-31. I wish I could do more, but mine is a very small business and funds are tight. But maybe you can help. If you don't need Dapper Snappers, you could donate directly to Dream House for Kids. Please be sure to write in the comments "On behalf of Laura Kate and Dapper Snappers" so they know that we sent you. Donate today and help save lives!
(Portions of this post were taken from http://www.dreamhouseforkids.org)