For Eric and Carissa Handrick of Woodruff, a Christmas season ultrasound held a much-anticipated present, the gender of their new baby. Instead of the routine appointment sending them with joyous news for their family, they were greeted with an unforgettable look on their doctor’s face. He explained gently that their unborn baby had a severe case of spina bifida, club feet, and other possible issues that could not be identified with just an ultrasound.
After a whirlwind of follow-up appointments, meetings with an experienced team of doctors, and explanations of future surgeries, the Handrick Family finally learned the gender of their baby. They were expecting a precious baby girl to be named Leah.
Mom, Carissa, recalled the moment “like the world had stopped for a moment. It was all real now. We were officially parents holding and seeing the little life we created for the first time. Then I got to see her. She was so tiny. I whispered, Hi Leah, and she opened her little eyes and she looked at me.”
The following morning, not even a day old, Leah’s head was shaved to prepare her for surgery to place a shunt and repair the opening along her spine. She spent her recovery in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) while her family traveled daily from Woodruff to visit her. After thirteen long days, Leah was able to go home. She required a special car seat to position her so no pressure was placed on her back or her shunt site. Changing a newborn’s diaper is a challenge for any first time parents, but Leah’s family had to learn to change her diaper and clothes on her belly to allow her spine to heal. Her first year was filled with appointments, surgeries and hospitalizations.
Leah is now five years old. Despite the numerous surgeries on her spine, correction of her club feet, hip flexors, catheters and PICC line placements she is constantly smiling. Leah is a fighter. She loves singing, playing with her dolls and riding horses to strengthen her trunk muscles and balance.
To the Handrick Family, the word ‘miracle’ means the gift of life. Seeing their daughter do something great for the first time; learning to crawl, roll over. It is seeing Leah drive a handmade wheelchair for the first time, doing ‘donuts’ in her power wheelchair on the sidewalk. It is the sheer joy and sense of accomplishment she has in herself. Leah is their miracle.
Parents: Eric & Carissa Handrick