Katie & Ellie
(1/6) I was talking with a friend one day who asked me if there were any more children in our future. I told her that we had decided we were “done,” but that I was having a hard time with it. A few weeks later, I ran into a different friend at our church who had just had a new baby, herself. Something shifted in me that day that I still can’t explain. From that moment on, I just couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling that our family wasn’t complete. I even broke down and cried when I talked to my husband about it later that same evening. I think when he saw how strongly I felt about it, something changed in him, too. His mind had been made up for months, but he didn’t even hesitate to tell me that we could go for #4. I found out in January of 2013 that I was pregnant. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
(2/6) Our family went through a horribly dark time in the spring of that same year. Just two months after we learned we were pregnant, my brother was killed in a random act of violence by a convicted felon out on parole. Three weeks after that, seven Marines in my husband’s unit died in a training accident. And a few days later, we lost our precious baby at 11 weeks. It was one devastating blow after another. As if that wasn’t enough to almost level us, the final blow came when my father died suddenly from a heart attack within two weeks of my miscarriage. I was in triage mode, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. I did just enough to take care of the kids, but to this day, I’m still not sure how.
(3/6) At that point, I gave up on having another baby. I was too fragile to risk even hoping for it. Then, right before my husband left for his fourth deployment, I found out I was pregnant. Twelve days before he left for his fifth deployment, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl- our second girl. Elizabeth Chase restored so much of the joy I had lost in that last year. Anyone who was close to me then will tell you that she saved me.
(4/6) It was January 2015 and we started noticing that Katie had lost her appetite. She seemed to be sleeping a lot more and looked pale. At the time, we assumed she was fighting off some kind of virus, but then one Saturday evening she spiked a fever and her belly became distended. We decided to go ahead and take her to the ER to get checked out. That’s when they discovered that she had masses in her lungs, liver, and spleen. A few hours later, we got the official diagnosis: T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We were able to get her into a 28-month clinical trial. But 11 months into it, she relapsed with leukemic tumors on both of her optic nerves. We had always known that a bone marrow transplant might be in our future, so we had already started the process of trying to find a match for her, in case we would ever need it. We tested all three of her siblings- as well as her dad and myself- to see if there was a match in our immediate family, before we went to the national registry. Going into the testing, we were told that, as parents, Josh and I were a long shot. They also told us that her brothers and sister had only a 25% chance of being a match for her. We tried not to get our hopes too high. But when her doctor came in to tell us that they had finally gotten the results, I broke down: Our Ellie was a perfect match. And she was actually the ONLY match.
(5/6) How can you explain what it feels like when you have to sign these consent forms, and you see the word “DEATH” as a possible outcome? When you watch them take your baby away, in order to save your other baby? There just aren’t words for that. If there had been any other match in the national registry, we would have taken it. But there wasn’t.
(6/6) Ellie is proof that there’s a bigger story. She is living, breathing, evidence that sometimes, hope shows up disguised as heartbreak. When she’s older, I’ll probably tell her about the baby we never had. I’ll tell her stories about the uncle and grandfather she’ll never know- who left us too soon. But, more importantly, we’ll tell her about the lives she saved before she even turned two.