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Pouches' Community Corner

Baby Levi

On August 17, three weeks after a routine pediatrician appointment for their then 4-month-old son, Levi, Liz and Angel Colon received news that no parent ever wants to hear: Levi’s liver wasn’t processing bile correctly, and he will very likely need a liver transplant—and time is of the essence. What began as concern over a lingering bruise on his lower back escalated quickly when their pediatrician noticed yellowing in his eyes and a bloody scratch in his nose that wouldn’t heal. After a harrowing night at VCU Children’s Hospital, the family finally landed at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, a facility renowned worldwide for successful pediatric transplants, where Levi underwent scores of medical tests and where he was officially diagnosed with PFIC2—a progressive disorder usually discovered in infancy and marked by the buildup of bile in liver cells leading to liver failure. Now, the family continues to take it day-by-day to learn more about both the severity of his condition and the scope of his treatment; As Liz says, “The best outcome [now] is a liver transplant, if not a miraculous healing” and “the worst outcome would be death (before transplants were available many babies were taken home by their parents to die).”

...unlike any other organ donation, liver donation does not require removal of the entire liver...

Baby Levi has large brown eyes that shine with excitement in most of the photos that the family has shared on their YouCaring site, where they are trying to raise $50,000 to cover hospital and surgery costs. So far, over 140 donors have pledged over $16K towards their goal, many of them anonymous well-wishers who, like me, are drawn towards Levi’s magnetic smile and perfect round baby cheeks. In less cheerful pictures, Levi’s eyes are weary and afraid, he wears a tiny hospital gown and there is blood crusting his nostrils—evidence of his clotting issues. These are the photos that make your heart race with the urgent desire to help. And, while monetary donations are a huge assistance, there are so many other ways to donate, including medically.

Unlike any other organ in the body, the liver regenerates. Therefore, unlike any other organ donation, liver donation does not require removal of the entire liver, rather surgeons remove a piece or “lobe,” and a living donor’s organ restores itself to full size and function within six to seven weeks of the surgery. Unfortunately, just like any other organ donation, recipients who qualify for this life saving surgery are most often entered onto a national transplant list—and it can be an agonizing wait. After many tests and evaluations, qualifying recipients are placed onto the list based on (among other factors) their age, blood type and size. Donors can be either living or deceased, but studies now suggest a slightly higher success rate for living donation. As with any organ donation, currently, there is a shortage of donors both living and deceased.

The Colon family is now waiting to find a living donor or they will be at the mercy of this system.

If you meet the following criteria and are interested in donating a portion of your liver to Levi, please call Marissa at (202) 444-1130:

• Age 18-55
• BMI under 30 for men and 32 for women
• In general good health
• Drug Free

None of this serves to minimize the many risks related to any surgery—much less one involving a vital organ—however, if anyone reading this feels compelled to get tested for possible organ donation, please visit our website, fredericksburgparent.net, to learn more. Likewise, as we approach the holiday season, consider becoming an organ donor, if you aren’t one already. Simply visit www.DonateLifeVirginia.org and with a few clicks you could save so many lives. And, to continue to follow Levi’s story, please visit the Facebook page @LiverforLevi.

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Pouches Loves the Children’s Home Society

Adoptive parents in Fredericksburg now have a new partner on their journey to a healthy family. In 2016, Children’s Home Society was awarded a $125,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services to extend their Richmond area post-adoptive services to the Fredericksburg area.

“Adoption Day is not the happy ending. Instead, it’s the beginning of a unique and challenging journey to parent a child back to emotional and physical health,” said Sara Buckheit, program manager for the Children’s Home Society (CHS) Post-Adoption program.

“Seventy-five percent of our participants have been diagnosed with ADHD and more than one-third suffer from depression or anxiety; all have experienced significant loss. Those being adopted from foster care have most often experienced abuse or neglect,” added Dave Martin, chief marketing officer for CHS.

Now CHS is looking to find adoptive families in the area who need support before they hit a crisis point. “It doesn’t matter which agency they adopted from, or when that happened,” said Buckheit. “We want to offer a lifetime of support to adoptive families in the Fredericksburg area, especially those who haven’t been aware of our services in the past.”

While CHS offers serious support from social workers qualified in trauma and attachment issues, they also offer fun. Adopted children can participate in the CHS Kid’s Club, run by Amy Waldbillig, LCSW, Ph.D., CHS post-adoption program coordinator for Fredericksburg. The Kid’s Club offers eight opportunities each year for adoptees to get together with each other and enjoy an enriching experience while their parents get a respite day.

The next respite day is Tuesday, November 7, Election Day. Local potter Betsy Curtiss will be teaching a clay creation activity for the children at the quirky and fun LibertyTown Arts Workshop.

Many adopted children have experienced a lifetime of trauma, loss and sadness. If you know an adoptive family in the area, refer them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. sooner rather than later. “The sooner we can get into the family, the better. There is a six-month waiting period to be adopted, and without significant help and intervention, many child-family matches don’t make it through the six-month waiting period,” says Buckheit.

