It Takes a Lot of "Little Grapes" to Make the Big Grape!
Known for their courageous spirit, positive attitude and strong will to persevere, these young children are true examples of how your gifts from The Big Grape affect lives. Called "Little Grapes," children are selected each year to share their personal stories of determination. Because of you, these children, and countless others at Avera Children's Hospital, have directly benefited from your gifts and are living testaments of what you can do for the community by supporting The Big Grape. Read below and get to know them better!
Playful and Grateful
The first years of young Anthony’s life were anything but easy. In November of 2014, Anthony’s parents thought their young son had come down with a classic case of the flu. After three long weeks of battling the sickness, he was admitted to Avera Children’s Hospital and diagnosed as having a lack of nutrition. His levels had reached deadly lows and steps were taken to provide the much-needed nutrients his body so desperately needed. But to no avail, little Anthony continued on the downward spiral and undergo numerous procedures that required anesthesia. The next step was surgery where the talented team at Avera Children’s Hospital found scar tissue and lesions on his intestine that needed to be removed. A few short months later, Anthony was back for another surgery where they removed 6-8 inches of his small intestine Anthony still remains on a feed tube today with hopes he will eventually grow out of it.
Despite his set-backs and obstacles, Anthony is a playful, happy little boy who loves school, trains, trucks and legos. His parents, Richard and Amy, are confident in his treatment plan and forever grateful for the life-saving care he received throughout his journey - both spiritually and medically. From working with the Child Life Specialists to ease Anthony’s fears to the comforts of family-friendly patient rooms, they are thankful to those who have made gifts to support events like The Big Grape, which provided funding to make these conveniences possible.
"It’s not easy having to experience the thought of losing a child," says Richard and Amy Britt. "At least we knew we were in the best place possible."
A Bundle of Miracles
It was truly a happy day when Heidi and Dane Prestholdt found out they were expecting. But the happiness soon turned to worry when the young mother entered her third trimester. She experienced sudden back pain that required a hospital visit. It was here that the care team diagnosed her with a rare infection in the placenta that was causing early labor. Heidi underwent an emergency c-section and soon welcomed little Charlie into their family. Weighing only three pounds, he was admitted to the Avera NICU where he remained for a total of eight weeks.
During this time, the Prestholdts worked closely with their care team to stay informed of their son’s condition. Being away from home, they used the on-campus lodging at the Walsh Family Village so they could remain near their son. Even though it was extremely difficult to leave Charlie, they knew he was in good hands. In fact, nurses often took photographs, read books and even rocked little Charlie to calm him while Heidi and Dane were away.
Today, Charlie is a happy and healthy little boy and the Prestholdts remain grateful to all the staff at Avera for making them feel special and calm during this critical time. Thanks to gifts from generous supporters, facilities such as the Walsh Family Village and programs for NICU parents that are available to provide much-needed assistance for families who face medical emergencies.
"It’s the hardest thing to leave the hospital without your newborn baby," says Heidi. "Thanks to the caring staff, I was reassured and always felt safe. They truly made us feel special."
From Worry to Hope
Kyzleigh Metzger’s life was brand new when she experienced a serious threat to her young life. At just five weeks old, she had a slight temperature. Her parents, Bridgette Muller and Sam Metzger, noticed that she was having trouble moving, and would scream when she was lifted or moved. From their home in Avon, S.D., they took Kyzleigh to their clinic in Yankton, and then rushed her to Avera Sacred Heart Hospital where staff provided initial treatment before she was flown to Avera Children’s in Sioux Falls. Tests revealed that she had spinal bacterial meningitis that led to seizures and a blood clot in her brain, causing a stroke. She was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis for sub-specialty care, and then returned to Avera for continued monitoring and treatment. A scan revealed a hematoma – or a mass of clotted blood – in the frontal lobe in her brain. It has shrunk over time, and she continues with physical therapy. The family received Avera McKennan Foundation support, for example, gas cards for travel home when needed, as they also had an 11-year-old and 5-year-old.
