This holiday season, most of us take time out of our busy schedules to be thankful. We remember to be thankful for our families and friends, for our homes, for the food that we eat, and for our health.
As a mother, I say prayers of thanks for my beautiful, healthy daughters every day, all year round. But what if your child didn’t have the blessing of good health? What if your child faced significant challenges? Can you still be AS thankful, even if the hand you’ve been dealt is potentially devastating?
While I’d like to think I could find that strength, I admit that I have my doubts. Let me tell you a story about one little girl and her incredible family, who not only accepted the challenges they faced, but found a way to do so with faith and gratitude.
When Brad and Lacey Payne were newlyweds five years ago, they had the same hopes and dreams that many have starting out in life. For Lacey, those dreams included being a mother. In fact, according to her, “My whole life, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be a mommy someday.”
In late spring of 2007, that wish was granted when Brad and Lacey discovered that they were expecting their first child. Lacey experienced a routine pregnancy, and they went in at 22 weeks for what they thought was a routine ultrasound. Then, says Lacey, “the nurse excused herself from the room to go consult with a doctor. I automatically knew something was wrong. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like the room was closing in on me.” A doctor came in and informed the couple that their baby had several abnormalities.
Initially, Lacey was in shock. “I felt like this doctor had just told me that my lifelong dream might be taken away from me.” The next few days were a blur of testing. “We were on an emotional rollercoaster. We immediately called our pastor and Lifegroup and started prayer chains. Our prayer warriors and God’s peace carried us through from the day we found out our angel would be different.” With an initial diagnosis of Trisomy 17 Mosaic, several doctors advised terminating the pregnancy, but Brad and Lacey chose to have faith and follow God. The diagnosis was rare, and possible symptoms included growth retardation, seizures, hearing loss, and mental retardation.
Laynie Hope Payne was born January 16, 2008, weighing in at three pounds, four ounces. Though her parents were overjoyed, she was given a grim prognosis, and at only six days old she was discharged from the NICU and sent home with a hospice nurse. Brad and Lacey were told to “take her home and love her,” and “if you still have her in two weeks, take her to a pediatrician.” Not only did the Paynes still have her, she lived in relatively good health for a full 22 months. At about nine months, Laynie was given a new diagnosis of Mosaic Variegated Aneuploidy Syndrome (MVA), of which there were only 24 known previous cases. As a result, there was little research to help determine Laynie’s prognosis or lifespan, so the Paynes decided to make the most of each day.
“Laynie Hope was the best baby on the planet. She was happy all the time, hardly ever cried,” says Lacey. Laynie was small, and she wasn’t mobile because of missing hip joints and low muscle tone in her legs, but she loved to play with her toys, listen to music, and dance around with her mama. According to Lacey, “Laynie was a people magnet. At first it was because she was so tiny, but then it was because she was so friendly.”
Things changed dramatically for the family in the fall of 2009. Laynie wasn’t gaining weight, her appetite had decreased, and she seemed lethargic. When her parents took her to the doctor, her pediatrician sent her immediately to the ER at Children’s Hospital for a blood transfusion. “For some reason, her body stopped producing red blood cells,” says Lacey. In fact, Laynie’s hemoglobin was down to 1.6, while normal levels range from 11-13. By all accounts, her hemoglobin was simply too low to sustain life. “God wasn’t finished with her yet,” explains Lacey. Other than close family and friends who prayed for miracles along with them, “we’d kept Laynie to ourselves. We had a total love affair for 22 months. We hadn’t told the world about Laynie yet, so God kept her alive, and we shared her story.”
They started visiting the Jimmy Everest Center at Children’s Hospital to check her blood counts and Laynie received blood and platelets as needed, initially every couple of weeks. “We never fully understood the importance of blood donations until then.
Her life depended on it. So do thousands of other children and adults in Oklahoma.” The family began organizing blood drives in February of this year to get some credits towards Laynie’s account. They started a Facebook page called “Hope for Laynie” so that people could follow her story and pray for her, and to put the word out about the need for blood donations. Within two weeks, she had 700 fans, and her page now has over 3300 followers. The family became supporters of the Children’s Hospital Foundation (formerly the Children’s Miracle Network), and Laynie was Miss February in their 2010 calendar.
The response was so great that at one point, the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) informed the Paynes that Laynie had the most blood donation credits for a single person in their history. According to OBI President and CEO Dr.John Armitage, “One in three people will need blood in a lifetime. You never know, it could be a co-worker, friend, or someone in your own family. The last several weeks of Laynie’s life were possible because of blood donors in our community.” In fact, Laynie received frequent transfusions for eight months, until her body quit responding. “The doctors told us we could continue with the transfusions as long as she had a good quality of life,” says Lacey.
Laynie reached a point that she required weekly transfusions, then biweekly. “We couldn’t keep her gums from bleeding, and she was requiring platelets more often, and it became too much.” Laynie passed away on July 10, 2010. Still, says Lacey, “God was faithful, even in her passing. She was right where she was supposed to be, in my arms, sleeping like the beautiful angel that she was. She opened her eyes and looked at me and Brad as if to say, ‘I love you.’ Then she was gone.” Her family likes to say she went “running and running And running,” because they know how much she wanted to get up and go, though her earthly body wasn’t able. “Now she can,” says Lacey with a smile.
In spite of their loss and the trials they’ve faced, Laynie’s family is profoundly grateful. “Laynie taught us to treasure every day. What could have been the most difficult heartbreak was actually the most perfect blessing we could have asked for,” says Lacey. “We are so thankful that God gave us 30 months with our angel instead of taking her at birth (or before) like the doctors predicted.” Instead, they had a chance to know her, to learn from her, and to share her with the world. “God is good,” says Lacey simply.
Q & A: Donating Blood
Who can donate?
Healthy individuals over 17 who weigh at least 110 pounds and do not meet any of the deferral criteria are encouraged to donate regularly.
How long does it take to donate blood?
The entire process takes 40-50 minutes, though the actual donation time only takes 8-10 minutes for most individuals.
How often can a person donate?
Healthy individuals can donate blood every 56 days, plasma every 28 days, and platelets every 7 days.
What does the screening process involve?
Potential donors will answer a series of questions about their health and lifestyle history to determine eligibility, then undergo a brief physical exam.
Donors will have their iron levels checked, along with their temperature, pulse, and blood pressure.
How will a donor feel after giving blood?
Donors will be monitored for a short period after donating. They will be given a snack and a drink and a place to relax. Donors should eat well and increase their fluid intake for the next 24-48 hours and avoid heavy lifting and strenuous activity for the next two hours.
Where can I go to donate blood?
Contact the Oklahoma Blood Institute at 405-297-5700 or obi.org.
Shannon Fields is a freelance writer and Certified Pharmacy Technician at Innovative Pharmacy Solutions.