CHS Post-Adoption Program offers:

  1. Parent Coaching, especially how to deal with the special needs of pre-adoptive and adoptive children. Parent coaches can attend IEP meetings and help with special medical needs.
  2. Family Support Services, including resources, referrals, education on trauma, attachment, the adoption process, and the key players in the process, online and in-person networking, and advocacy for the family with service providers
  3. Kid’s Club activities

When a match with a family is made, we can help with the logistics of the process, plus offer help with the parenting aspect of adoption. There are unique challenges to becoming an adoptive parent and it can be isolating. The adoption day is not the happy ending. That’s when many difficulties start. Adoptive parents need different parenting methods. Many adoptees are younger than their chronological age emotionally, so they are 15 on the outside but 5 on the inside. Staying flexible as a parent is key. Parents need to be flexible, patient, comfortable with repetition when teaching basic appropriate behaviors and committed. Understanding the why behind behaviors is important. Adoptees can have frustrating behaviors. They need to learn how to establish trust. They have to learn that they can rely on a parent, but a healthy, trusting attachment is difficult to establish. They are catching up on how to attach and trust adults. This can be very stressful.

They behave in ways that helped them survive in their original homes.

CHS offers no limitations on how long they will help adoptive families. They will help as long as needed and offer a lifetime of support.

They accept families who have adopted from anywhere, at any point in the process.

CHS Four Programs

1. CHS handles infant adoption, these are usually medically challenged, at-risk infants.
2. Foster care adoption, with a focus on teenagers and the hardest to place children
3. Possibilities Project—programs to help the foster children who age out at 18 without being adopted, such as housing, life skills, medicine.
4. Post-adoption program

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LLOST: Loss of Loved Ones to Sudden Tragedy

“Everyone runs the other direction when a baby dies.”

I remember one nurse came into my hospital room while I was recovering from Zara Beth’s stillbirth, and she said nothing about Zara Beth dying. I thought, "Oh, we’re going to pretend nothing happened.”

But there was another nurse who stayed all night in my room with me, the night after our loss. And she did things for me that I didn’t know to do for myself.

Vicki Niblett, now 40, lost her daughter Zara Beth Niblett at birth in 2007. That experience, along with the sudden loss of her 22-year-old brother in 2005, led her and her mother, Eileen Reichler, 66, to create Llost (Loss of of Loved ones to Suddent Tragedy) a 501c3 foundation dedicated to healing people in the first 48 hours after sudden loss. Four of her five siblings serve on the board.

“We funded it with my brother’s life insurance policy,” says Niblett.

The foundation has helped 44 hospitals in 22 states through their Treasured Memories program. The program sends nurses to bereavement training, and provides or supplements the $55 memory boxes that include clothes, booties, handknot blankets, pictures, foot prints, hand prints, clipped hair and other mementos.

“When Zara Beth died, at first I didn’t want to hold her or take footprints. But my nurse, Tammy Ruiz Ziegler, the perinatal bereavement coordinator at MWH, talked me through those feelings. The first time I saw Zara Beth she was wrapped in a beautiful blanket and dressed in a complete outfit from our memory box.” After a few months, I realized what a gift that memory box was. What else do I have that shows she was real, that she existed. My kids know their sister was real through that box.”

keepsake box

The foundation also runs a program called “Grieving, Handle with Care” to educate people on how to help friends and family suffering from sudden loss.

“We found LLost’s information on what to say and not say to grieving parents through Julie Brosnan, our sales representative here at Fredericksburg Parent, after she lost Gwendolyn (Gwen) in her 6th month of pregnancy. We were all so sad and really had no idea how to help Julie, or what exactly to say the first time she came back to a meeting,” says Leigh Anne Van Doren, publisher of Fredericksburg Parent and Family.

“After her loss, Julie located the LLost foundation and showed us some of their materials. We've since added a message to the bottom of our prenatal and baby eletter to say, “If you are unsubscribing due to loss, support can be found at the Llost foundation, www.llost.org.”

“One of the first things I did was unsubscribe to all of the baby emails for Gwen,” says Brosnan. “And I was so angry each time another email came. It’s not rational really. I also was surprised at how angry I became if people called her Gwendolyn, not Gwen. I wanted them to say her name, and I also wanted them to say it correctly.”

October is Infant Loss month. On October 1st, the Llost foundation will hold their annual “Healing Hearts Walk to Remember”at Old Mill Park, starting at noon.

“We can’t keep boxes or pins people wear to show they are grieving in stock,” says Niblett. “We need $4000 to keep six months of supplies on hand.”

But what Niblett really wants is to expand Llost’s reach. “We have a great model. We’ve reached a whole region and we know where the gaps are. Now we want to expand to the whole country.”

Books about Pregnancy & Infant Loss

• A Guide For Fathers: When A Baby Dies, by Tim Nelson

FigmentAn Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir, written by Elizabeth McCracken. This touching story written after the author lost her first baby in the 9th month of her pregnancy. This book is deeply moving and will have you not wanting to put it down.

Companioning at a Time of Perinatal Loss: A Guide for Nurses, Physicians, Social Workers, Chaplains and Other Bedside Caregivers, by RN, Jane Heustis, et al

empty cradleEmpty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby, written by Deborah Davis. This book covers things from immediately after the loss all the way to being pregnant after a loss. This book has many quotes form various families that have lost children (pregnancy loss and stillborns) and various topics, such as the differences in how woman and men grieve, are covered.

