AND THE NEXT LEAP OF FAITH? GIVING BACK

We had a special visit over Thanksgiving. A little angel dropped by the house. She has a smile that would melt a grizzly bear and a face seemingly made of peachy snow. She also wears tiny glasses, has an appointment for cataract surgery, and because of a stroke, her right arm and leg are wobbly and she isn’t speaking much.

If that sounds like a combination of an infant’s innocence and a senior citizen’s woes, well, it sort of is. And can you imagine the burden that presents for the parents?

And yet … this little child is now 18 months old and they call her Faith and she has proven worthy of that name every day of her life. I wrote about her shortly after her birth and some of you know the fact that she is here is a miracle. The fact that she smiles and crawls is a miracle. The fact that she turns when you call her name is a miracle.

You see, little Faith suffered a stroke in the womb, and from the day she came into this world she has been fighting battles most of us will, blessedly, never fight until the winters of our lives.

So, you wouldn’t think her parents would have time to do anything but look at the sky and scream, “Why us?” You certainly wouldn’t think they would try to help others.

But Brian and Kathy Kelly are not your typical couple. And so they have organized a benefit next week for the Grand Rapids hospital that took care of their children.

That’s right. The patients’ family wants to give something back to the hospital.

How often does that happen?

The doctors who care

Of course, Brian and Kathy have spent more time in that hospital lately than they have in their own home. Ask Brian to rattle off the departments in which they know doctors and receptionists, and he sounds like a brochure:

“Neonatal Intensive Care … Pediatric Ophthalmology … Physical Therapy … Pediatric Hematology … Pediatric Neurosurgery … “

Can you imagine? If you’re like me, you get squirmy when you go for a flu shot. How about every day with some specialist or another, trying to find out if your baby will live – and if she’ll live, what kind of life will it be? Every day, another appointment? Every day, another test result?

And now, because of vision difficulties, little Faith soon will have cataract surgery and then Brian and Kathy will have to put a contact lens on her left eye every day, because if they don’t get that eye to do some work, the brain, in time, will shut it down.

And just when you think it could not get any worse – last year, around this time, one of Faith’s two sisters, Maddie, 4, was suddenly diagnosed with something awful. And for the Kellys, a new department of the hospital became familiar turf:

The Pediatric Diabetes Clinic.

A chance to help out

Little Maddie came by during Thanksgiving, too. She showed me her tummy and the special device she wears that drips insulin into her body, which is attached beneath her skin and tubed to a small insulin pump the size of an iPod, which she wears in a fuzzy fanny-pack pouch sewn by her grandmother.

Every meal, every piece of food, that pump must be monitored and programmed. It is an ungodly amount of attention. “But it’s better than all the needles,” Brian says.

I listen to him and my amazement grows. His family has simply attached itself to finding the bright side of things, no matter what.

And so Dec. 5 at DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids, they will hold an event to help the hospital that has so helped their children.

They have asked me to speak and sign books at the event, which I will happily do. Musicians Brian Vander Ark and Lux Land will perform as well. Tickets include signed books and CDs, and all proceeds will benefit DeVos Children’s Hospital and Grand Horizons Foundation.

They hope to raise $100,000, and if they sell it out, they will. Usually, all people do with hospitals is complain about how much they cost. Giving money back? Then again, when a place keeps your daughters alive, it starts to make sense.

If you’d like to go, call 616-632-1301 or check onemoredayforkids.org or Ticketmaster.

I have to admit, when little Faith was coming into the world, I wasn’t sure if we’d ever get to see her. Now, we look forward to her next Thanksgiving visit, that melting smile and her continued progress as a precious little miracle.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. He will sign copies of his latest best-seller, “For One More Day,” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Barnes & Noble, 6575 Telegraph in Bloomfield Hills.

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