Monday, February 15, 2010

Delivering Smiles in Indiana

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Project Leader for Shelby's Sunshine, Stephanie Olivarez had an article written on her and Shelby's story.

Please check it out on our website
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Our progress!!!

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In just 7 short months Project Sweet Pea has delivered 186 gift bags to families across the US! That is an average of 26 bags a month!

Just think, we have helped comfort 186 families!!

We are rapidly expanding as new project leaders start and we have expanded our gift bags.

We now offer the following gift bags to be delivered to hospitals:

This is our most common gift bag. It includes a variety of items that can assist a family while their child is in the NICU. Common items we include are:
Disposable Camera
Birth Record Pillow
Lip Balm
Hand Sanitizer
Eye Covers
Scratch Mittens
Tissue Packs
Children's Book
Puzzle Books
Stuffed Animal
Picture Frames
Hand/Foot Molds
Baby brush/comb
Long Term NICU/PICU Bag
This bag includes most of the items on the basic NICU bag list and a few extra items to help families who may spend nights in the NICU such as:
Gift cards (gas, food, etc...)
Travel size toiletries (toothbrush, deoderant, comb, shaving kit, shampoo, conditioner, etc...)
Angel Bags
These gift bags are for parents who have lost a child in the ICU. We hope to provide items that will help to collect those precious memories to cherish. Some items we provide are:
Memory Box
Stuffed Animal
Hand/Foot MoldHand/Foot Print Kit
Tissue Packs
Grief Books
Holiday Bags
A gift bag with holiday themed items such as:
blanket caps/booties
isolette decorations
name plaque
stuffed animalbook
These bags are given to the NICU/PICU to supply them with supplimental items for families who do not recieve one of our above gift bags. We provide the NICU/PICU with their most commonly used items such as:
Hand/Foot Molds
Isolette Decorations
Name Plaques
Stuffed Animals
If you are interested in starting a gift bags project with us please e-mail us at
Even if you see your state or hospital is already being delivered to, that is okay, we would still love to have you!! No hospital can get enough!!
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Joey's Wings - our latest new project

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My name is Sara Walsh and this is my son Joey’s story…the story of an angel.
My pregnancy was uneventful, and halfway through we had our second ultrasound to find out the sex of our baby. She confirmed our due date of January 8, 2008 and informed us that we needed to see one of the doctors to review the ultrasound. I never expected the doctor to give us the news that our baby had a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH for short). It wasn’t until I got home and did a little research that reality hit me. Only 50% of CDH babies survive and those that do live can have mild to severe health problems.
We learned we were expecting a boy, Joseph Frederick Walsh, our Joey. Joey had a left CDH that allowed his intestines, stomach and part of his liver to migrate into his chest cavity. This pushed his heart against the right side of his chest and was affecting his lung development. We also found that Joey had a heart defect, but the main concern was his lungs. The outcome for babies with CDH is very difficult to diagnose prenatally. The doctors felt that Joey’s CDH wasn’t severe, but that wasn’t a good indication for survival. It all came down to how well developed his lungs were when he was born. I cherished my pregnancy, met with specialists and prepared the best I could.
I was not prepared when I went into labor more than 5 weeks early at 3:30 in the morning on November 30, 2007. By the time I reached the hospital an hour later, I was already 5 cm dilated. They could not stop the labor; Joey was coming today. I delivered Joey at 3:17 p.m., 6 pounds and 5 ounces. The neonatal doctor had to prevent Joey from crying when he was born to avoid aspiration, so I never heard him cry. Two hours later, the neonatologists came in and updated us on Joey’s status. Joey did not have a right lung and his small, fragile left lung popped during ventilation. His chest cavity was filling with air and his organs were shutting down from lack of oxygen. There were very few options and it was obvious that the doctors weren’t hopeful for any chance of survival.
We met Joey around 6 p.m. He was hooked up to monitors and a ventilator. We held his hands, kissed his toes. I kissed his forehead and he opened his eyes for me. He looked at me as if he was telling me, “Mommy it’s okay, you did all you could”. We loved him and didn’t want him to suffer. We took Joey off ventilation and held him as he passed away, around 7:56 p.m.
Joey taught me to appreciate what I have, not what I lost. I am grateful to have had Joey for the short time that I did. I also learned that there is no way to completely prepare yourself, no matter how ready you think you are. We were lucky that the staff at the hospital had an outfit for Joey to wear, a stuffed animal for him, hand and foot print molds and a journal with a lock of his hair. I cherish these things and wouldn’t want any parent to not have the same.
Joey’s Wings is our opportunity to help others the way we received help. I couldn’t think of a better way to preserve Joey’s memory than by helping others.
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She is Project Sweet Pea's "Amazing Grace"

