Ronald McDonald House

Our Amazing Grace

July, 2011

By Gene Davis

When three–year–old Grace Alana was stricken with scarlet fever and a flesh eating bacterial infection at the same time, her doctors on Kauai knew they were in a race against time, and needed to get her to Oahu by air ambulance for urgent treatment. Her immune system was in distress and once on Oahu, Grace seemed to face one crisis after another. She came extremely close to having her foot amputated as the bacteria coursed through her foot and threatened to work its way up her tiny body.

Grace’s sash reads: “No One Likes a Dirty Beach.” Soon after this photo was taken, she would be stricken by flesh–eating bacteria contracted at the beach

But Grace would survive intact and, in fact, what began as a frightening and critical situation back in the first week of February, ended with plenty of smiles and joy as they left for home on March 25. There were even some other positive outcomes they had never imagined.

Grace Alana & motherBut we’re getting ahead of the story. Grace’s mother Melissa vividly remembers the day things seemed to suddenly start going terribly wrong with her youngest daughter. Grace had been experiencing a fever, rash, and a stuffy nose for a few days. Since it had been raining heavily, it was easy for Melissa to keep Grace wrapped up indoors during that time, treating her stuffiness and fever with over–the–counter children’s medicines. When the Lihue weather finally turned clear, Melissa had a day off from her job at the Kauai Marriott and decided that a soothing dip in the ocean would help Grace feel renewed, as it had many times before. But that night, her fever was intense and her rash was as bad as ever. Now something else was wrong too.

“She was crying and squeezing her foot and saying “my owie hurts,” recalled Melissa. “I had bought Grace a new pair of slippers and she had worked up a small blister from them, and I thought that was what was hurting her. When I turned on the light, I saw that the whole top of her foot was covered in blisters and my heart just stopped. I knew we had to get to the ER immediately.”

Hiilani, Grace’s 13–year–old sister was a tremendous help to their mom Melissa

The doctors at the emergency room said she had scarlet fever. But they said that might be only part of her problem. Further tests determined that she had a form of flesh–eating bacteria too, that she most likely picked up at the beach. Kauai doctors administered intravenous antibiotics and performed surgery to try and remove as much infection as they could before transporting her to Oahu. It was a sudden and frightening experience that left Melissa reeling. “When they told me that if we didn’t get her there in time she would lose her foot, I just cried because I just thought about how her life would change. She just got her first bicycle for Christmas. Grace was in so much pain and I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t make it better.”

Grace on the beachOn her way to Honolulu, Melissa tried to sort out what had just taken place. Many thoughts flooded her mind; Grace’s sniffles and fever; the trip to the beach after days of heavy rain; the little blister on her foot from her new slippers; and the frightening infection threatening to overtake the youngster. How ironic it seemed that just a couple of weeks earlier, their family had participated in an event called “No One Likes a Dirty Beach,” promoting clean beaches on Kauai.

They were met on Oahu by a special medical team. First, Grace had a spinal tap to make sure the infection hadn’t spread to her bones. “Then, there were multiple surgeries, massive antibiotics, and back–to back medical procedures,” said Melissa. “It was so hard on her.”

Her foot healing, Grace and mom Melissa can smile again

Finally, Grace was well enough to be released but needed to be closely monitored every single day and have her physical therapy. “At that point, the Ronald McDonald House was just perfect for us,” Melissa said.

Her foot healing, Grace and mom Melissa can smile again Grace and her mom spent the last two–and–a–half weeks of their six weeks in Honolulu staying at the Ronald McDonald House. It was here that Grace regained more than just her health and strength; she added many loving and caring friends, and a strong network of support to her Ohana. “When we first got here, Grace kept saying she wanted to go back home to Kauai,” said Melissa. “Now, when the time to return is so near, she’s saying “I don’t want to go home. Mommy, I want to stay here. What about my room and all my friends?” That’s how much she loves it here at the Ronald McDonald House. She knows and she feels how much everyone cares.

This House has really helped me too. It has taken a real load off of my shoulders. The other families that we have met were so wonderful: “We prayed together. We all just kind of leaned on each other emotionally. It was awesome. It was like: we’re all in this together, we will get through it together.”

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