Giving News & Highlights

In 2013, we opened The Mother Baby Center so both moms and babies would have immediate access to highly trained experts and the latest technology. We’re growing our partnership by building The Mother Baby Center at Mercy, part of Allina Health, in Coon Rapids. Due date: Summer 2015.

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George in the NICU

The Young family’s experience underscores why this work is so important. Almost one year ago, April Young gave birth to George at The Mother Baby Center. He arrived healthy and on time. Hours later, what was a fairytale birth quickly faded into a nightmare for April and her husband, Benjamin.

About 12 hours after birth, George started to show ticks on the left side of his body. When April’s friend, a labor and delivery nurse, visited the new family, she took George to get further checked. What appeared to be hiccups were actually seizures. A series of tests revealed he had suffered a stroke at birth or within hours of birth. Strokes occur at birth in about 1 in 4,000 babies, and often the cause is unknown.

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George today

It appears the Youngs got a happy ending. While he continues to be monitored, blue-eyed George is thriving. He’s alert and joy-filled. His motor skills are advanced.

“His care team saved his life. Our outcome could not have been better,” said April, who, along with her husband, donated to Children’s this winter to show their gratitude.

The Mother Baby Center was made possible thanks to our generous community. And, it will continue to make a difference for more families like the Youngs because of your support.

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Kari and Eric with Calahan and the NICVIEW camera

After complications started at 20 weeks followed by a series of visits to local hospitals, Kari and Eric Koep knew the road ahead wouldn’t be an easy one for their family or their unborn child.

And, they had a decision to make. While it would mean she and her husband would be hours away from their 3-year-old son, Beckam, and the comfort of their home, they wanted to be in the best place to deliver their child. On Dec. 31, 2013, Kari was taken by ambulance to The Mother Baby Center, where she gave birth to Calahan the next day at just 28 weeks. He weighed 2 pounds, 11 ounces.

The first several days of life were touch-and-go. When Calahan was born, he wasn’t breathing and had to be revived, Eric said.

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Calahan in his room at Children's

“The first few days and weeks were really long and stressful,” he said.

During that time, NICVIEW technology gave their family and Beckam the ability to meet Calahan through a secure, online, live video feed.

As Calahan got better, Kari and Eric went home briefly to be with Beckam and gather things to take back to the hospital. While it was hard to be away from Calahan, they were able to check in via NICVIEW.

“It was very reassuring to be able to see our boy and see him breathing and know that they were taking care of him,” Eric said.

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Beckham "hanging out" with Calahan

During their son’s 66-day stay, family accessed the camera about half of the days.

“We didn’t get it as much as we wanted in the NICU, because there weren’t enough cameras to go around,” Eric said.

There’s an effort currently underway to change that. Learn more about this effort and give today to help families like the Koeps stay connected with their child when they can’t be at the bedside.

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Taylor one month before being diagnosed

I looked forward to my sophomore year in high school, when I was finally going to join my older brother in the same school again. He was a senior, so it was my last year with him before he went to college. I wanted to embarrass him in the hallways and jump on his back when he least expected it. We were excited about being in the fall musical Bye Bye Birdie together.

Just before school started, I began having headaches. Then, the left side of my face became numb. At the beginning of my sophomore year, on my brother’s 18th birthday, I learned that I had cancer. The tumor in my Sphenoid Sinus was pushing against my optic nerve.

My plans – our plans – changed.

I had been a competitive soccer and volleyball player but was unable to participate in either sport due to treatment. I was too weak and fatigued. I missed out on the intense tournaments and the funny things coaches yell when they’re upset. I wanted to join my brother in marching band for one last season. But, my season was cut short.

I got to see my friends who visited me at the hospital and at home. I would see my friends at school when I was well enough to go. I would hear girls complaining about how they ate too much when they’re as skinny as twigs. At least they were able to control what they ate. During radiation I had terrible mouth sores. If it weren’t for my dad force feeding me, my mom making late-night grocery store runs, and my grandma flying in to cook food for me, I would have had a feeding tube. I was terribly underweight while girls were complaining about how they looked, when they looked fine. They would also complain about their hair and makeup while I was bald. I’m not a normal teenage girl anymore. I understand that everyone struggles with the way they look in their own way, but I was stuck with the way I was.

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Taylor the first time she shaved her head

When I turned 16, I wasn’t able to get my driver’s license because I never had the chance to finish my behind-the-wheels class. What was the point of getting a license anyways? I was bedridden and too drugged up to focus on the road.

The following summer my parents bought me a denim blue Volkswagen bug convertible. I took my driver’s test with my roof rolled down and my baldhead shining in the sun. I passed.

I started my junior year bald. I got made fun of, but I also held people as they cried. Being bald at school is shocking for most people. It was a big transition for me to go from hospital stay after hospital stay to the high school hallways. Again girls fussed about their hair and the way they looked. But I held my head up high because “Bald is Beautiful.”

Now I’m a senior with an (almost) full head of hair. I’m not as athletic as I used to be, but I do the best I can. I can keep up with my friends now, and I carry the banner in the marching band. I’m the same girl I was starting my sophomore year, I just have a different perspective on life. I’m a cancer survivor.