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Hello, my name is Heather and I would like to share my story with you.
My husband Tom and I are high school sweethearts and have been married for four wonderful years. We always knew we wanted to have children and decided to add to our family back in June of 2008. We are planners so when my goal of becoming pregnant in the late spring early summer had come true we where thrilled. My pregnancy was going great. Not much sickness, a little tired but not more than you would expect. I was making big plans for the baby room, and of course planning out what our baby would wear home from the hospital. Things couldn’t have moved any smoothly.
It was just after Christmas 2008 when I went in for my 7 month check up. It wasn’t until after the nurse had taken my blood pressure 5 times that I realized there was something seriously wrong. My doctor had told me that he was going to send me over to the hospital for more testing because my blood pressure was very high and my body was producing a very high amount of protein that was unsafe for me and my baby. After several tests and a night in the hospital it was determined that I had developed a disorder called Preeclampsia. Although the cause of Preeclampsia is still unknown it affects 5-8% of pregnancies and the only cure is to deliver the baby. As you can imagine my husband and I where not ready and had no idea what the future had in store for us. My doctor had told me that the chances of our baby surviving at 28 weeks was hopeful but everyday that he could keep her in the womb would increase her chances of survival. I was put on bed rest to avoid any chances of high blood pressure induced seizures and given steroid injections to help our babies lungs develop. After a week of bed rest and several trips to the hospital I had become very sick. The Preeclampsia had started to shut down my kidney and liver functions and the decision was made to deliver the baby before both of our lives where to weak to survive.
Our precious baby girl Grace Lynn Morgan was born at 12:45pm on Tuesday January 6th 2009. She weighed 2lbs 2oz and was 15 1/4 inches long. Immediately after she was born she was placed on a CPAP to help her breath and taken to the NICU. My husband was by her side every step of the way while I was in recovery, along with two NICU doctors, 5 NICU nurses and several machines. Grace pushed through and hung on. I had to wait several hours before I could see her and I will never forget the first time I was brought to see my little miracle. She was hooked up to a breathing machine, two heart monitors, and several iv’s. Thankfully, Due to the steroid injects I was given she only had to be on the CPAP for 5 days. The pain I felt not being able to leave the hospital with my baby or hold my baby for the first week of her life will never leave my heart. Because God was watching over her and because of her strong will and amazing perseverance Grace made it through her two month stay in the NICU.
On March 2nd 2009 Grace came home! This was truly the most amazing day of our lives. I know that if it where not for the love and support from the doctors, nurses, family, and friends my husband and I would not have made it through the toughest time of our lives. I want to give back to those families who are going through the horrendous pain we had gone through. This is why I have created “Amazing Grace”. Grace is doing great now and is developmentally right on track. We are so blessed and will never take a day with Grace for granted.
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Ava's Angel project

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I am the type to plan out everything. Even though I couldn't wait to have kids, I waited for a few years until the time was "just right". My husband and I were thrilled when we found out we were expecting our first child. Our baby was due May 16, 2009.

The pregnancy was going great. My husband and I are both healthy and we don't have any genetic problems on either side of our families. It never crossed my mind that our baby would be born anything but perfectly healthy, much less would have to fight for its life.

I counted down to the date of our 20 week ultrasound when I could finally find out the sex of our baby (and I could begin shopping!). December 23, 2008 had finally arrived! However, at our appointment we found out that the baby girl I had always dreamed of had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH).....and a 50/50 shot at life. I had never even heard of it, but began to understand how serious it was when the doctors gave us the option to terminate the pregnancy - a "late term abortion" that wasn't even legal to do in my state. We decided that we would not give up on our daughter and would do everything we possibly could to fight for her life. We had a crash course in parenthood and felt so helpless that our child was sick and there was nothing we could do about it. Our rollercoaster began.

My friends and family were all anxious for me to have the results of our ultrasound so they would know if we were having a boy or a girl. I would say, "It’s a girl, but...." Even after explaining the situation to them, they didn't understand why I was worried. Babies aren't supposed to die and surely mine wouldn't.

We spent the next couple of months preparing for our little girl to spend the first few months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We took a tour, met with the surgeons who would operate on her, learned about the machines she would be hooked up to....everything we could to prepare ourselves for the stress of having a child in the NICU.

