A Story with Heart and Love's
Love's Travel Stops' annual paper heart campaign runs all this month. The dollars customers donate to their local hospitals have very real effects. Here, a Love's employee shares how funds hit home with the delivery of his newborn daughter.
Kirk Johnson is no stranger to Love’s Travel Stops annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraising campaign. Kirk has worked for Love’s since 2001 and in, that time, he has seen his fair share of dollars raised for CMN Hospitals at Love’s locations nationwide. Kirk began his career at Love’s as an assistant manager, and today he is a district manager overseeing seven stores in the San Antonio, Texas, area.
Kirk knows what CMN Hospitals are all about from his experience with Love’s, but he had no idea that one day that funds raised during the campaign would directly benefit him and his loved ones someday.
Kirk and his wife, Nikki, were elated when they found out they would be having a baby girl, due in spring 2012. Excitement turned to fear when at just 23 weeks pregnant, Nikki was told that their baby had Turner syndrome and was given a three percent chance of surviving. At around 30 weeks the doctor saw that the ventricles in her brain were enlarged and ordered a fetal MRI to determine the cause. The MRI showed Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC), which is a fancy term to say she is missing the middle part of her brain that allows the two hemispheres to “talk” to each other.
“Although we knew we would love our little girl no matter what, we were scared of the unknown. What would her future hold? Would she ever be able to walk? Or talk? The waiting was the hardest part,” Nikki said.
Madeline Grace was born on March 7, 2012, at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio and Nikki was only able to hold her princess for a few seconds before she was whisked away to the NICU. Turner syndrome carries a high risk of multiple medical conditions involving the heart and kidneys. As soon as she arrived to the NICU they ordered several tests of her heart, abdomen and head.
The next day after all the test results came back; the doctors said that she would need heart surgery because her aortic arch was too narrow. Madeline’s heart surgery was scheduled for the next week and she would have to remain in the NICU until then to receive a drug to keep her blood flowing easily until she could receive the surgery.
“The doctors were very good at explaining the process and what to expect. We kept our hopes up and tried only to focus on the positives. Even though we had a week to prepare, it is still terrifying to know your little girl was going to have surgery on her heart! The surgery team was very understanding and took the time to talk us through every step and called us from the operating room every hour to give us updates,” said Kirk.
Madeline came through the surgery like a champ and the next three weeks were spent recovering and getting her to eat. After much improvement, Madeline was finally able to come home and start growing like a weed!
“Madeline is a very happy curious little girl that we fall in love with more every day. Although we don’t know exactly what the future holds, we are excited to see all that Madeline will accomplish and so thankful that God chose us to be the parents of this amazing little fighter,” Nikki said.
“The doctors at the children’s hospital were not intimidated by our child’s three percent odds. I think that as they get better technology the odds are going up for other children like ours. If it were not for programs like CMN Hospitals providing new technology and skilled doctors, my daughter probably would not have made it. Words can’t say how thankful we are for the help we received,” said Kirk.
Kirk said his experience has changed the way he looks at Love’s CMN Hospitals fundraising campaign. “I always knew it was a great cause, now I am emotionally tied to it for life. I hope I can share my story with the rest of the team this year and motivate them to raise even more donations for CMN hospitals. You never know when you might be the one who needs their help.”