"This was one of the most devastating things to happen to us," Sam said. "The physicians and nurses were very supportive and answered all our questions as we wondered what her future would be. We live every day for what it is, hour by hour and minute by minute, and have the best hopes for the future." Bridgette added, "Our care was beyond excellent. All the physicians, nurses, patient care techs, social workers and child life specialists were absolutely amazing. They were more than supportive; they were like family, and we brag them up each time we speak of her story. We consider Avera Children’s our ‘home away from home,’ even to this day."
Anthony and Rocco Swanson
Love Times Two
Siblings Kalli and Rocco Swanson share more than a last name. Both born prematurely with similar health issues, their early starts in life virtually mirrored one another. It began in 2010 when Heidi and Chad first learned they were expecting. With a family history of premature births, Heidi was aware the risks but remained optimistic. But at 26 weeks, they learned their baby girl was growth restricted and Heidi suffered from preeclampsia. After an emergency c-section, baby Kalli was brought into the world weighing one pound, twelve ounces. She would go on to spend the next 104 days in the Avera NICU as caregivers worked round the clock to strengthen her lungs and ward off infections. Despite the long stay, Kalli returned home with only an oxygen tank and apnea monitor and is now living a full life with no major set-backs.
As Kalli grew into a beautiful little girl, Heidi and Chad discovered they were pregnant again. They were very excited as they desperately longed for another baby and worked closely with their care team due to their high risk status. Despite their efforts, Heidi received a similiar diagnosis but had fortunately sustained the pregnancy to 30 weeks before undergoing a similar emergency c-section due to HELLP Syndrome. Thankfully, Rocco was introduced at a plumper three pounds, 1 ounce and was further developed than his sister. After a 6 week stay in the Avera NICU, the little rock star (as they call him), was discharged and thrived in his home setting. Today, Rocco and his sister are both true testaments of the world-class care offered at the Avera NICU and their families couldn’t be happier with their experiences despite the critical situations. Thanks to gifts from events like The Big Grape and community supporters, life-saving NICU equipment continues to care for the community’s tiniest patients with the highest level of care.
"We’re so lucky to have been at Avera," says Heidi. "Not only did they provide the best medical care, the team of caregivers offered a wealth of knowledge and personalized care for both of my miracles. I truly felt they cared about our family and did a great job providing comfort and support when needed."
Common Cold Turns Scary
Like many toddlers, Maxton Krikke had his share of bugs and viruses, including a stay at Avera Children’s Hospital for RSV and pneumonia when he was nearly a year old in January 2014. So later that year in December, the Krikkes, of Sanborn, Iowa, were familiar faces when they returned to Avera Children’s again with Maxton. A common cold had developed into a fever and seizures, and so they made the 75-mile trip to Sioux Falls. His parents, Daryl and Jodi, feared the worst – perhaps a tumor or neurological condition. At Avera Children’s, Maxton underwent a series of tests, yet continued to have seizures.
When tests showed no firm conclusion as to the cause of the seizures, Maxton was discharged. Minutes after they left the hospital, while in his family’s van, he had a seizure that would not stop. He was rushed back to the hospital by ambulance. Maxton was placed on a ventilator as anti-seizure medications were administered and tests were run. He then developed pneumonia as a result of aspirating.
After five days on the ventilator and a total 17 days in the pediatric ICU, Max recovered and was cleared to go home just in time for Christmas. Max continues to do well, and now has a new little sister to enjoy.
The Krikkes saw first-hand how the Big Grape benefits little patients, for example, by providing Maxton activities and staff interaction to break up the mundane days in a hospital. Although their stay at Avera Children’s was much longer than anticipated, the Krikkes knew there was no place they’d rather be.
"This was a terrifying time in our lives," Jodi said. "Yet at Avera, we felt like they cared for Maxton like he was their own. The nurses were amazing. The doctors were amazing. Their teamwork was paramount. We were being prayed for not only at home, but by the staff at Avera. The medical care at Avera is personal and warm – you’re like family. I still keep in contact with a few of the nurses and we make a special point to stop by if we’re in the area. Avera was truly a blessing. My husband and I cannot thank everyone enough."