|November 26, 1997.
Prescott Valley Tribune
Prescott Valley couple thankful for their healthy, active
by Cheryl Hartz
Prescott Valley Tribune
Watching five-year-old Savannah King on the soccer field, you'd never guess doctors held little hope for her survival at birth. Her parents are thankful the doctors were wrong.
Savannah's parents, Bob and Carrie King, decided to start a family after nine years of marriage. In part because none of his siblings had children, and Bob said grandchildren were important to their parents. It was not an easy decision. Bob worried about being sixty years old by the time their child graduated from high school. But after moving around the country, including stints in Hollywood, Aspen & Hawaii, they were ready to settle down and have a baby. Carrie stopped smoking. Bob traded his motorcycle for a stationwagon. They moved out of their apartment and bought a house. Complete prenatel care was learned and practiced. Birthing classes and parental classes were taken.
But a baby did not seem to be ready to have them. Five years passed, with one miscarnage when finally, Carrie began what would be a trouble-free pregnancy, with no hint of the difficult delivery to come.
It was at sunrise on Mother's Day, 1992, two weeks before her scheduled C-Section date, when Carrie's water broke. The couple lived in Las Vegas then and Bob drove Carrie to a local hospital. Carrie's pediatrition was called. Against Bob's objections the nurses induced Carrie for labor. He felt it wasn't necessary for caesarean birth. But they were told they were just nervous first time parents and that the staff was required to do so. Carrie felt no labor pains throughout the afternoon. Still, everything seemed normal. Repeated calls were made to get the doctor. However, he never showed up.
This went on for 12 hours. At six p.m., feeling uncomfortable, Carrie tried to reposition herself by raising up on her elbows. What she saw sent Bob screaming to the nurses for help. Blood suddenly soaked the sheets, the floor and flowed out the door. "Critical care nurses were screaming - it got pretty crowded in the room," said Bob. It took them 45 minutes to prep Carrie for an emergency C-section. When Savannah was born, at 6:33 p.m., doctors discovered the true source of the bleeding. Technically called velumnentous insertion; a complication of pregnancy that occurs once every 20 million births, Savannah's umbilical cord was incompletely attached to the placental wall by only three tiny blood vessels. These vessels had torn loose. The hemorrhaging came from Savannah, not Carrie.
Bob was the first to hold his daughter. "She was white as a piece of paper and floppy like a rag doll," he observed. A specialist Dr. Epay Epudia had been called in. He rated her APGAR Score as a 1(out of 10). None of her organs were functioning - no breathing - no pulse - no brainwave activity. Bob said "The Doctor looked at me and said - what do you want to do here?" In shock Bob realised that life and death are not the hardest decision a man will ever have to make. He was being asked to decide on quality of life. "I told him that we have to try." With the help of the doctor, Bob breathed the first breaths of life into her. "I carried her into the emergency room, and then it was like - get him out of here. "I never felt so helpless."
Savannah was immediately put on a respirator and given three separate blood transfusions. At 8 lbs, 13 oz., Savannah looked like a giant compared to other babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Yet she remained in a coma, having also suffered severe bleeding in her brain. Doctors gently tried to prepare the Kings for the worst.
Bob described the emotional scene; he was numb, Carrie, hysterical. "Carrie and I have an agreement: only one of us can be insane at a time," said Bob. "It was her turn. Besides, I had to make phone calls to our parents and loved ones."
For days, all they could do was watch their still child through the maze of tubes and wires keeping her alive, touching her only by placing a finger in her unresponsive hand. They placed one little stuffed bear and pictures of themselves in her isolette. Twelve days after Savannah's birth the team of doctors and nurses scheduled a meeting with the Kings. Knowing Savannah's prognosis was not good, that even if she survived removal from the respirator, she would be severely brain-damaged. Bob and Carrie dreaded any decision. "I've always been a practical person," Bob said. "You know you can make another baby, but your heart takes over. I had met Savannah. Even though she was hooked up to all those tubes and monitors, I had been the first to hold her. That's when I got hooked."
A couple of the doctors had held on to a chance of hope but most said it was futile. Then the results of the brain scan came in. She had been without blood for at least 45 minutes and during that time she suffered a bleed about the size of a quarter, in her brain. A bleed will destroy any brain tissue it comes in contact with. At the meeting we found out that now, unfortunately, they were all in agreement. Even Doctor Epudia, who had been Savannah's champion throughout the ordeal had to conceed. "He said that if she was his daughter, he would have to let her go." Now that's a wealty doctor, with experiance raising children and is a specialist in birth defects. He gently reminded us that we had none of those things going for us. The doctors all praised the Kings for their courage throughout the ordeal and compaired them to "Pilgrim stock". But they said, "Savannah would be on a machine in the back of our house for the rest of her life. We would be financially destitude and for what? A person that would not know who we were or even that she is alive. But they told us that the decision was ours."
