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Project Savannah
by Lyn Ruth
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When Brian got home from work that afternoon, he saw his wife Vida sitting on the sofa crying. The news was heartbreaking. The ultrasound result showed that their unborn baby girl had a condition called congenital diaphragmatic hernia or CHD. The hole in their baby's diaphragm had stayed open and this allowed some of the intestines to go into the chest cavity. Since the intestines were in the chest cavity and not where they were supposed to be, the lungs could not grow in the normal space that they need. It would then hinder the capacity of the baby to breathe and it could be fatal.

In order to fix the problem, the baby had to undergo surgery. It may be finished at one time or the baby may need more than one operation. After the operation, the baby had to stay in the intensive care unit until her lungs got better. Several follow up check ups would also be needed in the first few years after her birth.

According to the doctor, this type of surgery had never been performed in the Philippines. It could only be done in a first world country like the United States, and it would cost them more than $100,000.

Brian started to blame himself. Was it because of anything he had done? Was it because of his smoking and drinking? Vida also felt guilty. Did she neglect her health at any time before and during her pregnancy? The couple were in grief. This was going to be their first born. They were going to name her Savannah. They were excitedly looking forward to her birth.

When news about baby Savannah's disorder reached Brian's and Vida's parents, they were met with varied reactions. Brian's parents convinced them to terminate the pregnancy. The advice saddened the couple. Abortion was not an option that Brian and Vida ever considered. They had already decided to go through with the pregnancy no matter what the circumstances were. But they found Vida's parents very supportive. Although they would not be able to help them financially, they could look into foundations and other sources for financial assistance. And so their hope for a miracle started.

Brian and Vida had been classmates from childhood. Their love developed during their growing up years. When they got married, their classmates were thrilled. It was the first marriage from their batch. And when they came to know that Vida was expecting a baby, they were even more thrilled. It was going to be the first baby from their batch. So when Brian and Vida's classmates learned about baby Savannah's malady, they immediately convened in order to plan for some fund raising activites.

Thus, Project Savannah was born. Brian and Vida's classmates put up a website where they posted their appeal for donations and other assistance. They also used it for announcing updates and other information. They were able to organize three rock concerts aptly named "Rock the Cradle", "Ultrasound", and "Fetal Attraction". The rock bands willingly performed for free. There were T-shirts and other items sold during the shows. One hundred percent of the profits were given to Brian and Vida. The Philippine Airlines was going to take care of the couple's travel expenses. Somebody was able to assist them in their application for a travel tax exemption. Aid in various forms were pouring from everywhere. Things seemed to be going smoothly.

Brian and Vida were still looking for a foundation that would sponsor the cost of Savannah's treatment. They still had a long way to go to be able to reach the $100,000 target. Already, some foundations had turned them down because they were not classified as indigents. True, they were not indigents but they were also not rich enough to afford $100,000.

One day, Brian and Vida were told that the hospital in California had declined to send the documents needed for the application of their US medical emergency visas. The reason was that if Vida were to go into labor while in the US, the hospital would be held responsible for her welfare. Vida's obstetrician, however, advised the couple on the possibility of her giving birth in the Philippines. After birth, Savannah would be incubated for at least 48 hours. Surgery would be possible when her condition stabilized.

Brian and Vida continued to hope for a miracle. In one letter that Vida wrote for Project Savannah website, she said, "I've been asking myself everyday...why me??? And you know what, it was Teacher Marj who told me that I shouldn't be asking that kind of question...I should be flattered that God thinks so highly of me that's why He thinks that I am capable of handling such a difficult challenge...a really difficult challenge." In conclusion to her letter, she painfully cried, "Right now we're still hoping for a miracle, whatever miracle may that be, I just hope that it would allow me to hold Savannah and watch her grow into a person that I can be proud to have as my daughter."

Savannah was born through Caesarean section during the early evening of October 22, 2008. She was a beautiful little angel. After several minutes, her lungs stopped functioning and her heart slowed down to a halt.The doctors did all they could to bring her back, but to no avail. God had decided to take the little angel to heaven.

Funds raised through Project Savannah were used for the hospital expenses incurred and for Savannah's funeral services. The remainder of the proceeds were given to a foundation for children.

The whole experience was unforgettable. It demonstrated deep friendship, tireless cooperation, unconditional love, and a relentless fight to the finish.

Right now, baby Savannah is an angel in heaven praying and singing praises to the Lord. She will be forever remembered.

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7 (http://scriptures.lds.org/nt/contents)


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