by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

With news stories – as with life – there is the news and then there’s the story.

A year ago, I wrote a column about a series of e-mails from a couple in Grand Rapids. Their names are Brian and Kathy. I described them as “beautiful people, energetic and upbeat.” They still are.

Their e-mails were about their newborn daughter, Faith, who’d suffered a stroke in the womb – something I didn’t know was possible. Each new update was heartbreaking. She was such an angel. Yet her wings were so clipped. Her face was so small. Yet her head needed surgery.

The e-mails came at all hours of the night and morning – about a shunt, about hemorrhages, about doctors drawing fluid from around her brain. All this for a tiny infant who’d spent just days on Earth.

The column ended with Faith about to go under the knife. Well. Last week I received another e-mail. Faith just celebrated her first birthday.

That’s the news. Here’s the story.

The word from the family

“Hello family, friends and people we’ve never met,” the e-mail said. “May 4 marks the celebration of Faith’s first year of life – 365 incredible days. … We have watched Faith first survive a stroke, a critical brain surgery and now thrive! …

“In the first few months of Faith’s ordeal, well over a thousand e-mail messages of encouragement flooded our inbox, even from foreign countries. We read them all. …

“Thank you.

“Over the last year, the medical staff comprising Team Faith has consisted of her pediatrician, neurosurgeon, neurologist, hematologist, ophthalmologist, orthopedic surgeon, occupational therapists, physical therapists and a host of nurses, technicians and aides. …

“Thank you.

“Last Dec. 8, our 4-year-old, Madelyn, was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes. This has no doubt presented additional challenges for our family. … Her schoolteachers and administrators have been wonderful. …

“Thank you. …

“Every few days, a wave of realization comes. Faith’s stroke was massive. We watch her fight and grow every day. Both Faith and Madelyn are inspiration for our family to never give up. To overcome. …

“Thank you.”

Thank you?

I don’t know who’s more amazing: the kids or the parents. A not-so-simple life

Now, let’s be realistic. I’ve seen Brian and Kathy over the year. They look tired. They are battling. The illnesses have been a drain on their finances. Although they always smile, I’m sure there are moments when they ask, “Why us?”

Their infant daughter sees a laundry list of doctors. Their middle child must deal with insulin injections every day. Their eldest girl, Hanna, who is 6, has spent countless hours making get-well cards for her younger sisters.

But they persevere. They keep their faith. “We’ve had difficult days,” Brian told me over the phone, “but we chose on those days to focus on a smile, or some little moment, and you get through to the next day.”

I recently read an item about Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, two vapid celebrities with health, no kids and all the money they could want. Apparently they are feuding so badly, they filmed their reality TV show while not speaking to each other. The show is called “The Simple Life.” Which only proves it is a fraud.

Real life is never simple. Real life is sickness, money woes, crying kids and bags under your eyes.

But real life also is rising to the occasion. Little Faith had a birthday. And her daddy gave her a present, her own e-mail address: faithkelly@comcast.net. I plan to send her my own note. A thank-you.

After all, she’s proven, without a word, that when the news breaks your heart, the story can still inspire it.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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