PORT ORCHARD — Kay Arens is quick to point out that President
Barack Obama on his visit to Seattle Feb. 17 knew nothing of the
drama that was unfolding at Seattle Children’s Hospital, as baby
Kamryn Elizabeth Aubrey of Port Orchard lay waiting for her heart
Kamryn is now doing quite well, but her medical complications place a financial burden on her parents, Kelli and Mike Aubrey. Arens, a friend of the baby’s family, called to note a fundraiser concert Saturday in Gig Harbor.
Kelli Aubrey is quick to point out that, contrary to some stories going around, the president’s arrival did not delay the surgery. It did add one more layer of anxiety to an already tense situation.
Kamryn was perfectly normal at birth and for her first two weeks of life. Then suddenly she went downhill. Her breathing became labored, and she was lethargic. She didn’t eat or cry normally. On Christmas Eve, her feet started turning blue.
The Aubreys rushed Kamryn to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. The baby’s temperature was 94 degrees. Tests on Christmas Day revealed a heart defect that turned out to be left ventricle noncompaction dilated cardiomyopathy. The condition involves defective development of the heart tissue, resulting in ineffective pumping of blood. The prognosis for patients is poor, and a heart transplant typically is needed.
Kamryn was a “surprise,” the youngest of five in the Aubrey family. Kelli and Mike have been married 23 years. Kamryn was born not long after both, who are social workers, had been laid off from a Gig Harbor foster care agency. Mike has since found work with the state.
The Aubreys leaned heavily on their faith in the weeks after Kamryn was hospitalized. Kelli began a detailed blog, and a local prayer chain grew … and grew. Before long, people in Africa, China, Russia, Scotland and the United States were pulling for Kamryn. Kelli and others cite the hand of the Almighty in the baby’s overcoming long odds no bookie would back.
“This is a child that should not have survived this,” Arens said. “Even people who aren’t religious came forward and are praying for this baby. She surpassed any expectation anybody ever had.”
Miraculously, a compatible heart became available less than two weeks after Kamryn went on the waiting list. It was none too soon, as the baby was failing fast.
“This is difficult to think of someone losing a child to help
ours,” Kelli wrote on the blog. “This is what we will do for
another family if Kamryn doesn’t make it through all of this. It is
hard for me to think about and difficult to write. But God is in
control and we are committed to His path.”
On Feb. 17, the day of the surgery, Kelli and Mike walked their 9-week-old daughter down the long corridor to the operating room.
“I kissed her little head and told her to ‘be good.’ Mike kissed her, too. And then we walked back to her empty room and sat down. Although I didn’t like the empty room, I was at peace.”
The Aubreys were notified by phone messages throughout the long surgery of each hurdle cleared, including the announcement that the transplanted heart was beating.
“The piles of wadded tissues and empty Starbucks cups tell only part of the story of the day,” Kelli wrote.
Obama, whose visit included a stop at Boeing’s Everett plant, spent the day talking about economic recovery. The hospital’s transplant coordinator told the Aubreys she had to do “a lot of finagling to get the heart here,” but the surgery wasn’t stalled as a result.
“There’s some misconstrued ideas that the president may have delayed it,” Kelli said. “But I don’t know that he did. I actually don’t think he has that kind of clout.”
Kamryn arrived back home March 28, and she is back to the “sweet” personality her parents knew before she fell ill. She is physically delayed due to weeks of hospitalization but is catching up.
Kamryn continues to require ‘round the clock care, including a complicated regimen of medication. Kelli must stay at home, and the loss of her income, plus some uncovered medical costs and transportation to Children’s, is weighing on the family.
Breath of Aire, a Christian music group, will play a benefit concert for Kamryn at 7 p.m. Saturday at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 7700 Skansie Ave., Gig Harbor, with donations accepted.
You can also make donations on the blog about Kamryn,
www.prayingforkamryn.blogspot.com. As with all charitable giving, donors should do enough research to satisfy themselves of the legitimacy of the cause.