Today, Eryka is now a healthy, happy little 11-year-old. She still sees double and probably always will but it doesn’t slow her down at all. She loves reading and playing softball. This year, she started playing the flute and enjoys time spent outdoors with her older brother and twin sister.
At her 20-week ultrasound, first-time mother, Jessica, thought it would be a typical appointment – find out the gender and take home pictures. Instead, she learned she carried a deadly antibody that would threaten the life of her unborn child.
Diagnosed with a syndrome that causes pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery or severe preeclampsia, Jessica and her husband Joe, expected a stillborn child to be their fate.
But week after week, Jessica’s body reacted positively to a blood thinner which was administered to allow the pregnancy to progress to 26 weeks. She underwent an emergency caesarean section and welcomed little Mason into their lives, weighing a mere 1 lb, 3 oz. In the beginning, Mason struggled with infections but went on to reach milestones while staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Avera Children’s.
Today, Mason is a very happy, healthy second grader and has no lasting health effects from his severe prematurity. He enjoys waterskiing, knee boarding, wake surfing, music and reading. Go get 'em Mason!
While Wayne and Becki still consider that the best Christmas gift they have ever received, they also credit the quality care he received. Nine months since his surgery, a determined Zach was back playing varsity football. After a successful high school career, Zach graduated with honors and lettered in many sports. Today, he is currently a freshman at South Dakota State University where he is majoring in Computer Science.
Growing up is hard. But growing up while undergoing cancer treatment is even more difficult. Meet Lauren, a bright young woman whose life was on the line when she was diagnosed with pediatric cancer 10 years ago. At the age of 12, Lauren’s life went from lockers and basketball games to hospital beds and medications. Despite her diagnosis, Lauren forged ahead and continued to have a positive attitude – even wanting to work in medicine someday so she can help kids in similar situations.
Little Fighter: Meet Catherine
Young Catherine was your typical little four-year-old girl until one January morning when her life changed forever. While the rest of her family was getting out of bed and going about their daily routines, Catherine woke to find she couldn’t walk.
Her parents immediately rushed her to the local clinic where she underwent countless tests and saw numerous physicians. After weeks of pain and discomfort, her parents took her to Avera Children’s Hospital. Catherine was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and began several medications. Shortly after, she was able to walk again. Catherine continued to undergo treatment and quickly adapted to her obstacles. As for her parents, they remain thankful to Avera and are forever grateful for the exceptional care their daughter received.
Today, Catherine still receives regular infusions to keep her pain and inflammation under control. Although she will likely need a double hip replacement before she's an adult as a result of her disease, Catherine continues to enjoy each day that she's feeling well by reading, doodling and playing with her siblings. Way to go Catherine!
Brotherly Love: Meet Micah and Jase
Quite the charmers, 2-year-old Jase and his little brother Micah were all smiles and the best of friends in 2010 when the Big Grape first featured their stories. You would never have known by looking at their photo that they were once fighting for their lives. Both were born weeks premature and spent time in the Avera McKennan NICU before going home.
Today, Jase is now 12 years old and continues to beat the odds. He has zero lung issues (after struggling with premature lung disease); zero heart issues (after dealing with conditions with holes in his heart); zero growth issues, zero eye problems (after having the vision-saving laser surgery while in the NICU) and zero developmental issues. He remains a healthy, strong boy who is active, loves sports, reading and music.
His ten-year-old younger brother Micah also remains in good health. Both smart and active, the kind-hearted cutie hopes to someday be a veterinarian. He is also an avid fisherman, plays soccer, enjoys reading, bad jokes and playing games.
Giving Hope: Meet Natallie
After a typical pregnancy, young Natallie was welcomed into the world on August 1, 2012. But within the first five weeks, her parents began to notice their infant develop twitching movements. After watching with a closeful eye, they decided to make a doctor’s appointment. What they found out changed their lives forever.
After much testing and observation, the caregivers at Avera Children’s Hospital informed the new parents that their infant was having seizures. The cause was unknown. After much testing, Natallie was eventually diagnosed with Malignate Migrating Partial Seizure Disorder. Natallie proved to be a fighter and despite frequent hospital stays and emergency visits, her family remained optimistic.