On the way back from the meeting, Bob and Carrie detoured back to the ICU. "We wanted to see her one more time, before we decided." said the father. While Carrie was still scrubbing up, Bob stood over his daughter. "I realized I'd never seen her eyes," he said, his own eyes bright with unshed tears. "I truly believe the eyes are the pathway to the soul. So, I pulled one eyelid back, and I don't really remember seeing her eye. A spark of pure white light shot from her eye. The nurse and I jumped back in shock. It was the most amazing thing that I had ever seen. I know people don't believe me when I tell them. But that's OK I probably wouldn't either if it hadn't happened to me. But it did. And I'm glad it did. That's all that matters. Bob and Carrie had been trying all along to interpret signs, wondering what God's will might be for their child. To them, the spark was a sign of faith. "To me, it meant that the lights are on and somebody's home!"
"From that point on, we were so belligerent," Bob said of the King's decision to keep Savannah alive at all costs. "They even accused us of an insurance scam. They took us to the back room and showed us children who had been in a coma for four years, abandoned by their parents." But support arrived in the form of the King's families. Bob's parents held a prayer vigil over Savannah. We held hands accompanied by Ana and Sherrie, a couple of critical care nurses, who clung to the same hope the Kings had. Carrie's parents arrainged for prayers to be said in congregations around the country, and slowly, Savannah woke from her coma. On her seventeenth day, Savannah's parents were told an MRI revealed a loss of 10-15% of her brain matter. Doctors still felt she would be severely brain-damaged and probably blind. Her little throat could no longer tolerate the breathing tube. Bob said when staff began to remove the tube, "She spit it out, took a big deep breath of air and turned from white to pink. It was incredible. The life just flowed into her. It was definitely a miracle." Although the Kings were told not to get too excited by the improvement, Bob said doctors who had previously hurried past Savannah's room now stopped to see her. Weeks would pass, during which Savannah's condition alternately improved and worsened, along with several other babies in the ICU. Some children didn't survive, and the Kings' hearts went out to the parents. "Others went home, and we somehow hated them," Bob remembered the emotional roller coaster. "We went to a lot of baby funerals. Savannah's condition even got to the point where we were told to contact a funeral home and make arrangements. Friends didn't know whether to send baby cards or sympathy cards," Bob said in a shaky voice. Savannah's nursery was filled with flowers and cards, but lacked the usual assortment of baby gifts.
Savannah went home at six weeks of age. She immediately began physical and occupational therapy, and soon speech therapy. The Kings were told she would not be able to do cognitive things. She might eventually recognize the alphabet, but would be unable to spell for example. Surprisingly, Savannah's brain began to repair itself. A third brain scan was done and it showed no damage at all. The doctors were at a total loss to explain what had happened.
A year later, Savannah's brother, Cody was born. Because Savannah's birth trauma was so rare, the Kings knew they need not expect a repeat. Therapists advised them that having another child would also help with Savannah's development and be there to take care of her after the Kings were gone.
Savannah is now in Kindergarten at Lake Valley Elementary. She spells. She reads. She plays soccer, sings, rides a bike and takes gymnastics lessons. Her teacher was surprised to learn of Savannah's early troubles. Carrie credits the government's Early Intervention Program with much of her daughter's progress. "These programs are a Godsend. I can't say enough about the work of these patient, tireless professionals," said Carrie. "It's free and easy - do it," she advises anyone in a similar situation. Because Bob's employer had cancelled the company's insurance and was in the process of switching to a new company, the Kings were without insurance benefits at Savannah's birth. After one month, the hospital bill reached a million dollars. The Kings had to declare bankruptcy and are still paying those early medical bills. "But we got her, so we came out ahead." declared the proud papa.
And while other parents clapped for their miniature athletes at a recent end-of-the-season soccer party Bob and Carrie exhibited a little more emotion when Savannah received the "most improved player" award from her coach. Tissues were required for these parents who take nothing for granted.
"Someone told me you can't really be happy until you've really been sad. I am now really happy." said Bob. "At first, you want your kid to be special. Then you realize you just want her to be normal and healthy."
Now he said "I'm thankful for those boring evenings at home."