On February 25, 2009, we found out that our daughter had Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) in addition to CDH. To learn that she had a heart problem was devastating, but we still remained as positive as possible until March 11, 2009. On that day we learned that our baby girl had more heart problems and that they would likely be fatal. Because of the CDH, her heart was displaced to the right and squished by organs and therefore couldn't form properly. We met with a board of physicians and even with the new findings, all of the doctors had no doubt that she would be born alive but said that she would likely die shortly after birth. I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy enjoying feeling her move and trying to prepare myself to say goodbye to her. Strangers would stop me and ask me what I was having and when I was due and say, "I bet you're excited!" If they only knew...

Over the Easter weekend, I stopped feeling my active little baby girl move. Ava Rose Daher had passed away at 35 weeks gestation. My labor was induced on Monday evening and our beautiful daughter was born with angel wings on April 14, 2009 at 6:53 am.

Going through this experience is life changing. Unless you have been through it, you can never truly understand. Our goal with this project is to provide some source of comfort, no matter how small, to families going through similar situations.
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Donny's Shining Light

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The path that led me here began in August of 2005. I found out I was pregnant! The most exciting news! Neither of us expected it yet both of us were thrilled. I was no where close to being naive about the different things that could go wrong yet I was positive that this would be the one. The planning and bonding for this little one began immediately. I played music, talked, read, and sang to this little being growing inside of me. I was full of joy and anticipation of becoming this baby's mommy. Then February of 2006 rolled around and I had to schedule a level II ultrasound. We were told our little precious boy, for unknown reasons, had a major birth defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia or CDH. That day my world fell apart. The following weeks and days became a constant emotional roller coaster. I wasn't due until May 20th. We met with all the specialists that were required within a couple of weeks and then prayed I'd make it as long as possible. By March 30th, my body could wait no longer. I was in labor and not stopping. Scared and teary eyed, I was prepped for a c-section. At 11:32p.m. our little man came into the world without a sound. After several minutes, I was allowed a 3 second glance at my dark headed, sleepy baby and then watched helplessly as he was whisked away to the NICU. Unable to see him all night, I slept with a polaroid of him that a nurse took for me. I was up every half hour. When I finally did get to see my baby, it was overwhelming seeing all the tubes and wires attached to him. He was drugged, unresponsive to my touch or voice. I wanted to fall to my knees screaming and crying. I wanted to scoop my baby up in my arms. I wanted him back inside me where he was happy and safe. We spent an hour with him, caressing, whispering, praying, taking pictures, watching the nurses do their thing, wondering what was to happen next. Then the doctor came by to talk to us. Our baby's lungs wasn't responding to the extreme pressure the oscillator was pumping into them. If we allowed much more, his lungs could puncture. Our choices: Spend the little time we had with him now or say goodbye as they prepared him for a ride in the helicopter to another hospital that had an ECMO machine. We chose the latter. It was the hardest thing up to that point to say goodbye, not knowing if I'd see my baby alive again. I couldn't go with him. His daddy met him and stayed with him. I was released the next day. Almost 24 hours later, I was reunited with my son. And if I thought there were many tubes before, I was sadly mistaken. There were even more now. But at that point all I saw was my little boy. I stood by his side for hours at time, only sitting for a minute here and there. I couldn't leave him alone. I held his hand constantly, stroked his dark, smooth hair, caressed his soft skin. This was to become the routine for the following days ahead. Every day the doctors and nurses said he was stable and that was good. They backed up on the sedatives and he moved a toe, a foot, a finger, a hand...yes, it kept going until he heard my voice on day 6 and moved everything, opened an eye to find me and then tried moving his head. That was a no-no while on ECMO. So sadly we watched as they drugged our baby up again. But he heard me! And he KNEW who I was! A few hours later, we received devastating news. He developed a level 4 brain bleed. ECMO had to be removed. I asked that they not give up and do what they could. We stood by for what seemed like eternity waiting for our little baby boy to respond in any way. I watched the numbers on the screen go down steadily. I asked the nurse why his chest wasn't moving, as the doctor tried to avoid the answer in fear of upsetting me, I'm sure. She was honest. His lungs just were too small, she said. I knew then what we had to do. I said to his daddy, I want to hold my baby. And he told them to stop what they were doing. I asked that all the tubes be taken off of him so I could SEE my baby's face. We held him for about 45 minutes before he flew to heaven from his mommy's arms. We cradled him, sang to him, told him how much we love him. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Because of my experience in the NICU, helplessly watching my son, I am offering my help to others now. Whether they are faced with only days, or weeks, or months, being in the NICU is a stressful time. You don't know what is to happen from day to day. You surely aren't thinking of things you could use or things you need. All you care about is that baby and being with him/her. You are not thinking of the chances of your baby not making it and what you might want for him just in case. You are not thinking of saving up on every memory because it may be all you will have for a lifetime. I want to help other families who are faced with the uncertain future of being in the NICU with their baby. I want to give them what they need, what they want....even if they don't know they need or want these things. I want to offer my support. I hope in doing this I can also spread my son's life to other's and that he can inspire others to keep fighting.
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Meet MJ's Memories