Today, Natallie is now 6 1/2 years old and attends kindergarten and is the sweetest, happiest little girl. Thanks to the quality care she receives at Avera Children's Hospital, she went from having over 100 seizures a day to having only a few and some days no seizures at all! Although doctor appointments and hospital stays remain a part of young Natallie's life, she continues to enjoy hobbies which include playing games, music, fishing, swimming and spending time with her family. Natallie has made huge strides in her health and it shows; she continues to love life!
Making Strides: Meet Andrew
Born with a rare genetic birth disorder called CHARGE syndrome, Andrew became a familiar face at Avera Children’s Hospital. Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, children like Andrew born with the multiple life-threatening defects of CHARGE often surpass expectations. Andrew was one of them.
He continued his battle but with strong determination and character. His family says he's a true joy to be around and an inspiration to others facing similar obstacles.
Today, Andrew is 14 years old and has made tremendous strides over the last couple of years. Recent procedures have improved his vision and overall quality of life. For hobbies, Andrew enjoys horseback riding and playing basketball with the Special Olympics. He also enjoys bowling and playing video games.
A winning attitude and warm heart may have earned young Kaitlynn the title of Miss Congeniality at a local Snow Queen contest in December of 2011, but after suffering life-threatening injuries from a rollover car accident, her recovery has proven to be one competition after another. Thankfully, her team of caregivers at Avera Children’s Hospital gave her a chance to win… and lead a normal life.
After being treated for broken bones at a local hospital, she didn't get on the road to recovery but rather the road to Sioux Falls where a team of caregivers stood by waiting for her arrival. During an exploratory surgery, Kaitlynn suffered two strokes and additional life-threatening injuries were uncovered. After months of rehabilitation, she began to show signs of progress but still struggled with speech.
Today, Kaitlynn is embracing life and has recently gotten married. Although she is still unable to speak, she has learned to communicate through sign language. She was able to graduate with her high school class and continued her education to become a massage therapist. Currently, she is working as a dietary aid at a nursing home and enjoys living military life and spending time with her nieces, teaching them how to sign. Despite all the struggles, she continues to smile.
A Reason to Celebrate: Meet Grace
Grace Rule was a smart, vibrant ten-year-old who was hospitalized for 19 days in May 2009. It was just a couple days after school got out when Grace got sick. Excited for the summer, Grace went to dance class one day but came home complaining of pain in her shoulder. Within an hour she had uncontrollable vomiting and was taken to Avera Children's Hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia and needed a chest tube.
Grace's first week in the hospital was the toughest. She began her stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). It was also her 10th birthday. On her special day, she got to move from the PICU to a regular room. When she arrived, the nurses had decorated her room for her birthday. After finding out Grace had to cancel her birthday party, the Child-Life Specialists arranged friends to celebrate with her.
Today, Grace is a student at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota and is living an active college life.
She is involved in various sports but most enjoys visiting her grandparents at Avera Prince of Peace and spending time with friends and family. Thanks to the quality care she received, her immune system has gotten much stronger with age. Way to go Grace!
Strength and Determination: Meet Eve
With a story of sheer determination, it’s the power of care and compassion that continues to shine bright on spirited Eve. The three-year-old toddler accidentally swallowed acid while living in an orphanage in Liberia. Despite limited resources and access to advanced healthcare, Eve survived only to rebound with deadly esophageal issues years later. But with the love and concern of one young couple from Iowa who had started a non-profit organization in Liberia, Eve was taken to the United States where she received state-of-the-art care. Although her condition was far bleaker than initially expected, she continues to undergo surgeries to dilate her esophagus and the family remains optimistic for her future.
Today, Eve remains happy and healthy despite undergoing a grand total of 54 surgeries to stretch her esophagus and eliminate the scar tissue that resulted from the accident. Eve is joyful and kind, friendly, outgoing and has a number of hobbies and interests. People are really important to Eve and she has a special way of making everyone around her feel loved and appreciated. Thank you Eve for being an inspiration to us all!