On June 9, 1998, when Carrie Rae was born at 24 weeks, she weighed 1 pound, 3 1/2 ounces, and was 12 1/2 inches in length. Few thought she would live.
“Her chances of survival were extremely slim, but the dedicated doctors and nurses of the neonatal intensive care unit at Baptist Medical Center were determined to fight for her life,” Robby Wright said.
Those medical people “fought almost as hard as Carrie Rae was fighting,” her mother said.
The rough start was only the beginning of an uphill struggle, Robby Wright said.
“Shortly after birth, she suffered a serious brain bleed and at the age of 10 days had surgery related to her heart and lungs,” she said. “At four months, she underwent a tracheotomy, at six months she underwent a gastrostomy and abdominal hernia repair, and at eight months she had cryosurgery to stop the deterioration of her retinas.”
That would be enough for more than one lifetime, but the battles weren’t over for Carrie Rae.
Her parents had not been allowed to take her home from the hospital. When she was nine months old, she was moved to the NICU at St. Vincent Infirmary, where she continued to live until February 1990. That was the year she was named the National Easter Seals child.
At that point, Carrie Rae was released from the hospital, but it was a homecoming filled with challenges, her mother said. “While it was unbelievably exciting, it was at the same time unbelievably overwhelming.”
She came home on oxygen and a ventilator, and she had a seizure disorder (caused by the brain bleed she had suffered) and 24-hour nurses.
More challenges lay ahead.
“At 5 years of age, we almost lost her,” Robby Wright said. “What was thought to be pneumonia turned out to be something even worse for her damaged lungs: It was congestive heart failure.”
Once again, Carrie Rae’s parents were told that her chances for survival were slim. However, the doctors apparently did not count on miracles, because another one was in the works, Robby Wright said.
“While being evaluated for a heart/lung transplant, it was discovered that her heart and lungs were not seriously damaged,” she said. “As a matter of fact, her lungs were healing.”
Carrie Rae literally grew up with challenges that would have stymied most people, but she continues to face and overcome them, her mother said.
“She is legally blind, but this hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her interests,” she said. Self-taught, she speaks Japanese fluently, and she is teaching herself Welsh, German and Spanish “with a little Korean and Italian thrown in.
“She loves singing and music and was the recipient of the Crowd Pleaser Award at the 2007 Benton High School talent show for her rendition of Lynard Skynard’s ‘Simple Man,’” her mother added.
Robby Wright pointed out that many people who see Carrie Rae aren’t aware of how far she’s come. “But we know, and we know how miraculous it is.”
And tonight Carrie Rae graduates from Benton High School.
“This is a celebration we never thought would happen,” her mother said.
And the miracle continues!
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