Pulling together while separated by hundreds of miles

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Kayla Woodall stands watching over her prematurely born twin son Mason Haley, Jan. 16, just one day before health complications forced him to be life flighted from Freeman's Health Systems in Joplin, Mo. to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. -- Tribune File Photo

By Justin Messner

The Fort Scott Tribune

Two prematurely born twins continue to fight against the odds side by side despite being more than 150 miles apart and financial, health and transportation problems faced by their family members.

Lance Haley, Jr. and Mason Haley, born three months premature on Jan. 12 to Lance Haley, Sr. and Kayla Woodall, Fort Scott, were not given very good odds at life. Statistics indicated they had a 50 percent chance of survival and for Lance, born with Gastroschisis -- a hole in the abdominal wall causing his intestines to form and grow outside the body, the odds were even less.

However, one month and six surgeries later both boys are still fighting, just on opposite sides of the state.

On Jan. 17, complications with Lance's Gastroschisis forced doctors to life flight the 5-day-old child from Freeman Health System's Neonatal ICU in Joplin, Mo. to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

Since then, Lance has undergone numerous surgeries for intestinal, heart and circulation complications. Despite pulling through the operations, Lance has lost portions of six fingers due to undisclosed clotting issues in his hands.

Lance has also undergone a surgery to close the PDA valve on his heart -- an action which is usually automatic for infants at birth.

Mason on the other hand has had few complications since his early birth and though still requires administered oxygen, was recently removed from a ventilator.

"They're still struggling," said Kayla's mother Kim Woodall. "They're getting stronger every day. I hope they are getting stronger every day."

After Lance was transported to Children's Mercy, life became very "hectic" for the family according to Kayla.

"It has been just miserable," she said.

Kim said finding time to visit the two children is a difficult balancing act.

"We go to one place and see one baby one day, then go to see the other baby the next," said Kim. "We drive 325 miles round trip to see them."

As if the family's situation was not complicated enough, Kayla returned home Saturday from a day of visiting Mason at Freeman's with her grandmother, to discover her vehicle had been stolen.

At approximately 9 p.m. the same night, officials located her car on its roof in the middle of a Devon intersection.

"She's (Kayla) so upset about everything else," said Kim, "its just one more thing she doesn't need to be dealing with."

Kayla's car was discovered abandoned and damaged beyond repair. No suspects have been named as of Wednesday in the theft.

Local organizations have come together to provide some support to the family and Lance, Sr. and Kayla have been able to save lodging costs through the Ronald McDonald Houses of Joplin and Kansas City. However, Kim said finances continue to tighten.

"There's only so much money to go around," she said.

Lance, Sr.'s mother Pam Haley said the family is planning to organize an auction in the near future to help offset some of the family's expenses. According to Pam, the family is hoping to auction off donated goods at a public event, with the profits going to Lance and Mason.

Though hard times have continued for the family, the week has not been without some highlights.

For the first time since his birth, Kayla was allowed to hold her son Mason Tuesday night. Tuesday also marked the first time Mason was able to vocalize since a ventilator tube previously restricted his voice.

"When I first heard him cry, I wanted to cry so badly," said Kayla.

Due to the extent of Lance's complications, Kayla and Lance, Sr. where allowed by Children's Mercy doctors to hold the baby for the first time about two weeks ago in case he did not survive.

In addition, Mason was able to begin feeding on his own over the past few days.

Anyone wishing to offer the family additional assistance can contact Pam at (620) 224-8399 or Kim Woodall at (620) 223-3251.

According to Freeman nurses caring for the twins, Lance and Mason would likely have been kept in the hospital until their original due date. This means a possible 15 week stay for the boys, and three months of traveling and worry for Kayla and Lance, Sr. But, staff at Children's Mercy said Lance is likely to remain hospitalized past his due date.

"It's going to be up and down for a while," said Pam. "They'll have to just take things one day at a time."

Reuniting the twins is a day Kim said she is already looking forward to.

"It will be really nice to get them back together," she said.