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After almost a year and a half and two rounds of the fertility medicine chlomid, Willie and I were absolutely elated when we found out we were expecting. My pregnancy started out just like any other, with the all day morning sickness and nervousness of a first time mother-to-be. We found out I was pregnant the beginning of December, and by the beginning of January, I had started spotting. I was petrified that I was having a miscarriage, and our doctor wanted us to come in and do an ultrasound to see what was going on.
We got the surprise of our life when we found out that not only were we having one baby, but there were two tiny babies growing in my belly! Willie and I were in shock, and could hardly speak we were so surprised. We spent the next few weeks overjoyed and eagerly anticipated when we would find out what we were having. When I was 17 weeks pregnant, we had an ultrasound and both of our babies 'showed us the good's'. We were having two boys! And the doctor was pretty sure we were having identical twins! Two baby boys, we could just not be happier!
Four weeks later, we went in for another routine ultrasound. We got another shock that day, but not a good one. One of our babies looked to have a condition called CDH, or congenital diaphragmatic hernia, but they weren't sure, so we would have to go to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. Two weeks later we were devastated when we were told that yes in deed Baby Boy B would have CDH. At this point we had decided to name our boys William Glen Skaggs IV and Michael Joseph Skaggs. We decided that our baby with CDH would be called Michael Joseph and we would call him MJ for short. At the time we had no clue what we would be in store for once our twins were born.
After numerous doctor appointments and specialists and ultrasounds and MRI's and everything else that needs to be done for a CDH baby in utero, all We could do was wait. I developed preclampsia at 34 weeks and was admitted into the hospital. I was put on bedrest with the goal of making it to 37 weeks, and my boys would induced. Well, two weeks later, at 36 weeks my water broke and I was in labor! I was overjoyed to finally see my boys! After 26 hours of labor and two hours of pushing, I was no where near being able to push the boys out. So I had a c-section, and William Glen was born at 3:26 am and Michael Joseph was born at 3:27 am on July 25, 2009.
After my c-section I was unable to see MJ until 10 pm that evening. My son couldn't have looked more beautiful. However, he was very sick and we were very scared for him. After two days at the University of Kansas Medical Center, he was not showing any signs of improvement. Children's Mercy Hospital has a machine called ECMO, which is a heart and lung bypass. Since KU did not have this machine, and Children's did, MJ needed to be transferred to Children's. Watching him move was the scariest day of my life at that point.
The next day I was released from KU along with MJ's twin, Will. We rushed straight over to Children's and saw MJ. He looked much better at Children's and we got to bring Will in to see him everyday, which was a life saver. It broke my heart thinking that my boys would be seperated, but Children's made exceptions for twins and Will was allowed in to see MJ everyday.
When MJ was six days old, he was placed on the ECMO machine. He was very ill and was unable to get off the ECMO machine and had his repair surgery on ECMO. After his surgery, MJ had a very rough few days. We thought we were going to lose him. But MJ pulled through and started to get better. When he was 31 days old, after 25 days on ECMO, MJ was strong enough to come off of the machine. Again, he had a rough few days, but on my birthday, August 28, he started to make a turn and really do well. At 4 pm that day, something happened and the doctors still don't know what.
We didn't leave the hospital that day and stayed by his side overnight. The next morning he was doing worse, if he even could have. Throughout the day the doctors did everything in their power to keep MJ alive. But then there was nothing else left to do. We made the choice to hold our son and let him know that we loved him in his final moments. The first time we held our son was the last. But we had three amazing hours holding MJ and Will together. August 29, 2009 was the first time our family of four was together and we had to say good bye. MJ is gone, but he will never be forgotten. Thirty five days was not nearly enough, but he will remain in our hearts forever.
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