I’m not sure what’s next for me. I want to become a pediatric oncologist when I’m older so I can save lives, just like mine was saved. I’m not sure where I want to attend college yet because I’m just not physically and mentally there yet. My family never left my side during treatment, so how am I supposed to leave them, without a care in the world, and go to college? Maybe I’ll take a year off after high school to catch my breath. I think my family and I deserve a break.

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If you would like to support Children’s and families like Taylor's, you can make a one-time donation or a monthly donation to help all year long. Your support will provide services like the Child Life experts, who introduced Taylor to Beads of Courage; the Family Lounge, which allowed Taylor to meet other kids with cancer and spend time away from her room; and Research, which has lead to great medical discoveries that assist in the fight against cancer.

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John and the Dude

One day, John Gegen was a 5-year-old boy battling flu-like symptoms. The next, he was a 5-year-old boy with a potentially grave diagnosis, stage IV, high-risk neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma is a malignant tumor that usually occurs in kids 5 or under.

“In the back of my mind, I knew we were in big,” said his mom, Shelly Gegen, of being referred to Children’s for more answers. But, she never expected her baby boy, the youngest of three, would have advanced cancer.

On the day they were sent to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, John got his diagnosis. He didn’t leave the hospital again for 20 days. While the news was devastating, the Gegens knew they were in the right place to receive the best care for their son.

Since his diagnosis, John and his family have given back to Children’s to help make sure other kids get the same kid-centered, star treatment he received and continues to get today.

From day one, his family was made to feel like treating John was a team effort. His comfort and care were always a top priority, too, Shelly said.

And John was treated like the active, loving 5-year-old boy he was, not a sick kid with cancer whenever he watched Star Studio, Children’s in-house television program.

“It was all about being a kid; it wasn’t about being in a hospital,” Shelly said.

During his multiple hospitalizations throughout the first year of his diagnosis, he looked most forward to watching the Dude on Star Studio and interacting with the show. For a long time, he had his mom call into the show. It wasn’t until John’s last few days in the hospital that he worked up the courage to on his own.

The Dude played Xbox with John. Another memorable moment was when Kevin Rotty of Rockin’ with Rotty fame played John’s version of “Juke Box Hero” on his show. “Juice Box Hero.”

“(Those distractions) took you away from what you were dealing with,” Shelly said.

John no longer has frequent hospital stays, but he stops by Star Studio every chance he gets when he’s at Children’s for appointments, his mom said.

Since John’s diagnosis in April 2012, he has undergone chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant and antibody therapy, a painful treatment that acts like a smart bomb to zip hidden cancer cells.

John currently takes DFMO, a trial drug to help prevent relapse. He goes to the cancer clinic every month for lab tests and every 12 weeks for scans. He hopes to finish taking DFMO next summer.

He and his family have been so grateful throughout their journey that they’ve given back to Children’s not once but twice. Last year, the Gegens delivered toys for Children’s patients so they would have some joy at Christmas time. This summer, John sold soda and his toys, some of them still in packaging, at a garage sale and raised $260. He donated the money to Star Studio.

They’re already thinking about how to give next.

“We’ve been treated like nothing but the best by everyone we’ve come in contact with,” Shelly said.

If you would like to support Children’s and families like John's, you can make a one-time donation or a monthly donation to help all year long. Your support will provide services like the Star Studio, which provided kid-friendly, interactive programming while John was in this hospital.

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Ella and Parker making their donation!

Some people celebrate their birthdays with gifts.

And then there are people like Ella and Parker Reese. They celebrated with generosity.

In lieu of gifts, the 8-year-old twins asked their guests to bring cash donations to their birthday party. The response was big. As in $525 big.

“We were shocked and so excited to see the final total on what was raised,” said their mom, Melissa Paasch.

Ella and Parker got an early start in life at Children’s, so they wanted to give back.

“What better way to celebrate their birthday than by giving back to a hospital who has given us so much,” Paasch said.

Ella and Parker were born at 32 weeks after their mom developed preeclampsia. She was diagnosed at 28 weeks and hospitalized on bed rest at 30 weeks. That’s when she and her husband were introduced to the NICU, where a neonatal physician took time to speak with them, answer questions and “prepare” them for the premature delivery of their twins.

On March 17, 2006, when their mom’s preeclampsia elevated, her physicians decided it was time to “welcome these little folks into the world.”

Since their arrival, Ella and Parker have been hospitalized off and on for various reasons.

“Dealing with a sick child is emotionally and physically draining, but at Children’s you have peace of mind and confidence that your child is getting the absolute best care possible,” Paasch said.

Will Ella and Parker celebrate with Cake & Candles again? That’s up to them, Melissa said, though she’s confident they want to continue making an impact in some way.

“Getting your children and their friends involved in such a worthwhile fundraising cause serves as an opportunity to educate others about the hospital while instilling the philanthropic spirit into all who donate,” Paasch said.

Do you want to celebrate your birthday by making an impact at Children’s? Learn more about our Cake & Candles Club here.