I Never Held You: A book about miscarriage, healing, and recovery, by Ellen M. DuBois

For a complete list, go to llost.org/resources

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Pouches Joins an Explorer Troop

One Team, One Dream, One Family

pouches explorers

Back row left to right: Caleb Sanderson, Andrew Buck, Garrett Thamas, Pouches, Briann Lussier, Dillon Stewart
Front row left to right: Kylee Tucker, Ashley Woodyard, Alexandra Richards, Cassandra Mitchum

This month Pouches poked her head into an exciting new program for teens interested in law enforcement.

The long running Spotsylvania Sheriff’s cadet program has reorganized as a Boy Scout Explorer troop, said Sgt. Blackington, who took over the program in February 2017.

“We’ve reworked the program to attract a fresh group of applicants,” said Blackington. “The Boy Scouts of America Explorer program is really neat. Not only is it a nationally recognized program that carries a lot of weight on a resume, but the program is directed by the teenagers and young adults themselves, instead of being solely an adult-directed program. They run their own Explorer Post.”

Why are You a Member?

“I’ve always wanted to be a cop”

“I want to help out in the community.”

“I wanted to get out of my shyness and explore new opportunities.”

“I like coming to the meetings; we all talk as friends and family.”


Troop-Supported Events

Blue Christmas
National Night Out
Autism Awareness
Stars and Stripes
Trunk N Treat

The trips, activities and scholarships available through the Boy Scout of America program are another draw.

“We are planning a mini-police week August 7 through 11,” said Blackington. “We will have a K-9 demonstration, a crisis negotiation class and a patrol work lecture.”

The current 12 troop members are enthusiastic about the mission of the program, according to Pouches, who attended their July 11 troop meeting.

“Some of the main things this program is about besides law enforcement is treating everyone with respect. We as an Explorer Post created a motto (One Team, One Dream, One Family) and we follow that to the T. We work as a team to accomplish our dreams as a family. If one member falls we all fall. It’s a brotherhood, just like the department we fall under,” said Blackington.

“We are looking for 14 and 15 year olds who are interested in learning about law enforcement. We would like to start them at an early age and have them stay through 21. Four or five Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s [Department] deputies started out in the earlier cadet program, and we would like to keep encouraging and training potential future deputies.” The program teaches responding to crashes; executing traffic stops, building searches, hand cuffing and learning CPR/First Aid.

If your 14- to 21-year-old is interested in joining, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

police week

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Pouches Learns about Service Leadership

Three years ago, Leadership Fredericksburg alumni Matt Mitchell (’11) and Jennifer Mackowski (’11) and Next Generation board member Phil Leonhardt attended a Chamber of Commerce Next Generation meeting as usual. Luckily for area high school students belonging to Key Club, the speaker at that meeting, Kiwanis Club board member Roger Keddie, persuaded all three to step up and revitalize the Fredericksburg Kiwanis Club, the sponsor for area high school Key Clubs.

Key Club is an international student-led organization offering opportunities to teens to provide service, build character and develop leadership. The Fredericksburg chapter was formed in 1923.

Mitchell, Mackowski, and Leonhardt were happy to take on the challenge.

“Our experience with Leadership Fredericksburg and the Chamber NextGen board prepared us to encourage students to step forward to help their communities,” says Kiwanis Treasurer Matt Mitchell. “We were impressed by the Kiwanis mission to help high school students discover their leadership qualities.”

Since 2014, all three Chamber members have served as President of the club. The club now has 20 active adult members and supports 5 local Key Clubs, including one of the largest in the Capital Area at Stafford Senior High School.

These young students work hard to change their communities for the better. Stafford Senior High Key Club has focused on the Relay for Life event to eliminate cancer. James Monroe High School has worked to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus deaths through the international Eliminate Project.

What is Service Leadership?
Service leadership is the powerful force that occurs once people discover their heart to serve, answer their call to lead and exercise the courage to engage.
It's the premier level of social contribution.

At the June meeting, Aiden Gossett, Key Club Lt. Governor for the Capital Area and a rising Senior at Stafford Senior High, announced that Capital Area Key Clubs’ focus for next year will be supporting area Boys and Girls Clubs.
The Kiwanis Club’s impact on the community is impressive:

  • In December 2016, Kiwanis rang the bell for the Salvation Army red kettles. Their one day contribution of $18,569.47 was the highest in the region.
  • In April 2017, over 20 Key Club students from James Monroe High School, Stafford Senior High, Brooke Point High School and Chancellor High School collected over 700 pounds of trash from Old Mill Park to Bragg Hill Road.
  • The annual golf tournament, just completed in May, raised over $10,000 for scholarships for local Key Club graduates.
  • In 2016, the local Club and the Kiwanis Foundation contributed $30,000 to find activities and provide financial support for young men and women in the community.

If you are interested in joining, check out kiwanisoffredericksburg.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Kiwanis Club

Kiwanis Club members clean up the Rappahannock River region




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